Running my own travel business certainly comes with its perks. As a conscientious consultant I need to research the places that I would potentially send my customers. As a result I get to see a lot of amazing places and recently I was lucky enough to visit Jamaica. It was all arranged by the Jamaican Tourist Board and they had 5 nights to show myself and some other travel agents the best of their incredible island. Suffice to say, they really packed things in, so here are five highlights of my trip….
Like many places, the true beauty of Jamaica comes not in the destination itself, but the people who reside there. Jamaica encapsulates this more than most place I have visited. The people proudly bare their wide smiles and their relaxed way of life shines through in all aspects of the culture. From the warm greeting at the airport to the sense of humour, I can honestly say that they were some of the friendliest people I have ever met.
The cynics amongst you may question how genuine this was given my role as a visitor of the tourist board, but even outside of those confines it is clear that the way of life is a huge attraction to tourists. They are fiercely proud of their country, their island and I defy anyone to spend more than a few nights there and not inadvertently make “yeah mon” part of their everyday vocabulary. It’s infectious and it’s brilliant.
It goes without saying that the beaches are one of the major attractions in coming here — it is after all one of the jewels of the Caribbean and is rightly famed for its crystal oceans and white sand beaches. However, there is more to this place than just the coasts. Of course, I could easily recommend plonking yourself at a fantastic all-inclusive beach hotel without the need to move a muscle from the beach for two weeks and that is understandable, but if you want to explore further I would not discourage you.
One thing I did not realise before my visit is just how green Jamaica is. Outside of the coast there are sprawling jungles, tropical plants and wildlife aplenty. We flew in and out of Kingston but were staying on the North side of the island towards Ocho Rios and Montego Bay, so got to witness the stunning mountains that punctuate the central areas where the North-South Highways runs. It is a big island, so if you have the time discover the hidden gems away from the exquisite coast.
I was lucky to be staying in a couple of amazing all-inclusive hotels whilst there, so I got plenty of opportunities to indulge in a hell of a lot of food and drink — all in the name of customer research of course. The variety in these hotels was fantastic as they obviously need to cater for a huge array of tastes and demographics as well as ensuring you are not left with repetitive food during your stay. However, it was outside of these hotels that some of my most memorable scrans were consumed.
I’m sure you are all aware of jerk and as a bit of a fan I was looking forward to trying some from a traditional jerk pit. Thankfully on our last day away we were taken to Jojo’s jerk pit in Kingston. It did not disappoint. Unable to choose from the vast array on offer, I took the plunge on a mixed platter and it was absolutely delicious. Made in the traditional way in a rustic jerk pit, the chicken and pork in particular was a delight, and although it had a kick it wasn’t overpowering. For those of you with a more delicate palate then simply pop over to Devon House next door for afters. A historic colonial home run by the Jamaican National Trust, it is worth a wander around in its own right but definitely worth a visit for the ice cream – once voted in the Top 3 in the world! I slurped down a cherry flavoured cone in record time and still quietly dream about it most days!
Things To Do
If you like to be a little more active and adventurous in Jamaica then there is a huge amount of attractions, excursions and more to get involved with. In the area we were staying alone we managed to visit the haunted plantation of Rose Hall, made infamous in the song “The Ballad of Annie Palmer” by Johnny Cash, who lived locally at one time. We also visited the Bob Marley museum, on the site of his former home. I’m a fan so it brought goose bumps to me just being there but even if you are not, there is a palpable sense of magic in the air to be so close to a worldwide cultural icon. We took to the skies on a 700ft ski lift climb up Mystic Mountain, with unbelievable coastal and jungle views, descending back down via a fast paced bobsled ride.
The inescapable water activities included me attempting to master a jet pack with only some success and a lot of wipe outs, plus the far more relaxing yet nonetheless incredible experience of Dolphin Cove. Here we got to interact with dolphins who are free to roam the seas as they please but come back each morning to feed and play with their trainers and new tourist friends. This was a wonderful morning that I will remember my whole life and it is great to know that the dolphins are not captive in any way which would make me quite uncomfortable. One of our party even had some time swimming with a nurse shark there, but I felt my close resemblance to the body shape of a seal was too much of a risk on this occasion!
It may be something of an obvious one but most of us go abroad for a little vitamin D and Jamaica can definitely offer you that. Whilst we were there I did not see a single drop of rain and barely a cloud in the sky but it is important to remember that being in the Caribbean there are certain seasons to bear in mind, not least that of hurricane season. Beyond that there are also different climates on the island itself, so it is vital to choose your resort and time of year wisely.
That being said, even the tropical storms that can interrupt some days tend only to be short and sharp and I find them strangely hypnotic and relaxing too. They also clear some of the humidity in the air which can be quite unbearable during certain periods. However, I would not let a little rain put you off from visiting this frankly astounding island. If it is on your list, it should be higher. If it isn’t on your list, pick up that pen and write it in big, bold, metaphorical letters – JAMAICA! Yeah mon!