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Top Places to Visit in Jamaica
“This is the land of my birth, this Jamaica is my Jamaica, my homeland” – Eric Donaldson
Now I know many people think of this little island as a vacationers paradise but for me Jamaica is just my home. This beautiful little island has a wealth of unique offerings and experiences that many people who come on an ‘all inclusive’ package miss out on. So to help you out, I’ve compiled a list of places to visit on your next stop in Jamaica.
Devon House – Kingston
The story of this historic palace is a fascinating one. The house was built in 1881 by George Steibel, the son of a domestic worker and Jamaica’s first black millionaire. Now imagine its 1881 and Jamaica is still under British colonial rule and racial equality was a dirty phrase. Mr. Stiebel went abroad, made his fortune, returned and built his home in the middle of “Millionaire’s Corner,” as it was then called, because of the elaborately designed houses. He essentially spat in the face of the establishment and, as the story goes, one particular lady was so disgusted by the sight of the house on her morning commute that she cut another road for him – the one now known as Lady Musgrave Road.
The history and beauty of the Devon home is one of the main reasons to visit. It is located in the heart of Kingston, minutes from the business district and the heart of the city – the Half-Way Tree. There are also a number of shopping and dining options available at the location.
pen of faith – St. Ann
This little spot is located on the main road from Spanish Town to Ocho Rios (called Ochi by the locals). After a circuitous and sometimes long drive through Mt Rosser (don’t get stuck in the back of a truck!) Faith Pen is like a mecca. It is a perfect setting for travelers to stretch their legs, cool off and enjoy food en route to Ochi. There are about 30 vendor stalls organized into numbered huts offering a wide array of Jamaican cuisine. You can get jerk pork and chicken, roast or fried fish, ackee and saltfish, roast or friend breadfruit, festival, bemi, boiled or fried corn, soup and more. Hungry after writing.
Be prepared to spend at least half an hour trying to decide and another half an hour licking your fingers. You can get everything to go, so you get your start and still get to your destination on time.
Little Ochi– St. Elizabeth
Here I go again, waxing poetic about food, but those who have been lucky enough to see this little gem, will understand. Little Ochi is nowhere near Ocho Rios (see a map of Jamaica), I should probably mark the travel destination as Alligator Pond on the south coast of the island, but most people who visit the area, have one place in mind, Little Ochi. This small restaurant offers one of the best, most rustic dining experiences where diners are able to enjoy all their seafood cravings right on the beach. For those with seafood allergies I should say you should probably quickly scroll to the next destination.
I’m going to do my best bubba out of the Forrest Gump impression – you can get your shrimp boiled, fried, battered, fried, fried, etc. They can accommodate you with fish, lobster, conch, oysters and most other seafood fare you could want. There are no fine dining rules of etiquette so you will be forgiven if you lick your plate after eating five star fare.
DUNN’S RIVER FALLS – St. Ann
So after eating all that food, Dunn’s River Fruit is the perfect place to work off some excess or have fun baking in the sun with rum. Dunn’s River is located on the north coast of the island just outside of Ocho Rios and is a natural phenomenon. The first time you hear the rush of the falls you get an adrenaline rush like no other. The Jamaica Tourist Board website describes the attraction as:
Dunn’s River Falls is unique. Described as a living and growing phenomenon, it constantly regenerates itself from deposits of travertine rock, the result of precipitation of calcium carbonate from the river, as it flows over the falls. Small dome-shaped cataracts are commonly associated with thermal spring activity found in limestone caves. This, coupled with its location near the ocean, gives Don’s River the status of being the only one of its kind in the Caribbean, if not the world.
Visitors are able to climb the falls with a guide or on their own. If it’s your first time I recommend going with a guide as they will be able to show you the footholds. Also, make sure you rent a rubber shoe; Your feet will thank you. Since we’re done with the practicalities, let’s get to the fun part. I can guarantee it will be an experience you will never forget. The power and beauty of the falls is like no other, with small pools where you can relax as you climb. Cool, clear water, beautiful foliage and when you get to the top of the fall where it’s a bit quieter you can actually hear the birds chirping. You cannot leave Jamaica without visiting Dunn’s River Falls.
Martha Bra – Trelawny
You are now ready for a relaxing, romantic and scenic experience and bamboo rafting along Martha Bra River will satisfy all of the above. The Martha Brae is a 20-mile (32 km) long river on the northwest coast of Jamaica and, like many things in Jamaica, has its own legend.
The story goes that Spanish treasure hunters, lured by stories of Arawak gold, captured an Arawak Indian witch to lead them to the treasure (the Arawaks were the first inhabitants of the island). Pretending to be complacent, the witch led them into a cave and then suddenly disappeared. Frightened, the Spaniards fled the cave but then the river swallowed them and the river was named after this Arawak witch.
Now centuries later, visitors have the opportunity to walk along this beautiful and picturesque river on bamboo rafts. The journey covers more than 3 miles and will remind you of the times of yesteryear when sugar was king and rafts were used to transport this cargo to traders at the port.
ACCOMPONG – St. Elizabeth
If you really want to connect with Jamaica, you must visit Accompong. The settlement was established after the Maroons signed a peace treaty with the British in 1739 and settled high on the hills of St. Elizabeth in western Jamaica. Accompong is actually an independent nation state within the nation of Jamaica.
The history of the Maroons and the settlement of Akompong cannot be summed up in a few lines. There are several good websites that will help you better understand the daring acts of defiance and bravery that helped the Maroons defeat the British and free themselves from slavery. A trip to Akampong will give you a first-hand look at Jamaican history and culture.
Negril’s Seven Mile Beach – Westmoreland
Seven miles of white sand beach with the most incredible, heart-stopping sunsets imaginable. Negril offers a wide array of entertainment options; Whether you want a disco, a great restaurant, fire eater or some quiet time on the beach, you’ll be catered for. The area offers prime snorkeling and diving opportunities, and for those adrenaline junkies, how about jumping off a 40-foot cliff into the ocean? It will definitely wake you up.
For relaxing white sand beaches, Negril is the place.
Rose is the Great House – St. James
The story of Rose Hall is filled with mystery, intrigue, death, ghosts and black magic. The house was built in 1770 and for fifty years the house and its estates seemed to exist as normal until the owner John Rose Palmer brought home his beautiful English bride named Annie Palmer. She was better known during her time as the mistress of Rose Hall Annie, or “The White Witch of Rose Hall”, actively practiced voodoo and gained a far-reaching reputation for her ruthlessness. She is said to have killed her first husband, John Palmer, two other husbands, and countless slave lovers. Annie was found dead in her bedroom at The Great House in 1831 and there has been speculation about the circumstances of her death.
Rose Hall, like any stately home worth its salt, is said to be haunted by the spirit of Annie Palmer, and many visitors have claimed to have seen her ghost roaming the corridors. Rose Hall is a must visit for an interesting and scary experience.
Blue Mountain Peak– St. Andrew
Do you want a bird’s eye view of Jamaica? Then Blue Mountain Peak is the perfect spot. Rising above 7,000 feet, both the north and south coasts of the island can be seen from the summit. Visitors can arrange a hike or bike tour that passes through tropical rainforest and coffee plantations with dramatic mountain views. Your muscles may protest the next day but the experience is worth it, experience the beauty of Jamaica for yourself.
Now this list is by no means exhaustive. This post reminded me of some of those experiences and left me antsy, longing for a road trip. I’m going to organize it and give you two parts of my best places to visit in Jamaica later. Rejoice.
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