Every day in Jamaica is a cultural experience. Iconic activities include cooling off in the river, playing dominoes at the corner bar, stopping for jerk chicken or pepper shrimp roadside, dancing barefoot to live reggae on the beach, and hanging out late into the night at an impromptu neighborhood street party. Jamaica’s boisterous, fun-loving people have an intoxicating energy. Even if you’re just beachcombing in tourist havens Negril or Montego Bay, there’s no escaping the local flavor in Jamaica, and that’s what makes it “irie.” For more immersion, head to the hills of Cockpit Country and meet authentic Maroon and Rastafarian communities.

Jamaica is an island of year-round festivals, from food fests to annual reggae concerts and cultural celebrations. Keep a lookout for billboards and flyers, or ask anyone in town. Scheduling your trip around one of the festivals is a great idea, too. Pick either the first week of February for Bob Marley Birthday Bash celebrations and concerts in Negril, or July for the annual Sumfest concert in Montego Bay. If you’re into cultural ceremonies, don’t miss the Annual Maroon Festival in Accompong Town, held on the south coast during the first week of January. Then hop on over to the annual Jamaica Jazz & Blues Festival held the second or third week of January.