There are plenty of things to do in Jamaica – though the long swathes of beaches and warm Caribbean Sea prove alluring, there are many other activities to while away the time.
The country offers rich history, effervescent character, strong musical culture and beautiful natural surroundings. Highlights include exploring the dramatic mountains, rivers, waterfalls and beaches, visiting bustling markets, playing a relaxed round of golf on a championship course, sampling rum at the Appleton Estate and trying the islands world famous jerk chicken.
Settled first by the Spanish and later the British the island’s economy was dominated by the sugarcane production and was a major hub for the slave trade. The island maintains a strong connection with its African heritage with the influences clear in the music, as well as the African spices that have contributed to the tasty creole cuisine.
Montego Bay has a bustling and vibrant atmosphere and the excellent Museum of St James offers the chance to learn about more about the sobering history of the slave trade. The surrounding area features fine beaches and colonial-era plantation houses and estates, while to the east is the historic old port town of Falmouth with well-preserved Georgian architecture and a selection of walking tours highlighting the history and local cuisine. Negril on the island’s western tip, has the stunning white sand beaches including Long Bay, also known as Seven Mile Beach, superb offshore coral reefs, colourful sunsets and nature and birding tours in the Great Morass mangrove swamps.
Further along on the less-developed north-east coast, find sleepy Port Antonio, capital of Portland parish, and a picturesque and laid-back small town that is great to explore on foot. There are many delightful coves and bays along the coast, including the beautiful Frenchman’s Cove and the Blue Lagoon, and in the interior are forested mountains and the Rio Grande Valley, where there are opportunities for guided hikes or boat trips.
Close to Port Antonio, beautiful Frenchman’s Cove is a secluded and peaceful tree-lined white sandy beach, while nearby is the gorgeous Blue Lagoon where one can take a dip in the azure waters that are a mix of fresh spring waters and salt water.
Close to Ocho Rios are Dunn’s River Falls – here, surrounded by rainforest, are cascades and pools pouring 180m down over natural limestone tiers to the beach. Visitors here can enjoy a refreshing climb up the waterfalls and an early visit is recommended to avoid the crowds. Meanwhile, inland from the south coast are the YS Falls with seven tiers of cascades, and refreshing pools for swimming amidst thickly forested cliffs and trails.
The unspoiled and quieter south coast is a world away from the busy and touristy north, but still features a wealth of sites to explore. Find Treasure Beach, a series of sandy beaches and rocky coves interspersed with laid back fishermen’s villages. Or explore the area around the historic town of Black River and the river of the same name and take a boat trip into the southern part of the Great Morass wetlands to search for birds and crocodile. Inland, see the cascades of the beautiful YS Falls and swim in the natural pools, or visit the Appleton Estate near Maggotty, one of the oldest rum distilleries in Jamaica, dating back to 1749.
The Blue Mountains lies in the east of Jamaica, just an hour’s drive to the north-east of the capital city Kingston. This 45-long range of mountains with steep and lushly forested upper slopes has a highest peak of 2256-metres tall. Much of the forest area is now part of a protected national park. The climate is cooler and humid due to the altitude and bluish mists than give the mountains their name. This region can be explored with drives along winding mountain roads that pass through sleepy villages and past the plantations where the famous Blue Mountain coffee is grown. Alternatively, hike along nature trails to search for flora and fauna.
A drive of 80km east from Montego Bay to Ocho Rios may reveal scenes recognisable from the first James Bond film, Dr No – hardly surprising, as Bond’s creator, Ian Fleming, lived in Goldeneye, just outside Ocho Rios. Inland lies the birthplace and grave of Bob Marley at the village of Nine Mile.
Jamaica has some of the best golf courses in the West Indies, the finest of the championship links being at Montego Bay.
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