Paris Permenter & John Bigley's
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Shopping in Jamaica

This island has a wealth of arts and crafts, everything from colorful paintings to folk art wood carvings, not to mention batik T-shirts and crocheted tams in Rastafarian colors (yellow, red and green). Shopping at the roadside stands or on the beach involves negotiating of price. It’s part of the fun.

Our favorite purchases are the woodcarvings, both freestanding and bas relief of local animal life, faces, fish, and just about everything else you can imagine. The finest pieces are carved from lignum vitae, or wood of life, a pale hardwood that is so dense it won’t float.

Each resort area is home to a Craft Market. Many travelers avoid the market because of fears of high-pressure sales, but we have found the market delightful. A friendly “good morning,” abstaining from photos until a purchase (no matter how small) is made, and general good manners will go far with the salespeople. On a recent visit, one cheerful vendor gave us a small basket as a gift. After shopping, take a break with a soft drink or “sky juice” (like our snow cone) sold from pushcarts beneath the shade trees.

Some small purchases include small straw baskets, perfect for a youngster’s jewelry and prized possessions ($2), tiny straw purses ($4), friendship bracelets in rasta colors ($1), coffee bean necklaces ($2), and bamboo bangles ($4).

For fixed prices, head to the shopping centers. In Montego Bay, the top shopping centers are City Centre, a block-long collection of duty-free shops, the nice but high-priced Half Moon Shopping Village, and our favorite, the Holiday Village Shopping Centre near Holiday Inn SunSpree. Look for Bob Marley T-shirts, rasta tams, woodcarvings, straw baskets, and more.

In Negril, the Hi-Lo Shopping Center offers a good selection of souvenir, liquor, music, and sportwear stores. The Hi-Lo grocery itself is an excellent shopping stop; pop in to purchase spices, hot sauces, and Blue Mountain coffee at prices far lower than you’ll see in the hotel gift shops.

Ocho Rios is home to the Taj Mahal Shopping Centre, a complex of fine duty-free shops and other stores that sell souvenir items.

Back to Jamaica with Kids



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