The South Coast stretches from Savanna-La-Mar to beyond Alligator Pond and remains relatively untouched in terms of tourist development. For this reason alone it is well worth a visit, as here, you will come in contact with a more rural and authentic Jamaica than around the resorts.
Heading down the coast road from Savanna –La- Mar you come to the town of Black River which used to be a major port .The river, from which the town takes its name, runs through the parish of St Elizabeth and enters the sea at the southernmost section of the town. The river once was a primary trade route for sugar and logwood .Nowadays you can take a safari tour to explore the river which is home to around 300 crocodiles. The safaris also take in the Great Morass, the swamp areas of mangroves.
East of Black River is Bamboo Grove, a two mile archway of bamboo dating back to the mid-1700s, grown to provide shade for plantation slaves and owners from the nearby Holland Sugar Estate en route to the town of Lacovia.
Going inland north of Middle Quarters is the YS Fall, another of Jamaica’s spectacular waterfalls. If you can muster the courage, experience a whole different perspective by ziplining down the valley over the seven tiered cascading falls. If that sounds a bit too energetic you can take a tour around the Appleton Estate Rum Tour near Maggotty. The tour takes you through the process of making rum from extracting the sugar to the distilling process.
Head to Mandeville and the Manchester Country Club for a round of golf on Jamaica’s oldest golf course. Set in the hills Mandeville is said to have the coolest climate in Jamaica. It is an attractive place to stroll about with the look of an English country town due to the wealthy English settlers and expatriates who built country homes with beautiful gardens here. Just above Mandeville, in the village of Christiana, the Gourie Caves are worth exploring as they have the most extensive cave system on the island.
The South coast specialises in small hotels and villas rather than all inclusive type resorts but on the southwest coast at Whitehouse, Sandals have built a European style village and spa with in 50 acres of ground.
If you are looking for complete peace and quiet, one of the best places to stay is the village of Treasure Beach. Stretching out over four bays, Treasure Beach is peaceful and friendly. It retains its fishing heritage, the beaches are quiet and for a small place it has a varied range of accommodation with boarding houses and private villas spread throughout Treasure Beach. Jakes has a chic reputation a choice of rooms and cottages, a swimming pool and its own private beach. Sunset Villas next to Jakes has great views of the sea and well equipped cottages for rent. Treasure Beach Hotel is more traditional and sits on the cliffs overlooking the beach.
After the quiet of the South Coast you might be ready to hit the hustle and bustle of Kingston , home to over 660,000 people. Kingston was not always the capitol of Jamaica. The beginnings of the city were formed in the 17century when earthquake survivors moved to the area. Before the earthquake it was little more than a collection of fishing shacks, but once people started to move in, a town began to form around the waterfront. Kingston’s large natural harbour which is the seventh largest in the world, meant the city became an important sea port within the Caribbean.
The city became prosperous during the 18th century and merchants looking for homes away from the busy seafront colonised the northern suburbs while the workers and the poor remained downtown around the seafront.
Kingston today essentially remains divided into two distinct areas. The uptown suburbs in the north extending towards the mountains and the busy downtown sector stretching north from the waterfront to the traffic junction at Cross Roads.
There is no doubt that Kingston’s reputation goes before it and tourists tend to be frightened by its image. It is a place you have to have your wits about you but if you are alert and avoid the worst areas there is no reason why Kingston should be feared more than any other city.
The district north of Cross Roads is the commercial centre with hotels, banks, embassies and offices and the residential areas of Hope, Mona and Beverly Hills.
The heart of uptown is New Kingston, an urban centre with high-rise buildings bounded by Trafalgar Road, Half Way Tree Road and Old Hope Road. Most of the sights are within walking distance of each other.
One of the most interesting buildings to visit for its historical and architectural value, is Devon House on Hope Rd .It belongs to the Jamaican National Trust but was built in 1881 by George Stiebel a Jamaican who made his fortune mining in Latin America, becoming one of the first black millionaires in the Caribbean. The house has been restored to its original glory and the grounds contain crafts shops, boutiques, and two restaurants.
