Jamaica is a paradise that will make you feel relaxed and gives you a sweet big smile!
Jamaica is a small country with a rich culture. This radiates in their language, music, welcoming smiles, and their tasty and colourful foods. Everywhere you turn you can see the locals exuding cheerful and relaxed vibes.
As what the locals commonly say in Jamaica, No Problem!
The first time Jamaica has drawn my attention was when I met my best friend in university. She’s named after Judi Mowatt, the backup singer of Bob Marley. Everyone knows Bob Marley, the king of reggae music. I didn’t expect that one day I will visit this wonderful tropical island in the heart of the Caribbean.
Let me share our Jamaican adventure from a few weeks ago. My husband and I, together with my mother-in-law went to explore this beautiful tropical island. The whole itinerary was organised by the Hotel Mockingbird Hill, an outstanding and award winning eco-boutique hotel in Port Antonio, Jamaica. (If you want to check their availability and tailor-made holidays in Jamaica, check out this link.)
RELATED ARTICLE: Sustainable Tourism and Natural Wonders of Jamaica
After our long haul flight from the London to Montego Bay, we were welcomed by the very nice couple David and Elle of Sussex Great House in St. Ann’s Bay. We were exhausted from our journey so they showed us our rooms and prepared our first Caribbean meal. From the starter to dessert, it was divine!
The Sussex Great House is a colonial style building with high ceilings and big windows, this lets the cool breeze from the Caribbean Sea cool you down from the tropical heat. (If you want to check their availability, you can contact David thru the link I provided above.)
The following morning, after our hearty breakfast, we went out to explore St. Ann’s Bay and Ocho Rios. We took a Route Taxi from St. Ann’s Bay to Ocho Rios, one of the known cruise ship ports in Jamaica and the Caribbean. Route Taxi is the public transportation that locals used from town to town. We went shopping in the market which was filled with different souvenirs and crafts.
Near Ocho Rios, you can find different tourist attractions to visit like the Mystic Mountain, Dolphin Cove and Dunn’s River Falls. Another popular attraction in St. Ann Parish is the hometown of Bob Marley in Nine Mile, where you can pay respect in his mausoleum and visit his museum.
We went to see the lovely Dunn’s river falls. It was mesmerising to see the cascading and sparkling waterfalls.
Based on our experience wandering around towns of Jamaica, it’s perfectly fine. Obviously, as always you need to be street smart when you are walking around a new area. It’s common sense! The locals are courteous and helpful. A perfect example was when I went to buy a local pay-as-you-go sim card (with a data plan for blogging/social media) in the shop, I didn’t know that you need to have an ID to get one, so I was completely hopeless after queuing up for almost 30 minutes. I explained to the sales agent that I left my passport in our guest house’s room, then this old gentleman behind me politely offered his ID to the counter so I can have my sim card. I was over the moon! I can’t thank him enough for that kind gesture.
On our way back to the Sussex Great House, we grabbed some Jamaican Patties for snacks. It was recommended by our host to try it. They are really tasty! Our next mission was how to get back to our accommodation. We were clueless on how to get back there, so we went to the taxi terminal and asked around for directions and the drivers are helpful, they even offered to use their own phone credit to call our hosts. After few minutes, we are on our way to our guest house.
It’s time to wave our goodbyes to the warm hospitality of Elle and David as we head towards our next destination on the other end of the island. We took the Knutsford express from Ocho Rios to Port Antonio in Portland Parish. Knutsford express is the major bus service that runs to the main destinations in Jamaica. It was a comfortable ride and I did enjoy the scenic route on our way to Portland. The Knutsford bus service has a toilet on board and wifi. Our driver was really friendly and he even became my tour guide as we passed by different coastal towns.
Upon our arrival in the charming town of Port Antonio, we were welcomed and fetched by Shireen and Barbara of Hotel Mockingbird Hill. We went straight to Winnifred Beach to have our tasty lunch in Cynthia’s beachfront restaurant. We also tried Ting (Jamaican grapefruit soda), nice and refreshing!
Winnifred Beach is a community run public beach in Port Antonio. We enjoyed the lovely gentle waves and the welcoming and united community vibes make this beach so unique and special.
After our lovely afternoon spent chilling out by the beach with the local community, we then went to the Hotel Mockingbird Hill. This award winning eco- boutique hotel nestles on the top of a hill overlooking the charming view of Port Antonio.
We were welcomed and ushered to our respective rooms. The spacious, well-ventilated rooms had a view of their luscious garden. The canopy mosquito net above out bed was something royal that made me feel like being pampered at its finest. The little goodie bags in our room was something really sweet and thoughtful. True to their words, this hotel has become our home in Jamaica. Their restaurant Mille Fleurs serves an outstanding and variety of Jamaican and Western cuisines. Don’t forget to try the Jamaican breakfast, jerk and the Blue mountain coffee!
