You are on page 1of 8

Island of

Marley’s spirit
With its lush mountains, waterfalls, stunning beaches, all-inclusive resorts and
a history rich in buccaneer mystique, Jamaica is a swashbuckling cut above
many Caribbean rivals. Sara Macefield explores the island whose famous son
Bob Marley gave the world reggae music

“G
et your legs up, ple of cables hundreds of feet up in the air.
up, up”, screamed Having reached the other side in one
my Jamaican piece, my trepidation was swiftly replaced
guide. It wasn’t by elation and I felt ready to tackle anything.
the usual sort of After all, this is just one of the adrenalin-
command you’d busting activities designed to tempt holiday-
expect, but as I was racing along a zip-wire makers off Jamaica’s beautiful beaches and
at full pelt towards the landing platform into its rugged, jungle-filled interior.
– it seemed a sensible request! As the third-largest island in the Caribbean,
Only a few seconds earlier, I’d Jamaica offers much to entrance visitors, from
stood at the top of the tropical the misty peaks of the Blue Mountains with
river gorge, knowing I would their beautiful landscapes of rivers and water-
be skimming across the falls, to the rocky cliffs and wide open sandy
treetops held up by noth- beaches of the laid-back resort of Negril, the
ing more than just a cou- coolest of all chill-out zones.

6 The Travel & Leisure Magazine November/December 2009
getting to KNOW
JAMAICA

Jamaica Tourist Board

Sandals

Jamaica Tourist Board
I At your
service – a
Sandals butler

I A taste of I Hanging around
Jamaica on a canopy tour

Jamaica is where you’ll find historic old hub of the city is Gloucester Avenue, the so-
plantation houses rubbing shoulders with called “Hip Strip” full of restaurants, bars, Healing waters
luxurious hotels and sprawling all-inclusive art galleries and duty-free shops. Jamaica’s waters have healing powers.
resorts; where you can hide away in chic Mo Bay, as it is called by the locals, has The most famous – and touristy – are at
boutique hotels tucked into rocky cliffs or on its own marine park which covers 10 miles Doctors Cave Beach where the mineral
lush mountain slopes. of coral reefs. There is also the springs are said to be therapeutic.
It is a place of local legends of bucca- famous white-sand Doctors Then there are the mineral waters of
neering pirates and murderous witches, of Cave Beach and its mineral Milk River, said to be the most
romance tinged with royalty and old spring, said to have therapeu- radioactive in the world with high levels
Hollywood glamour. tic powers. Nearby is the of magnesium, calcium, sulphate and
But underpinning it all is the raw reggae attractive town of Falmouth, noted natural chloride.
vibe that dominates this island and envelops for its well-preserved Georgian The baths here date from 1794, but
its culture, stemming from Jamaica’s most buildings, dating from the users are warned not to stay in the
famous son Bob Marley, who planted his dis- 1700s. waters for more than 10 or 20 minutes
tinctive beat across the world. Ocho Rios – at a time because of their potency.
“Ochi” as it is Jamaica even has a town called Bath
Tourist areas affectionately which was founded because of the
Most of Jamaica’s tourist resorts are along called, is more nearby mineral springs which are high in
the north coast, though one or two resorts tourist-friendly than sulphate.
have sprung up on the lesser-developed Montego Bay with its craft In the 18th century, Bath was popular
south coast. These are the island’s tourist market, duty-free shops, with the European elite who flocked
areas: restaurants and cafes and here for the healing powers of the
Montego Bay – Jamaica’s second city more relaxed atmosphere. scalding hot waters and elegant botanical
after the capital, Kingston – which is bigger Visitors should aim for the gardens – the first on the island.
and busier than the other tourist resorts. The outdoor Island Village shopping

I Frenchman’s Cove Image: Jamaica Tourist Board

November/December 2009 The Travel & Leisure Magazine 7
SuperClubs
Sandals

I Diving off Jamaica
I Canoeing

Water sports
With more than 600 miles of coastline and over 100 rivers
Jamaica offers ample opportunity for water sports fans to
make a big splash.
From river tubing and river rafting to diving, sailing and
under-sea tours on a semi-sub reef explorer, Jamaica has
plenty of watery attractions.
As well as the usual range of water sports and boat trips,
there’s the Kool Runnings water park in Negril, which claims
to be the largest in the Eastern Caribbean and is packed full
of thrilling aqua rides.
Alternatively, sun-worshippers wanting to bare all can choose

