19 Best Festivals In Jamaica - Updated 2023

festivals in jamaica
| 8 min read

Jamaica is famous for its lush rainforests, white-sand beaches lined with coral reefs filled with tropical fish, and emerald green mountains. The birthplace of well-known reggae superstar, Bob Marley, it is filled with life, energy, music, and delicious cuisines to be experienced between sightseeing adventures. Jamaica, known for its love of celebrations and community, hosts many festivals throughout the year where locals and international guests can enjoy the comradery and festive atmosphere together under the tropical sun. Amp up your trip, too, by staying at the best resorts and villa rentals in the country. Experience the best in jazz, reggae, culture, food, and drink, during your island adventure. So, read below for the best festivals in Jamaica.

1. Portland Jerk Festival

Editor's Note: Photo taken from the establishment's official social account

Today! The wait is finally over... Portland Jerk Festival happens today and we promise to serve some of the best jerk...

Posted by Portland Jerk Festival on Sunday, July 5, 2015

If you like meat and spicy food, this is one of the best festivals and celebrations in Jamaica for you! Celebrated on the first weekend of July, the Portland Jerk Festival showcases the many possibilities and variations of the dish. The meat is heavily seasoned and smoked over an open-wood fire. It is very peppery though, so make sure to have a drink handy! The whole family can enjoy the festival and dance to the typically featured reggae entertainment for everyone to enjoy.

Portland Jerk Festival

Address: Port Antonio, Jamaica

Website: Portland Jerk Festival

Takes Place: First weekend of July

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2. Mocha Fest

Editor's Note: There's no photo available at the time of writing

Take part in this Afro-American and Afro-Caribbean festival that started in 2014. Over the past years, Mocha Fest has grown to have seven different destinations and expects thousands of participants each year. This festival can last five to seven days and is vibrant, filled with jaw-dropping performances and amazing DJs. The festival isn’t just a party; it is a movement. It is a celebration of black culture, music, and entertainment. So, head to Jamaica and join the unforgettable party now!

Mocha Fest

Address: Negril, Jamaica

Website: Mocha Fest

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3. Port Royal Seafood Festival [Last event in 2019]

Editor's Note: Photo taken from the establishment's official social account

Posted by Grace Tropical Rhythms Port Royal Seafood Festival on Wednesday, October 17, 2018

Join the locals on National Heroes Day, the third Monday in October, in this celebration in Jamaica, the Port Royal Seafood Festival. Enjoy watching the celebrity chef cook-off between local favorites as they compete to create the most tantalizing seafood dishes during this celebration in Jamaica. Visit the numerous colorful stalls featuring mouthwatering seafood dishes including conch fritters, jerk shrimp skewers, steamed fish with rice and veggies, and others. Sit on a beach chair, soaking up the sun and the eclectic, festival vibe while listening to live music from popular Jamaican artists.

Port Royal Seafood Festival

Address: Kingston, Jamaica

Website: Port Royal Seafood Festival

Takes place: 3rd Monday of October

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4. Bob Marley Week

Editor's Note: There's no photo available at the time of writing

Bob Marley Week is a music festival in Jamaica that opens with the celebration of Jamaica’s famous son’s birthday at the Bob Marley Museum, with a free concert. During the rest of the week, reggae fans can take in symposiums, fashion shows, numerous exhibitions, and other activities related to Bob Marley. Enjoy taking a vacation to Jamaica during this celebratory time to experience the fun-filled atmosphere of reggae music, culture, local cuisine, and a never-ending dance party vibe in Kingston. During this Jamaican celebration and festival, the country offers fun spin-off deals for visitors to take advantage of, so make sure to book your Caribbean getaway to coincide with the first week of February.

Bob Marley Week

Address: Bob Marley Museum, 56 Hope Road, Kingston, Jamaica

Takes place: First week of February

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5. Trelawny Yam Festival

Editor's Note: Photo taken from the establishment's official social account

Enjoy visiting Albert Town on Easter Monday to participate in a festive day celebrating the yam, where you will witness the crowning of the Yam King and Queen. Indulge in dishes prepared with the yam including yam wine, yam cakes, and yam pudding besides many other Caribbean dishes prepared with this starchy staple. Have fun watching the goats and donkeys vie it out for the coveted title of best-dressed, along with other entertainment featured during this unique celebration. Learn about the history of the yam, its role during the plantation era, and the importance of this root vegetable on Jamaica’s economy.

