Kingston Jamaica tours: see these incredible murals at the home of Bob Marley in Kingston.

13+ Awesome Kingston Jamaica Tours And Attractions From An Expert (2024)!

Although Kingston is not Bob Marley’s birthplace, this wide, hot, busy city is scattered with memorabilia of this treasured world-famous reggae singer. A lot of the places and Kingston Jamaica tours you embark on will testify to that!

Not just the Bob Marley Museum but also murals and pieces of art, like the strong sculpture in Emancipation Park named after Bob Marley’s Redemption Song in celebration of the end of slavery.

But there is more, a lot more! Keep on reading to get to know Kingston a bit, or skip down to the tours section for all the things you can do while visiting.

Affiliate disclosure: I only recommend tours, services and purchases I know and love on this website.

Quick Facts About Kingston Jamaica

Night view of Emancipation Park with lights and trees, and wider Kingston and the city lights in the distance under the dark night sky
Kingston and Emancipation Park at night

Kingston is the capital of the small Caribbean island of Jamaica and is also the home of its major port, lying at the foot of the Blue Mountains on Jamaica’s southeast coast.

The capital is home to almost 600,000 people, with a total population of almost three million in Jamaica.

In the main streets of the city, the architecture has dramatic contrasts as modern buildings lie side by side with architectural relics of centuries past.

A colorful mural in Kingston Town, with a rural landskape and a woman with children surrounded by a church and a lot of colorful details
There are colorful murals everywhere

The entire Kingston waterfront was redeveloped with hotels, shops, offices, a cultural center, and cruise and cargo ship facilities.

The city can be split into two parts: downtown and uptown Kingston, often referred to as New Kingston.

Map created using Wanderlog, a trip planner app on iOS and Android

Fun Things To Do & Kingston Jamaica Tours

Apart from the large natural harbor, Kingston is close to the Blue Mountains (coffee heaven) and has a zoo, museums, parks, and historical places to expand your knowledge.

And there is a lot of “smoke.”

Restaurants, clubs, and nightlife are also vibrant, but if you are a European and used to walking anywhere to take in the ambiance of the city – that is NOT how you do it here.

Kingston’ers drive, they don’t walk from place to place, and there are reasons for that. You need to know where you are going (it is likely behind a gate and a fence), and you should probably take a taxi.

Here are your things-to-do-in-Kingston Jamaica tours super-guide to make sure you will not miss out on anything when you stop by the capital of reggae. And be safe!

1. Take A Guided Tour Of Kingston!

As Kingston town is not the kind of capital where you can leisurely walk around window-shopping and stop for a coffee at the corner cafe, I will suggest another way of experiencing the highlights of his buzzing city.

Taking a guided tour of Kingston is a great way to get an overview of the city and see the highlights and sights you don’t want to miss – and be safe.

Join a group tour, or book your own private tour if you are a small group, and explore the city the smart way!

Use the opportunity also to ask your guide for dining advice and other things you might be wondering about on the way. Then, do your research online (or ask the locals, of course) about what to do next if there is something you want to experience more in-depth.

As there are some neighborhoods in Kingston you might not want to explore on your own, and Kingston is more of a taxi town where restaurants, clubs, and popular sights are found behind guarded fences.

This is why it is smarter here to do your online research, ask a Kingstoner for advice, and book transport from door to door for the activities that you want to do.

2. Visit Emancipation Park At Night

The famous Redemption Song sculpture in Emancipation Park at night, the two naked people staring up at the sky
Redemption Song sculpture in Kingston

The first sight you encounter even before entering Emancipation Park in New Kingston is the strong monumental sculpture of two naked people, a man and a woman, facing each other.

Arms passive by their side, gazing at the sky over the city.

This sculpture, created by artist Laura Facey and unveiled in 2003, illustrates and celebrates the triumphant rise and victory over the horrors of slavery in Jamaica.

Inside the park is a tranquil atmosphere, green and well-kept trees, colorful beds of flowers, and artsy details. The park is a popular outing place for Jamaican families in the afternoons and evenings, and you can buy stuff consisting of at least 100% sugar by the entrances!

