The home of jerk chicken and reggae music is a legendary destination in the Caribbean. It draws millions of travelers each year with its white-sand beaches and characterful jazz joints, five-star hotels and fiery local cuisine. But that doesn’t stop people worrying about the pretty high crime rates that abound. That’s why we’ve slung together this list of the safest places in Jamaica.
It lists a series of the more welcoming locations on the island; the places where everything from petty crimes to violent incidents should be less common than an unforgettable sunset or the tastiest rum punch you’ve ever had.
The good news is that the safest places in Jamaica certainly aren’t boring. Nope, you can look forward to plenty in the way of beautiful beach towns on the cusp of sugary shorelines, vibrant town centers with jerk shacks and cocktail bars, and some of the finest hotels you’ve ever laid eyes on, infinity pool overlooking the Caribbean Sea as standard, of course.
Lovers of all things tropical sand and bath-warm seas will be glad to see Negril topping off our list of the safest places in Jamaica. The R&R mecca of the island, it’s long been the go-to spot for vacationers on the hunt for Vitamin Sea. It’s main draw – the appropriately named Seven Mile Beach – takes care of all that, while opulent resorts crowd between the coconut groves just behind.
The very fact that this is a tourist town through and through means that you can expect much lower crime rates than what you’d get in, say, the inner-city districts of Kingston. Muggings, thefts, and assaults are considered way less likely occurrences here, and drug crimes certainly aren’t seen as a major issue.
On top of that, many of the bigger hotels in Negril are gated and come with their own in-house security details. The upshot? Travelers here benefit from double levels of protection. There’s the local tourist police but also the hotel teams, meaning there’s always someone at hand should things take a turn for the worse. Your job is to concentrate on topping up the tan and swimming in the glass-clear sea. Enjoy!
Ocho Rios has cut its teeth as a major destination for moneyed cruise shippers and sun seekers over the years. There’s a massive dock here that can handle vessels carrying thousands of passengers at a time, and plenty of hotels to cater to the land lubbers. Okay, so that nurtures a sort of Disneyland feel but does mean that little Ocho reigns as one of the safest places in Jamaica.
Just check the stats – according to Numbeo, the overall level of crime here is low, while the chance of being mugged or attacked is generally lower than in Kingston and Montego Bay city. (Perhaps the only thing to take note of is that crime rates have been creeping up in the last few years, so watch this space.)
In the meantime, there’s plenty else that might draw you to this corner of the Jamaican north coast. Glorious beaches like Oracabessa Bay (known to travelers as James Bond Beach) offer pearly waters and glinting sands. Then there are the gushing waterfalls of the Dunn’s River, plus the wild interiors of the Blue Mountains National Park for hikers and bird lovers.
Runaway Bay is kinda’ like the quintessential Jamaican holiday town. Wedged right onto the most popular strip of coves east of Montego Bay, it’s fronted by the glowing powders of Cardiff Hall Beach and its eponymous Runaway Bay Beach. Both are clean arcs of sun-splashed sand with fenced off patches of coral gardens that are perfect for snorkelers.
The main A1 highway cruises right through Runaway Bay on its north side. It’s flanked by uber-popular hotel chains and fantastic family stays, many of which are well gated and protected by private security firms. Leave the center just a little and you’ll encounter some of the serious mega resorts of Jamaica, like the Bahia Principe, which is almost as large as the whole of Runaway Bay itself, boasting several outdoor pools, a handful of restaurants, a huge gym and more.
The crime rates of Runaway Bay are pretty good compared to other, more dangerous, locations in Jamaica. There’s less petty theft and less serious crime than in the heart of the capital and even Montego Bay proper. What’s more, loads of vacationers here don’t even stray outside their resorts, so there’s that option if you’re feeling super cautious.
Over on the far side of the Blue Mountains from the iconic strips of resorts and honeymoon hotels that crowd Mo’Bay, Port Antonio has risen to become a very popular escape that’s just a tad off the beaten track. A hop and a skip from the center and you can be hiking highland paths between waxy orchids, swimming in cooling waterfalls deep in the jungles, or lazing on picture-perfect beaches like Frenchman’s Cove.