Trelawny Yam Festival

Address: Albert Town, Jamaica

Takes place: April

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6. Ocho Rios Jazz Festival

Editor's Note: Photo taken from the establishment's official social account

Posted by Jamaica Ocho Rios International Jazz Festival on Monday, May 30, 2016

Come celebrate the Ocho Rios Jazz Festival held on Father’s Day in June each year. Enjoy listening to the smooth sounds of internationally renowned Jamaican jazz musicians alongside artists visiting from other Caribbean nations. Those traveling with families will find the Youth Programme and photo exhibition of interest in learning about the history and impact of jazz through the ages. For those who have plenty of time to travel across Jamaica, the jazz festival celebration can be experienced in Kingston, Montego Bay, Ocho Rios, and Runaway Bay, so be sure to include them in your list of places to visit.

Ocho Rios Jazz Festival

Address: Ochos Rios, Jamaica

Website: Ocho Rios Jazz Festival

Takes place: Usually held in June

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7. Accompong Maroon Festival

The Accompong Maroon Festival is a celebration held during the Independence Day of Jamaica to commemorate the victory of the Maroons over the British. Learn about Jamaica’s heritage through traditional dance, singing, storytelling, and musical performances. Indulge in traditional Jamaican cuisines while listening to the rhythmic drumbeat throughout the day. Visitors staying to the end will witness a traditional march to the Kindah Tree where an unsalted pork dish with yams is devoured by participants before the volume on the sound system is pumped up to continue the party into the wee hours.

Accompong Maroon Festival

Address: Accompong, Jamaica

Website: Accompong Maroon Festival

Takes place: January 6th

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8. Bacchanal Jamaica Carnival

Jamaica carnival
Source: Photo by Wikimedia Commons user Gzzz used under CC BY-SA 4.0

Jamaica celebrates its own carnival festivities a week after Lent on Easter Sunday each year. During the week of festivities, take time to attend the live concerts featuring talented Caribbean entertainers giving invigorating, passionate performances. Join the street party atmosphere and dance along to the beat while watching street performers sail by on ornately decorated floats in a rainbow of colors. Admire the showgirl costumes featuring plenty of feathers, sparkling sequins, and frosty pearls on performers as they dance their way through the crowded streets filled with party-goers.

Bacchanal Jamaica Carnival

Address: Bacchanal, Jamaica

Website: Bacchanal Jamaica Carnival

Takes place: April

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9. Reggae Sumfest

Source: Photo by Flickr user sergio_leenen used under CC BY-ND 2.0

Lovers of reggae music will want to include a visit to Montego Bay in July to attend the never-ending beach party that is Reggae Sumfest. After all, reggae is one of the things Jamaica is famous for. After combing through the colorful tents for delicious Caribbean cuisines, sit back on the grass to enjoy the sun and the enthusiastic performances from local and international reggae stars. Those visiting to attend this cultural event in Jamaica will be treated to six evenings of festivities including an All White Blitz Party. To celebrate the 28th anniversary of its biggest summer reggae festival, Jamaica will put the party into overdrive with its sound system explosion and beach party festivities during the week of July 15 - 21, 2020.

Reggae Sumfest

Address: Catherine Hill, Montego Bay

Website: Reggae Sumfest

Takes place: Mid July

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10. Calabash International Literary Festival

Our performance stage is LIT UP with book spines #calabash2018 #calabashlitup

Posted by Calabash International Literary Festival on Saturday, 2 June 2018

This world-renowned literary festival takes place in the hidden enclave of beautiful seaside Treasure Beach each year. During this three-day festival, enjoy readings, music, and storytelling from internationally acclaimed poets and writers. Enjoy dining on flavourful Carribean cuisines while being soaked in the tropical sunshine as writers from all over the world present thought-provoking recountings of mythological and historical accounts. With the sound of the ever crashing waves in the background, sit back and enjoy as authors make their newest literary works come to life before releasing them to the audience,

Calabash International Literary Festival

Address: Treasure Beach, Jamaica

Website: Calabash International Literary Festival

Takes place: End of May

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11. Rebel Salute

Rebel Salute Sizzla
Source: Photo by Wikimedia Commons user Jessica Hayssen used under CC BY 2.0

Celebrating the birthday of reggae promotor, Tony Rebel, Jamaica throws a family-friendly seaside party every January 15. While taking in stunning views of the turquoise waters of the Carribean Sea, visitors and locals will have access to an arts village full of clothing, crafts, and indigenous jewelry for purchase. Throughout the vast venue, there are stands featuring vegetarian, pizzas, natural fruit and vegetable juices, and an array of fresh tropical fruits, and coconut water for concert-goers to indulge in healthy choices. Don’t forget to purchase a sun hat at one of the booths to be able to enjoy the exciting dusk till dawn musical performances comfortably in the blazing sunshine.