Sandals
from a wide selection of naturist spots – Jamaica claims to I Sailing a catamaran
offer more nude beaches than any other Caribbean island.

centre in the heart of the resort which English-speaking city in the Waterfalls
houses the Reggae Xplosion Caribbean. It sits at the head of The island’s scenic beauty and colourful
museum that tells the fasci- one of the world’s biggest history have always helped it to attract
nating story of how natural harbours which in legions of visitors, but in recent years
Jamaican music has years past was home to Jamaica has turned up the thrill factor to
influenced the world. buccaneering pirates offer an adrenaline-pumping alternative to
Negril – the so- who based themselves adventure-seekers wanting to explore the
called “capital of at nearby Port Royal. stunning rugged interior. The top natural
casual” is famous for The old city, described attraction has to be Dunn’s River Falls
having the best beach in the 17th century as (www.dunnsriverfallsja.com) near Ocho
on Jamaica and the the “wickedest city in the Rios. These 600ft falls were just made for
most beautiful sunsets. west”, was destroyed by climbing, and it is great fun to scramble over
This is a place to kick off earthquake and now lies huge boulders and plunge into the tempting
your shoes, sit back and chill I Sunset over Jamaica underwater in the bay. Kingston pools.
out. Some of the hippest boutique Jamaica Tourist Board may have a tough reputation, but its You need to be reasonably agile and you
hotels in the Caribbean are tucked into the location on the south of the island means it have to concentrate, especially at some of
rocky cliffs behind the beach, offering a real is far removed from the main tourist areas. It the steepest points, but the reward is the
laid-back escape. However, more active trav- also has a number of its own visitor great sensation of standing
ellers can take advantage of the excellent attractions under one of the many
choice of water sports or try out the local South Coast – this is one of waterfalls and gasping
restaurants. the most unspoilt parts of for breath from the
Port Antonio – set on the north-east coast, the island and one of the sheer power of the
this is the romantic heart of Jamaica where most beautiful with its torrent.
the Blue Mountains sweep down to the sea. deserted beaches, tiny If you only do
Less touristy than the other resorts, this lush fishing villages and tradi- one thing when
retreat is known for its beautiful setting tional towns. This is the you’re in Jamaica –
which decades ago attracted film-stars, most place to come crocodile- do this. It’s unique,
notably Hollywood swashbuckler Errol spotting on wildlife safaris invigorating and
Flynn, who declared it “more beautiful than along the Black River or unforgettable.
any woman I have ever seen”. splash around in the cascading Just a few words of
I Romantic bridge
Kingston – Jamaica’s capital is the largest waters of the 120ft YS Falls. warning….try to avoid visiting
Jamaica Tourist Board

8 The Travel & Leisure Magazine November/December 2009
when cruise ships call, other- Bob Marley drive from Ocho Rios.
wise the falls are mobbed But it’s the beautiful Blue Nearby is Goldeneye, the former hide-
with cruise passengers. Mountains that were made for away of James Bond author Ian Fleming,
Aim for the morn- exploring and hikers; bikers and Firefly, the beautifully-located retreat of
ings too, as these and adventurers can dis- famous English playwright Noel Coward
tend to be less cover a rich array of flora which has been preserved and is well worth
busy than after- and fauna. visiting, if only for the views.
noons. For serious walkers, Visitors looking for a more local flavour
For a quieter the seven-mile hike to the should step out on hikes in Maroon Country
alternative, visit summit takes three to four in the east of the island where there’s the
Somerset Falls hours, while chance to meet local maroons – descen-
near Port Antonio, cyclists can get dants of runaway slaves who made
which are less-known, a lift up one of their home in the
or the Mayfield Falls the mountains and mountains.
I The Bob Marley Museum
near Negril which are in a enjoy the 18-mile But probably the
perfect area for cave diving, cliff- Jamaica Tourist Board downhill ride which finishes most famous local is
jumping or simply messing about in the with a refreshing waterfall dip. Bob Marley. He may
water. Wildlife fans can swim with have died nearly 30
And if you want a true chill-out, try river dolphins at Dolphin Cove years ago, but nowhere
rafting on one of the long bamboo rafts that (www.dolphincovejamaica.com)

