The famous birthplace of Bob Marley, reggae and the Rastafari movement, Jamaica’s cultural offering to the world is far greater than its size might suggest. With varying degrees of success, beach resorts around the world have attempted to emulate the Jamaican seaside vibe, but once you’ve felt the sand between your toes on this Caribbean island, you’ll accept no substitutes.
But it’s so much more than a beach destination. Beyond the swaying palms and white sands lie misty coffee plantations, the epic Blue Mountains, raging rivers prime for rafting and forests alive with exotic species. It’s not all wild. Manicured parks and gardens are a Jamaican specialty and you can spot exuberant clusters of tropical blooms on any street corner of this fertile island.
At the heart of it all, though, is music. From bass-heavy beats pumping out of Kingston’s frenetic nightclubs, to harmonious choirs singing in village churches, it is in the air wherever you go. If song satisfies Jamaica’s sensual needs, food and drink tend to its soul. Culinary delights range from gourmet seafood in award-winning restaurants to street-side jerk chicken washed down with a chilled can of Red Stripe. You can taste some of the world’s best rum and coffee here, not to mention a sumptuous range of tropical fruits.
Negril and Montego Bay are Jamaica’s two main coastal resorts, with exquisite sands, lively clubs, fine restaurants and world-class golf. And then there’s Kingston, the island’s spirited capital and home of the island’s music scene, where grand Georgian plazas and elegant mansions are serenaded by soca rhythms and the pulsating buzz of the city. Sleepy fishing villages offer a glimpse of Jamaica’s quieter side, but ultimately, whether it’s high-octane adventure or slow travel you’re looking for, you’ll soon be seduced by the rhythm of life on this irresistible island.
Adventure and Experiences:
Dunn’s River Falls – is a famous waterfall near Ocho Rios, Jamaica and a major Caribbean tourist attraction that receives thousands of visitors each year. Where mountain water cascades 1,000 feet (300 meters) down naturally terraced steps. Don’t forget to bring your water proof camera and water shoes.
Dolphin Cove Jamaica – is a marine attraction in Jamaica at which guests can swim and interact with dolphins, sharks, and stingrays in their natural environment.
The Bob Marley Museum -The large, creaky, colonial-era wooden house on Hope Rd, where Bob Marley lived and recorded from 1975 until his death in 1981, is the city’s most-visited site. Today the house functions as a tourist attraction, museum and shrine, and much remains as it was in Marley’s day. The former recording studio out back is now an exhibition hall with some wonderful photos of Bob, and a theater, where the tour closes with a 20-minute film. There’s another recording studio inside the house, which his sons occasionally use for solo projects.
Rick’s Cafe was the first public bar and restaurant of its type on the West End Cliffs, offering an alternative to Negril’s majestic seven mile beach. From the beginning, Rick’s Cafe boasted an unrivaled view of the sunset from its naturally formed cliffs. Over the years, visitors and locals alike have designated Rick’s Cafe as Negril’s premier gathering spot and our sunsets have become a Jamaican tradition. OUR STORY BEGINS with the opening of Rick’s Cafe by its founder, Richard Hershman, in April 1974. At the time, Negril was a sleepy fishing village with little development. It lacked many modern amenities such as electricity, telephone and hot running water. Our beautiful little cliffside location was originally owned by a local doctor, the son of the first Governor General of independent Jamaica. FOR MORE THAN forty years, Rick’s Cafe has maintained as much of its original ambiance as possible, despite some setbacks. In September 1988, Hurricane Gilbert completely destroyed Rick’s Cafe. Waves in excess of 25 feet crashed over the cliffs and treetops. After rebuilding, Rick’s Cafe came back more spectacular than ever. Sixteen years later, Hurricane Ivan destroyed Rick’s on September 11, 2004. More destructive than Gilbert, waves in excess of 60-80 feet washed over the property. When the winds finally subsided, Rick’s Café had been blown across the road in bits and pieces. Even after the tremendous damage from Ivan, Rick’s was rebuilt again, bigger and better than before.
The Green Grotto Caves – A journey into underworld charm… a speologist’s dream, a green cavern of mystery and adventure, a slice of Jamaica’s history… part of your vacation with a difference… such are the accolades that can be ascribed to the largely unexplored labyrinth of mystical underground caverns called Green Grotto Caves which is surrounded by thick vegetation and supplied with pristine waters flowing from its secret depths. Such privacy and solace were to be found in the Green Grotto Caves, that its rich history can be an identified with diverse groups of people including its first inhabitants, the Arawak Indians (Tainos) who used the caves for various purposes. Proof of this is evident in the multiple fragments of pottery and artifacts that are unearthed from time to time.
Rio Grande – is the birthplace of river rafting in Jamaica. The original use of these rafts was to transport bananas from the inland plantations to the harbor at Port Antonio. The pursuit was popularized by Errol Flynn who used to challenge his guests to moonlight rafting races along the Rio Grande. This leisurely trip down the Rio Grande starts at either Berry dale or Grants Level and ends at Rafters Rest on the coast. The ride takes about two to three hours, depending on your entry point and speed of the river. Each raft can carry two adults and a child (and the boatman).
Several vendors are positioned on the route, selling a range of drinks. If you’re feeling hungry then ask your boatman to stop at Belinda’s Riverside Canteen.
Blue Mountain Peak – It’s about 2:00am and pitch black. A crisp breeze blows the sleep out of your eyes, and you flick on your flashlight. It shines with a dull orange glow, illuminating a fraction of a rugged path. Muscles tight, and bones creaking in the cold, you begin your hike – a seven-mile trek up to the Blue Mountain Peak. The peak is the highest on the island, rising to an altitude of 7,402 feet. In the darkness you climb steadily for four hours. Guided by your flashlight and clinging to the mountain wall, you forge ahead.
Mayfield Falls – is a waterfall in Jamaica that comprises twenty-one widely spaced small cascades on the Mayfield River, a tributary of the Cabarita River Mayfield Falls is in Glenbrook Westmoreland Jamaica. Walk along a bamboo stairway to wonderfully manicured lawns, then head across the wooden bridge to a Rasta Village with huts. The heart of Reggae Style Mayfield Village and the magical world of Reggae Style Mayfield Falls awaits. Trained tour guides will accompany you along the twists and turns of Reggae Style Mayfield River and share interesting stories of Reggae River, Reggae Style Island and the healing properties of the Reggae Plants. Immerse yourself in 44 mineral pools and 21 natural Jacuzzis. Enjoy the rustic ambiance and homemade food and juices along with seasonal fruit. Listen to local folklores and experience local culture.
The way is narrow and steep, especially at a part known as Jacob’s Ladder. With every step up, the stars seem to get closer. Then, the morning light begins to break through the shadows. It becomes a race against the sun. You fight hard to keep going, distracted by the spectacular views that are unfolding. With a sigh of relief, you reach the peak. The sun rises over the mist-laced mountains surrounding you. On a clear day, you can see Buff Bay and Port Antonio’s Navy Island to the North, and Kingston, Portmore and St Thomas’ coast to the south. You even might spot the shadowy form of Cuba, 90 miles to the north. As the strong wind whips around you and the day becomes brighter, you sit seemingly on top of the world, and certainly atop all of Jamaica, knowing you’ve just conquered The Peak. Overall, the 14-mile Peak trail takes about seven hours. Starting the trail early in the morning makes for an exciting hike and an incredible view of the sunrise, however, you don’t have to follow this popular trend. You can hike in the daylight. If you decide to do the trek in the morning, you can spend the night prior to the hike at either Whitfield Hall or Wildflower Lodge, or camp out at Portland Gap. Both lodges are cozy and rustic, and their staff will make arrangements to pick you up from Kingston or Mavis Bank. Generally, the best time to try the hike is during the Blue Mountains’ dry season, which lasts from December to April.
