What to see in Jamaica
What to see in Jamaica. Nine days away from Italy to discover a Caribbean island of which I did not know anything and that made me fall in love every day more… Read on to find out everything about my trip to Jamaica, with lots of tips on what to visit, but also where to sleep and what to eat!
What to see in Jamaica in a week
To reach Jamaica from Milan Malpensa I took the Neos flight which departs at 1:45 pm and after fourteen hours of flight (with a short stopover in Santo Domingo), lands in Montego Bay. A couple of hours drive away from the first step of my journey: the town of Negril. The flight is perfect because, being the time zone in Jamaica less than 7 hours compared to Italy (minus 6 when the have the winter time), you arrive in the evening and then you can immediately recover with a night of full sleep! A warm and decidedly tropical climate awaits me when I arrived: temperatures between 27 and 30° C, with high levels of humidity (but it never rained)! No visa is required at the entrance and you can stay for a maximum stay of 90 days.
Jamaica is an island of the Greater Antilles that is located not far from others that I have previously visited, Cuba and the Dominican Republic. But it is completely different. A former British colony, it is still today part of the Commonwealth as well as the reign of Elizabeth II. The spoken language is English, the food has a lot of British tradition and people are often sarcastic and have that strong sense of humor that is typically British!
But let’s speak about the trip now. The itinerary was designed to get to know the less touristic and inflated side of Jamaica and to immerse yourself in the most authentic places, in the culture and in the local traditions. Starting from Negril.
One of Jamaica’s best known and most beautiful beaches is in Negril. Seven kilometers of white sand, beautiful coral reef, colorful wooden houses but, above all, one of the most spectacular sunsets I’ve ever seen!
The first day we went out in the boat to snorkel from the West End. But while I was on board the boat I was able to do sea watching thanks to a glass porthole on the bottom: imagine my happiness when in the wonderfully turquoise water I managed to see some marvelous starfishes?
I then spent the rest of the day at the Rockhouse Hotel, one of the most amazing hotels I’ve ever been to. What do you think about it?
The hotel consists of a series of villas that stretch along the edge of the cliffs of Pristine Cove, each with its own private access to the sea thanks to a comfortable orange colored staircase. The food served in the restaurant of the Rockhouse is 0 km, cultivated or reared internally by them on their farm: I have visited and I have been able to taste all the products of their garden!
It’s time for an happy hour and I could not but order coconut water!
For the second and last day in Negril there is a typical sport activity planned: the horseback ride inside the Rhodes Hall Plantation, a nature reserve that hosts crocodiles and various species of birds. The path lasts a couple of hours: it starts inside the reserve and ends with a swim in the sea! This was my first experience in water riding a horse!
For lunch we stopped by Scotchies in Montego Bay: here you can taste some of the typical dishes of the Jamaican tradition such as Jerk’s chicken and pork, cooked on the grill after being marinated in a range of spices including jalapeño, which makes the dish very spicy (and I love spicy foods)!
Another unique experience to do if you are in the area is the rafting along Martha Brae River, on board very special rafts as made exclusively with bamboo canes. You can imagine this type of boats sail very slowly, allowing you to be immersed yourself in the surrounding nature: a truly relaxing experience!
Local people here hand craft a series of really cute objects, like these little bowls made from coconut!
After the first two nights in Negril and after traveling the north coast from West to East, we stopped for another couple of nights at Ocho Rios. We stayed in a beautiful resort, the Jamaica Inn, which has a very nice story to tell…
In the 1950s Jamaica was one of the trendiest destinations of the era, frequented by the international jet set and the English aristocracy. And some influential personalities of the era stayed at the Jamaica Inn, such as Winston Churchill, Marylin Monroe (on honeymoon with Arthur Miller), Vivien Leigh (Scarlett O’Hara on Gone with the Wind) and Ian Flemin , writer and author of the very famous Agent 007. But there’s more: during one of the stays, while he was at the hotel bar (where you can see a picture below), he heard a Frenchman order an unusual drink: a “Vodka Martini shaken, not stirred”. Fleming was super fascinated by this detail, so as to take inspiration for his novel: James Bond always orders it!
Jamaica is the island of James Bond not only for this aspect. Fleming used to spend a couple of months a year in his Goldeneye mansion: he wrote (and set) some of his most famous novels here. Impossible not to remember one of the most emblematic scenes of “Doctor No”, the first film of the saga: the beautiful Ursula Andress coming out of the water with two giant shells in her hands. The scene was set and shot right on the beach of Ocho Rios. The same film has shown the world another place of enchanting beauty, Dunn’s River Falls. These are waterfalls formed by spectacular limestone steps surrounded by lush vegetation. About 55 meters high, its fresh waters flow directly into the Caribbean Sea creating a beautiful turquoise shade.
The time has come to move to the capital, where we stopped one night (more than enough time to visit it). Many guides consider it too dangerous to be visited but I think it would be a shame to skip it. As in most places, just avoid not recommended areas. In Kingston there is a very important part of the country’s history, linked to Bob Marley.