Emancipation Park in Kingston in daytime, beautiful green grass, flowers, bushes and trees.
Emancipation Park

The whole park is in many ways dedicated to variations of emancipation, in philosophical forms or expressed through art.

In many places around the park, the architect Kamau Kambui has implemented Adinkra symbols in detail, which are ideographical representations of proverbs, philosophies, thoughts, and values originating from the Akans of Ghana.

Each of these symbols “encapsulates the worldviews and keen observations of human behavior and the interactions between nature and humanity.”

You find them in the perimeter fence, the benches, the walls at the entrance, and even garbage bins as a tribute to the ancestors of Jamaicans brought here as slaves from West Africa.

3. Visit The Authentic Bob Marley’s House In Kingston

The entrance to Bob Marleys house, which is now a museum. The entrance is a small opening in a black iron fence based on red brick, and inside is a beautiful garden an a large tree in front of the yellow house.
Bob Marleys old house now a museum

Reggae legend Bob Marley was not born in Kingston; he was actually born in an incredibly small village in Nine Mile, St Ann Parish, just over an hour’s drive from Kingston town.

After his father died of a heart attack, Robert Nesta Marley, later Bob, left Nine Mile when he was 12 and moved to the notorious Trenchtown, Kingston, with his mother.

This is where he met all the people who became part of his life journey, bands, musical development, religious path (he was brought up as a catholic but converted to Rastafarianism), and even marriage.

As an adult and successful musician, he bought the house at 56 Hope Road, New Kingston, which is now a museum and an ode to his life.

His music rooms here are untouched, and you can see what I can only assume was a state-of-the-art music studio around the time he passed away from cancer in 1981 at only 36.

The Unsolved Assassination Attempt On Bob Marley in 1976
The gate to the property of the Bob Marley Museum is a big gate with colorful murals on each side
The outer Bob Marley museum gate

This house is also where Bob Marley was shot and injured in 1976, possibly a politically-motivated shooting. Political turmoils were the number one reason for assassinations and outright wars in Kingston in the 70s.

The unknown gunmen who fired on Bob Marley ended up wounding him lightly.

His wife Rita and a few other members of the crew were also injured, but none died. Who carried out this attempted assassination is still a mystery 46 years later.

A couple of days after the shooting, Bob Marley played as planned at the Smile Jamaica festival in the National Heros Park, showing off his greatest testament: the message of peace and love.

The bad guys don’t take a day off, he said, why should I?

Bob Marley was left with a bullet in his arm for the rest of his life, in fear that if it was taken out, it would damage his magic guitar hands. Although he died very young, in only 31 years, Bob Marley managed to make an eternal impact on the world.

His music and message to the world are still living, and posters of his face (and rasta hair) can still be found in every little backwater on the planet.

4. Experience The Lush Blue Mountains!

The lush green view from the Blue Mountains after the afternoon rains, towards Kingston
View from the Blue Mountains after the afternoon rain

The Blue Mountains are the home of one of the world’s best coffees; it is the longest mountain range in Jamaica and also includes the island’s highest point!

One of the various types of Blue Mountains Tours in Jamaica really is a wonderful experience.

You can hike to the top, bike in the National Park connected to the mountain range, or just take your car (or taxi) up from Kingston or Ocho Rios on the northern side to enjoy the views.

A red curved double door to an old coffe been storage at one of the old coffee plantations in the Blue Mountains, surrounded by incredibly green bushes and plants
Coffee bean storage at an old coffee plantation

If you like lush green nature, infinite views, and coffee – you will enjoy spending at least a day up here.

I had a great time with Viator, and although I did not do everything, I have collected an overview of what activities are available if you feel drawn to hiking, biking, or just getting a mountain of coffee!

Be aware that there are always afternoon showers in the mountains, which can be pretty heavy. So either you can go early in the morning or pack a day pack with appropriate rain attire (which I did not, unfortunately).

In the middle of the Blue Mountains we came across this nursery with rows and rows of red and pink flowers
Nursery in the mountain

5. Visit The Old Pirate Harbor In Port Royal

In the 16th Century, Port Royal was the largest city in the Caribbean, notorious for its gaudy displays of ridiculous wealth and loose morals.

