28 May Favorite Places to Visit in Jamaica: Off the Beaten Path
Having lived and served as Peace Corps Volunteers for over two years in Jamaica, we’ve had the opportunity to explore a fair amount of the island. Our experiences ranged from weekend trips on our limited PC budget to the more indulgent vacation days shared with our visiting family and friends. With a strong Volunteer network across the island who also frequently host visitors, we can safely say that there are relatively few “hot spots” we aren’t aware of.
After polling the current cohort of PCVs and reflecting on our own experience, we put together the following list of recommendations for visitors to Jamaica. This first set are those that are “off the beaten path”- that is, they may not be first on the list for cruise ship tour packages (with the exception of the first one). But they’re all diamonds in the rough.
Many travel brochures will site Dunns River Falls as the #1 Must-See in Jamaica. While Dunns is extraordinary, it can also be over-crowded. This lesser-known series of falls and pools is perhaps more magestic. It’s also located near Ocho Rios, but on the White River, which creates the border between St. Ann and St. Mary’s parishes.
Peace Corps Volunteers knew this place before it was developed and though it lost some of its appeal as it slowly sold out to “tourist prices,” it is still not to be missed. There is an upper and a lower hole, which are managed separately by local guys- the upper one being more developed, fenced in, and charging a flat fee. At either hole, you’ll most likely find Jamaican guides who will help you with the rope swing, show you where to jump from the rocks, or take you exploring up the river- for tip money.
(Photo credit: Ben & Connie Schaeffer)
Because this restaurant is usually out of the way and on small, dirt roads, I can only recommend it if you’re already in the area (on the south coast between Santa Cruz and Mandeville). If you do, however, get the chance to go, you’ll experience a one of a kind seafood restaurant with a funky setting. Order your shellfish or freshly caught fish by the pound and choose from a myriad of styles that you want it cooked. Then, eat in colorful fishing boats raised off the ground and covered with a thatched roof.
This turned out to be just the place for us: beautiful, clean, affordable, and volunteer-friendly. This colorful, boutique hotel caters to many volunteer/mission groups which come down with their partner organization, ACE (American-Caribbean Experience). While not particularly close to major attractions, it’s an easy drive to all that’s going on in Ocho Rios (including Blue Hole, listed above), and day trips can be made to Portland parish, Kingston, or the Blue Mountains.
(Photo credit Adri B)
If you’re visiting the north-eastern parish of Portland and you enjoy whimsical, rustic, and eco-friendly lodging, check out this one-of-a-kind accommodation in Boston Bay. As our fellow Peace Corps Volunteer, Adri, put it:
“If you need air conditioning and solid walls and floors, Great Huts is not for you, but if you want to feel like you’re living in a secluded jungle tree house with wireless internet, this place is awesome.”
While you’re there, make sure to check out the renowned Boston Bay Jerk Centre and if you’re relatively fit and agile, arrange a guided water-hike of Reach Falls.
Over the past 20 years, this world renowned off-road event has gained an intimate following by locals and international visitors alike. The host community of Treasure Beach is a great alternative to the high-tourism areas with its friendly vibe and rugged beaches. Every April, families, athletes, travelers, and Peace Corps Volunteers participate in the triathlon as individuals, relay teams, or race volunteers. It’s a one-of-a-kind race/travel experience. Stay at the funky, boutique hotel, Jake’s, or take your pick of numerous guest house rentals lining the various bays. See our review of Treasure Beach and the Triathlon here.
There are so many more hidden treasures in Jamaica. Some are a bit hard to uncover if you don’t know your way around, but the ones listed here should be relatively painless to find. What are you favorite off-the-beaten path discoveries in Jamaica?
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