Rebel Salute

Address: Grizzly’s Plantation Cove, St. Ann, Jamaica

Website: Rebel Salute

Takes place: January

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12. Milk River Seafood and Jerk Festival [Event has passed]

Posted by Milk River Seafood & Jerk Festival on Friday, 17 June 2016

Milk River may be a smaller community tucked away in Jamaica, however, its seafood and jerk festival packs quite a punch and is not to be missed. While enjoying views of the stunning bay and sandbar off in the distance, visitors will enjoy being able to fill their plates with succulent jerk chicken, plantains, and salt fish. Other delicacies featured prominently at Jamaican jerk festivals include cassava cakes, curry goat, and ackee, which is poisonous unless prepared properly. After getting your fill of jerk delicacies, make time to relax at the thermal baths or Milk River Spa, however, don’t be tempted to float or swim in the river since it’s infested with crocodiles.

Milk River Seafood and Jerk Festival

Address: Farqhuar Beach, MIlk River, Jamaica

Website: Milk River Seafood and Jerk Festival

Takes place: December

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13. Africa Jamfest

#AfricanJamFest coming Labor Day 2020

Posted by African Jam Fest on Wednesday, 18 September 2019

During Spring Break, Negril hosts a giant party over four weeks featuring the top DJs, contests, and an open bar. During this special event celebrated in Jamaica, there is a battle of the bands contest where contestants compete against one another to be crowned the best band. World-famous international recording talent, Shaggy, along with Assasin, and other artists have graced the stage and performed during the concert series.

Africa Jamfest

Takes place: September

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14. Port Antonio International Marlin Tournament

52nd Port Antonio International Marlin Tournament & The 31st Port Antonio Local Canoe Tournament | Friday, October 16th...

Posted by Port Antonio Marlin on Saturday, 17 October 2015

Fisherman from across the Caribbean, North and South America, and Europe set sail to catch, tag, and release the largest Atlantic blue marlin in this world-famous tournament annually. This popular sport fishing tournament is surrounded by an air of excitement with its receptions and festivities held throughout early autumn. As contestants compete fiercely to land the largest, fastest fish in the sea, Jamaica gets a welcome boost of increased tourism. Not only do the world’s sports fishermen compete for cash prizes, but for a coveted spot to participate in a larger competition held in Costa Rica.

Port Antonio International Marlin Tournament

Address: Port Antonio, Jamaica

Website: Port Antonio International Marlin Tournament

Takes place: October

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15. Christmas Grand Market

Christmas market
Source: Pxhere

Experience the holidays like never before by visiting Jamaica for its sun and sea while engaging in traditional customs with a Jamaican flair, featured throughout major Jamaican towns. Gran Market provides a festive atmosphere where stalls, houses, and streets feature seasonal decorations. The exciting and energetic atmosphere is enhanced by bands playing cheerful music and street vendors selling jerk chicken, candy canes, and sugar cane to shoppers racing to finish their holiday shopping. Since the Christmas Market opens at 6 pm and continues in operation until morning, shoppers are usually flustered trying to search through the stores and sidewalk vendors to pick up clothing, toys, decorations, and other holiday celebration related items.

Christmas Grand Market

Website: Christmas Grand Market

Takes place: December

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16. The Jamaica Food & Drink Festival

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Posted by Jamaica Food & Drink Festival on Friday, 8 November 2019

Kingston hosts a world-renowned Food & Drink Festival that is not to be missed. It’s a culinary experience like no other in that each booth features a different theme where chefs must only prepare dishes that correspond to that category. An example was during the 2019 festival, where local chefs created Asian-inspired dishes at the Chopstix tent. Join in celebrating the warm festive atmosphere along with locals and international attendees while indulging in jerk chicken, signature cocktails, spicy desserts, and other innovative dishes.

