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Travel Matters Ltd

20th January 2020

Jamaica – Far more than a beach holiday

If you are after a restful holiday in the Caribbean but also don’t want to feel like you are stranded on an island with nothing to do then Jamaica should be on the cards. It is the third largest island in the Caribbean and offers rich history as well as varied landscape.

Jamaica's rich heritage
Jamaica – rich in heritage and history

Being a larger island, it is ideal for twin centre holidays. What I liked most about Jamaica is its lush natural beauty. You get beautiful white sandy beaches, as well as dramatic cliffs of Negril and then within only a short drive into the interior you are surrounded by verdant hilly countryside with colourful local villages. Do not think that Jamaica is only about the beach, there are beautiful waterfalls, spectacular Blue Mountains, Appleton Estate rum distillery, a world famous Blue Mountain coffee plantation as well as world class snorkelling and diving.

Maryna by a rum shack

We started off our trip with a direct BA flight from Gatwick to Kingston. Upon arrival we picked up our car for a week and headed towards Ocho Rios, a port town on the north coast of Jamaica. A former fishing village, which is now a resort town with a busy bay beach lined with hotels. We have visited two properties whilst in Ocho Rios, Couples Tower Isle as well as Jamaica Inn. Couples Tower Isle is an all-inclusive adults-only resort and what we liked most is the intimate picturesque setting, friendly service and fresh good quality food. We also enjoyed the fact that almost all water sports and excursions were included in the package, even snorkelling boat trips and diving.

Sunset over Jamaica
Sunset over Jamaica

Jamaica Inn needs no introduction as it often gets voted as one of the best hotels in the world. This luxurious boutique hotel has been second home to numerous celebrities as well as weary travellers, who come to completely unwind in the hotels peaceful and classy settings. We particularly liked their over the water suites and very private cottages with direct sea access. 

The surrounding parish of Saint Ann is home to rainforest, rivers and waterfalls with Dunn’s river waterfalls being the most famous. I have seen plenty of waterfalls during my travels but never did I see one falling directly into the sea. Why not reward yourself with a dip in the sea after climbing the waterfall?

Dunns River Falls, Jamaica
Dunns River Falls, Jamaica

Our next stop was Montego Bay, the main tourist area of Jamaica bosting world-class hotels and wide sandy beaches. Our main aim was visiting the Luminescent Lagoon in Falmouth about an hour away from MoBay. At night, the lagoon sparkles and glistens when disturbed, as microscopic organisms produce an eerie glow, reflecting the outlines of fish and other objects in the water. The Luminous Lagoon is said to be the largest and most brilliant of four in the world, a fact that continually attracts and awes visitors and scientists from around the world. 

Unfortunately the glow wasn’t too strong when we went as it depends on many factors, like brightness of the sun during the day and presence of the moon, but we were told that it was much stronger the day before. I guess we will need to come again!

A typical Jamaican House
A typical Jamaican House

After Montego Bay we continued on to Negril, or the Capital of Casual as it is known. Even with only one pair of shorts and two t-shirts you will never feel underdressed! When most people think of Jamaica they most probably have an image of Negril in their heads – a place that is relaxed, laid back and vibrant with reggae playing on the background.

As opposed to Montego Bay, Negril is mostly about small family owned hotels and we stayed in one of those, a luxury boutique hotel called Sandy Haven. It is located on the famous 7 mile beach and what we liked is that we were located in the epicentre of the action yet the hotel itself felt like a peaceful refuge. The pool and the garden area felt like haven indeed combined with one of their delicious rum punches – we were told that the secret was mixing 7 different rums for each mile of the beach.

Sandy Haven is an excellent choice for those who want to feel like they are actually in Jamaica and are not shy to have a friendly banter with local beach vendors selling coconuts, fruit and traditional patties. It is in a fantastic location for long beach walks and numerous local beach bars, why not stop in one of them for a drink of Red Stripe and a grilled lobster meal?

A Room at Sandy Haven, Jamaica
A Room at Sandy Haven, Jamaica

After Negril we were heading back to Kingston with a stop at the Appleton Estate on route for the tour of the distillery and some rum tasting. The drive to the Appleton estate is very enjoyable and goes through beautiful countryside with quaint villages. The estate itself is beautiful and we enjoyed learning about its history and tasting different types of rum.

Rum tasting at Appleton Estate in Jamaica
Rum tasting at Appleton Estate, Jamaica

Three hours later we arrived at our final destination – Strawberry Hill Jamaica Luxury Hotel. With its cluster of cosy and private Post-Plantation cottages, vivid tropical gardens and Infinity swimming pool, the hotel without a doubt was a highlight of our trip. It is no wonder that Strawberry Hill was selected by The New York Times as one of the “1,000 Places To See Before You Die.” Strawberry Hill is steeped in history and its restaurant and the lounge are are full of interesting artefacts.

Strawberry Hill, Jamaica
Strawberry Hill, Jamaica

If you fly to Kingston, I can definitely recommend staying a couple of night at the Strawberry Hill before flying back. Not only is the setting spectacular and peaceful but you will also have a chance to go for a hike in the Blue Mountains or visit the coffee plantation that produces the best coffee in the world. Or how about visiting a pretty historical Anglican chapel located 10 minutes walk from the hotel? You will pass a local school and will have a chance to experience a local way of life. 

We absolutely loved our holiday to Jamaica, filled with sunshine, smiling people the sound of steel drums and reggae music. Highly recommended!

Maryna travelled to Jamaica in October 2019 with Travel Matters. Do contact us if you’d like us to recommend and help you arrange a trip yourself.

By Karen Simmonds
20th January 2020