First stop is at Trench Town. Here is Bob Marley’s first home, the one he started living at around the age of 16, after moving from the countryside to study music (his very first guitar is on display). The room you see in the picture is the one in which, together with his friend Vincent Ford, he composed in 1975 the famous song “No Woman No Cry”. But there’s more: Ford ran a soup kitchen for the poor of Trench Town, the ghetto of Kingston, a place also frequented by Bob himself before he started making money with his music. With the decision to record the song in the name of Ford, Bob has ensured that the royalty payments allow the survival of this soup kitchen to this day!
Marley was not only a great musician, but a prominent personality: the first international star from Jamaica, a star who openly professed peace and equality. He was a Rastafarian, professed a cult that is a mixture of Christian and Jewish religion. Among the various customs they use marijuana to encourage meditation and to better interact with Jah, their god. These and many other information can be found in the second iconic location of Kingston: the house on Hope Road, the one in which Bob Marley lived with his family, made up of 12 children, and where he also suffered an attack (there are some bullets still visible on the walls). Inside there is also the recording studio where the songs that made the history of reggae were recorded. Now all this has become Bob Marley Museum: in the photos below you can only see the outside because inside it is forbidden to shoot or take photographs. You just have to enter to see with your own eyes and hear the story told by the guides: they are guys who do not miss the opportunity to sing pieces of his songs and that will make you feel like in a jukebox!
The tour of the capital continues with a visit to Devon House and a pleasant lunch break. Devon House is the home of the first Jamaican-colored millionaire. He built it at the end of the 19th century, returning after making a fortune in Venezuela. It is a masterpiece of Victorian architecture, which was even visited by Queen Elizabeth II in 1982 (as evidenced by an autographed photograph hanging inside it).
Devon House now houses two really nice little places to eat. The first is Devon House Patties, where I tasted the famous lobster patty. These savory pies are a typical Jamaican light lunch and have a unique shape, besides being really delicious! The second commercial activity hosted is Devon House Ice-Cream, the most famous ice-cream parlor on the island as well as the fourth best ice-cream parlor in the world according to National Geographic. Obviously, I could not not taste their stracciatella!
The next day we leave the capital early to head to the Blue Mountains: it is the largest mountain range of Jamaica, which offers landscapes of unique beauty.
After an hour drive we reach Strawberry Hills, where 59 steps higher up the parking lot is a hotel with an infinity pool that boasts a truly impressive view of the mountains. The ideal place to enjoy the peace of these places!
Within Holywell Park, located another two hours away by car, we did trekking choosing between paths of varying difficulty. Birdwatching is also possible here, as long as you do not find too much fog as happened to me! Below you see Lisa, our guide, wear a beautiful bomber with the hummingbird, which is also the national bird of Jamaica!
On the slopes of the Blue Mountains there are several coffee plantations: here you will discover the secrets of how one of the best but also rarest coffees in the world is made, as well as enjoying a pleasant coffee break!
For lunch we stopped by Eits Cafè, a typical restaurant with colorful tablecloths, nice figurines and wooden objects, as well as a series of plates each containing the names of the people who regularly frequent it!
So we reached the last leg of the trip to Jamaica, Port Antonio, who is exactly beyond the Bue Mountains compared to Kingston. We spend here, at the Jamaica Palace Hotel, the three nights that separate us from returning to Italy.
Port Antonio is the side of the island less touristy and noisy at all. A series of bays and coves create a more intimate and quiet atmosphere.
First stop: Frenchman’s Cove, a delightful and uncontaminated cove, bordered by palm trees and with white sand.
This beach, like many in this area of Jamaica, is private and to enter you need to pay a ticket of about 10 dollars (prices everywhere are expressed in both Jamaican and American dollars).
But the most incredible water in Jamaica, for me, is at the Blue Lagoon.
Here the salt water of the sea mixes with fresh water that flows just one step away from the water’s edge, creating a unique and truly incredible shade of blue! So transparent, that it’s hard to tell that the seabed can be deep up to 65 meters!
The lagoon was originally known as Blue Hole, but its name was changed after being chosen as the setting for the film “Blue Lagoon” with Brooke Shields. In honor of the success of the film and the growing popularity that consequently gained this place, the Jamaicans decided to change its name to Blue Lagoon!
Inside the Blue Lagoon is a tiny island called Monkey Island, which they explained to be used often for private parties. A true paradise!
The lagoon is surrounded by lush vegetation and for lunch we reached Kanopi House, a hotel built like a giant tree house… Places like this e, so unusual, always leave me breathless!
If you are in the Port Antonio area for dinner time, I suggest you try the famous veggie burger of Woodie’s Low Bridge Palace. This cute restaurant is run by Cher and her husband Woodie: in addition to burgers of all kinds, they prepare typical Jamaican dishes and homemade ginger beer… The best place to spend a last nice evening in Jamaica!
It’s time to say goodbye to Will, the fantastic driver who has accompanied us throughout the journey, always with a huge smile!
I sincerely thank Emanuele, Lisa and the entire tourism board of Visit Jamaica for allowing me to discover their fascinating island at 360 degrees: not only the Caribbean sea and beautiful beaches, but also much more interesting places!
Happy Monday and happy start of the week to all of you!