travel to jamaica

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Let’s start with some context about why I’m choosing to write an article about visiting Kingston, Jamaica through childhood memories.

Josh and I often babble to each other about stories from our childhood. In one sitting, I spoke about my childhood memories of my travels to Jamaica. Josh was so fascinated that he inspired me to write this article!

While I’m much more of a seasoned traveller now, much of my earlier travel adventures as a child was to Jamaica.

Whenever I remember travelling to Jamaica as a child, the first thing that comes to mind is that exotic full-flavoured, creamy, coconut ice-cream from the Devon House parlour.

Descending from a Jamaican mother, I had a number of opportunities to travel to Jamaica, and while I’ve visited the island in my adult life, most of my memories come from my childhood.

For reference, Jamaica during my childhood happens to be Jamaica in the 90s (don’t do the math). So, just what do I remember about Jamaica?

visiting jamaica

Visiting Kingston, Jamaica Through Childhood Memories

Being Jamaican-Canadian, visiting Jamaica meant more hanging out with relatives in the city versus lazing on beaches at a resort.

While this meant sharing a room with your cousins, it also gave me the chance to really see what it’s like to live in Jamaica.

When I think about visiting Jamaica as a child, there are a few things that come right to mind that are still popular staples in Jamaican culture today.

Indulging in Ice Cream at Devon House

Like any child, one of the best memories of Jamaica is at Devon House Ice Cream Shop in Kingston. The flavour that stands out the most? Coconut.

Whenever I remember travelling to Jamaica as a child, the first thing that comes to mind is that exotic full-flavoured, creamy, coconut ice-cream from the Devon House parlour. And on a hot day in the summer, it’s definitely a treat.

My grandfather would order separate cones for my older brother and I (which for a younger sibling is a huge deal) and I’d be in absolute bliss.

We’d often eat our ice-cream cones right in the parlour because Lord knows the creamy cone wouldn’t last in the Jamaican heat.

If you ever travel to Jamaica and have the chance to try Devon House ice cream, do it. The place is still thriving today and it’s a well-known hotspot for both locals and tourists.

travel to jamaica
Many of my afternoons were spent kind of like this.

Wandering Coronation Market in Kingston, Jamaica

Jamaica is known for its food and I’m whole-heartedly a fan of Jamaican ingredients like scotch-bonnet peppers, sorrel, and callaloo. What better place to find them than in the local market?

My grandmother frequented the market on her visits to Jamaica and always brought me along. It felt natural to peruse the different stalls while my grandma chatted with different clerks and picked up different ingredients along the way.

As a foreign child, clerks at the market were always super charming to me, gifting four-year-old Lily with fresh fruit to munch on because “you can’t let a growing girl go hungry.”

Colourful, loud, but incredibly inviting, Jamaica’s Coronation Market is the largest in the English-speaking Caribbean, and probably one of the best places in Kingston to get your hands on some Jamaican staples.

Coronation Market – Kingston, Jamaica – recent years.

What to Get at Coronation Market in Jamaica?

Now I haven’t personally shopped at Jamaica’s Coronation Market as an adult, but that being said, if you do happen to get to Coronation Market in Kingston there are a few Jamaican staples that are worth watching out for.

  • Sorrel Flower: Mostly used to make Jamaican sorrel, a traditional punch-like drink that includes red sorrel flowers, ginger, nutmeg and other spices. You can also add a bit of rum for some extra festiveness over the holidays.
  • Beans: Legumes like “Gungo” peas (pigeon peas), and kidney beans are often used in Jamaican rice dishes like ‘rice and peas’.
  • Scotch Bonnet Peppers: What’s Jamaican cuisine without the spice? The Jamaican scotch bonnet pepper is like the number one staple to have in any Jamaican kitchen. Remember, a little goes a long way when it comes to these colourful spicy nuggets.
  • Fresh fruit (especially coconuts): And what’s a Caribbean island without fresh fruit? You’ll be spoiled for choice of fruit at most Caribbean markets. In Jamaica though, watch out for: ackee, plantain, mangoes, soursop and breadfruit.
  • Sugar cane: My grandfather steadily chopped sugar cane in his kitchen both in Canada and in Jamaica. But fortunately, you can go to the market to find fresh sugar cane and cane juice.

Note: the market is busiest on Saturdays. While it may be harder to navigate on the weekend, you’ll find a larger quantity of products as well as fresher products.

Drinking Sugary Treats from a Bag?

As a child (I mean even as an adult with a little rum) Sky Juice is to die for! What is Sky Juice exactly?

Also known as ‘bag juice’ Sky Juice, as the headline implies, is a sugary treat from a bag. It’s like a snowcone and slushie combined.

You can usually find this sugary goodness packaged in some stores, but sky juice from street stalls are much more adventurous.

While I’m not sure if many vendors still sell this treat roadside, when they do, you can watch as they shave the ice, fill it up in a bag or a cup, and squirt some deliciously flavoured sugary syrup right on top.

A basic treat yes, but oh so welcomed during the daytime heat.

An example of the sky juice experience I’m writing about.

Jamaica’s Favourite Street Food

The epitome of Jamaican comfort food is the Jamaican patty. It’s seems so basic, but it’s so satisfying!

A Jamaican patty is ground beef or chicken seasoned and packed inside a warm flaky dough, waiting to be devoured in all of a few bites.

If you want to amp up your Jamaican patty, adding coco bread, a dense sweet bread that covers the pastry will ensure you stay full for much longer.

Coco bread aside, Jamaica is also the place where I learned to really make a patty a sandwich. This involves carefully opening up your patty, throwing in some lettuce, cheese, and mayo, closing it back, and engulfing it all in coco bread. There’s no better sin.

Since I have a pescetarian diet I tend to stay away from these, but there has been a rise in veggie and seafood patties over the years (ackee and saltfish patty anyone?).

Tastee Patties in Kingston, Jamaica

If you want to to dive in on some no-frills Jamaican patties in Kingston, head to Tastee patties.

Tastee is Jamaica’s biggest supplier of patties and if you’re from the UK, Canada or the US, you’ve probably seen them lining shelves of some local grocery stores.

They’ve been around for literally ever and they’re still thriving today; so forget the frozen samples and try the real deal on-site! Cocoa bread and all.

kingston jamaica

To Wrap This Up

Writing this article made me realize that childhood travel memories are … well actually worth remembering.

My trips to Jamaica have stayed with me well over the years, and while I don’t remember every detail, the ones I do remember are a pretty important part of Jamaican culture.

Travel experiences as a child are certainly different than full-adult experiences but they all make up your overall travel story.

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What’s your favourite childhood destination?

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