Jamaica Tourist Board
drift lazily down the Rio Grande or the Great near Ocho Rios or at the Half Moon
or Martha Brae rivers. resort near Montego Bay
Daredevils can visit Mystic Mountain (www.halfmoon.com/dolphin-
(www.rainforestbobsledjamaica.com), encounters.php).
one of the island’s newer attractions near Alternatively they can splash
Ocho Rios where they can soar through the around with stingrays at Stingray City
treetops on a chairlift, hurtle through the for- (www.stingraycityjamaica.com) on
est on a bobsled or swing through the forest James Bond Beach, near the north
on a zip-wire. coast village of Oracabessa, a 25-minute

All-out fun at Jamaica’s It was almost midnight and I was being
given a severe dressing down by the two
girls manning the doorway I wanted to

all-inclusive resorts enter. So severe, they made me strip down
to my underpants before they would let
me pass. But then they were virtually as
nature intended, save for some tiny scraps
of cloth and strategic body painting.
I should have expected nothing less.
After all, it was the official opening night of
Jamaica’s adult-only Hedonism III resort
and the event I was trying to get into was
the late-night disco following the
Neptune-themed opening party.
This was clearly not going to be a night
for the self-conscious or prudish. A fact
underlined by the sight that caught my eye
when I stepped up to the bar. As the sea
of near-bare flesh gyrated on the dance
floor, a naked body suddenly flashed past
just above the crowd’s heads in a large,
clear plastic tube hung from the ceiling.
The resort’s flume tube goes straight
through the disco, and revellers had
obviously decided to discard all their
clothing to try it out.
It may have been 10 years ago, but the
experiences from that visit are etched
SuperClubs

vividly in my memory. Perhaps none more
I Hedonism III disco and flume tube
so than during the golf tournament the

10 The Travel & Leisure Magazine November/December 2009
I Pool-side at

Sandals
Sandals Negril
does his spirit live on more strongly than in popular tourist attractions, drawing thou- One of his former homes in the
Jamaica. sands of visitors wanting to pay homage to Trenchtown area of the capital, called
His birthplace and final resting place in the music legend. Culture Yard, is also open to the public.
the rural district of St Ann near Ocho Rios The Bob Marley Museum is located in His final resting place is the Bob Marley
and the Bob Marley Museum in Kingston the superstar’s original recording studio in Mausoleum (www.ninemilejamaica.com)
(www.bobmarley-foundation.com/ New Kingston where he recorded many of which comprises the tiny house in the vil-
museum.html) are among Jamaica’s most his songs. lage of Nine Mile where he was born.

model had dispensed with her bikini and
was being body painted by any golfers
who fancied giving her a lick of paint. All
very distracting as you tried to hit your
ball from the nearby tee.
Back at the resort, things continued in
similar vein. A stage show ended with a
member of the audience being covered in
whipped cream and volunteers sought to
SuperClubs

Half Moon
remove it without using their hands.
On the way to the beach, I walked
I Water sliding at Hedonism III underneath a see-through Jacuzzi – I Fern Tree Falls at Half Moon
next day. Organised by the resort’s parent diverting my eyes from the naked German underpants, to the wind.
company, SuperClubs, it featured guests whose bodily bits were wobbling in The two Hedonism resorts represent
hospitality tents by the tees of several the bubbles.There were actually two one extreme of the all-inclusive scene in
holes, each hosted by a different resort beaches: one labelled the Nudes Beach, Jamaica.There are family resorts, such as
branch. At the first tee, chefs in white hats and the other the Prudes SuperClubs’ Starfish Trelawny Resort &
cooked up breakfast while uniformed Beach. Spa or the Beaches resorts
masseuses gave golfers a pre-game Of course there operated by Sandals. Some are
massage in the tent hosted by its were many other romantic escapes popular with
upmarket Grand Lido Resorts & Spas. A activities and honeymooners or couples
few holes along, the Cuban resorts were parts of the getting married, while others
serving up lashings of rum while a salsa resort that did appeal to the sporty and
band laid down infectious rhythms. not involve active types.The choice is
Then there was the Hedonism tent, disrobing. It was yours.
hosted by the new resort and its more just an option if And of course, if you really
established and equally-outrageous sibling, you had no want to, you can let it all hang
Hedonism II. Outside, two bikini-clad inhibitions and out...
I Snorkelling at Hedonism III
models wearing giant angel wings sat on wanted to throw
the edge of a hot tub, while inside another caution, and your Peter Ellegard
SuperClubs

