images

5 days in northern Jamaica

Eduardo do Valle

Daniel Aratangy / Ilustration: Francisco Martins

“No problem, man.” It doesn’t matter how much time you spend in Jamaica, you will probably hear this a lot. Take that warmth, put it right by an exuberant nature, Rastafari culture, and the legends that inspired movies and songs, and only then you’ll be able to understand the true rhythm of the country. Here you’ll find a LATAM Travel guide to make the most of five days in this jewel of the Caribbean where the golden rule is to forget about your problems.

 

images

Day 1

9 a.m. - I Can See Clearly Now

With an airport attached to the coast of Dead End Beach, the turquoise-blue waters of Montego Bay will amaze you even from your seat on the plane. But what comes next is even more impressive: spots like One Man Beach and Cornwall Beach, and also the semi-private Doctor's Cave Beach. This last stretch is famous for its waters, supposedly containing healing properties and where “cleansing your soul” is more than just an expression.

 

2  p.m. - Cool Rasta

One love, one heart. The message of universal communion that traveled the world voiced by Bob Marley is just one of the rules of the Rastafari movement, born in Jamaica in the 1930s. In Rasta Village, a hidden community by the Montego River, the locals have their own way of speaking, eating (the ital diet, vegetarian and organic, based on biblical principles), and making music, in a rhythm that has inspired reggae and all Jamaican culture over the years.

 

images
Rasta Village: Montego River Gardens, Porto Bello Drive, Montego Bay

7 p.m. - Food for Thought

Recently renamed Jimmy Cliff Boulevard, Hip Strip, as it is popularly known, is Montego Bay’s most famous thoroughfare. During the day, it’s filled with people visiting its stores; at night, its bars and restaurants, like The Pelican Grill, get crowded. Opened in 1964, only two years after the independence of the country, the restaurant takes pride in its offer of true Jamaican cuisine. To truly immerse yourself in it, order a lobster or the Ackee and Saltfish, a national dish made with a typical fruit (ackee), related to guarana.

The Pellican Grill:  Jimmy Cliff Boulevard, Montego Bay

 

Day 2

images

8 a.m. - You’re Wondering Now

With more than 650 miles [1,045 km] of coastline, choosing the prettiest beach in Jamaica is not an easy task. Nonetheless, no one would argue that Negril is among the most beautiful. Just 90 minutes from Montego Bay, this beach represents the westernmost point in the country with a quiet shore cut by imposing rock formations. The first portion of this beach is surrounded by resorts – Seven Mile Beach is a clear example of this, where visitors peacefully enjoy the white sands and almost still waters. The tip here is to rest, because you’ll have a full afternoon ahead.

 

4 p.m. - Jamming

In the early afternoon, West End Road gets packed with cars. This is where you’ll find Rick’s Café, one of the most representative in the country. Opened more than 45 years ago on top of a 33-foot [10 m] cliff, it attracts diving aficionados and professionals that stand in line to jump. Reggae music and drinks like the Shark Bite, made with curacao, or the Jamaican Me Crazy, made with three different kinds of rum, are ideal to enjoy the golden sunset.

Rick's Café: West End Road, Negril

 

9 p.m. - Stir it Up

Back in Montego Bay, the next stop is once again the sea, but now at Pier One: a combination bar and nightclub that hosts the Reggae Sumfest, one of the most important festivals of this genre in the world, lively parties (with karaoke or electronic music), and more intimate events. Try the curry shrimp and the lobster with garlic and white wine.

Pier One: Howard Cooke Boulevard, Montego Bay

 

images

Day 3

images
Martha Brae River

8 a.m. - Santeria

Around 19 miles [30 km] east of Montego Bay is the majestic Martha Brae River, where bamboo rafts slide through waters surrounded by trees. It’s essential to arrive early if you want some peace and quiet. The silence is only interrupted by jungle sounds of birds and insects and the raftsman, who tells the story of Martha Brae, the witch that attracted men with a beauty as intense as that of the place that bears her name.

 

12 p.m. - Good Thing Going 

Omnipresent in the four corners of the island, jerk chicken is a Jamaican symbol, made with roasted chicken seasoned with scotch bonnet (a pepper 140 times spicier than jalapeño). It’s the star dish at Scotchies, a simple and traditional restaurant where you’ll find several preparations of pork and sausages. Don’t forget the beer or coconut water: you’ll need it!

Scotchies: Falmouth Road, Montego Bay

 

images
Rose Hall: c/o Rose Hall Development, Montego Bay

6 p.m. - Night Nurse 

Imposing and shrouded in mystery, the old palace of Rose Hall will take you back to the agricultural past of colonial Jamaica. Its history changed in the early 20th century with the figure of Annie Palmer, a slave owner said to have killed her three husbands. In the residency, located on the road between Montego Bay and Falmouth, the legend of Rose Hall’s white witch is still told, filled with the sinister details that inspired Johnny Cash to write “The Ballad of Annie Palmer.”