Our stay in Port Antonio drew us closer to nature. We went river rafting in the famous Rio Grande. We were guided by our experienced captain, as we gently paddle along the with the current of this famous and historical river in Jamaica. Before the Rio Grande opened for tourism purposes, this served as an important access to the banana farmers in the nearby town of Port Antonio. They used the river to transport their crop to the banana boat in Port Antonio for export to the US, Canada and the UK.
The gentle current of the river and lively chirping of the birds made us at peace with nature. The raft journey was about 2 hours long from the entry port to the end, and about 8 miles in length. Hotel Mockingbird Hill arranged for us to have lunch mid-way down the river which was prepared by Miss Belinda at Miss Belinda on the river.
After our gentle rafting in the Rio Grande, we headed towards the romantic and secluded beach of Frenchman’s cove. The calm waves and the cliffs that give this beach a “private” feel make it really inviting for those people who want to break away from the hustle and bustle of their daily lives. In the 70’s and 80’s Frenchman’s cove was a popular getaway destination for the for the elite and well-known personalities. During our stay in Hotel Mockingbird hill, they arranged our transport and entry to this lovely resort.
On our last day exploring Portland, we went to Manchioneal to visit the Reach falls. Along the way, we saw one of the many properties of the famous actor Errol Flynn and his family. His memories remained here in Jamaica and even the marina of Port Antonio was named after him.
On our arrival in Manchioneal, our adventure to reach the Reach falls had begun. We were welcomed by our local guide and off we went! I think this river walk / swimming to the Reach falls gave us the real feel of Jamaica’s nature. Just bring your swimming costume, water shoes and your waterproof camera and you will surely enjoy this activity.
The cold and powerful water from the falls and various pools in the river made us feel excited and alive. It was indeed adventure filled and was a lovely experience. Reach falls were found by the slaves who were looking for refuge at the foot of the Blue Mountains during the colonial days.
After our adventurous river walk, our guide Aya gave us a freshly picked Jelly! In Jamaica, they call coconut as jelly because of its jelly type flesh. It was really refreshing and a well-deserved drink after our river walk. On our way back to the hotel, we had our lunch in the Irie Beach bar in Long Bay, Portland Parish and also visited the beach in Boston Bay, the home of the beloved jerk food!
After our long day exploring around, it was really nice to watch the sunset from the porch of the Hotel Mockingbird hill. We felt so spoiled and pampered to have a candle lit dinner while watching the sunset. It just can’t get any better than that!
It was time to wave goodbye to the beautiful town of Port Antonio and make our way to the heart of Jamaica, Kingston. The Hotel Mockingbird hill prepared an awesome itinerary for us to see the different heritage sites around Kingston. Around mid-day, we were welcome by the Olde Jamaica Tours (Juliet) and Jessa Tours (Wilson), who showed us around the different historical churches in the city. Jamaica is known to have the highest number of churches per square mile.
The Cathedral of Holy Trinity (Roman Catholic) – in the 15th century, Spaniards arrived in Jamaica and introduced the Roman Catholic faith. The original cathedral was destroyed during the earthquake in 1907, a year after, they started to re-build again re-located the cathedral in its current location. In 2000, the cathedral was included in the Heritage sites in Jamaica. The Spanish government, NGO and local community helped the diocese in the restoration of the cathedral to its former glory.
St. Andrew’s Chruch (Anglican Church) – The Church of England was introduced to Jamaica during the British occupation. St. Andrew Parish were established in 1664, for more than three centuries the church has been the socio-cultural centre in Kingston. The tour of the Parish gave us loads of different stories about the heritage and history of Jamaica. The parish also has some active community projects like St. Clement’s Mission (since 1914), St. Andrew Parish Church Home for Girls (since 1974), The Moreton Park Cottages (since 1955), The Tuesday Charities (since 1980) and the Little Brothers of Saint Andrews since (1997). All these projects are aimed to help the communities in Jamaica. If you are interested in donating and supporting these projects, please check this link.
Shaare Shalom Synagogue (Jewish) – This is the only synagogue in Jamaica. Jews settled in Jamaica around the 17th century. They started practicing their faith in a synagogue in Spanish Town (the old capital of Jamaica), then, later on, moved to Kingston. The United Congregation of Israelites is a vibrant community in Jamaica.
It was a great day exploring these heritage sites in Kingston. We learned a lot about the different cultural highlights and history of Jamaica and the role of different churches to build the Jamaican community. If you are interested in exploring the different heritage sites in Kingston, check out this link.
We stayed in Altamont Court Hotel in the centre of Kingston. It is conveniently located a close distance to the different places of interests in Kingston. We had a fantastic stay as well in this hotel. We were truly looked after by the staff and the restaurant service was pretty awesome and they gave generous portions too!
The following morning, the Hotel Mockingbird hill organised the Historical Music Tour of Kingston for us. Another exciting day was in store for us in discovering one of the beautiful gifts of Jamaica to the world, Music. We met the Backayard Magazine Editor Amilcar Lewis and Music Producer and Radio station DJ Philip Lobban.