The Jamaica Food & Drink Festival

Address: Kingston, Jamaica

Website: The Jamaica Food & Drink Festival

Takes place: November to December

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17. Jamaica African Dance Arts & Culture Festival

Posted by Jamaica African Dance Arts & Culture Festival on Tuesday, 2 January 2018

Join in this cultural festival in Jamaica by volunteering to help out with the festival during your island paradise vacation. The family-friendly festival features African dance, drumming, culture, and craft workshops putting a spotlight on Jamaica’s African heritage. Enjoy the cool ocean breeze while eating authentic Jamaican dishes as dancers perform traditional and contemporary African dances. Make certain to stick around to enjoy a screening of the festival’s feature film and to purchase some unique souvenirs from festival vendors.

Jamaica African Dance Arts & Culture Festival

Address: The View of the Ocean Resorts on Mammee Bay Estates, St. Ann, Jamaica

Website: Jamaica African Dance Arts & Culture Festival

Takes place: February

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18. Clarendon Seafood Festival [Event has passed]

Editor's Note: Photo taken from the establishment's official social account

Visitors to Jamaica will have to venture deep into the island country to rural Clarendon to attend the annual seafood festival. Seafood lovers will be rewarded for this extra effort when they indulge in Jamaican cuisine prepared with the freshest, most succulent shrimp, lobster, conch, fish, and crab. Festival-goers will be able to watch as participants enthusiastically compete against one another in fish-eating and soup drinking competitions. Besides being able to enjoy the fruits of the Caribbean Sea, guests will be treated to live musical performances during the evening.

Clarendon Seafood Festival

Address: Woodleigh Entertainment Complex May Pen, Clarendon, Jamaica

Takes place: March

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19. Montego Bay Jerk Festival [Last event in 2019]

Editor's Note: Photo taken from the establishment's official social account

Posted by Mobay Jerk Festival on Monday, August 5, 2019

The Montego Bay Jerk Festival is an outdoor festival featuring reggae music and vendors selling Jamaican cuisine. Be certain to buy a sun hat and bring a beach chair to enjoy the live entertainment in the sweltering summer sun and humid Carribean weather. After filling up on specialties such as jerk chicken, pork, fish, and lobster, take the children to the Kiddie Village to be entertained. This family-friendly festival is yet another Jamaican event to celebrate Jamaica’s cultural heritage accompanied by delicious food and upbeat musical performances.

Montego Bay Jerk Festival

Address: Catherine Hall Entertainment Centre, Montego Bay

Website: Montego Bay Jerk Festival

Takes place: August

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Jamaica's year-round celebrations

Montego bay-1001
Source: Photo by Wikimedia Commons user Grahampurse used under CC BY-SA 4.0

Between snorkeling the pristine waters of Montego Bay, hiking through the lush tropical forest, and exploring Kingston’s colonial history and architecture, take time to take advantage of Jamaica’s year-round celebrations. While appreciating live music, cultural dances, and the friendly, hospitable atmosphere, indulge in succulent seafood, jerk chicken, conch fritters, and other traditional cuisines. You’ll find plenty of things to do and street food to try while you’re in Jamaica! Return home feeling revitalized and filled with many happy memories to keep you inspired to return to the sunny-spirited Caribbean island.

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Frequently asked questions about the best festivals in Jamaica

1. Which festivals in Jamaica are celebrations about its music industry?

Jamaica has plenty of festivals to celebrate music and important people in the music industry. You have Bob Marley Week, a week-long celebration of Bob Marley’s music and his influence. There’s also the Reggae Sumfest and the Ocho Rios Jazz Festival.

2. Which festivals in Jamaica will foodies surely enjoy?

Jamaica is popular for both its music and its food! Enjoy a variety of seafood dishes at the Port Royal Seafood Festival or jerks at the Portland Jerk Festival. If you like both, you must attend the Milk River Seafood and Jerk Festival.

Any must-sees we missed? Tell us about them in the comments section or write a post here to help out fellow travelers!
Disclosure: Trip101 selects the listings in our articles independently. Some of the listings in this article contain affiliate links.


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Celeste is a writer based in British Columbia with a profound passion for travel and the exploration of new destinations. Her adventurous spirit leads her to engage in exciting activities during...Read more

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