There’s plenty to be said for this part of the island if your main concern is safety, too. The reason? Port Antonio is the parish capital of the region of Portland in eastern Jamaica. Official stats released by the Jamaican Constabulary Force show that this was the district with the fewest murders, the fewest shootings, and the fewest robberies back in 2022.
It’s certainly one to consider, especially that all those safety bonuses are backed up by relatively cheap hotels that ooze local character. This isn’t really the place for massive chain resorts sized the same as a mini city.
The parish of St. Thomas lies directly to the east of Kingston. It’s a tale of two chapters when it comes to crime stats. Stick to the areas nearer the big city and you actually might encounter some of the most dangerous places on the island: Eleven Mile, Grants Pen. But, venture out, and things get better fast.
Yep, there’s a good reason that the region of St. Thomas has the fourth lowest murder rate and the sixth lowest rate of gun crime in Jamaica as a whole. That reason? A lot of the parish is totally undeveloped and very rural. Keep going east and you’ll soon come to wave-lashed Morant Point and the black sand beaches that fringe it. There’s hardly another human to be seen down those parts.
On the flip side, St. Thomas’s undeveloped reaches aren’t really classic holiday territory. To put it another way: You won’t want to come here if you’re dreaming of soaking up the rays by a coral reef under a coconut palm. It’s rawer, wilder Jamaica from tip to toe.
Sat on the shimmering north coast roughly midway between Montego Bay and Rio Bueno, the parish capital of Falmouth is somewhere that should be familiar to return visitors to Jamaica. That is, it should be familiar to return visitors who dropped by the land of sizzling jerk via cruise ship. Yep, this is one of the major stops for those huge vessels on the island and it can see a stream of thousands of people each day in the peak season.
Perhaps more notably for those keen to visit only the safest places in Jamaica, Falmouth is the seat of a region that has the second-best overall crime stats in the island nation according to the local police. Yep, there was a total of just five shootings here in 2023, and only four officially reported murders. That’s more than 10 times less what it is in Jamaica’s most dangerous region, St. James.
Tempted? Falmouth has a lovely downtown that’s peppered with pretty Georgian houses, colonial-era ruins that tell tales of the sugarcane industry from centuries gone by, and even bioluminescent bays where you can swim with light-emitting plankton. Pretty cool, eh?
A rare pick from the southwestern end of the island, Black River is the parish town of St. Elizabeth. Generally off the usual tourist trail, the region is largely agricultural and rural, with undeveloped swathes of low mountains that give way to a coastline of soft-sanded beaches backed by rainforest. It’s the place to go for a taste of the local side of Jamaica.
The main draw in Black River itself are the safari cruises up the namesake waterway. Add one of those to the itinerary and you’ll get to see snarling crocodiles and old-growth bayous alike. We also like the cluster of chilled sports bars and jerk shacks that center around High Street in the downtown.
When it comes to crime rates, Black River follows the same pattern as Falmouth and Port Antonio by boasting some of the best numbers from 2022 and 2023. Yep, there were only nine shootings and 18 robberies reported in these parts in the last year, plus the murder rate dropped almost 60% in total, which is always good to see!
The safest places in Jamaica – our conclusion
Overall, the safest places in Jamaica tend to match up nicely with the most-coveted holidaying spots on the island…
Destinations like Negril, with its seven miles of pristine white sand, and Ocho Rios, with its fancy hotels gazing at the Caribbean Sea, come close to the top of the list. Then you have tempting choices that are a little more off the beaten track, such as Port Antonio (a hidden gem in the east that’s a gateway to rainforests and stunning coves alike) or Black River (a local option that’s a base for Jamaica’s crocodile safaris).
One thing you’ll certainly want to be sure to do is avoid the bigger towns and cities. Montego Bay and Kingston have by far the worst crime stats of any places on the island, and are generally seen as hubs for gang violence and gun crime.