The first stop on our tour was the National Heroes Square, as what it says on the tin, this is where the national heroes of Jamaica were buried. Together with the prominent people in the government, arts, literature and music artists that give honour to Jamaica. As we walked around the square we did see the different artistic landmarks that represent as a shrine to each of the heroes, like the Nanny of the Maroons, Dennis Emmanuel Brown (the Prince of Reggae), the former Prime Minister & National hero of Jamaica Mr. Norman Manley and his son, another former Prime Minister of Jamaica Michael Manley. It was a fortunate afternoon as Ms. Sarah Manley, the daughter of the former Prime Minister Michael Manley, was also there visiting her father’s memorial.
At the National Heroes Square, Kingston (All photos are provided by Jik Reuben Pringle)
Our next stop was the Institute of Jamaica where we did see the exhibition about the origins and first inhabitants of Jamaica, the Taino. The next exhibition was about the Rastafari and its socio-cultural influence on the people of Jamaica. I will discuss more of these in details on my next article about Jamaica!
At the Institute of Jamaica (All photos are provided by Jik Reuben Pringle)
It was already lunch time when we finished the tour of the different exhibitions of the Institute of Jamaica. After our tour, we headed towards downtown Kingston to have lunch in Life Yard, a vibrant, self – reliant and warm Rastafarian community. After our lunch, we went to see the Paint Jamaica project, this is a community project to uplift the image of the inner parts of the city by creating a good and positive community vibes. The murals created on this project showcase the different uplifting and positive messages to the people of Jamaica. A very inspiring and moving project with a powerful message.
At Life Yard and Paint Jamaica Project – 41 Fleet Street
(All photos are provided by Jik Reuben Pringle)
For our next stop, we went to see the Rockers International Record. Before the world discovered Reggae music, there was Ska and Rocksteady. Mitchie Williams showed us the different tunes and told us about them and explained how the Jamaican music has evolved over time. This was a brilliant experience and it helped us appreciate the origin of what the world knows as Reggae music.
(All photos are provided by Jik Reuben Pringle)
For the final stop, we paid a visit to the foundation of Jamaican music. This is where many legendary Jamaican artists came from, the Alpha Boys’ School. The school was founded in 1880 by the initiative of Jessie Ripoll and the Mercy Sisters together with Mother Winnifred Furlong. Alpha School has helped many children in Jamaica by teaching them a vocational skill and a basic education that can help them with their livelihood. The Music course of Alpha Boys’ School is the most popular. The love for music and artistic talents is the foundation of the Alpha students and alumni. Here are some of the most celebrated alumni of Alpha Boys; Joe Harriott – the pioneer of free Jazz music in the 50’s & 60’s, Rico Rodriguez – trombone player and well-known artist of different UK ska groups from the 60’s – 80’s. Another alumnus Alphaian is Eddie “Tan-Tan” Thornton, the trumpet player, played on “Obla-dee Obla-dah” by the Beatles. The longest music school administrator of the school was Sister Ignatius (from 1921 – 2003), she was known as the “Mother Theresa of Reggae Music”. If you are interested in supporting the Alpha boys school, you can click this link. You can also visit the Alpha Boys’ School internet radio!
(All photos are provided by Jik Reuben Pringle)
On the last day of our Jamaica Adventure, we met Mr. Basil Smith (former Jamaican Tourist Board Director). He showed us around the National Gallery of Jamaica where all of the amazing artwork of different Jamaican artists is displayed. The paintings, modern art and sculptures all convey different stories and powerful messages about the life and history of Jamaica and its people. The powerful expressions of these Jamaican artists did truly moved us. Photography is not allowed in the gallery.
After our visit to the National Gallery, we headed to the Devon House. The Devon House is one of the historical landmarks in Jamaica as this is the first colonial mansion owned by the first black Jamaican millionaire, Mr. George Steibel. Mr. Steibel made his fortune from a gold mining venture in Venezuela and went back to Jamaica to build his home. The Steibel’s were controversial during colonial times. The first lady of the Governor General of Jamaica, Lady Musgrove, was so dismayed and ordered another road be built, so that she can avoid seeing this beautiful manor. This road is still being used in Kingston and is called the Lady Musgrove road.
After being shown around the Devon House, we headed towards the Knutsford Express to catch our bus back to Montego Bay Airport for our evening flight back to London. It has been a memorable week for us exploring Jamaica’s natural and cultural sites. Our itinerary was packed with loads of nice activities, we didn’t get the chance to visit Bob Marley’s museums in St. Ann, Parish and Kingston. It would be another great reason to go back to Jamaica again. I can still go on and on telling you how beautiful is Jamaica, I strongly suggest a visit to Jamaica to see and experience it for yourself!
Special thanks to Hotel Mockingbird hill for organising the wonderful trips that made us appreciate this beautiful country of Jamaica.
Have you been to Jamaica? Share us your experience!
About the Writer
Ryazan Tristram is named after a Russian city near Moscow. The Miss Zan-shine of Everything Zany – A Photography, Lifestyle and Dual Citizen Travel Blog. She likes to travel, history, meet people & try exotic foods! Planning to explore more countries with her D.I.Y trips as a Dual Citizen (British – Filipina). Follow her travels on Facebook and Instagram.