Thought Jamaica Was All About the Beach? Here’s Why You’re Wrong…
Stretch beyond the sun lounger and discover why there’s more to this Caribbean island than beach-hopping and rum punch.
28 May 2019
All Credits: PA
“No woman, no cry,” sings our tour guide at the Bob Marley Museum.
He serenades us with his impressive vocal talents as he shows us around the grand former home and recording studio of the Jamaican icon on Hope Road, in the heart of Kingston (bobmarleymuseum.com; 3434 JMD/£20). With his exaggerated patois, his super-chilled vibe and a tendency to explain everything through Marley’s lyrics, our guide is the personification of all the clichés you’ve ever heard about Jamaica.
There’s no denying the laid-back attitude of the people and the sense of decadence that comes with lounging under the shadows of palm trees on Jamaica’s pristine sandy beaches. But there is even more to discover in this country beyond the Jamaica you know.
Jamaica is famous for its rum, but it’s also the home of some of the world’s finest coffee. Hidden away in the Blue Mountains, the longest mountain range in Jamaica extending between Kingston to the south and Port Antonio to the north, and a world away from the bustle of the city, you’ll find the Craighton Coffee Estate in Irish Town.
Introduced to Jamaica in 1728, the red berries of the Arabica coffee bean are highly prized, and coffees certified by the Coffee Industry Board of Jamaica are considered to be some of the best in the world. Picked by local women, the beans go through an intensive selection process and are medium-roasted and ground on site, while whole beans are also retained for use as the flavor base in Tia Maria.
Seventy per cent of the ground beans find their way to Japan where the coffee is sold for US$30 a cup. Taken with condensed milk, as is the local preference, the rich aroma of the Blue Mountain coffee fills the air and the sweet taste lingers on the tongue.
How: Craighton Estate Coffee tour costs 3434 JMD/AED94.03.
Bop to Bob – but there’s so much more
At the Trenchtown Culture Yard, a former 1930s housing project that has been transformed into a makeshift museum housing music memorabilia from the early years of the Jamaican music scene, we receive an education in the philosophy of Bob Marley. But while his far-reaching influence can be felt on every street corner, the sounds of Jamaica go beyond the musical icon.
At 11pm, under the cloak of darkness, we journey into the depths of the Blue Mountains’ forests where reggae beats pulsate from an otherwise unassuming homestead. This is the Kingston Dub Club, a place where time seems to stand still as the music plays and a crowd gathers in a sweet smoke-filled yard, gyrating to infectious rhythms. The sound reflects another aspect of Jamaican spirit, where the motto is seemingly ‘play it loud’.
How: Entry to Trenchtown Culture Yard costs 1552 JMD/AED42.50. Visit ttcultureyard.com. Prices for Kingston Dub Club vary depending on the event. Visit kingstondubclub.com.
Beaches aren’t the only place to make a splash
The soft, sandy beaches are a lure for honeymooners, but the luscious vegetation of Jamaica also presents an unspoilt paradise. Set in the hills above Ocho Rios at Island Gully Falls, a short trek through exotic forest leads you to a cove where enchanted tourists are hypnotically drawn to the crystal waterfalls and enticed to walk through the rushing water, while the more adventurous swing on a rope or leap off the mountain rock into a cold pool.
For an adventure on dry land, follow the waterfall trail at Holywell Nature Park, a moderate walk of 1.3km, that only takes an hour and is free to do. Surrounded by 50 varieties of fern, hikers are led to a view of the valley and the Blue Mountains, culminating in a 4.5 metre cascading stream to cool off in.
How: Entry to Holywell Park costs 1374 JMD/AED37.62. Guided tours cost 6870 JMD/AED188.11 for groups of 1-10 persons. Visit blueandjohncrowmountains.org. Entry to Island Gully Falls costs 2060 JMD/AED56.41. Visit islandgullyfallsjamaica.com.
Meanwhile, Devon House, home of Jamaica’s first black millionaire, George Stiebel, is famed just as much for its custom-made ice cream as for its grandeur, and it has the distinction of being voted the world’s fourth best ice-cream by National Geographic. At I-Scream you’ll find the creamiest of confections with 27 exotic flavours – such as fruit basket and sour sop – served in waffle cones (550 JMD/£3).
How: A Yaaman Plantation Tour and Cookery Class costs 7986 JMD/AED218.67. Visit yaamanadventure.com. For I-Scream, visit devonhouseja.com.
Pellew: An island beyond an island…
Get a glimpse of the palatial holiday homes of the rich and famous, with a boat tour around Pellew Island. The boatmen are ready and waiting, so there’s no booking in advance – just pay 5185 JMD/AED141.98 for a 45-minute ride when you rock up. Honeymooners are spotted posing for photos against the vegetation as they float leisurely along the bottomless blue-green fresh and salt-waters, through the mineral spring of the Blue Lagoon.
Our final stop is Frenchman’s Cove Resort, an exclusive 45-acre private estate in Jamaica. It’s the perfect end to the trip, as we paddle in the refreshing hot and cold-water streams, dive into the ocean, and bask in the sun on the soft beach with a new-found skill for chilling – Jamaica style.
How to get there
A standard king room (based on two sharing) at Spanish Court Hotel, Kingston starts from 27478 JMD/AED752.40 per night, including breakfast.
A balcony suite (based on two sharing) at Jamaica Inn, Ocho Rios starts from 47617 JMD/AED1303.85 per night (excluding taxes and fees).
British Airways (ba.com) fly from London Gatwick to Kingston from £562/AED2615.13 return.
For more information and inspiration on travelling to Jamaica, go to visitjamaica.com.