A guide to local markets in Jamaica

There’s no better way to get in sync with an island’s culture than by visiting the local markets and, with its abundance of outdoor markets, Jamaica is no different.

If you find yourself in this sunny patch of the Caribbean, here’s a handy guide to the best local shopping spots on the island and how to navigate them.

Top local items to pick up in Jamaica

There’s no better souvenir than one of Jamaica’s famous delights. It was a hard task, but we’ve picked three of Jamaica’s greatest treasures you can take home with you.

– Blue Mountain Coffee – Beans grown and ground in Jamaica’s Blue Mountains are a crowd favourite on the island, known for their deep, rich flavour. You’ll easily find blends at markets around the island, especially in bigger cities.

– Jamaican rum – There’s a reason Jamaican rum is famous the world over. Appleton Rum is especially beloved – as well as at markets, you can even pick up a bottle from the source at the Appleton Estate.

– Jerk spices – If you’ve ever had jerk chicken, you’ll know that the spice blend makes or breaks it. Seeing as it’s a Jamaican dish, you can bet that the Jamaicans have perfected this spice mixture, so you’d be wise to pick up a couple of packets before you jet home.

Tips for shopping

The vendors in Jamaican markets can be pushier than what you might be used to, asking you to look through their shops. If you go in with an open mind and/or a firm ‘no’ at the ready, you’ll be good to go.

You should also be prepared to haggle with local merchants. Know that, especially in souvenir shops, many vendors will carry similar items, so if you should get your, ‘I can find this elsewhere’ face ready, you’ll get a better price.

Local markets to check out

Island Village

The Island Village in Ocho Rios is a great blend of local and big time with an open-air market tucked right up alongside one of Jamaica’s most popular tourist districts. You’ll find a mixture of quirky souvenirs, handmade arts and crafts and high end jewellery.

Although you can also find the latter in duty free shops, you’ll be saving an extra quid at the markets. Also on offer at the Island Village are a couple of cafes and a cinema, so you can balance out your shopping with a little relaxation.

Coronation Market

Coronation Market, found in Jamaica’s capital city of Kingston, is one of the biggest and liveliest markets on the whole island. It’s held within a cast iron building and gets especially busy – and noisy – with shoppers on a Saturday, though it’s open throughout the week.

If it’s a true taste of Jamaican commerce you’re after, you’ll want to head this way. Expect to find everything from fresh fruits and vegetables, toys, electronics, cuts of meat and street food to pick up as you go.

Montego Bay Crafts Market

The Crafts Market in Montego Bay is a collection of colourful, ramshackle stalls helmed by sometimes pushy traders, if you don’t know how to navigate the network of shops. But if you come prepared with your haggling A-game, you’ll find a great array of wares that are made by the locals themselves.

Here, you’ll come across everything from reggae-themed souvenirs to hand-carved wooden sculptures, jewellery, bags and hats.

Ocho Rios Flea Market

The Flea Market in Ocho Rios is an open-air affair where you can find everything from clothing to wooden carvings, jewellery, artwork and bags.

It’s another one of those places where the vendors are known for their pushiness, but if you go in with the right attitude, you’ll be able to tackle it no problem and come out with some locally made goodies.

BONUS – Harmony Hall

Located less than a 10-minute drive from Ocho Rios, Harmony Hall is a 19th-century Jamaican-Georgian mansion that has since been restored into an arts and crafts gallery.

Within you’ll find artwork by more than 100 Jamaican artists whose styles are vast and varied, plus a gift shop and a restaurant. In the wintertime, they host an outdoor craft market where swarms of local craftsmen gather and sell their wares in little stalls.

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