Jamaica has long been a popular Caribbean destination – and for good reason. Its lush forests, beautiful beaches, and unique excursions make it appealing to the masses. With so many incredible areas to fall in love with, picking your favorite may be nearly impossible. If you’re up to the challenge, here are a few to consider.
Once the Caribbean playground for celebrities Errol Flynn, Noel Coward and others; Port Antonio, Jamaica is a laid-back favorite for today’s jetsetters. Spending time outside is a given for any Jamaica getaway, and Port Antonio won’t disappoint. Lounge on the white sand beach or jump waves at Frenchman’s Cove – a favorite for visitors and locals.
Port Antonio is also home to Reach Falls, a series of waterfalls and caves in the heart of the rainforest. The tiered layout of the falls makes for an incredible hike. As you work your way to the top, you’ll climb rocks; duck through falls; and swim through calm pools. Make sure to have the guide show you where to get the best back massage of your life – compliments of Mother Nature.
A different view of the area can be achieved with a leisurely ride down the Rio Grand by way of a bamboo boat. Originated by Errol Flynn, these banana boats were once used to carry the crop from one point to the next. A stop at Belinda’s mid-way for freshly prepared local cuisine is a must.
You won’t find cookie cutter resorts in the Port Antonio. Accommodations here are more low key and personal. Situated on the hilltop with soul stirring vistas of the Blue Mountains and Caribbean Sea, Hotel Mockingbird Hill boasts ten eco-boutique rooms. Rooms are comfortable, airy, and smartly decorated. However, the outdoor gardens lured me quite often with its winding paths through luxuriant trees, flowers and serenading birds. Owners Barbara and Shireen embody a genuine hospitality that makes you feel like you’re staying with friends.
Food in Port Antonio is varied and scrumptious – whether it’s casual local cuisine in Woody’s Low Bridge Place or romantic candlelit dining at Hotel Mockingbird Hill’s acclaimed Restaurant Mille Fleur.
Here you’ll find a bit more action – and a good blend of local culture and history, natural beauty, and resort bustle.
Walk in the steps of Columbus at Discovery Bay; or take a tour of Green Grotto Caves with relics of the native Taino Arawaks. History indicates many Spaniards escaped the 1655 English Invasion through secret passages in the caves. More Indian and Spanish artifacts can be found at Seville Great House and Heritage Park. Finds from the excavated colony of Sevilla La Nueva, founded by Columbus’ son in 1509, are on display here.
Perhaps Jamaica’s most popular attraction is Dunn’s River Falls. Notable for its use as a backdrop for the first James Bond movie, Dr. No, the falls offer an exhilarating climb. Water shoes are recommended. If climbing isn’t your thing, hang out by the beach area or stroll through the lush tropical area teeming with fern, ginger lilies and bamboo.
Ocho Rios accommodations can range from upscale hotels to friendly guesthouses. For the best local jerk food at a reasonable price, head to Scotchies. Their pork and chicken are cooked over pimento wood, and meals include roast breadfruit, yam, and festival (sweet fried cornbread).
“Mo’Bay”, located on the northwest coast, is an energetic resort area with excursions aplenty. Sunning on the beach is a highlight, and there are many places for that. Calm waters for swimming and snorkeling make Walter Fletcher Beach a nice pick. While a bit busier, Doctor’s Cave Beach and Cornwall Beach are also good choices.
Experience Jamaica from a different perspective with a zip line canopy tour. You can also explore remote mangrove swamps along Jamaica’s longest river, the Black River.
Shopaholics are sated here, and the Crafts Market has a lot to peruse. Purchase handcrafted souvenirs like bags, baskets, and jewelry.
Accommodation options are quite numerous. Upscale resorts like Half Moon, Coyaba Beach Resort and Club, and Rose Hall Resort and Spa are just a few to consider.
For meals, consider the casual atmosphere and delicious jerk pork at the Pork Pit; or dine at Marguerite’s for remarkable sunset views and a menu to match.
Adventurous and carefree travelers will most likely land in Negril as it offers an abundance of outdoor fun – diving, windsurfing, kayaking, water skiing and much more.
Indulge in many of the above-mentioned activities at 7-Mile Beach. This long ribbon of white sand, offering ample room to stretch out, is perfect for sun worshippers. You don’t even have to leave the beach, as it really seems to have it all – hotels, all-inclusive resorts, restaurants, activity vendors and locals peddling their wares.
Want to take a break from the beach? Head to Kool Runnings Water Park. With ten slides, a lazy river, food and games, you may not even miss the sand.
Horseback riding with Babo’s Riding Stable is another way to soak in Negril. This scenic two-hour ride includes a tour of the Whitehall Great House Ruins. Although the property was practically destroyed by a fire in 1985, the plantation home for the Whitehall estate is a prime spot for a panoramic view of Negril’s coastline.
Negril offers a varied selection of places to base yourself – larger-scale hotels like Grand Lido Negril Resort and Spa or the cottage style sanctuary of The Caves.
Grab sumptuous Jamaican dishes and hang out with the locals at Sweet Spice. Also, Norma’s on the Beach at Sea Splash offers seasonal favorites like grilled red snapper served with butter sauce or jerk penne pasta.
Whatever area you choose as your favorite, you may soon find yourself sampling them all. Jamaica has many spots to lure you, but “one love” can really be found anywhere on the island.