Jamaica is such a wonderful and diverse island. Rum bars filled with colourful locals in the highlands, glorious beaches, waterfalls you can climb and romantic river rafts. Of course, there also are swanky resorts and infamous spots such as Hedonism, where just about anything goes, including a lot of bathing suits and normal society rules. And don’t forget the jerk shacks that waft heavenly spices out over the island and the reggae music. Heck, even if you tried to forget the reggae you’ll never get away from Bob Marley. If you only hear “One Love” once a day, you’re not really getting out there.
SLEEPING Oh, the choices you have. Negril has awesome sunsets and an endless beach flanked by resorts such as Beaches and Sandals and the aforementioned Hedonism. Further north and east are the impeccable grounds of Half Moon, a Rock Resort, with a fun and not too tricked-up golf course and a wonderful beach and a who’s who list of attendees, including Queen Elizabeth and Paul Simon. Not at the same time. My personal favourite for a taste of local culture is Jakes at Treasure Beach, a spot on south side of the island with pseudo-Moroccan design and glorious detached villas in bright ochre and pale blue.
DINING Half Moon features the romantic Sugar Mill restaurant, with a gorgeous patio lit up by overhead lights handing from gnarly trees. It’s Caribbean cuisine kicked up a notch with such dishes as snapper in a coconut-saffron saude or jerk chicken spring rolls. Try the orange-banana bread pudding for dessert. There are a million great spots for jerk, but a favourite is Scotchie’s near the Montego Bay Airport. In the Montego Bay Freeport zone is the fabulous House Boat restaurant, reached by a five-second ferry/raft. Gaze out on the bay and the lights in the hills and dine on spicy shrimp in a scotch bonnet beurre blanc sauce or a Queen Conch fritter. You’ll be hard pressed to spend $40 a person. Jakes at Treasure Beach has a marvelous kitchen. Next door on the beach is Jack Spratts, which serves a fabulous jerk sausage pizza.
DOING The beaches you know about; sailing and swimming and snorkeling are everywhere. But why not try something different? At Half Moon you can take a horseback ride and swim with the animals, who love nothing more on a hot day than submersing themselves in the cool ocean water. Dunn River Falls (cq) is rightfully famous as a playground where you can clamber up large rocks and dunk yourself in the cool water running down from the Blue Mountains (cq). Prefer to let someone else do the work? Try a romantic rafting trip on the peaceful Martha Brae River near Falmouth, where a local will guide you along on a wide bamboo raft under a jungle canopy.
DRINKING If the local rum bars aren’t your thing, you can fill up on cheap bottles of Red Stripe beer at any number of spots in the so-called Hip Strip of Montego Bay. Twisted Kilt. If you must, you can down jello shots or any number of sickly sweet thingy’s at Jimmy Buffett Margaritaville, which is jammed to the rafters with cruise ship daytrippers and has a cool waterslide that drops you a couple stories into the bay. You don’t want to miss Rick’s Café, south of Negril. The water is the most beautiful shade of aquamarine imaginable, and local kids will do handstands and crazy dives off huge cliffs for a couple of bucks. You can try a bellyflop of your own from several spots, not all of them at dizzying heights. A definite Jamaica must-do.