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Must Have Experiences In Jamaica...
(That Don’t Include The Beach)

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independence_celebrations.jpgMust Have Experiences In Jamaica - Jamaican Independence Gala

by Venesha Johnson | Associate Writer

Jamaica is a wonderful place to experience. Our culture is rich and bountiful and so much about us, from our people, our food and our culture you can never experience elsewhere, even if it is imitated.

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However, if you don’t know what these great experiences are, you won’t know to look out for them or even book your visit around the time they’ll be held. So here’s a list (not an extensive one), of some great events you won’t want to miss.

Maroon Festival Held in Accompong Town


The festival features street food, mento bands, herbal tonics, street dancing, and traditional drumming. Afro-Caribbean heritage is strongly reinforced by the speeches, chanting, drumming, and watchwords to pre-Christian deities. Celebrated as a "Maroon New Year," the event is held on January 6th every year.

It is based around a customary march to the fabled Kindah Tree, where attendees partake in a special unsalted, unseasoned maroon pork. Following that, there's a party that lasts till morning.

We actually have a video with raw highlights on our YouTube channel, you can watch it here.

Dead Yard


A Dead Yard is a celebration of life held the night before a funeral service. While back in the day it was more popular for us to have an entire Nine-Night celebration, today it is more common for us to have a candle lighting event the week after the person dies and a dead yard the night before they are buried.

Today, dead yards are almost like a full party. With bands and sound systems blasting, dead yards are lively events and people far and wide, whether they knew the person who died or not, come together to eat drink and be merry.

If you are staying at a resort you may not be able to attend a dead yard, but if you are staying at a villa, guesthouse or Airbnb you might have the opportunity to experience one. If you want to try authentic Jamaican Goathead soup, this is the place!

And yes, we have highlights of our very own  (Uncle Hugh), watch it here.



Jonkonnu is a traditional Jamaican dance form, performed during Christmas, Boxing, and New Year's Day holidays for enslaved Africans in the English-speaking Caribbean.

Known as "John Canoe" by the British, the dance combines European and English elements with African traditions. Popular steps include jigs, polkas, open cut out, one drop, and marching tunes.

Jonkonnu is a band of masquerades performed in towns and villages during Christmas, featuring characters like King and Queen, Cow Head, Horse Head, Pitchy Patchy, red Indians, and Belly Woman.

Musicians play traditional songs on bamboo fife, bass, rattling drums, shakas, and graters. Although modern Jonkunno bands are smaller and are fewer across the island, their energetic performances continue to entertain and terrify audiences.



Carnival in Jamaica is different from everywhere else. While the carnival season extends from late March to Early April, the main event is the Road March in Kingston. Road March is usually the first Sunday in April.

While carnival takes place in many Caribbean islands, those who have gone to many carnivals in different countries will tell you that Jamaica’s version is a bit different. It’s the vibe, the culture and especially our music. You won’t just hear soca music here, even though it’s a key part of Carnival culture, but you will also get a healthy dose of dancehall music.

Christmas Eve Grand Market

grand_market_downtown_kingston_gleanerGrand Market (Christmas Eve)

Christmas Eve Grand Market is just what it sounds like. With their wares in hand, merchants fill the streets. All you have to do is consider finding it. Shop till Christmas Morning after that! It's the ideal chance to get hold of those exclusive things that you won't be able to find all year long. Major communities all around Jamaica celebrate this colourful Christmas custom.

It's a vibrant, upbeat event that creates the perfect mood for celebrating. Grand Market has roots in the time of slavery. According to legend, the slaves were granted a few days of freedom, during which they would dress elegantly and go out to socialise.

Independence Day Grand Gala

The Independence Grand Gala in Jamaica is a celebration of the nation's independence from British colonial rule in 1962. It is not just a celebration of sovereignty but also a reminder of the nation's journey towards self-governance and unity.

The event pays tribute to the sacrifices of those fighting for self-determination and honours national heroes who advocated for Jamaican autonomy. The event features a diverse array of artistic expressions, including reggae, dancehall, folk songs, drumming, and dance, showcasing Jamaican culture and history.

There are many more one-of-a-kind experiences to be had in Jamaica like climbing Dunn’s River Falls, going to Champs, Going to ATI Dream Weekend, and many more. How many of these have you attended and which ones are you looking forward to next?

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Return to Jamaican Attractions from Must Have Experiences In Jamaica
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References & Sources For Must Have Experiences In Jamaica

  1. (No date) 2nd day of Christmas – Jonkonnu – Jamaica Information Service. Available at: (Accessed: 17 April 2024).
  2. Accompong Maroon Festival 2025 in Jamaica - dates (no date) Accompong Maroon Festival 2025 in Jamaica - Dates. Available at: (Accessed: 17 April 2024).
  3. The true meaning of Jamaica’s independence grand gala (2023) Jamaica Observer. Available at: (Accessed: 17 April 2024).
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