Jamaica is a small island in the Caribbean bursting with culture. I’ve spent half of my life in this genuine paradise. This is the land of my mother, and my mother’s mother, and her mother before that. The most fulfilling times of my adult life have been exploring the various parts of my country that make it so beautiful. We are rich with culture, from our music, to our style, to our food, and even our red, green and gold. Here are 10 of some of my favorite places in Jamaica:
First on the list is an abandoned hotel called the Forum Hotel, in St. Catherine in a town called Portmore. The hotel was open from 1973 and 1978. I explored with curious artists like myself, where we added graffiti to the walls of the lobby, and went to all 11 floors. I advise never to go at night. This isn’t a place that provides tours or accommodation, this is for the adventurous sort who love to go exploring.
River’s Edge is a Christian camp close to Fort George, Annotto Bay in the parish of St. Mary. You can call and ask if the grounds are free because there are a few guestrooms with bunks, and places for pitching tents. There’s also a shallow river that runs through the property. There are a few spots to swim in the river, but it’s also nice to sit on a rock and watch the water.
Cinchona Botanical Garden has one of the most gorgeous views. The garden is somewhere above Mavis Bank in St. Andrew. You have to hike about 2 and a half hours to get to the gardens, which goes above 5,000 feet. It gets cool enough for pine trees and peaches to grow, but it’s too hot in the day for a sweater, and I strongly advise bringing a lot of snacks and water. The garden itself has the most interesting trees from Europe, Asia, and other parts of the world. There are African Water Lilies, and tea trees, and a small bamboo garden. There are plans to renovate the gardens soon!
Ambassabeth is my favorite new place. It’s hard to get to if you don’t have a travel guide! It’s just over the border of St. Thomas in the Rio Grande Valley. Going without a guide is fun, but the last half hour drive is tricky if you don’t know the way. Ambassabeth is practically a secret eco-friendly community. There are cottages, a wreck room, and a kitchen. There are a lot of rivers and hiking trails close by. It’s about 3 or so hours away from Kingston, but the drive is more than worth it.
Sunset Blvd. is a street in Montego Bay. I added this to the list because I was lucky enough to find a somewhat secret beach close enough to watch the planes land at Sangsters International Airport. You can explore the strip for tourist spots too!
Dub Club is in the hills of Kingston every Sunday. DJ Gabre Selassie opens his home to all sorts of bright and vibrant people for conscious roots, rock, reggae music for the soul. There is a fire pit to enjoy a smoke or ‘steam’. There is also a bar and a little kitchen that offers fritters. The speakers are huge, and they run all around the property. There are some vendors who sell vegetarian food, art, natural handmade jewelry, and conscious books. Dub Club is well worth a look if you’re ever on the South coast.
Winnifred Beach is a free public beach in Port Antonio, Portland. The water is clear, there is a patch where turtles go to lay eggs, and a tiny forest to explore. It’s not too far from Boston Beach or Blue Lagoon, but this is my favorite spot in Portland. That’s saying a lot because Portland is my absolute favorite parish on my island. If you go, please ask for Chaka Zulu! He’s so kind, and will maybe roast plantain or breadfruit, or sell you a bracelet he made out of sea fans. It’s a little out of the way; just when you think you’re lost is when you find it. At night, it is completely empty. I’ve fallen asleep on my yoga mat, and woken up to the most gorgeous sunrise. My only advice is to carry bug spray!
Between Kingston and St. Mary in the hills starting from Stony Hill, is another botanical garden called Castleton. The gardens are on both sides of the road. To the left [if you’re coming from Kingston] there are beautiful flora, and you can enjoy a nice picnic. The Wag Water River runs through the gardens on the right side, and if you have the time, hike up the river, swim, and explore!
Heritage Gardens is a small pink cabin in the hills above Newcastle and below Holywell Park. Holywell is famous for hiking trails and there are rivers all around to explore in this area, if you have a means of getting around. The cabin itself is on a large property with a yoga deck, a garden, and a chef if you ask!
The last spot on my top 10 list is a secret spot. It’s not secret because I can’t tell you, it’s secret because I have no idea how I got there! This secret spot is all the way in Westmoreland. You have to drive through Negril, make a few right turns, pass beaches made of rocks and small cliffs, and just keep driving until you’re in a secret community. The community is made up of one or two storey houses that look like tree houses. There is a “ganja tour” in Negril, if you’re the open minded sort. I wish you luck if you try to find it!
There are so many more places to explore on the island, and I’m excited to see where my next adventure leads.
This was a contest submission by Alana Igbe.
Updated: August 19, 2015