SMILE FOR ME JAMAICA
Jamaica is the third largest island in the Caribbean and is famed for its beautiful beaches, Red Stripe Beer, Blue Mountain Coffee, Jerk dishes and of course as the birthplace of reggae legend, Bob Marley, as well as being home to some of the world’s fastest sprinters such as Usain Bolt.
In 2016, my cousin and I took a girls trip to Montego Bay, the capital of Saint James Parish on Jamaica’s north coast, where we stayed at Royalton White Sands Resort in Trelawny - Usain Bolt’s hometown! We also got to see the exact hill that the Cool Runnings bobsled practice runs were filmed on!
Although Hurricane season typically ranges between June – October throughout the Caribbean, we booked our trip for the end of September to first week of October (2 weeks) thinking that we’d be safe as it was towards the end of the season. Little did we know that Hurricane Matthew was about to meet us there! Luckily, we were in an area that wasn’t severely affected as other parts of Jamaica – the only real downside was that we weren’t able to venture out and explore as much as we would have liked to, but when you weigh that up against the worst-case scenario, we were especially grateful and made the most of the time we were able to get out and about!
Below I have put together an itinerary of how to make the most of one week in Montego Bay. I would recommend a minimum stay of 10 nights so that you have some rest time either side of flights and in between the week of activities.
Day 1: Boardwalk Village, Time Square shopping, Rick’s Café, Negril
Ease into the week by visiting Negril’s Seven-Mile Beach which has been voted many times over as one of the best beaches in the world with silky white sands and clear turquoise waters. The spontaneous island spirit is carried along the Boardwalk Village, where locals sell their handicrafts.
*Time Square Shopping is a duty-free mall; the ideal spot to look for souvenirs and gifts.
The best place to watch the sensationally vibrant sunsets Jamaica has to offer is at Rick’s Café, Negril! Wind down the evening with a drink in hand. For those looking for an adrenalin rush, this is also one of Jamaica’s most famous spots to jump off a 35-foot high cliff!
*If you’d prefer swap shopping for more sightseeing, check out www.viator.com
Day 2: Mystic Mountain & Dunn’s River Falls, Ocho Rios
Glide 700ft above sea level to the top of Mystic Mountain via cable car, taking in the luscious green landscapes and clear blue waters surrounding the rainforest ecosystem before ticking off some adrenalin fuelled activities from your bucket list such as zip lining and bob sledding (on a rollercoaster type ride, there’s no snow in Jamaica mon!)
If there’s only one thing you do in Jamaica, it has to be climbing the infamous Dunn’s River Falls! Grab your team members hand and follow your guide’s instructions as you snake your way up the 600ft waterfalls – swimwear and water shoes are a must! If you don’t want to climb through the falls, there are steps located along the side, either way, don’t forget to take in the stunning 360 degree views!
Day 3: Bamboo Rafting & Falmouth Town
After an immense day of activities, take it slow in true island style, floating along Martha Brae River surrounded by tropical rain forests allowing you to become one with nature amongst the beauty of Jamaica.
Really get to know the way of life by heading to Trelawny’s capital, Falmouth. Here you can interact with locals whilst shopping at the market and learn about the history of the area through the Georgian architecture and monuments. Head towards Lower Parade Street, where locals still make use of pushcarts (also called handcarts) which were made famous by the film Cool Runnings. Be sure to try a Jamaican Patty while you’re there!
Day 4: Horseback Riding & River Tubing, Ocho Rios
Follow your guide on horseback through a rural trail at a beginner's pace until you reach a stretch of white sandy beach where your once-in-a-lifetime experience of riding a horse in the Caribbean Sea will become a reality!
The river tubing adventure involves splashing through rapids as you paddle your way around the many twists and turns of the fresh waters surrounded by tropical scenery.
Day 5: Cool Runnings Catamaran & Luminous Lagoon
In my opinion, a trip to the Caribbean isn’t complete without a day out at sea and although the catamaran is called Cool Runnings, it has nothing to do with the film (this time)! The ambience onboard does however embody the essence of Jamaica’s Caribbean culture as you sail round to Crystal Cove and Dunn’s River Falls (Yes, you can climb it on this trip too). Picture an open bar, crystal clear blue waters, hot sun, reggae and soca vibes – I’m wishing I were there as I type!
The luminous lagoon in Montego Bay is said to be the largest and brightest of the 4 across the globe. How does the glow appear? Millions of microorganisms in the sea emit a flash of light when touched, so when you take a dip, you’ll see the water glow around you! We were lucky enough to have had the opportunity to experience this through our hotel, but I’m sure there are plenty of tours available also!
Day 6: Bob Marley’s Nine Miles & Columbus Park
This is a must visit for anyone who loves reggae and Bob Marley! Nine Miles is a tiny village in the hills of St. Ann where the reggae legend, Bob Marley was born and is now laid to rest.
During the tour, a Rastafarian guide will show you Bob Marley’s birth and resting place, what he liked to do and Mount Zion, the spot where he drew his inspiration from to write many of his most famous songs. Personally, it was an emotional journey to see and hear about Bob Marley’s life; if you become affected the same way I did from this tour, you’ll be ending your trip eager to plane the next!
Columbus Park in Discover Bay is where the Spanish, led by Christopher Columbus landed when they invaded the Island in 1494. The park showcases several old relics and artifacts of this historic town.
The majority of these excursions can be pre-booked via:
“Out of Many, One People” – Jamaican Motto