I did Sunsplash and Sumfest last year. I tried to book hotels through the Jamiacan tourist bureau and found that things were not quite as advertised. Actually, since the shows start at about 10:00Pm and go until the next morning, you don’t really need a hotel every night. The locals sell reggae beds (cardboard) and most people sleep during parts of the show, saving there energy for their favorite acts in the lineup. During the day you can sleep on the beach, whihc is what a lot of tourists do in JA. As long as you don’t look to ragged, you can sneak into the nicer hotels and take a shower in their beach showers. This is a lot cheaper, and you can do the hotel thing on the off nights, just to sleep behind a locked door (very comforting when you reaaly need to sleep).
Sunsplash is under new management (now its called Sunsplash the remixLast year they had a disappointing turnout, but the shows where still great. The Ocho Rios location is a hassle, since you have to catch a bus or a cab and that costs bucks over four nights. This year is the 20th anniversary, so it might pick up.
Sumfest was definately more professional. I would chose that show if I had to chose between the two, but since they are with in the same week, is seems a waste not to do both!
Definitaly make a pilgrimage to Nine mile. That is the ulitmate vision of Zion, not to be missed. Most everything else is tourist traps. The Kingston Bob Marley museum is o.k., but nine mile should be your top priority. Got to pay yuh respect to Bob.
The JA reggae festivals are awesome. My advice to someone who has never been is this: JA is between Zion and Babylon. Yuh cyan let the Bablyon side ketch ya.