Have you ever heard the song entitled, Island in The Sun, by Harry Belafonte? That’s the song that comes to mind each time I thought about writing this article. It could be because the song is associated with the Island. Either way I do agree that it is indeed an Island in the sun filled with lush vegetation and beautiful white sand beaches and the home of the delicious Blue Mountain Coffee.
This small Island lays just below Cuba and west of Haiti surrounded by the Caribbean Sea. Though it’s well known for the sun, beaches, and jerk chicken and jerk pork, Jamaica does have a lot more to offer.
One of the best ways to discover any country, city or neighborhood is by taking a road trip and more so a road trip off the hidden path. Taking a Road trip around Jamaica opens you up to new places, hidden gems, some hidden as far away as the mountains. For example, the Bath Fountain located in the Parish of St. Thomas. Here you can bathe in the natural hot spring water that is said to have healing abilities and or enjoy a nice massage by the springs from one of the local masseuse. Once you are done there, you can visit the nearby botanical garden.
Also in St. Thomas off the hidden path of Morant Bay you can discover Reggae Falls, a man made falls but a beautiful attraction nonetheless.
You will notice that as you ride along the narrow roads of Jamaica, through St. Thomas that you cannot help but be distracted by the savory smell of jerk chicken that permeates the atmosphere from the StreetSide vendors, 😋yum!. As you exit the Parish of St. Thomas heading into the next Parish, the Parish of Portland, you will notice miles of cane fields bordering the street on both sides.
In Portland there are a lots of things to see and do. Just after entering you will pass by the historic Happy Grove High School sitting up on a hill. This school was founded by the religious group known as the Quakers in 1898. Along the roads of Long Bay you can see the small Guest Houses (Resorts) lined up on the white sand just feets away from the beach.
Further west there is Boston the home of the famous Jerk pork. Here you can go to the different jerk stops to get a taste to see which is the best tasting. Then after you have figured it out you may choose to buy a few pounds from your favorite with some festival (a type of fried dumpling) and sit down to eat, or go to a nearby bar to get a nice bottle of red stripe beer or ting to wash it all down. If you don’t feel like eating by one of the jerk stops you can always take your meal for a walk to Boston Beach which is just next door, and eat while you absorb the beauty of the ocean and or just chill and watch what everyone else is up to.
One thing to make sure and do when traveling around Jamaica is to have on your swim attire or at least make sure you remember to pack it because one thing is for sure, every where you turn there is a river, falls or, a beach. Just at the thought of falls, I forgot to mention Reach Falls, also located in the Parish of Portland in the city of Manchioneal. You will find Manchioneal shortly after entering Portland and you cannot miss the sign that says to Reach Falls.
Now if you would like to explore more after taking a swim at Boston beach just after you finished eating the jerk pork and festival, you can continue your journey through other parts of Portland. Not very far from Boston is the town of Fairy Hill. Fairy Hill is famous for Winifred beach. Winifred beach is a little ways off the road unlike most of the other beaches you would encounter thus far.
There are quite a few entrances to get there, you can ask a local which is the best path to take and it will be worth the drive. It is one of the few beaches that are still public in the area. It’s a beautiful white sand beach shaded with big almond trees. While there you will notice the local vendors selling hot native foods on the beach and If you take a walk to the eastern end of the beach you will also notice there is a river that runs into the sea.
As you continue your ride going west you will find Dragon Bay (no you will not find any dragons there 😀). Dragon Bay is a mile or two off the main road. You will find yourself driving down a road covered with thick trees at the end of that road there is the Dragon Bay hotel.
Not very far from Dragon bay is the Blue Hole Lagoon, you would have to veer off the main road to get to the Blue Hole Lagoon and Bar. Here you can hang out at the bar or go pay for a short tour of the lagoon. If you are looking for places to stay there are a lot of hotels nearby.
Heading further west you will find more resorts and beaches. San-San and French man’s cove beaches are not very far from the blue lagoon. San-San is a private beach that has an entry fee to get in, regardless it’s very laid back and beautiful.
The heart of Portland is Port Antonio. Port Antonio is the capital and this is where you will find Titchfield High School a historical ground, last time I checked they still had a cannon overlooking the ocean. Yes an old war cannon. You will also find the library, the market, famous patty places like Juicy Beef Patty place, supermarkets, wholesale stores, and if you happen to be in Jamaica during the month of July you maybe able to check out the Boston Jerk Festival at Folly Grounds.
As you continue through Portland you will come upon other cities such as buff bay, there is the buff bay market place and another waterfall, called Somerset Falls in the hope bay area. Click here to read my article on Portland-Jamaica.