November/December 2009 The Travel & Leisure Magazine 11
All photos: Jamaica Tourist Board
I Jamaica’s waterfalls are among its top attractions I Rafting on the Martha Brae

Where to stay
Large family-orientated resorts, chic upmar- Jamaica facts
ket retreats, trendy boutique hideaways and
small independent hotels – Jamaica has
them all. When to go
But it is most famous as the birthplace of The best weather is from December to April,
the all-inclusive concept which started with which is the high season. July and August are
the opening of the Jamaican resort, Couples, also popular, but are in the hurricane season
in the Seventies. which runs from June to September/October.
Couples Resort is still open, but it has
since been joined by a huge choice of other Visa
all-inclusives, namely those owned by the UK passport holders do not need a visa for
Sandals/Beaches group and SuperClubs – stays of up to 90 days.
both of which are owned by Jamaican fami-
lies and have several resorts on Jamaica and Getting there
other Caribbean islands. British Airways (www.ba.com) flies from Gatwick to Kingston and Montego
More recently, Spanish hotel chains such Bay and Virgin Atlantic (www.virginatlantic.com) operates from Gatwick to
as Riu, Iberostar and Barcelo have built a Kingston and Montego Bay.There are also charter flights with Thomsonfly
string of modern all-inclusive hotels, but (www.thomsonfly.com) and Thomas Cook Airlines
holidaymakers wanting something more (www.thomascookairlines.co.uk). Flight time is around 10 hours.
unusual should head for the mountains.
Strawberry Hill in the Blue Mountains is Tour operators
an 18th century plantation house that UK operators featuring Jamaica include British Airways Holidays
became the hideaway of record mogul Chris (www.ba.com),Thomas Cook Holidays (www.thomascook.com),Thomson
Blackwell and the place where Bob Marley (www.thomson.co.uk),Virgin Holidays (www.virginholidays.co.uk), First
recuperated after being shot in the 1970s. Choice Holidays (www.firstchoice.co.uk), ITC Classics
It offers rustic, laid-back luxury along (www.itcclassics.co.uk), Kuoni (www.kuoni.co.uk), Hayes & Jarvis
with stunning views over Kingston. (www.hayesandjarvis.co.uk) and Harlequin Holidays
Other one-off gems include Rockhouse, (www.harlequinholidays.com).
The Caves, Jake’s (described as the chic-est
shack in the Caribbean) and Tensing Pen – Getting around
built into the cliffs overlooking Negril’s Choose from domestic flights between Kingston
stunning white-sand beach. and Montego Bay, local buses, JUTA tourist buses
Well established upmarket alternatives (www.jutc.com), taxis or hire cars.Travelling
that still hold traditional charm include around can be an adventure, but it gives visitors
Jamaica Inn in Ocho Rios, plus Round Hill a great flavour of the island. Make sure you
and Half Moon near Montego Bay. TL travel only on licensed buses and taxis. Jamaica
has a good network of roads but they may not always be in the best condition,
Sara Macefield has been writing about plus other drivers tend to drive fast and furiously – so be warned!
the Caribbean for the last 15 years, visiting
so many times she has been nicknamed the
Tourist information
“Caribbean Queen”. She has been to most
islands, but Jamaica is one of her favourite Jamaica Tourist Office: call 020 7225 9090 or visit www.visitjamaica.com
places to relax with a rum punch.

12 The Travel & Leisure Magazine November/December 2009