By the last half of the 17th Century, it was also a major center for shipping and commerce in the whole of the Caribbean.

Inside the fortress Port Royal, all maroon brick structures, some are painted wihte, and there are a lot of old cannons along the walls
Port Royal outside Kingston

Founded in 1494, it was a popular homeport for English and Dutch-sponsored privateers (a form of naval mercenaries and hired soldiers) from the start.

These privateers came to port with their ships to spend their treasures decadently in Kingston throughout the 16th century. It was their R&R, if you will, when not serving in battles for whoever had bought their services.

When governments abandoned the practice of using privateers against the Spanish treasure fleets, many of these crews turned pirates, and they continued to use Port Royal as their main port into the 17th century.

Pirates from around the world actually congregated at Port Royal, coming from as far away as Madagascar!

From an old officers quarter in Port Rotal, with shiny dark wooden floors, decorative windows, a double bed, and decorated wooden boxes for storage on a large colorful oriental carpet. There is even a bottle of wine on the bedside table!
Officers quarters
The Devastating Earthquake in 1692

Then on June 7th, 1692, a massive earthquake erupted in Port Royal, followed by a devastating tsunami that crushed the city in the blink of an eye, and most of it sank into the sea.

The local clergy at the time was sure the whole thing was God’s punishment for the immoral soul of the city.

Two-thirds of the island sank, hundreds of houses disappeared, and around 2000 people were killed instantly as the ground liquified and devoured the houses and everyone in them. Much of the sunken city is preserved just a few meters underwater, along with several hundred sunken ships in the harbor.

Today, you can drive out there, past the international airport, and check out the parts of the fortress of Port Royal that escaped the destruction and have been conserved!

6. The Infamous Trench Town

The most popular slum in Kingston, riddled with poverty, heinous shacks, broken homes, ugly infrastructure, roaming youths, and a history of crime, is often referred to as the “Hollywood of Jamaica.” What?

Well, for some peculiar reason, out of this struggling community have emerged many of Jamaica’s famous musicians, sportsmen, and national heroes.

And now you can do a tour here!

One of them is, of course, Bob Marley and then Peter Tosh. Others are Bunny Wailer, Alton Ellis, Mortimer Planno, Joe Higgs, Marcus Garvey, and the Abyssinians. These guys managed the impossible to rise to greatness above the horrors of marginalization and poverty.

This weird against-the-odds phenomenon has made Trench Town an iconic tourist destination in Kingston, but the name Trench Town comes from its first owner, Daniel Power Trench.

He was an Irish immigrant of the 18th century and the son of a wealthy plantation owner and slave-holder living there in the 19th Century.

Downtown Kingston at night, lots of life, people, lights nad shopping stalls.
Downtown Kingston
The Innocent Birthplace Of Reggae

Trench Town is described as the birthplace of rocksteady (an early form of reggae) and reggae music, and it is also known to have been the home of Rastafari ambassador Bob Marley in his formative years.

Like the rest of Jamaica, Trench Town became unstable and dangerous in the early 1970s when politics became violent.

But in Trench Town, there were outright wars going on, with the frontline in the area between 7th and 5th Street, an area that pretty much got shattered to pieces.

Today’s largest challenge here is poverty.

Trench Town will proudly present the Trench Town Culture Yard Museum, which is a national heritage site that presents the unique contribution and place in the history of Trench Town to Jamaica.

Although it is still a bit of a rocky place, you definitely should visit Trench Town, and you can do it on an organized tour to get all the stories!

Most likely, you will also be ok on your own in the daytime, but then again, no harm in bringing a driver/bodyguard/historical guide to make sure you have a great time!

7. Do A Kingston Harbor Cruise!

The large white boat getting ready to leave the port from Kingston to head out to the sunset party cruise
Getting ready to cruise the harbor

Downtown Kingston is like a web of square streets in 90-degree angles like a paper crossword, and at the southern end of the streets, they all end up by the Kingston harbor.

