The best places to visit in Jamaica
“This is the land of my birth, this is Jamaica my Jamaica, the land of my birth” – Eric Donaldson
Now I know that many people consider this small island a paradise for vacationers, but for me, Jamaica is simply my home. This beautiful little island has a treasure trove of unique offerings and experiences that many people who come with an all-inclusive package miss out on. So to help you out, I’ve compiled a list of places you must visit on your next stop in Jamaica.
DEVON HOUSE -Kingston
The history of this historic mansion is intriguing. The house was built in 1881 by George Steibel, son of a housekeeper and Jamaica’s first black millionaire. Now imagine it’s 1881 and Jamaica is still under British colonial rule and racial equality was a dirty phrase. Mr. Steibel goes abroad, makes his fortune, comes back and builds his house right in the middle of “Millionaires’ Corner”, as it was called then, because of the elaborately designed houses. He basically spat in the face of the establishment, and as the story goes, one lady in particular was so upset at having to see the house on her morning walk that another road was cut off for her, now known as Lady Musgrave Road.
The history and beauty of the Devon house is one of the main reasons to visit. It is located in the heart of Kingston, just minutes from the commercial district and the bustling center of the city: Half-Way Tree. There are also a number of shopping and dining options available on-site.
THE PEN OF FAITH – Saint Ana
This little place is located on the main road from Spanish Town to Ocho Rios (called Ochi by the locals). After a winding and sometimes long drive (don’t get stuck behind a truck!) through Mount Rosser, Faith’s Pen is like a Mecca. It is a perfectly located rest area for travelers to stretch their legs, relax and enjoy a meal on their way to or from Ochi. There are approximately 30 vendor booths arranged in numbered booths offering a wide variety of Jamaican dishes. You can get pork and chicken, grilled or fried fish, ackee and salt fish, roasted or friend breadfruit, festival, bammy, boiled or roasted corn on the cob, soup, etc. I’m hungry after writing that.
Prepare to spend at least half an hour trying to come to a decision and another half hour licking your fingers. You can get everything to go, so you get going and still get to your destination on time.
LITTLE OCHI– Saint Elizabeth
Here I go again, waxing poetic about the food, but for those who have been lucky enough to visit this little gem, you’ll understand. Little Ochi is not close to Ocho Rios (look at a map of Jamaica), you should probably tag the destination to visit as Alligator Pond, on the south coast of the island, but most people who visit that area, go with a place in mind, Little Ochi. This small restaurant offers one of the best and most rustic dining experiences, as diners can indulge in all their seafood cravings right on the beach. I must say that for those who have allergies to shellfish, you should probably move quickly to the next destination.
I’m about to do my best Bubba from Forest Gump impression: you can boil your shrimp, fry it, dry it, grill it, sauté it, etc. Fish, lobster, conch, oysters, and most other seafood dishes you desire, can meet your needs. There are no etiquette for fine dining, so you’ll be excused if you lick your plate after eating five-star fare.
DUNN’S RIVER FALLS – Saint Ana
So after eating all that food, Dunn’s River Fall is the perfect place to have some fun cutting off the excess or lazing around baking in the sun with a rum. The Dunn River is located on the north shore of the island, just outside of Ocho Rios, and is a natural phenomenon. The first time you hear the rush of the falls you feel an adrenaline rush like no other. The Jamaica Tourist Board website describes the attraction as follows:
Dunn’s River Falls is one of a kind. Described as a living and growing phenomenon, it continually regenerates from travertine rock deposits, the result of calcium carbonate precipitation from the river, as it flows over the falls. The small, dome-shaped falls are usually associated with the activity of hot springs found in the limestone caves. This, combined with its location near the sea, gives Dunn’s River the distinction of being the only one of its kind in the Caribbean, if not the world.
Visitors can climb the waterfall with a guide or on their own. If it’s your first time, I suggest you go with a guide, as they could show you the footholds. Also, be sure to rent a rubber shoe; Your feet will thank you. Now that we’re done with the practicalities, let’s get to the fun part. I can guarantee that this will be an experience you will never forget. The power and beauty of the fall is like no other, along its rise there are small pools where you can relax. Cool clear water, beautiful foliage and when you get to the top of the fall where it’s a bit quieter you can hear the birds chirping. You cannot leave Jamaica without visiting Dunn’s River Falls.
martha brae -Trelawny
Now you are ready for a relaxing, romantic and scenic experience and bamboo rafting along the Martha Brae River will satisfy all of the above. The Martha Brae is a 20-mile (32 km) long river located on the northwest coast of Jamaica and, like many things in Jamaica, has its own legend.
The story goes that Spanish treasure hunters, attracted by stories of Arawak gold, captured an Arawak Indian witch in the hope that she would lead them to the treasure (the Arawaks were the first inhabitants of the island). Pretending to be accommodating, the witch led them into a cave, then suddenly disappeared. Frightened, the Spanish ran out of the cave, but then the river engulfed them and the river is said to be named after this Arawak witch.
Now, centuries later, visitors have the chance to glide along this beautiful and picturesque river on a bamboo raft. The journey covers over 3 miles and will remind you of days gone by when sugar was king and rafts were used to transport this cargo to merchants in the port.
ACCOMPANY – Saint Elizabeth
If you want to truly connect with Jamaica you must visit Accompong. The settlement was founded in 1739 after the Maroons signed a peace treaty with the British and is located high in the St. Elizabeth Mountains in western Jamaica. Accompong is actually an independent nation state within the nation of Jamaica.
The history of the Maroons and the establishment of the Accompong settlement 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 English and free themselves from slavery. A visit to Accompong will give you a first-hand insight into Jamaican history and culture.
NEGRIL’S SEVEN MILE BEACH -Westmoreland
Seven miles of white sand beach with the most amazing and breathtaking sunsets imaginable. Negril offers a wide range of entertainment options; if you want a nightclub, a great restaurant, fire eaters or a quiet time on the beach, it will accommodate you. The area offers excellent snorkeling and scuba diving opportunities, and for those who are adrenaline junkies, how about jumping off a 40 foot cliff into the ocean? It will certainly wake you up.
To relax on the white sand beaches, Negril is the place to be.
GREAT ROSE HALL HOUSE – Saint James
The history 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 properties seemed to exist normally until its owner, John Rose Palmer, brought home his beautiful English girlfriend named Annie Palmer. During her time as Rose Hall’s lover, Annie or “The White Witch of Rose Hall” as she was better known, actively practiced voodoo and developed a reputation far and wide for her cruelty. It is said that she killed her first husband, John Palmer, two other husbands, and countless slave mistresses. Annie was found dead in her room at The Great House in 1831 with speculation surrounding the circumstances of her death.
Rose Hall, like any great house worth its salt, is said to be haunted by the spirit of Annie Palmer and many visitors claim to have seen her ghost wandering the halls. For an interesting and terrifying experience, Rose Hall is a must-see.
BLUE MOUNTAIN PEAK– Saint Andrew
Do you want a bird’s eye view of Jamaica? Then Blue Mountain Peak is the perfect place. Rising above an elevation of 7,000 feet, the north and south coasts of the island can be seen at the summit. Visitors can arrange a hike or bike tour through tropical jungles and coffee plantations with spectacular mountain views. Your muscles may protest the next day, but the experience is worth it, experience the beauty of Jamaica first hand.
Now this list is by no means exhausted. Writing this reminds me of some of those experiences and makes me anxious, longing for a road trip. I’m going to organize that and give you the second part of my best places to visit in Jamaica later. Have fun.