Rose Hall:  c/o Rose Hall Development, Montego Bay

 

8 p.m. - Satisfy My Soul

Sunny days end with illuminated nights reflected in the Luminous Lagoon, close to the Martha Brae River. Formed by the encounter of the waters from three different sources, it’s inhabited by bioluminescent algae that light up at the slightest movement. During the tour, around 40 minutes long, you can swim and enjoy the glittering waters in a unique and almost mystic experience.

 

Day 4

images
Cool Blue Hole: Thatch Hill Road, Ocho Ríos

9 a.m. - Feel Like Jumping

One more day on the road: in the middle of the northern coast, you’ll find Ocho Ríos, an ancient Spanish site marked by the natural exuberance of attractions such as the Cool Blue Hole. Still protected from intense tourism, the cascade has jumps up to 20 feet [6 m] high and cool crystalline waters that look like a natural swimming pool. Those too afraid to jump can enjoy the pools and the shallow parts of the river, whose bottom reflects the sunlight, suggesting a moment of peace and meditation.

Cool Blue Hole: Thatch Hill Road, Ocho Ríos

 

3 p.m. - Zion Train 

If reggae is a universe, its main star came from Nine Mile, a humble town located 90 minutes from Ocho Ríos. The house where Bob Marley was born, in February 1945, today is home to his mausoleum and a museum. In Mount Zion, his old house, the tour guides are old friends of the singer, like Captain Crazy, who describes Marley’s trajectory while discussing songs and fun facts. One example is the meditation stone described by the singer in “Talkin' Blues”: “Cold ground was my bed last night / And rock was my pillow too.”

Mount Zion: Nine Mile

 

images
Mount Zion: Nine Mile

8 p.m. - Lucky Man 

From music to sports: the way back to Ocho Ríos calls for a mandatory stop at the Tracks & Records restaurant, a chain owned by Jamaican Olympian Usain Bolt. The ideal place to grab a bite and a drink, it offers a vast menu that includes both local and international dishes. On the walls, TVs and giant screens are constantly screening sports events – sometimes, Usain appears repeating that victorious gesture, his trademark famous around the world: slightly inclined backwards, extending both arms diagonally to the skies.

Tracks & Records: 101 B Main Street Pineapple Shopping Centre, Ocho Ríos

 

Day 5

9 a.m. - Wild, Wild Life 

The Dunn’s River, in Ocho Ríos, is a stream that represents an important British victory against the Spanish in 1657. Almost four centuries later, the place has transformed into a synonym of peace and adventure. Its almost 200 feet [60 m] of waterfalls can be easily covered on foot and, from the viewpoints on the side of the river, its beauty can be perceived with a greater perspective. This charm was immortalized in one of the most iconic images in cinematic history by Connery and Ursula Andress in James Bond’s 1962 classic “Dr. No.”

Dunn's River: Ocho Ríos

 

images
Dunn`s River: Ocho Ríos

12 p.m. - Sweet Sensation 

At Miss T’s Kitchen, the rustic Jamaican ambiance and the reggae music playing in the background will make you anticipate traditional options on the menu like curry goat, another of the country’s typical dishes. While having drinks, a famous Jamaican rum flavors cocktails like the popular mojito and the picturesque Bob Marley, which features the colors of the Rastafari movement.

Miss T’s Kitchen: 65 Main Street, Ocho Ríos

 

2 p.m. - Coming in From the Cold

The amazing performance of the Jamaican bobsleigh team at the 1988 Winter Olympic Games is the milestone that inspired the movie Cool Runnings. At Mystic Mountain Park, close to Dunn's River, a kind of rollercoaster coming down from the top of the mountain recreates the national conquest 2,300 feet [700 m] above sea level. This visit is an experience of immersion in nature thanks to the funicular that takes visitors to the top of the mountain, the meandering trails, and the pool, offering an unrivalled view of the bay.

Mystic Mountain:  Belmont Road, Ocho Ríos

 

images
The HouseBoat Grill: Alice Eldemire Drive, Montego Bay

5 p.m. - One Love

Back in Montego Bay, the last stop is the restaurant The HouseBoat Grill. Anchored in the Bogue Lagoon, it offers a panoramic view of marine life, where entire schools of fish swim side by side with manta rays. Known for its seafood, this small and simple restaurant is ideal for a movie-worthy sunset. In between drinks, the sun goes down, leaving behind the pleasant feeling that the days on this island are full of life and go by as fast as the schools of fish in the Jamaican waters.

 

Special thanks: Nexus Tours.