Kingston also has the seventh-largest natural harbor in the world, inside the remnants of Port Royal and what is now Norman Manley International Airport, connected to the main island by a large U-shaped breakwater.

You can board different harbor cruises outside Kingston, both from the end of Downtown Kingston and from docks out on Port Royal.

For example, a Saturday sunset catamaran cruise starts from Downtown Kingston and lasts for around three hours, slowly circling the bay.

Sounds tranquil, but this is a serious party cruise, where the DJ ensures the mood stays high, an open bar (covered by the tour fee), and a meal are included. There are also snorkeling and day cruises that include lunch with many different agencies.

Blue lights on the party boat night tour outside Kingston
Party boat tour at night

You can choose a chill Sunday lunch-and-snorkeling cruise, which lasts 4-5 hours in the daytime. It includes a few umbrella drinks and the underwater exploration of colorful reefs!

Check out Loose Cannons Tours which has several vessels and types of cruises in the immediate Kingston harbor area. I loved the Saturday sunset cruise with them; it was super easy, and I was in a high mood. I had free drinks and a meal.

It also included a pick-up at my apartment and drop-off after the event, so I did not have to search for a taxi in Downtown Kingston after dark, which is always good.

8. Awesome Outback Adventures

Outside of Kingston, you can opt-in for an ATV terrain vehicle dirty ride experience if you want to challenge your comfort zones outside the city limits!

At Yaaman Adventure Park, you will be able to conquer the dirt and ride through a 980-acre wide area.

This can be a fun way to blow off some steam if you are up for it and then take in exceptional views out over the Caribbean Sea from a strategic vantage point of the park.

If you, like me, like challenges AND contrasts, you can finish the day off poolside with a GT or at a spa tending to sore, well-deserving muscles!

9. The Jamaica National Gallery

The National Gallery of Jamaica was established in 1974 and is both the largest and oldest public art museum in the English-speaking part of the Caribbean.

The National Gallery has an extensive collection of Jamaican art from various periods, including early, modern, and contemporary art. A substantial part of the collection is permanently in the exhibition, but the gallery also has a very active and varied external exhibition program.

The program will include things like retrospectives of work by major Jamaican artists, guest-curated exhibitions, thematic displays, and its flagship exhibition, which is the Jamaica Biennal.

You find The National Gallery of Jamaica right on the Kingston Waterfront, super close to Glorias Seafood City, for chilling before or after!

10. The Venerable Devon House Mansion

In the back yard of the famous Devon House in Kingston there are lots of shops and cafes in the old servants quarters. Here is a beautiful part, the white door to the bakery, surrounded by urns with colorful flowers under yellow palistrades.
The charming bakery at Devon House Kingston

Garden view from the second floor of Devon’s house and the backyard where the “help” used to live – now they sell cookies!

Jamaica’s first black millionaire, George Stiebel, dreamed of creating an architectural masterpiece in Kingston, which is why the Devon House Mansion was built in the late 19th Century.

Now, the Devon House is a museum and a celebrated historic landmark in Jamaica, constructed in a beautiful mix of Caribbean and Georgian architecture.

It is curated with a collection of English, Jamaican, and French pieces inhabiting the rooms; some are antiques, and some are reproductions.

The beautiful green grass in the front garden of the Devon House with trimmed bushes, palm trees and statues.
Devon House Garden

Stiebel got super-rich from mining gold in South America and was among three wealthy Jamaicans who constructed such ornamented homes on this corner of Trafalgar Road and Hope Road during that era.

Of course, the corner fittingly became known as the Millionaire’s Corner.

A very stylish bedroom at Devon House, with a lush white carpet, king bed, elegant furniture, floor to ceiling curtains, and a dark elegant wooden floor.
Devon house bedroom
Elegant Devon House Is A National Monument

Around the Devon House is still a beautifully managed lush green lawn, more like a park, covering the front area facing Hope Road.

On the back were the servants’ old quarters and the necessary facilities for a mansion at that time. Now, this part is a lush, green, beautifully overgrown park-ish space filled to the brim with plants, flowers, and bushes.

