Jamaica is a bustling island nation that — in spite of its size — has captivated the world in many ways. With its exquisite culture and landscapes, it has become one of the most popular tropical vacation destinations in North America.
Whether you’re considering a trip to Jamaica or would just like to know more about the country, read on to find out where Jamaica is and how to get there.
Where is Jamaica Located?
Jamaica is an island nation in the Caribbean. You may also hear the Caribbean be referred to as the West Indies, due to the region having been “discovered” by Christopher Columbus while he was sailing in hopes of reaching India.
Jamaica is about 90 miles south of Cuba, 100 miles west of Haiti, and 500 miles south of the tip of Florida. With an area of 4,244 square miles, it is the third largest island in the Caribbean after Cuba and Hispaniola (the island that contains Haiti and the Dominican Republic), beating Puerto Rico by 700 square miles.
Jamaica is part of a subset of islands known as the Greater Antilles in the western Caribbean. This group is made up of Jamaica, Cuba, Hispaniola, Puerto Rico, and the Cayman Islands. The Lesser Antilles are to the east of Jamaica and are made up of 24 small island states.
Jamaica is wholly surrounded by the Caribbean Sea, a warm tropical body of water that is not only the deepest sea in the world but also one of the largest! The Caribbean Sea is a sea of the Atlantic Ocean and is bordered by the Gulf of Mexico to the northwest.
The coastal breezes from the Caribbean Sea greatly influence Jamaica’s climate, which is known as a tropical maritime climate. Northeast trade winds and winter gusts from North America play a big role, too.
Jamaica’s mountainous landscape also helps shape its climate. Almost half of Jamaica’s surface is over 1,000 feet above sea level! Mountains and hills make up the interior of the island and are bordered by narrow coastal plains. Regardless of elevation, most of the island is covered in lush green rainforests through which rivers run.
Seaports and Airports in Jamaica
Jamaica is visited by some of the most notable cruise lines in the world, including Royal Caribbean, Carnival, Princess Cruises, and Marella Cruises.
Cruise ships most often visit the north coast, with the most popular port being Ocho Rios, followed by Montego Bay and Falmouth. Negril, Kingston, and Port Antonio may also be visited.
Jamaica has three international airports.
Sangster International Airport is the starting point for most vacations. It’s located in Montego Bay and is a 1.5-hour drive from Ocho Rios and Negril. This airport also has domestic terminals that service flights to Kingston, Ocho Rios, Negril, and Port Antonio.
The capital city, Kingston, also has an airport: the Norman Manley International Airport. If you’re planning to stay in Kingston, Port Antonio, or the Blue Mountains, this is the airport to land in. You can easily arrange transport from here to Kingston’s domestic airport, Tinson Pen, to fly to other parts of the island.
Ian Fleming International Airport is the newest of the three and is just about 20 minutes from Ocho Rios. Being a fairly new airport that only services small aircraft, it can be difficult to find flights that land here.
How to Get to Jamaica
Given how popular of a vacation destination Jamaica is, it’s not difficult at all to get there. The island receives direct flights from many major cities in North America and Europe. You can get flight-only deals but flight and accommodation packages are the more popular options.
Fares are heavily dependent on the time of year. December to February boast the best weather and are consequently the most expensive months, followed by the summer holiday months of July and August.
March and April flights are decently priced (apart from the Easter holidays), while May, June, and September to November flights are the cheapest.
Sangster International Airport in Montego Bay is served by more airlines than Norman Manley International Airport in Kingston, but the latter receives many direct flights, too.
How to Get to Jamaica from the US
Quite a lot of tourists opt for all-inclusive packages that work with charter airlines. There are, however. lots of direct flights departing from the US to Jamaica every day through major airlines.
Many major cities and a few gateway cities offer direct flights to Jamaica. It also won’t be too hard to find budget airlines offering no-frills flights at a discounted price.
Miami boasts the shortest route of any US city to Jamaica: 1 hour and 30 minutes, covering roughly 525 miles. Fort Lauderdale’s flight is only slightly longer, about 1 hour and 45 minutes, covering 550 miles. Orlando is 730 miles from Jamaica and the flight time is 2 hours.
Traveling from New York will take 3 hours and 30 minutes, covering 1,550 miles. A direct flight from Philadelphia to Jamaica takes the same amount of time, covering just 50 miles less than the New York flight.
A flight from Houston to Jamaica covers 1,350 miles over the course of 3 hours and 10 minutes. The flight from Chicago covers 1,750 miles, taking 4 hours to reach your destination. If you’re coming from Los Angeles, a whopping 2,700 miles from Jamaica, you’ll have to catch a connecting flight.
As for what airlines service which cities, here’s a quick rundown of the most notable offerings:
- American Airlines offers flights from Miami to Kingston.
- Caribbean Airlines offers flights from New York, Orlando, and Fort Lauderdale to Kingston and Montego Bay.
- Delta offers flights from Atlanta, Detroit, Los Angeles, Memphis, Washington, and New York to Montego Bay, as well as from New York and Atlanta to Kingston.
- JetBlue offers flights from New York to both Kingston and Montego Bay, as well as connections from Chicago, Phoenix, Los Angeles, and other cities.
- United offers flights from New York and Houston to Kingston and Montego Bay.
- US Airways offers flights from Philadelphia, Charlotte, and Boston to Montego Bay.
How to Get to Jamaica from Canada
Canada’s direct flight offerings are much sadder than its neighbor’s. The only direct flights from Canada to Jamaica are from Toronto. If you’re in another city, you’ll have to first fly to Toronto or a city in the US, then connect to Jamaica.
AirCanada, WestJet, and Caribbean Airlines offer direct flights from Toronto to Montego Bay and Kingston. The flight time is 4 hours, covering roughly 1,750 miles (2,820 km).
How to Get to Jamaica from the UK and Ireland
All-inclusive packages and charter flights are also popular in the British Isles but standalone flights are, of course, available. There are no direct flights from Ireland to Jamaica, so you’d have to make your way to the UK first.
Caribbean Airlines, Virgin, and British Airways offer direct flights from London’s Gatwick Airport to Kingston and Montego Bay. The flight is a long one — 9 hours and 40 minutes, covering 4,700 miles (7,563 km) over the Atlantic Ocean!