Jamaica is a Caribbean paradise known for its white sand beaches, its Rastafarian culture, its pulsating reggae music and also for being the home of the fastest man in the world. But there is so much more to Jamaica. It’s one of those places where every time you scratch the surface you discover something new. We are going to avoid the traditional attractions and get you off the beaten path Jamaica all the way! This is the best way for you to explore some of the best Jamaica’s hidden gems.
Table of Contents (skip directly to the info you're looking for)
- 1 Surfing in St. Thomas or Portland
- 2 Waterfalls in Jamaica
- 3 Farm to Table Tours
- 4 Pelican Bar
- 5 Hiking to Blue Mountain Peak
- 6 Lovers Leap
- 7 Ahh….Ras Natango
- 8 Seville Great House
- 9 Attend Jamaica Carnival
- 10 Black River Safari
- 11 Attend a Reggae Concert or Dub Poetry Session
- 12 Explore Cockpit Country
- 13 Appleton Rum Tour
Surfing in St. Thomas or Portland
Jamaica is usually associated with reggae music and jerk foods. However, very few people would associate Jamaica with surfing. There are two main surfing spots in Jamaica: St. Thomas and Portland. St. Thomas is home to Jamnesia, Jamaica’s longest running surf camp situated at Eight Miles Bull Bay on the south eastern coast of Jamaica. Basic accommodations are offered at affordable rates, and surf board rentals and surfing lessons are available. An added plus is in the evening Red Stripe beers and live music flow freely.
Another surfing spot located in my favorite parish is Boston Beach in Portland. Boston Beach was originally known for its beautiful white sand beaches; however, when visitors to the island observed local fishermen returning from sea and surfing their boats in on the surf rolling into the cove, surfers started coming to the beach to surf the waves. When they left, leaving their boards behind, the local population put them to good use and thus surfing was introduced to Portland.
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Waterfalls in Jamaica
Everybody knows about Dunns River Falls and YS Falls, but what about Reach Falls and Mayfield Falls? Reach Falls is located on the eastern end of the island in the parish of Portland. There is one main waterfall that empties into an emerald natural Jacuzzi pool. The lush greenery surrounding the falls adds to their charm, with over 23 species of ferns in the area. It is also home to a variety of birds. If you are lucky, you could even glimpse a wild pig trotting across the mountain. Mayfield Falls is located on the western end of the island in the hills of the parish of Hanover. A beautiful scenic drive takes you to this attraction. Mayfield is really a series of small waterfalls cascading from one part of the river to the other. These falls are not as dramatic as some of the more popular falls, but they provide a more rustic, back- to-nature environment than some of the more commercialized attractions.
Farm to Table Tours
Food is an integral part of any culture and Jamaican cuisine is no different, although it has only recently made itself known on the world stage. There are three farm-to-table experiences that are worth enjoying. The first is Jakes farm to table dinners held on one of the first organic farms on the southern part of the island. The second is Zimbali, which is a farm to table experience held in the hills of Westmoreland on the western part of the island. And finally, Stush in the Bush, a farm-to-table experience offering vegetarian fare.
Pelican bar is undoubtedly one of the coolest bars in Jamaica. It is located 1 ½ kilometres offshore standing on a sandbar. Legend has it that its owner Floyd Forbes had a dream one night where he had a vision of a bar out in the sea standing on stilts, and that is exactly what he constructed. He named his establishment after the large flocks of pelicans that live on the sandbar. The bar is only accessible by boat and if you are lucky you might spot dolphins swimming by on your way there.
Hiking to Blue Mountain Peak
The Blue Mountain area is a UNESCO heritage site, and it is not only the home of the famous Blue Mountain Coffee, but is also the location of Jamaica’s highest point Blue Mountain peak. You can stay overnight at Whitfield Hall Lodge and start your journey to the peak in the wee hours of the morning so you can arrive at the top just in time for the Jamaican sunrise. It is said that on a clear day you can see Cuba, our neighbouring country to the north.