Here is also (apparently) the best ice cream in Kingston, a bakery, several restaurants, and little shops beautifully restored from the old servants’ quarters.

Devon House was declared a national monument in 1990 by the Jamaica National Heritage Trust, so now Stiebel’s legacy can live on in these stunning spaces.

You can come and feel the ambiance of the rooms and imagine what it was like when the women met for game night in the women’s salon and maybe had a glass of port!

11. A Chill Day Pass At A Hotel

My Airbnb pool in Kingston on the 7th floor of an apartment building. It is an infinity pool where you can swim and have spectacular views of the city from the seemingly blue water.
My Airbnb pool

If you are staying in a city hotel or Airbnb apartment, you may crave some cool blue water in one way or another while in the big city.

You can go to the beach, or, you can book a day pass at a hotel!

A day pass will give you access to all the amenities of being a hotel guest for a day at a price much cheaper than booking a room and exactly the break you need to recuperate and reenergize.

The Strawberry Hill Hotel, located high up in the Blue Mountains hillside, offers day passes; you can hang by the pool and enjoy the infinite views and the hotel kitchen.

You will need a car or a taxi to take you up the narrow mountain roads and then back down to the city in the evening.

12. Hope Botanical Garden & Zoo

There is even a little zoo in Kingston! I must admit I have not been there, but according to TripAdvisor reviews, it could be worth a visit if you really like animals.

It is not a very big zoo but has some large animals, a lot of small ones, and a diversity of birds.

You are able to pet and feed some of them as well, which, of course, according to all stress research, is super healthy and stress-reducing, which is all a part of the holiday intent, right?

13. Laid-Back Fort Clarence Beach

Pinkish sand and a life guard chair on Port Clarence Beach on a vright sunny day, with greenish clear water.
Fort Clarence Beach

Along with Hellshire Beach and Sugarman’s Beach, Fort Clarence Beach lies around twenty-ish minutes from central Kingston. It is a super popular spot for Kingston’s people (and visitors) to enjoy the water and beach activities.

You can spend just the day; there are several good restaurants in the area to keep you satisfied – or bring a picnic for lunch. If you want to spend more than a day, Spanish Town is a picturesque district very close to Fort Clarence Beach.

This is also the oldest continuously inhabited town in Jamaica, so the Jamaica National Heritage Trust declared the district a National Monument in 1994.

There are a myriad of historical buildings and sites, like the fantastic 18th-century Iron Bridge erected in 1801. Swing by when you are already in the neighborhood!

14. Historic National Hero Park

For 101 years, the area of Kingston, which is now called National Hero Park, was the center for horse racing in Jamaica. It was also the site for other sports activities like cricket and cycle racing.

As a place where people naturally gathered, it was also the venue for traveling circuses that visited the island occasionally.

Then, in 1818, the Kingston Council purchased the property for the exact sum of £985 and 10 shillings and kept the park open for horse racing and social events,

In 1953, a War Memorial to honor the fallen in the First World War was relocated here from its original location at Church Street. On Remembrance Day every year, veterans gather around the Cenotaph to honor the memory of the fallen in both world wars.

The site was officially renamed the National Heroes Park in 1973 and is now a permanent place for honoring the national heroes’ monuments erected in an area known as the Shrine, open for visitors.

There is a memorial sculpture in the center of the park, where honor guards are still watching over it and having a stylish ceremonial change of guards every day.

15. Take A Zen Yoga Class?

Being the passionate advocate for the slow travel concept that I am, you don’t just need to do Kingston Jamaica tours to have an adventure!

One of the fun ideas in the slow travel mentality is “going local,” slowing down, connecting, and doing things like the locals would do it.

Or just do things you normally would do at home; you can meet and get to know people doing the same things you do in Kingston and maybe make new friends. If you are into yoga (or want to try), you can look up a yoga studio, register, and book a class!

I found this stunning photo of a woman doing yoga, standing in an upward dog in a room with the wide doors open to the garden. This is yoga as it should be, and it can easily be like this in Jamaica!
Morning yoga illustration photo

It is super easy to register for free online, and then you can book classes and pay a drop-in fee if you only go once or twice.

