I should start off by saying that Jamaica is probably my favorite island in the Caribbean. It is one of the larger islands and has more diversity because of that size. After landing in Montego Bay there was certainly culture shock having just left a very modern Atlanta airport to arrive in the third world, at least that was my first impression. It was bedlam of course as everyone, and those before us, was trying to locate tour operators and buses. Now by “busâ€ I’m thinking comfortable coach but it was more of a school bus experience…ah but this is vacation….relax! That worked. Jamaica is a part of The West Indies, a world power in cricket of all things. I expected to see cricket being played everywhere but in my week on the island I don’t recall seeing it at all. It takes an hour or two to drive to Ocho Rios where my all-inclusive vacation spot is located. There are several things every visitor to Jamaica will experience; great weather, turquoise seas, white sand beaches, friendly people, people who expect to be tipped for everything, colorful buildings and women sunbathing topless. That last one was a bit of a shock to me…but I got used to it. Besides those things, following are the highlights of my stay:
Couples all-inclusive is a very romantic way to go. Tucked away, a short drive from Ocho Rios, is a small private resort with a private beach and it’s own Private Island. This is more secluded than other resorts in the area but comes with all the usual trappings of open bar, meals, entertainment etc. Because of the seclusion you will need to get out to see the rest of this beautiful island:
The Blue Lagoon near Port Antonio of course. About an hour south is a beautiful spot and the location of a large house on a small island. Errol Flynn, as his special getaway, once owned the house. The Blue Lagoon is right next to the main beach and worth a swim or watch as locals jump from high branches on very tall trees. I’ll stick to swimming.
Rafting down the Martha Brae River is a fun time. Each raft comes with its “expertâ€ rafter to do the heavy work. One of the raft handlers could sing and he did that all the way down. It was very cool.
The Blue Mountains and central highlands are greener than the coastal region. It is a surprising change of color as turquoise and white gives way to green. This region is not touristy like the coastal area.
Negril has the best beaches on the island although this picture doesn’t do it justice. This is an area I may want to spend winter in my retirement. Negril boasts a lighthouse as an attraction so you can see there isn’t a whole lot to do here.
Montego Bay, the main port of entry/exit is also the home of “Swim with the Dolphinsâ€ It’s worth a visit but there are more beautiful places on the island.
Ocho Rios itself is a tourist trap with the usual stores. Its claim to fame is the Dunns River Falls that many people climb up so they could climb back down again I guess. Ocho Rios is popular with tour ships and anyone wanting to shop. This would be the place to get your t-shirt.
We did visit the capital, Kingston, but were disappointed by it. Driving past a shantytown on the way in gives a clear perspective of the poor side of this “playgroundâ€ for the wealthy.
What I really like about Jamaica is the diversity of scenery, from beaches to mountains; from pastoral farms to banana plantations. Then back to the all-inclusive to wine and dine until my heart is content. Jamaica is a must go island.