Jamaica boasts a treasure trove of natural jewels and a colorful African vibe. Golden beaches, emerald mountains, turquoise seas, cascades, coral reefs, rainforests, rivers, and mineral springs are just some of the island’s enviable assets. Not surprisingly nature lovers will find plenty of things to see and do, from hiking and birding in the jungle to horseback riding along the beach and diving colorful coral reefs. Jamaica is also renowned for its many historic plantations where visitors can sample tropical fruits and tour the grand great houses.
One of the best beaches in Montego Bay, Doctor’s Cave Beach is an alluring strip of white sand fringed by clear waters that helped shape the fate of Montego Bay. In the early 1920’s a famous British osteopath declared that the water had curative powers after swimming here, a claim which began to lure visitors from around the world. Hotels sprouted and the area became a popular tourist destination. The cave for which the beach is named was destroyed by a hurricane in 1932, but the beach is as popular as ever and is often crowded with cruise ship passengers.
Rose Hall Great House, Montego Bay
Built in 1770, Rose Hall is a restored plantation house with beautiful ocean views. Legendary Annie Palmer (the White Witch) ruled here with cruelty and met a violent death. Today her home is adorned with period furniture and visitors can choose between a day tour or a spooky candlelit evening tour topped off with tales of ghost sightings.
Surrounded by sugar estates and cattle land, Falmouth is one of the Caribbean’s best-preserved Georgian towns. Once a leading port, the town offers excellent examples of 19th-century Georgian architecture including a faithful restoration of the courthouse. Greenwood Great House is a major tourist attraction in the area. Built in 1790 by Richard Barrett, a relative of poet Elizabeth Barrett Browning, the Great House is now a museum with period furniture and a rare collection of musical instruments and Wedgwood china.
Good Hope Estate, built in 1755, was an old-established coconut and sugar plantation. The well-preserved Great House contains period furniture, the first 18th century Caribbean hot water bath, old slave quarters, and the sugar mill with its waterwheel. Half Moon Beach is a peaceful crescent of sand with coral reefs just offshore. East of Falmouth is the Luminous Lagoon, named for its eerie marine phosphorescence.
Martha Brae River
Rafting the Martha Brae is one of Jamaica’s most popular tourist attractions. At Martha Brae Rafter’s Village guests can glide down a picturesque stretch of the river on bamboo rafts poled by local guides. This relaxing trip is a great way to soak up some of the tropical scenery and many guides will share information about the flora and fauna.
At the foot of the Blue Mountains, Jamaica’s busy capital city offers a cosmopolitan contrast to the island’s relaxed pace. Kingston can be intimidating, but visitors can view some of the town’s attractions on organized tours. The Bob Marley Museum, at the reggae superstar’s former home, is Kingston’s most-visited attraction and the site of the Tuff Gong recording studio. Highlights are Marley’s bedroom with his star-shaped guitar by the bed. Look for the bullet holes in the rear wall, evidence of an assassination attempt.
Tours will also take travellers to explore mansions like historic Devon House, as well as museums such as the National Gallery, and the Natural History Museum, Jamaica’s oldest museum, with preserved specimens of the island’s plants and animals. Also in town, the Institute of Jamaica’s museums cover a wide range of the country’s history from prehistoric to modern times, Hope Gardens is the largest botanical park in the West Indies, and National Heroes Park features statues of leading players of Jamaican history and independence. At the tip of the peninsula surrounding Kingston Harbour lies the community of Port Royal, the focus of British fortification in the late 17th century.