Further up Hope Road and the most visited house in Jamaica, is the former home of Bob Marley. The house is now a museum and shrine to the reggae legend but remains much as it was during Marley’s day. Hope Road is also the site of Hope Botanical Gardens, the largest botanical gardens in the West Indies. Attractions include a cactus garden, sago palms, an orchid house, various greenhouses, an ornamental pond and an aviary.
Another place which makes a pleasant escape from the noise and hustle of Kingston’s busy streets is the spacious Emancipation Park. This wide open space has a jogging track, stately fountains and, reggae music emanating from tiny speakers hidden in the grass. The focal point is the US$4.5 million statue Redemption Song,by Laura Facey Cooper, depicting a couple of nude, 3m-tall slaves gazing to the heavens.
Downtown is a colourful mix of markets, music and people.
Ocean Boulevard is the waterfront’s main strip and the National Gallery there is a repository of the best in Jamaican art. On the ground floor is the controversial bronze statue of Bob Marley by Christopher Gonzalez. The statue originally was meant to stand in Celebrity Park, but Marley fans complained feeling it portrayed their hero in an unflattering light.
Just north of the waterfront is the historic city centre. Many of the 18th century buildings were flattened in an earthquake in 1907 but in colonial days, King Street was the main street. Half way up is the Parade, a large square used as a parade ground by British troops in the 18th century and was also the site for public floggings and hangings.
The largest market is Jubilee Market, which overflows onto Orange Street on the west side of the Paradeand was named to honour Queen Victoria’s Jubilee.
Virtually everything is for sale here.
Kingston Crafts Market, at the west end of Harbour Street, is a large, covered area of small stalls, selling all kinds of island crafts: wooden plates and bowls; pepper pots made from mahoe (the national wood of the island); straw hats, mats, and baskets
One of the most modern shopping centres in Jamaica, the New Kingston Shopping Centre, 30 Dominica Dr., is known for the range of merchandise rather than for a particular merchant. It’s sleek and contemporary, centred around a Maya-style pyramid. This is where to head if you’re looking for the higher quality goods.
The Shops at Devon House, 26 Hope Rd ring the borders of a 200-year-old courtyard once used by slaves and servants. Four of the shops are operated by Things Jamaican, a nationwide emporium dedicated to the enhancement of the country’s handicrafts. Shops include the Cookery, offering island-made sauces and spices, and the Pottery, selling crockery and stoneware.
Wassi Art Gallery and Collectibles also in Devon House sell handmade pottery items.
The Mutual Life Gallery, Mutual Life Centre, on Oxford Road is one of Jamaica’s most prominent art galleries.
Entertainment and restaurants’
Asylum in the Knutsford Blvd, New Kingston is the most famous nightclub in Kingston and draws huge crowds.
Carlos cafe on Belmont Road New Kingston, is actually a bar with, several pool tables, and a patio which is pleasant to sit about in the evening.
Cuddyz, is one of the most popular sports bar in Kingston with TVs in each booth and a huge central screen.
Weddy WeddyWednesdays is a free outdoor sound-system party which usually starts after midnight and when that ends the crowd moves on to the Passa Passa sound-system .at the intersection of Spanish Town Rd and Beeston Street, which lasts until sunrise. Another popular party is Uptown Mondays in Savannah Plaza, which begins around midnight.
Most of the best hotels are in the New Kingston area with rooms offering air conditioning and cable TV.
The Pegasus Hilton has 303 rooms, including 13 suites decorated in a contemporary way.
Jamaica Pegasus Hotel
Is 17-story property with 300 rooms 16 suites and a selection of restaurants.
The Indies Hotel and The Mikizi Guest House are more budget conscious and offer good value for money with a range of basic rooms.
Finally, on the outskirts of the town, the Abahati Hotel is in an upscale neighbourhood in Constant Spring, and at a 200m elevation offers a good view of the city.
Countrystyle Community Tourism operates out of Mandeville offering tours with a difference promoting Jamaican culture and heritage within the community
Spend a day in a rural village in central Jamaica and hear about local history and culture from the villagers.
Taste of Jamaica
Village hopping country cuisine community experiences in the central and south area of Jamaica where you can learn to cook Jamaican cuisine in a natural setting with the community.
This tour is about seeing nature at its best in the many rural villages in the central and south areas of Jamaica