Traveling from Kingston, assuming you took a plane from your point of departure to the Norman Manley International Airport, then to St. Thomas heading West to Portland, I think you have done enough just for a whole day or maybe even for two days depending on how long was spent doing the activities. So you decide to spend the night at a resort or hotel in Port Antonio or its vicinity. If you want to spend a night out on the town don’t forget to visit Devon House Ice cream at the Navy Pier near Errol Flynn Marina, which is just behind the library. Here you can enjoy an ice cream as you walk around the pier or sit and enjoy the sound of the calm waves or if you are looking to party there are a few night clubs around.
After leaving Portland the next Parish west is St. Mary. The Capital of St. Mary is Port Maria. St. Mary was once the home of the Highgate Chocolate factory and you may see St. Mary’s banana chips found in the snack isle at some grocery stores. There are a few things you can do in St. Mary before moving on;
5 Places to visit in St.Mary, Jamaica
- Rio Nuevo
- The James Bond Beach
- Castleton Botanical Garden
- Sun Valley Plantation
- Firefly House
After leaving St. Mary you can either head back to Kingston or head to the next Parish over which is St. Ann. You will read more about St. Ann later on in this article.
Now lets look at an alternate path. Say you took a plane from your departure to Donald Sangster International Airport in Montego bay, you can hang out for the rest of the day or night at Margaritaville Montego Bay. In addition to enjoying delightful margaritas and tasty Caribbean dishes, you can splish-splash down the water slide that slides you right into the ocean, jump up and about on the water trampoline, and at nights grab a partner and move your body to dancehall reggae music. So much fun!.
Montego bay is a famous tourist area and there are lots to do there.
5 Things to do In Montego Bay
- Visit Margaritaville Montego Bay location
- Go to Coral Cliff, a food and gaming hot spot for kids and adults
- Go see the Rose Hall Great House
- Horseback riding
- Try a Reggae and Snorkeling Catamaran Cruise
After you have explored things to do in Montego bay you can take a day road trip to Negril or surrounding parishes. Negril is about a 31 mile drive from Montego and like Montego bay it’s a very hot tourist area. Let’s take a look at things to do in Negril.
5 Things To do in Negril
- Visit Cool Runnings water park
- Go see the Negril Lighthouse
- Visit Barney’s Flower and Humming Bird Botanical Garden
- Negril Seven Mile Beach
- Benta Falls
From Montego Bay you can also take a road trip to the Parish of Trelawny which is in the opposite direction of Negril. Falmouth is the capital of Trelawny and offers a lot of excursions due to cruise ships to Jamaica sometimes Dock in this area.
In Trelawny you can enjoy rafting on the Martha Brae River, horseback riding on the beach, visit Margaritaville Falmouth location, and or the Glistening Waters Luminous Lagoon. You can sit and eat at the restaurant of the Glistening Waters while you observe the beauty of the luminous lagoon or hop on a boat tour to experience it up close and personal.
If you want to venture out a bit more on your road trip whether heading from Kingston, through St. Thomas and then to Portland or from Montego bay which is on the western side of the Island, There is the Parish of St. Ann, where you can go to visit the Bob Marley’s Museum and Spend the rest of your day or just a few hours enjoying the breath taking scenery of the Dunns River Falls, a very popular destination in the city of Ocho Rios.
You can climb the falls from the bottom up. The norm is for a group of people holding hands to form a line going up the falls. The falls runs into the beach which lies below, there you can enjoy rides on jet skis. Along the streets you will find local vendors selling native arts and crafts and other things that represents the Island. Also in Ocho Rios you will find Mystic Mountain, here you can spend your time ziplining, bobsledding, reggae rock climbing and more fun stuff.
Things to do in Kingston Jamaica
- Visit Devon House, famous for it’s ice cream
- Hope Botanical Garden
- Bob Marley Museum on Hope Road
- Hope Zoo
- Enjoy the nightlife spots
- National Heroes Park
While in the area of Kingston consider taking a detour to Port Royal. Port Royal was a former home to pirates and privateers centuries ago. It was once the largest city in Jamaica until the great earthquake of 1692. During the earthquake parts of the city was thrown into the ocean, because of this Port Royal is also known as the Sunken Pirate City. Port Royal is now just a small seaport city on the Southeastern side of the Island.
If you are considering a road-trip in Jamaica you can drive on these roads by renting a car or by chartering tours. There are companies that offer tours to different parts of the Island. If you decide to rent a car and drive on your own, I must admit that in some parts of the Island some of the roads can be really narrow and corners really steep, so try to be very careful when driving especially in the country side.
click here for current travel advisory for travel to Jamaica