I discovered Afya Yoga and Pilates, where you can register online and book the drop-in classes you would like.

What’s Special About Uptown Kingston

The part of the city which is called Uptown Kingston is also often referred to as “New Kingston,” a fast-growing, mainly commercial district that is slowly becoming the business center of the whole of Jamaica.

The New City is known for a mix of high-end hotels, fine dining restaurants, a financial district, a lot of foreign embassies, and newer modern private homes.

Uptown Kingston has newer and more modern buildings compared to the downtown area, characterized by its historic architecture. Travelers who prefer to stay in modern accommodation will probably be happiest staying in Uptown Kingston on their vacation!

Bustling Downtown Kingston

Downtown Kingston is where you find all the historic buildings, the large markets, courts, and one of the Caribbean’s greatest art museums.

Just outside of Downtown Kingston, you also find the world’s 7th largest naturally occurring harbor – the Kingston Harbour.

Be prepared to encounter large crowds of people exploring and shopping around downtown, on the weekends in particular, so brace yourself.

Kingston is weirdly known to have the lowest prices in all of Jamaica, so even locals will travel from across the island to do their shopping in downtown Kingston.

Kingston Jamaica Tours | Day Trips To Other Destinations

The city beach is Ocho Rios is a stretch of golden warm sand with occasional huts, sun beds, and palm trees scattered along the sands on a bright sunny day, with the sea in the distance.
Ocho Rios Beach

Jamaica is actually a super tiny island, and you can easily take day trips from Kingston crisscrossing the island in any direction.

This really means that you can have a comfy “base” for your holiday and then travel to other destinations for the day (you need to get up really early, though).

From pretty much any Jamaica destination, there are tours and activities to almost all other destinations on the island, at least the big ones.

This also means that if you check for organized tours in *your destination*, you probably will get a list of day trips with multiple activities that are in locations other than yours.

So if you want to stay in Kingston, you are able to book activities that will take you to the Blue Mountains, Ocho Rios, or Montego Bay for the day and then back again.

The zip-line platform in Mystic Mountain is a wooden platform in the middle of the lust green forest, where you end up when you set out zip-lining from the top of the mountain!
The zip line platform at Mystic Mountain

Why Choose Organized Kingston Jamaica Tours?

Normally, I am not a super fan of guided tours when I am traveling, as I, more often than not, quite frankly, prefer to explore on my own.

Walking the streets and finding the way through trial and error, so to speak, I love that.

In Kingston, though, there are a number of good reasons to choose a guided Kingston Jamaica Tour with a local knowledgeable guide instead. One thing is that it is HOT in Kingston, there are distances to cover, and you probably will need a taxi anyway.

Secondly, parts of Kingston have some security issues, and there are areas of Kingston you do not need to walk alone as a tourist.

A rugged street in Downtown Kingston with pedestrians, cars, buildings, and rubble.
Downtown Kingston

A tour guide will know where that is (or how to behave in those areas), and make sure you get to see the best parts anyway.

Thirdly, taking into consideration all of the above, lots of tour companies offer day tours that take you to a variety of attractions preplanned, or you can arrange for someone to take you to the places YOU want to go for the day.

I started out using Viator in Kingston because of the near-perfect experience on the Blue Mountains (private tour, super flexible, easy booking, and communication, 10 out of 10).

So I kept on using Viator both in Kingston and throughout Jamaica as they simply have lots of people and tours going on everywhere!

Wrap-Up Kingston Jamaica Tours!

Hopefully, you have got a lot of ideas and inspiration by now and a few means to plan and book your Kingston Jamaica tours and activities for your holiday!

Some things you will be fine exploring by yourself, while others, well. I do recommend you get a local guide or book a Kingston Jamaica tour for some of your explorations to avoid unnecessary problems.

Then you can enjoy a great holiday full of new adventures!

Related blog posts:

13+ Awesome Kingston Jamaica Tours And Attractions From An Expert

Excursions in Ocho Rios: Including The Beautiful Dunns River Falls.

Beautiful Blue Mountains Private Tour Jamaica From An Expert Traveler

Similar Posts

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *