Jamaica is a beautiful and culturally rich island, go with an open mind and an easy cadence and you will find yourself effortlessly swaying to the rhythm of the tropics. Life goes with varying degrees of pace in from nightlife to nature. Check out these destinations.
Known as the second city it is best known as a resort tourism destination. For that reason many independent travelers have ignored it and dismissed it however looking a little deeper you will find a city that is massively important to Jamaica and has its own distinct cultural identity.
Tourism is the main employment source and is also a very influential part of Montego Bay's culture. Specifically, visitors from North America flock to the resorts and take advantage of large scale all-inclusive hotels. The city also has a major cruise ship terminal where many cruise ships from Florida dock. The cruise ship terminal is situated on the western end of the city at the Montego Bay Freeport and is not directly connected to downtown.
Downtown Montego Bay is not touristy at all. It is a bustling and chaotic city that serves the western side of Jamaica. It is a place where ordinary Jamaicans from the region do business and trade. The major regional hospital, tax office, financial institutions, and schools are all concentrated in and around the city. Shopping in downtown is dominated by a combination of Indian, Chinese, and local business people. There is loud and boisterous energy on the streets as stores use reggae music to attract customers and hawkers display their wares on the street. There are a couple of major farmers' markets with fresh produce directly from the surrounding rural communities.
The center of the city is Sam Sharpe square where you will find the Montego Bay Civic center and a statue of Sam Sharpe one of Jamaica's most important national heroes. Sam Sharpe led a slave rebellion that profoundly changed the course of Jamaica's history. Sharpe himself was hung in the square. The Montego Bay Civic center houses the National Gallery west which has a collection of important Jamaican art and is open to the public.
The core of downtown Montego Bay is still laid out in a gridlike pattern based on the colonial design and still has a few historical buildings intact that date back far into colonial times. The main charm of downtown is the social part. People moving along in the Jamaican style, upbeat and colorful. The energy on the street is something to feel. It is not complimented by any sense of order or cleanliness it must be said. The chaotic nature of this atmosphere gives downtown it's gritty character and could not be farther removed from the 5-star resorts that surround the city. Walking around downtown and interacting with the vendors and ordinary people there is a way to get a window into true Jamaican culture while also contributing to the local economy.
Just east of downtown you will find the Hip Strip which has a number of popular bars and restaurants and is generally a popular zone for nightlife. The hip strip has a mixture of tourists and locals with locals mainly using the nightlife offerings particularly on specific nights of the weekend when there are dancehall and reggae styled parties at popular clubs like Margaritaville.
The centerpiece of the strip is Doctors Cave Beach which is one of the finest beaches in Jamaica. It is a private beach owned by members and does attract a fee. The fee is worth it in our opinion because the facilities are excellent and the beach itself is very well kept. The beach has an underground spring that feeds the waters from the nearby rocks. The health value of these waters is what contributed to the name of the beach. The waters are a bit deeper and cooler than many beaches in Jamaica but the sand is and waters are clear and very picturesque. The beach is complemented by restaurants and a bar. There are beach chairs and umbrellas for rent and the restaurants do serve food directly to people on the beach. The composition of beachgoers is a mixture of tourists and on the weekend in particular locals. Nearby there is a Usain Bolt sports bar which has great facilities for watching big sporting events and has good local styled food. It is a bit tourist-oriented and may be pricey for our really budget-conscious traveler. Go there for game night or if you are a fan of Mr. Bolt do go and check out the memorabilia. There is a statue of bolt made from bolts just on the outside of the bar.
Coral Cliff gaming lounge is another entertainment venue that from time to time they host live music events. Mobay Proper is a bar where you can get the "engines revved' before you head over to Margaritaville and there you will find a more easygoing local vibe on most nights. The drinks are much cheaper and you can buy rum or vodka by the "Q" or quarter of a liter. Order with plenty of ice and chaser or at trying a Red Stripe, the local beer.
There is a legal dispensary just beside Margaritaville and it is called Island Strains. Island Strains also has entertainment offerings with acoustic nights and a lounge type of feel along the seaside. The requirements are simple its basically to fill out a form and declare an ailment as benign as a headache and then you are immediately approved to purchase medical marijuana by the gram. It's all perfectly legal for medicinal use and this dispensary probably has the best views and lounge space of all on the island.
There are a couple of free beaches on the hip strip they are, One Man Beach and Dead End Beach. At Dead End Beach you can literally watch the incoming planes land. One Man beach attracts mainly locals and you can usually find a local football game on the grassy side.
Further east in the center of the bay you will find Pier One which is a famous bar and restaurant it has its own pier and seaside boardwalk. It is a great place for a sunset dinner and drinks and there is usually a good event on any given night. This place is locally owned and operated and has a great vibe with its outdoor setting. Weekend nights in particular are very popular with locals. Adjacent to Pier One there is the Montego Bay Marine Park office. This is a non-profit organization that protects the Montego Bay Marine Park (which stretches along the harbor). Their duty is to protect marine life in the area from overfishing and other damaging practices. They are also active in education and trying to reduce the effluent contaminating the sea from the city center. Their offices are open and tours of the protected area can be arranged directly with them.
Freeport and Bogue are to the western side of the city. Freeport is a man-made spit of land which has the port area, cruise ship terminal, hotels, and luxury housing developments. The end of the Freeport is home to the Montego Bay yacht club and the Hard Rock Cafe. The Hard Rock Cafe has a great pool and beach facility which is free as long as you are buying their food and drinks. From time to time there are beach parties and events here. One of the true gems of the Freeport is the Houseboat Restaurant which is situated, as the name suggests in a houseboat. It is a small fine dining restaurant which is great for at least a special occasion.
Bogue has a commercial area with a number of local restaurants and stores. The offerings here serve mainly the upper-middle-class Jamaicans who don't want to deal with the congested downtown Montego Bay. There is a movie theatre complex and a number of very good restaurants in the Bogue industrial complex. If you are staying on the western side of Montego bay and have a car it is a good place to consider for shopping as parking spaces are no problem.
Montego Bay is also an important transit point with a large public bus station and a major depot for the Knutsford Express which is the leading coach service in Jamaica. For this reason, Montego Bay is well-positioned as your connection point to Western Jamaica. From here you can easily do day trips to Negril and Falmouth. On the outskirts of Montego Bay, there are other beaches and world-class golf courses. Horseback riding, Kite surfing, and sailing. You can tour the ecologically unique cockpit country with specially arranged tours.
See our Map of Cheap accommodations in Montego Bay below. You can click on the price locations to see more details about the accommodations and book.
Over the last 50 years, Negril has evolved from a lazy fishing village to a legitimate tourist resort town. It has a history of liberalism from the days when it was popular with pot-smoking hippies and clothing optional beach norms. Today Negril is a mixture of large and small hotels. The Western side of the seven-mile beach is where you will find most of the resorts while on the eastern end, nearer to the town center you will find most of the independent hotels and small inns. The area is known as Negril basically runs along a stretch of road from Bloody Bay to the Cliffs of the West End. Each particular area having its own character.
Driving in along the coastal highway, from the west (from Montego Bay) you will encounter Bloody Bay which got its name from the days of whaling. It is near a whale migratory path as this just about Jamaica's most westerly point. The beaches here are among the least developed and just over the last twenty years or so has their been encroachment from major hotel projects. The white sand beaches are quite beautiful and the waters are warm shallow and crystal clear.
Further east lies the 7-mile beach which is world-famous and has been voted among the world's best beaches throughout many successive years. This beach runs continuously for about seven miles as the name suggests and the beach itself is open and walkable which is one of its main charms. The beach has numerous bars and restaurants and is quite lively night and day. The western side is usually a bit more quiet and relaxed. At night there are numerous reggae shows on the beach with popular artists performing live from time to time. There is also a popular nightclub called "The Jungle" which is on the main road.
As Negril is situated on the most westerly point of the island it also benefits from the most spectacular sunsets that can be seen on the island. The most famous point to view these sunsets from is Ricks Cafe on the cliffs of the "West End". Ricks Cafe is an American style bar and restaurant which has been voted one of the world's best bars and has magnificent vistas of the Caribbean Sea. The cliffs have attracted many who dare to dive and this has become a great source of entertainment for the crowds that converge each evening. It is free to enter yet the drinks are quite pricey. Nonetheless, it is worth the trip and just to watch some of the local divers jump from the cliffs and the surrounding treetops is quite fun. The evening is usually capped off by a toast to the sunset and a live reggae band performing just in front of the sunset vista.
The hills surrounding Negril are known to have Jamaica's best local marijuana. Orange Hill is particularly famous and the ganja coming from that area is prized and sought after. Marijuana is relatively cheap and abundant in Jamaica but the quality can vary greatly. You can get tours of marijuana fields if you know the right people. Marijuana is still technically illegal in Jamaica but has been decriminalized and the most you will get is a fine if you are caught with a small quantity. There are exceptions for instance with medical usage and for the Rastafarian community who use it as a sacrament. Negril has long been known to be a hedonistic sort of place and marijuana has always been a part of its story and appeals to many.
See our Map of Cheap accommodations in Negril below. You can click on the price locations to see more details about the accommodations and book.
Is a small fishing and farming community located along the south coast about a 1-hour drive east of Negril. Here you will find beautiful beaches and a great community spirit. Nearby is the Mausoleum of Peter Tosh (the great reggae musician) who was born and raised in the area. Some of his surviving relatives manage the memorial and always have good ganja (pot) to sell. It is a rather informal operation and the entrance cost is usually a discretionary contribution.
The Bluefields beach park is a public beach where there is a small charge for entrance (us$1.50) The beach is shallow with warm turquoise waters.
The sleepy town of Treasure Beach is located on the southern coast of Jamaica and has what is known to be the best model of community tourism in Jamaica. The habitat has a rustic charm and the village sits along the rugged coastline which is scantily populated. The relative prosperity of the surrounding farming communities and the lack of access in and out make this community a safe enclave for visitors. The citizens of the community are humble and proud and are very gracious hosts. The surrounding areas provide fertile plains for abundant agricultural produce which makes its way into the restaurants and boutique hotels.
In contrast to the white sand beaches in the major tourist resorts, the sand is golden brown and the landscape filled with limestone rock and semi-arid lands T Some of the beaches have a strong undercurrent and are punctuated with small rock pools of seawater. The tranquility of the area is its real charm and this allows for visitors to walk freely and safely day and night which is not advisable in many parts of Jamaica. The leaders of the community are very committed to sustaining the community through sustainable tourism and it has really come to be known as a beacon for community tourism in Jamaica.
From Treasure beach, there is access to the adjoining Billy's Bay and Great Bay which are populated mainly by Jamaican farmers and fisherfolk. From the shores of Treasure Beach, it is easy to organize a boat trip to the Pelican bar which is a rustic thatch hut bar located out at sea about a mile away from the uninhabited coastline. The bar is a thatch hut middle of an ocean sandbar. Seafood and cold beer are on sale in the shack. A treat along the way is the likely sighting of wild dolphins. Tours usually are done in fishing canoes and dolphins are often not shy to swim up to boats in numbers to investigate the passengers.
Jack Sprat restaurant which is owned by the boutique hotel Jakes is a focal point in the community for dining and drinks. It is locally styled and has a simple menu which includes seafood and their signature pizza. The music is old school Jamaican and compliments the rustic style of the community. Cloggy's on the beach is also a well-known and popular beer joint that is owned by Cloggy the effervescent rastaman. Rustic and relaxed is the character of these places. So too is the feel of this charming town.
It is a bit of a long drive to get to Treasure beach. About 2 and 1/2 hours from Montego Bay and 3 hours from Kingston but it is well worth the trouble if you are looking for a chilled and rustic local Jamaican experience.
See our Map of Cheap accommodations in Treasure Beach below. You can click on the price locations to see more details about the accommodations and book.
The cultural capital and the "heartbeat of Jamaica". Kingston has so much to offer the visitor seeking a truly rich cultural experience. The city is quite large by Caribbean standards with about 1 million inhabitants in the greater Kingston area. Kingston is the only truly cosmopolitan city in Jamaica with a relatively large professional class the city has a lot to offer in the way of nightlife, events, bars, restaurants, and history.
The birthplace of reggae, Kingston has a number of famous reggae attractions chief among which is the Bob Marley Museum. The museum was the former house of Bob Marley who bought it after he became a superstar. It was also the house where he survived an assassination attempt. The bullet hole is still on display at the room where he was shot. The tour of the museum is guided and costs about us$20. To the true Marley devotee, the tour is quite fulfilling however don't expect to be blown away by the experience if you compare the cost to what you would pay for a museum experience elsewhere in the world.
The next most sought after reggae experience would perhaps be a trip to Trench Town which has been such a pivotal place for the development of reggae music. It is still a "shanty town' of sorts where the poverty is pervasive and very evident. The focal point of the community would be the Trench Town culture yard which is located at the "tenement yard" where Bob Marley actually lived and was referenced in his famous ballad "no woman, no cry". The Culture yard itself attracts a fee of about us$10 and has a few artifacts from Marleys days there including the remnants of his old VW bus, the room he slept in, and a simple exhibition of Trench Town's musical history. There is a small bar in the yard and there are local rastas there with weed that you can buy. For an additional fee, you can get a community tour and get more insights about the history of the community. The experience with Trench Town is more viscerally moving than with the more polished Bob Marley Museum experience and to the reggae, music fan is quite worthwhile.
Another great community-based initiative that is based in downtown Kingston is Life Yard which is a cooperative run by young conscious rastamen based in the community who are trying to create a space for community upliftment. They provide a safe space for people of the community especially children, to learn and express themselves. Adjacent to life yard is the Fleet Street Art Mural walls that were established by the Paint Jamaica campaign. The art walls are in the shell of large warehouse space. The walls are decorated by local and international artists and are designed to offer hope and inspiration to the people of the community. Life Yard offers a free welcome to visitors and the young men are always happy to show off their farming project and creative space to visitors.
The greater Kingston area is divided between different areas including downtown, Half Way tree, Uptown, and various areas on the city boundaries. Uptown is basically from half Way Tree up and Downtown is loosely referred to the depressed areas below Half Way Tree. Half Way Tree is the true center of Kingston as downtown Kingston is no longer of central importance as it was historically. Everyone in Kingston must negotiate through or around Half Way Tree, it is that important a nexus.
The city is loud and chaotic but has benefitted from various civic projects over the last 20 years which include the upgrading of the Halfway Tree transportation center. The establishment of Emancipation Park in New Kingston and various road upgrading projects. There is a public bus system with large air-conditioned yellow buses that run along established routes. The buses and route taxis (shared taxis) are very cheap (costing about us$1 per trip). There are also franchise buses that are owned independently and are usually more rogue styled with load sound systems and questionable road etiquette.
Sound system culture is not what it was 30 years ago but is still pervasive everywhere. In cars, busses and on street corners. Music will be in your ears night and day. Jamaicans are music lovers in general and it may surprise you to learn that Celene Dionne, Luciano Pavarotti, Kenny Rogers, and Air Supply have all sold-out concert venues in Jamaica. Reggae and dancehall will, however, be what you will hear most. Dancehall is an offshoot of reggae that surpassed reggae in the '80s as the island's most popular music sub-genre. As with many music forms, dancehall has many versions some violent and street-oriented, and some gospel and romance in nature, it's that wide. Nevertheless, it is a fertile local music art form which is the forerunner of hip hop and is globally influential.
Dancehall parties are an ongoing feature of Kingston's' entertainment scene and practically every night there is a sound system event that brings out colorful characters, dancers, dancehall stars, fans from all over the world. The dancehall is a very organic space where individuality is highly prized and where the vibe can vary from one night to the next. It is primarily a listening space so do not be surprised to see people standing and listening. There are dancers who go to these events which are usually held in the street or outdoor venues and many of these dancers have become famous in dancehall circles worldwide. The dancehall event is not going to get active until about 3 am and usually gets good by 4 am going right through to daybreak and sometimes beyond. At these events expect to see a lot of weed smoking and open sale of weed is standard with vendors walking around showing off their buds.
Live Reggae and Dub are not as easy to find but every Sunday night the Kingston Dub Club which is located on the foothills of the Blue Mountains features a laid-back and authentic sound system Reggae/Dub experience. The ambiance is served by a backdrop of the City of Kingston which sparkles from the magnificent vista on the ridge where the venue is perched. This experience is well worth the effort and music usually start at 8 pm and continues to 2am. Here again, the pervasiveness of ganja is essential to the experience so if you don't like the smell of weed smoke don't go.
Outside of these local styled events, there are the common uptown venues where the middle class goes for drinks or clubbing. Places like 100, Devon House on a Friday night, and Fiction are favorites. There are also posh piano bars like the one at Terra Nova hotel and wine bars like "Uncorked" that appeal to the more affluent mature and sophisticated crowd. These places have no marijuana tolerance and you could find yourself in trouble if you light up in these places. Infact any kind of smoking in public spaces is prohibited by Jamaican law.
Downtown Kingston as in the old capital is an active place by day but at night is quite deserted. There are pockets of entertainment like the recently redeveloped Victoria Pier which has nice bars and seafood restaurants, however, downtown is more of a daytime destination for now. The old capital has gridlike streets and narrow lanes. At the center is the St. William Grant Park and around it the area called Parade where many busses start and terminate. The Westside has the coronation market which is the largest farmers market in the English-speaking Caribbean. It is a place where local farmers from all over Jamaica send their crops to be sold. Mostly women sell and it is the place with the most abundant range of produce and best prices in Jamaica. Here there are also cheap cookshops where you can buy a local meal for as little as the Jamaican equivalent of us$2. The Kingston waterfront is quite beautiful and is going through a renaissance. The Victoria Pier offers an entertainment and dining space with a wonderful vista of the Kingston harbor, which is the worlds' 7th largest natural harbor. The nearby national gallery is well worth a visit with an impressive display of Jamaica's most celebrated artworks. The artwork is curated to tell the story of Jamaica's history through art and also to provide a platform to some of Jamaica's most promising emerging artists.
Other noteworthy cultural gems in Kingston are National Heroes Park, the Marcus Garvey Exhibition at the UNIA headquarters, Bolivar Institue, and the Musgrave Institute. Further uptown Devon House and Kings House are among the historic buildings that are repositories of Kingston's rich past.
From the Kinston waterfront, one can not only see the Norman Manley International Airport but also Port Royal. Port Royal is best known as the former HQ of pirates and the real historical setting of Pirates of the Caribbean. Blackbeard and Henry Morgan were active residents here and it's destruction by earthquake led to the eventual emergence of Kingston as Jamaica's capital.
A visit to Port Royal is well worth the effort for visit to Gloria's seafood restaurant and a boat ride to the nearby lime cay beach. The historic town is not much of an attraction but is quiet with its own local character. The remains of Fort Charles and the Old Naval hospital are still in place however much of the town has not been preserved to a noteworthy extent.
See our Map of Cheap accommodations in Kingston below. You can click on the price locations to see more details about the accommodations and book.
The Blue Mountains are a UNESCO world heritage site and is relevant as a place with a unique environment and historically for the indigenous people (Maroons). The range of mountains is the highest in Jamaica and has varying ecosystems influenced by the altitude. The mountain range is quite wide and the experiences varied as the ecosystem and road conditions change based on altitude.
Irish Town, Hollywell, Cinchona, and the Blue Mountain Peak are all areas of amazing interest, and of course there are the old Maroon settlements and along the Portland side breathtaking waterfalls in the middle of the mountain forest.
To explore the Blue Mountains it is best to define the experience that you desire and take it from there. For a rigorous challenge, a hike to the peak will do the trick while more leisurely hiking and camping would be better suited to Hollywell national park. A day trip with a coffee experience would be Irish Town. In Irish Town, you can visit Cafe Blue which has a fine selection of blue mountain coffee and pastry. Strawberry Hill Hotel is an amazing getaway and a great place for a day trip. They have a spa and you can book by appointment. This boutique hotel has an unrivaled vantage point of Kingston and its magnificent Harbour and also has an infinity pool that rests at the edge of the vantage point which makes this one of the most amazing views you will get in Jamaica. Go there and have a cup of Blue Mountain Coffee and then check the memorabilia laid out on walls by the owner Chris Blackwell. Chris Blackwall was the owner and founder of Island Records and there are many gold discs from best-selling musicians all over the walls.
In Irish Town, you can also do a tour of Craighton House estate which is a Coffee farm owned by the Japanese company UCC. The great house itself is quite quaint and there you can get a short tour of the coffee trees on this part of the farm and a coffee expert will offer you free tastings and explain a bit about Jamaica's coffee history.
Further up this side of the mountain, you will find Hollywell National Park which has an amazing view of the city, several hiking trails, gazebos, cabins, and camping grounds. The park is extremely beautiful and is protected and maintained by park rangers. There are numerous indigenous birds to be seen and amazingly beautiful trees and flowers.
The Blue Mountain peak lies toward Mavis Bank and the end of the mountains. Best access roads lead from Kingston. There are numerous options for climbing the peak. It is an approximately 4-hour hike and is usually done at 3 am in the morning which is when it is cool and you can see the sunrise at the summit which on a good day is quite beautiful. Sections of the climb are quite steep and challenging, particularly the stretch known as Jacobs Ladder. Usually, climbers choose a local guesthouse at the foot of the hiking trail as a base and from there climb up, down rest and return to Kingston. A four-wheel-drive vehicle is a necessity to get to the hiking trail and from the trail only by foot can one make their way up. This experience is truly suited to the more energetic person who is fit enough for a 7-hour hike. The hike down is not as rigorous as going up but it does have some extremely steep downward slopes that can put some pressure on the shins. On the way down you will see wild strawberries and past through several microclimates most noticeably see with a change in the trees. The Elfin forest at the top is quite distinguishable as the trees are dwarfed and bearded with moss as they have become adapted to the altitude and clouds.
See our homepage for recommendations on accommodations in the Blue Mountains
When people talk about Port Antonio they also usually refer to the areas of Portland coastline that surround this sleepy town. The town is very quaint yet run-down but maintains its charm with its layout and distinct colonial buildings that are scattered around the town. Port Antonio was a very important banana port and later a playground to the rich and famous. Errol Flynn the Hollywood actor with Australian roots was the most influential star of this era and he did a lot to put the town on the travel map. The Errol Flynn Marina is named after him.
The harbor has an imposing island which is a distinct feature of the entire vista over the town. The island is known as Navy island and has its own rich history. There was a hotel operating there which is now in ruin. You can get a fisherman to take you over there for a fee and you can explore the island on foot and maybe swim along some of its shores.
The Frenchmans Cove in the area known as San San is truly one of the if not the most beautiful beaches in Jamaica. It is privately owned however it is worth the us$6 entrance fee. The white sand beach is situated in a cove with a narrow inlet from the sea and spring river coursing through the eastern side. The property itself is quite large and used to be a fancy resort. Most of the buildings are not visible from the beach so there is really nothing to spoil the ambiance. The spring water and seawater meet around beautiful hanging trees and lures between cold sweet and warm saltwater. On the beach, you will find a restaurant and bar service. Prices are quoted in US$ and it is quite formal with waiters formally attired. Although pricey this experience is worth it because if the stunning beauty and uniqueness of the beach.
The Blue Lagoon is just about 20 minutes' drive east of the town and is a deep freshwater lagoon that opens out into the sea. The surrounding hillsides are populated with dense vegetation making the lagoon stunningly beautiful in its contrast. There are currents of warm seawater riding through the mostly cold spring water, particularly nearer to the mountain spring end. To swim in the placid water is a treat though only recommended to the strong swimmer as the lagoon is extremely deep. There are numerous hustlers selling their wares. Unfortunately, most of the land surrounding the lagoon is private so there are not too many places to just relax in an open area. You can take a bamboo raft ride and relax. This spot is great for taking pictures and is a great roadside stop.
Winnifred Beach is a public beach that is run by the local community and can be found another 20-minute drive from the Blue Lagoon. This beach is one of the most naturally beautiful in Jamaica and has a small freshwater spring at its eastern end. The beach lies on a picturesque bay and has white sand and turquoise blue water. The facilities are not great but the beach does maintain it's natural charm. Local vendors, sell cold beer, seafood, and local dishes at local prices. There is a mixture of locals and young independent travelers on this beach on any nice day.
Boston bay is a community that also has a tradition in Jerk cuisine. The process of Jerk is a traditional meat preservation technique similar to BBQ where meat is smoked and seasoned with special spices. This practice stems back to the days of the Maroons (runaway slaves) who hunted wild pigs in the mountains and used the Jerk process to preserve the meat and to give it flavor. Boston has roadside jerk huts which are today Jamaica's most famous. Annually the community has a summer jerk festival that attracts thousands of people from all over Jamaica.
The centerpiece of the community is Boston Bay beach. This beach is operated by the community and attracts a small entrance fee. The bay itself is small, deep and has good surfing waves suitable for the beginner to intermediate surfer. The Bay is quite beautiful and is really local in its feel. It is one of the places featured in Snoop Dogg's (then Snoop Lions') film "Reincarnation". Definitely make plans to stop here when you visit Portland.
Reach Falls is a spectacular waterfall located about 30 minutes' drive east of Boston Bay. It is situated in the mountains at the top of a narrow road. The official attraction is operated by the government authorities and has an entrance fee and also lifeguards. The surrounding Blue Mountains and beauty of nature makes these falls truly a spectacular sight and swimming in the pools is invigoratingly wonderful. Under the main falls, there are a few shallow caves that you can explore and climb around. The water from the falls is gentle enough for you to swim up to a play with. Do take the opportunity to take the guided tour, it is truly amazing. You will trek and swim upstream through the narrow river valley through crystal clear pools surrounded by luscious fauna. After passing through about three or four pools you will get to the "rabbit hole". This is a hole in the river that hides a cave which is an air pocket under the river. You basically climb down into the water until you get into this limestone cave with the river rushing over your head. When you are ready to come out you must hold your breath and swim underwater between rocks for about 2 meters and emerge in the river. To explain this experience is kind of ridiculous you just have to try it to understand. You will be blown away and find it unforgettable. The tour through amazing should not be attempted unless you are a strong and confident swimmer.
West of Port Antonio you will find the Rio Grande River which is the most famous place on the island to do bamboo rafting. The legendary Errol Flynn pioneered this concept as an attraction but it was the traditional way that banana farmers and traders transported the fruits downriver for trade. The raftsman will propel you upriver with a bamboo pole and then allow you to swim in the rivers gorgeous natural pools. To do the tour in a more immersive way, take a taxi up the hill and then get a raft down and you will be amazed by the sights and feel of the river valley with its various spots for swimming. You can plan a picnic and enjoy the views while being entertained by the engaging raftsmen. This activity can be romantic couples experience or just a fun group experience.
see map below for cheap accommodations in Port Antonio Area including Boston Bay area. Please see our homepage for our recommended hostel.
Ocho Rios is as the name suggests, full of rivers. It is not only full of rivers but waterfalls and the beauty that surrounds. Jamaican's know as the surrounding Parish of St. Ann as the garden parish because of it's beauty. The town itself is quite small and compact and is surrounded by hills and a large bay. The town is a major tourist destination and has numerous hotels. The attractions that make the town so sought after are very close and accessible.
Dunns River Falls is located a mere 2 km west of the town and is the most popular attraction in Jamaica. It is an impressive range of cascading waterfalls surrounded by tropical forest that flows right into the sea. The water is so mild that it is easy to climb and climbing is the main activity. This is really a touristy attraction so avoid Cruis ship days and go early if you want to enjoy without having to share with thousands of people.
The Blue Hole up by the White River is gaining popularity and is also very beautiful. It is really a range of waterfalls with a large blue main pool from which the name is derived. Guided tours are offered and the experience is like a natural waterpark with places to jump, swim, climb, and swing. The access point at the base of the falls starts on public land is in the charge of local guides who will usually take you up the falls, snap photos with your phone, and show you how to safely enjoy the attraction for about us$10-15. Further up there is a licensed tour on a private property which is actually a bit better and costs about the same. This area also has a number of exclusive dive points as it's on the private land side.
See a map of cheap accommodations in Ocho Rios below, you can click prices to see details of each property. Check our homepage to see our hostel recommendations in the Ocho Rios area.
Some of the notable beaches of Ocho Rios are;
Bay Beach which is publicly run and has a us$2 entrance fee.
Bamboo Blue Beach - beautiful beach in Mammee Bay nestled between resorts. The Bamboo Blue restaurant is right on the beach and has great cocktails and menu.
Little Dunns River - Waterfalls cascading into the beach, it's free and just off the main road. Although there is more waterfall than the beach it is truly a spectacularly beautiful place.
Mahogany Beach - Has a beach bar and a beautiful freshwater spring running through it.
Margaritaville Beach - Located by the Island Village. The beach now has an entrance fee.
Ocho Rios has great restaurants, bars and Nightlife options
Margaritaville - Cocktails, food and parties daily
Fishermans Beach - seafood and drinks
John Crows Tavern - Bar
Oceans 11 - Bar on the pier (Karaoke night on Tuesdays)
8 Rivaz Lounge - Nightclub
Amnesia - Nightclub
Mongoose - Restaurant and Bar