Lovers Leap is one of the most beautiful look out points in Jamaica and is known for its sweeping views of the beautiful coastline. Here you will find a cliff with a drop of 1,600 feet and a horizon where the sea blends into the sky. It is hard to work out where the sea ends and the sky starts. The legend of Lovers Leap is based on two enslaved, star-crossed lovers, Mizzy and Tunkey, who rather than be separated by a jealous plantation owner, decided to jump to their deaths. But the romantic myth has given way to functional modernity, as the area is now the location of the highest lighthouse in the western hemisphere. But, as they say, romance never dies. You and your loved one can enjoy local Jamaican cuisine at the lighthouse restaurant as you watch the sun go down.
Ahh…. Ras Natango is a nature lover’s paradise. Located in the hills overlooking Montego Bay it is one of the islands best kept secrets. It is probably the best way to experience the Jamaican countryside and learn about the flora and fauna native to the island. You will even have the opportunity to feed the Jamaican hummingbird, the country’s national bird. There is an art gallery on site too, if you want to purchase souvenirs.
Seville Great House
There are many great house attractions but this one is not very well known and very much off the beaten path. Seville great house is located on the site of Sevilla la Nueva, which was the first capital of Jamaica and the third capital in the western hemisphere. The area surrounding the great house was first inhabited by the Tainos, before being settled by the Spaniards. This location is one of the most interesting archaeological sites in Jamaica. There is actually a museum on the site that offers an informative tour of its history, during which the Taino Indians, Spanish, English and Africans inhabited the area at one time or another.
Attend Jamaica Carnival
Nothing compares to a Jamaican carnival, and if you can, make sure you put a carnival event on your itinerary. January kicks off the carnival season, which ends after the Easter holiday. Carnival events usually take place in the Kingston and Ocho Rios areas and include beach parties, weekly mas camp concert events and breakfast fetes. The culmination of Carnival is the Road March where costumed revellers go dancing through the streets.
Black River Safari
The Black River is one of the longest navigable rivers in Jamaica. It gets its name from the darkness of the river bed, which is a result of the decomposing vegetation that has accumulated over the years. You can take a one and half hour boat trip up the river where you can see crocodiles in their natural habitat and view some of the 100 species of birds in this unspoiled wetland.
Attend a Reggae Concert or Dub Poetry Session
Jamaica is considered the home of reggae- there are not many countries that can claim they have created a whole genre of music. If you are a reggae music fan, the two main concerts are Reggae Sumfest which is held in July in Montego Bay, and Rebel Salute, which is held in Richmond just outside the town of Ocho Rios. If you visit Kingston there is a Dub Poetry session held on Sundays in the hills overlooking the city.
Explore Cockpit Country
Why not take a journey inland to the heart of Jamaica’s cockpit country. This area is marked by steep-sided hollows, which are separated by conical hills and ridges. The Maroons, who were escaped slaves, took advantage of this difficult terrain to develop communities beyond the control of Spanish and British Colonists. Some of these communities still exist today. The main Maroon town, Accompong, still stands and welcomes visitors. It is also possible to go caving, hiking, and bird watching in this area.
Appleton Rum Tour
The Appleton Rum distillery is located in the heart of Jamaica in the beautiful Nassau valley in St. Elizabeth. The journey there allows you to experience a part of Jamaica that few visitors venture to experience. The Appleton estate was established in 1670 and the first rum was produced in 1749. The tour documents the process from the harvesting of the sugar cane, the fermentation, distillation and finally to the rum in your glass. An added plus is the tasting session at the end.
For such a small country, Jamaica packs quite a punch if you are looking for interesting activities. It is a very small island, a dot on the world map really, but what makes it so fascinating is the diversity of things to do in Jamaica. As you can see, off the beaten path Jamaica is the best way to go so you can explore the best Jamaica’s hidden gems.
This is a guest post by: Charmaine from Jamaica Travel Saver.
Bio: Charmaine loves exploring her home country Jamaica and sharing her new finds with others, especially when she finds those hidden gems. You can learn more about Jamaica on her blog at Jamaicatravelsaver.com
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