Where to Stay:
Sandals Royal Caribbean (Sandals Resorts)- A kaleidoscope of cultures from Britain to Bali awaits you at Sandals Royal Caribbean. The resorts decidedly British heritage begins with the Majestic Georgian-style Great House, surrounded by manicured gardens and roaming peacocks- all a complemented with well-heled traditions like afternoon tea and a rousing game of croquet. Minutes away on the resorts private offshore island, the mysteries of the Orient unfold in a secluded natural setting where casual poolside and beachside pleasures beckon by day, while chick parties, an authentic Thai restaurant, and island-style extravaganzas invite excitement by night. At Jamaica’s most alluring resort, two diverse vacations are woven into one and served with warm island hospitality, making your stay a journey to remember. Coming soon to the Caribbean will be the first over water suites at Sandals Royal Caribbean.
The Caves – To experience absolute luxurious pampering in Jamaica, book a stay at The Caves, the island’s most exceptional accommodation, located near stunning Seven Mile Beach in Negril. The utmost in intimacy, adults-only Caves features 12 handcrafted wood and stone thatch-roofed cottages and suites perched alongside dramatic cliffs overlooking azure water; yes, every room has a fabulous sunset view. The impeccable service is complemented by high-end restaurant options — quite arguably the best and freshest all-inclusive dining at any Jamaican resort. Though there is no beach on the property, the hotel features a saltwater swimming pool, multiple access points to the ocean, and one of the premier spas on the island, Cabes Aveda Concept Spa. Room rates include breakfast, lunch, dinner, house wines and spirits and non-motorized water-sports. Book a private dinner in one of the Cliffside grottos for a perfectly romantic evening.
Jamaica Inn – Travelers looking for an intimate, quiet stay in Jamaica will find their haven at the Jamaica Inn, a small, luxury, all-inclusive resort located in Ocho Rios. The elegant lodging has a mark in Jamaica’s celebrity-studded past; it was once the stomping grounds for luminaries like Sir Winston Churchill, Errol Flynn and Katharine Hepburn. Today, the inn’s understated luxury is evident on the property’s croquet courts and in its library and bar. Rooms feature a colonial English decor, canopied beds, oceanfront balconies and sprawling open-air verandahs. Guests can relax under thatched umbrellas on the property’s silky white sands, or enjoy snorkeling in the crystal clear waters. A variety of inclusive meal plans are available; the all-inclusive plan includes all meals and drinks by the glass.
Couples Swept Away Negril (Couples Resorts) – Located in the midst of Jamaica’s 7-mile stretch of pristine beach in Negril, Couples Swept Away lures travelers with its countless amenities, such as intimate swimming pools, perfect sand beaches, azure waters and open-air cafes. Jamaica’s adults-only resort is a regular beacon for honeymooners looking to experience all-inclusive luxury at a romance- and activity-filled accommodation. Swept Away earns its reputation for action thanks to its large selection of sports offerings, including a 10-acre fitness complex, as well as kayaking, snorkeling, diving, windsurfing opportunities. The resort is perfect for couples looking to stay in proximity to activities but who don’t want to feel pressured to take part in them, if they choose to simply relax. Each of the 312 suites either feature a balcony or verandahs, as well as sea views, and are a short walk to the beach. A variety of all-inclusive packages can be found at the resort’s website.
Couples Tower Isle (Couples Resorts) – A recent $40 million renovation has helped guarantee that Couples Tower Island offers guests updated and unprecedented luxury, including access to its own private, clothing-optional island. The resort’s 19 acres of beachfront property include 226 rooms and suites, 3 pools, 4 bars, 6 restaurants and a high-end spa. Rooms features king-size beds with private balconies and are just steps from the beach; a few of the rooms even offer their own private plunge pools. All-inclusive rates include all meals, and a number of activities, including non-motorized water sports and scuba diving, pool access, trips to the private island, excursions to Dunn’s River Falls, unlimited golf and a glass-bottom boat tour.