By Laura Pellerine
If you’d love to relax in a tropical paradise this winter, there are many resorts and stunning luxury villas in Jamaica. But when you’re ready to go exploring, here are some activities and attractions that are sure to make your trip memorable.
Just outside the village of Manchioneal is a 22-foot-tall waterfall in the heart of the Montane rainforest. The clear, tranquil, emerald-green pool beneath the waterfall is a perfect spot for a soak, and you may recognize it from the movie Cocktail. Nearby are 23 species of ferns, hanging vines, strands of bamboo, and possibly even a parrot or two.
A more well-known waterfall — Dunn’s River Falls near Ocho Rios — attracts thousands of visitors a year who climb up its 600-foot ascent. If you don’t want to get wet or find the walk too challenging, you can still journey alongside the falls and get the benefit of the view from the top. Make sure you have a camera handy because there are lots of good photo opportunities, including some of the many climbers who often hold hands and form a human chain on their journey up.
Tip: Rent or bring water shoes.
A Rum Tour at Appleton Estate
Learn the ancient art of rum-making at Appleton Estate, a company that has perfected the craft for more than 260 years, nestled in the heart of the Nassau Valley. During this interactive tour you will see how rum was made in the past and present. It also includes a stop featuring two traditional sugar cane crushers. One is operated by a donkey, the other lets you try your hand at sugar can crushing. You even get to taste the cane juice. Even better are the rum samples, 16 in all.
While the actual length is closer to four miles, this is still Jamaica’s longest continuous stretch of beach. You’ll find Seven-Mile Beach in Negril, lined with palm trees and shrouded under cliffs. And if you journey to the end, you’ll be delighted by the sight of a lighthouse. Feel free to swim, scuba, or snorkel; its clear, aqua waters and coral reef make for beautiful underwater sights. Afterwards have lunch at the on-site restaurant. The vibe here is laid-back, so don’t be surprised if you see some beachgoers without their bathing suits. Nudity is accepted here. After a day of lounging in the sun, check out some of the historic sites nearby, including Blue Cove Castle and Hanover Museum.
Trek Up Blue Mountain
If you like to hike, this seven-mile journey up to see the sunrise at the peak of Blue Mountain is worth the early wake up. Once you’ve reached the 7,402-foot summit (the highest in Jamaica), expect a plethora of beautiful colors. And on clear days, you’ll be able to see views of Buff Bay, Kingston, Port Antonio’s Navy Island Portmore, and the coast of St Thomas. On the way down, you’ll get to see the lush, tropical greenery you missed by walking up in the dark, including Eucalyptus and bamboo trees as well as ferns and rare wildflowers.
Tip: Go during the dry season: December to April.
Rose Hall Great House
Steeped in legend, Great House at Rose Hall Plantation in Montego Bay was originally built in 1770 for John Rose Palmer and his wife Annie. After his suspicious death, as well as her two other husbands and multiple lovers, it was believed that Annie possessed black ma. Nowadays rumor has it that you can sometimes still see Annie, aka “The White Witch of Rose Hall,” passing through the Great House. Take a candle-lit evening guided tour of this grand residence that has been restored with 18th-century decor and antiques, and end the visit with a trip to the dungeon: The tavern downstairs serves up the famous “Witches Brew” cocktail.
Bobsled, Zipline, and other Adventures at Mystic Mountain
Baby Boomers seeking adventure can satisfy their need for an adrenaline rush at this 100-acre rainforest that offers a variety of eco-friendly activities. Take the 15-minute chairlift up to the top of Mystic Mountain where you’ll find a waterslide, shops, and a restaurant, as well as opportunities to go canopy ziplining through the jungle or to drive your own bobsled through the rainforest. It travels along a gravity-powered, 3280-foot track that can reach speeds up to 40 miles an hour. If that’s too fast, you can slow things down with the handbrake.
Culture lovers will revel in the chance to get to know the artistic side of Jamaica at the one of the largest public art galleries in the Caribbean, the National Gallery. You’ll find it in the Kingston Mall near the harbor. Inside is a wonderful collection of early, modern, and contemporary art from Jamaican artists, such as Cecil Baugh and Carl Abrahams. The gallery also plays host to visiting exhibitions from around the world.
For more information on visiting this Caribbean wonderland, go to www.visitjamaica.com.
Have you been to Jamaica? Tell us about your experience in the Comments section!