Jamaica Feature The Travel & Leisure Magazine Nov 09


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Jamaica Feature The Travel & Leisure Magazine Nov 09

  1. 1. Island of Marley’s spirit With its lush mountains, waterfalls, stunning beaches, all-inclusive resorts and a history rich in buccaneer mystique, Jamaica is a swashbuckling cut above many Caribbean rivals. Sara Macefield explores the island whose famous son Bob Marley gave the world reggae music “G et your legs up, ple of cables hundreds of feet up in the air. up, up”, screamed Having reached the other side in one my Jamaican piece, my trepidation was swiftly replaced guide. It wasn’t by elation and I felt ready to tackle anything. the usual sort of After all, this is just one of the adrenalin- command you’d busting activities designed to tempt holiday- expect, but as I was racing along a zip-wire makers off Jamaica’s beautiful beaches and at full pelt towards the landing platform into its rugged, jungle-filled interior. – it seemed a sensible request! As the third-largest island in the Caribbean, Only a few seconds earlier, I’d Jamaica offers much to entrance visitors, from stood at the top of the tropical the misty peaks of the Blue Mountains with river gorge, knowing I would their beautiful landscapes of rivers and water- be skimming across the falls, to the rocky cliffs and wide open sandy treetops held up by noth- beaches of the laid-back resort of Negril, the ing more than just a cou- coolest of all chill-out zones. 6 The Travel & Leisure Magazine November/December 2009
  2. 2. getting to KNOW JAMAICA Jamaica Tourist Board Sandals Jamaica Tourist Board I At your service – a Sandals butler I A taste of I Hanging around Jamaica on a canopy tour Jamaica is where you’ll find historic old hub of the city is Gloucester Avenue, the so- plantation houses rubbing shoulders with called “Hip Strip” full of restaurants, bars, Healing waters luxurious hotels and sprawling all-inclusive art galleries and duty-free shops. Jamaica’s waters have healing powers. resorts; where you can hide away in chic Mo Bay, as it is called by the locals, has The most famous – and touristy – are at boutique hotels tucked into rocky cliffs or on its own marine park which covers 10 miles Doctors Cave Beach where the mineral lush mountain slopes. of coral reefs. There is also the springs are said to be therapeutic. It is a place of local legends of bucca- famous white-sand Doctors Then there are the mineral waters of neering pirates and murderous witches, of Cave Beach and its mineral Milk River, said to be the most romance tinged with royalty and old spring, said to have therapeu- radioactive in the world with high levels Hollywood glamour. tic powers. Nearby is the of magnesium, calcium, sulphate and But underpinning it all is the raw reggae attractive town of Falmouth, noted natural chloride. vibe that dominates this island and envelops for its well-preserved Georgian The baths here date from 1794, but its culture, stemming from Jamaica’s most buildings, dating from the users are warned not to stay in the famous son Bob Marley, who planted his dis- 1700s. waters for more than 10 or 20 minutes tinctive beat across the world. Ocho Rios – at a time because of their potency. “Ochi” as it is Jamaica even has a town called Bath Tourist areas affectionately which was founded because of the Most of Jamaica’s tourist resorts are along called, is more nearby mineral springs which are high in the north coast, though one or two resorts tourist-friendly than sulphate. have sprung up on the lesser-developed Montego Bay with its craft In the 18th century, Bath was popular south coast. These are the island’s tourist market, duty-free shops, with the European elite who flocked areas: restaurants and cafes and here for the healing powers of the Montego Bay – Jamaica’s second city more relaxed atmosphere. scalding hot waters and elegant botanical after the capital, Kingston – which is bigger Visitors should aim for the gardens – the first on the island. and busier than the other tourist resorts. The outdoor Island Village shopping I Frenchman’s Cove Image: Jamaica Tourist Board November/December 2009 The Travel & Leisure Magazine 7
  3. 3. SuperClubs Sandals I Diving off Jamaica I Canoeing Water sports With more than 600 miles of coastline and over 100 rivers Jamaica offers ample opportunity for water sports fans to make a big splash. From river tubing and river rafting to diving, sailing and under-sea tours on a semi-sub reef explorer, Jamaica has plenty of watery attractions. As well as the usual range of water sports and boat trips, there’s the Kool Runnings water park in Negril, which claims to be the largest in the Eastern Caribbean and is packed full of thrilling aqua rides. Alternatively, sun-worshippers wanting to bare all can choose Sandals from a wide selection of naturist spots – Jamaica claims to I Sailing a catamaran offer more nude beaches than any other Caribbean island. centre in the heart of the resort which English-speaking city in the Waterfalls houses the Reggae Xplosion Caribbean. It sits at the head of The island’s scenic beauty and colourful museum that tells the fasci- one of the world’s biggest history have always helped it to attract nating story of how natural harbours which in legions of visitors, but in recent years Jamaican music has years past was home to Jamaica has turned up the thrill factor to influenced the world. buccaneering pirates offer an adrenaline-pumping alternative to Negril – the so- who based themselves adventure-seekers wanting to explore the called “capital of at nearby Port Royal. stunning rugged interior. The top natural casual” is famous for The old city, described attraction has to be Dunn’s River Falls having the best beach in the 17th century as (www.dunnsriverfallsja.com) near Ocho on Jamaica and the the “wickedest city in the Rios. These 600ft falls were just made for most beautiful sunsets. west”, was destroyed by climbing, and it is great fun to scramble over This is a place to kick off earthquake and now lies huge boulders and plunge into the tempting your shoes, sit back and chill I Sunset over Jamaica underwater in the bay. Kingston pools. out. Some of the hippest boutique Jamaica Tourist Board may have a tough reputation, but its You need to be reasonably agile and you hotels in the Caribbean are tucked into the location on the south of the island means it have to concentrate, especially at some of rocky cliffs behind the beach, offering a real is far removed from the main tourist areas. It the steepest points, but the reward is the laid-back escape. However, more active trav- also has a number of its own visitor great sensation of standing ellers can take advantage of the excellent attractions under one of the many choice of water sports or try out the local South Coast – this is one of waterfalls and gasping restaurants. the most unspoilt parts of for breath from the Port Antonio – set on the north-east coast, the island and one of the sheer power of the this is the romantic heart of Jamaica where most beautiful with its torrent. the Blue Mountains sweep down to the sea. deserted beaches, tiny If you only do Less touristy than the other resorts, this lush fishing villages and tradi- one thing when retreat is known for its beautiful setting tional towns. This is the you’re in Jamaica – which decades ago attracted film-stars, most place to come crocodile- do this. It’s unique, notably Hollywood swashbuckler Errol spotting on wildlife safaris invigorating and Flynn, who declared it “more beautiful than along the Black River or unforgettable. any woman I have ever seen”. splash around in the cascading Just a few words of I Romantic bridge Kingston – Jamaica’s capital is the largest waters of the 120ft YS Falls. warning….try to avoid visiting Jamaica Tourist Board 8 The Travel & Leisure Magazine November/December 2009
  4. 4. when cruise ships call, other- Bob Marley drive from Ocho Rios. wise the falls are mobbed But it’s the beautiful Blue Nearby is Goldeneye, the former hide- with cruise passengers. Mountains that were made for away of James Bond author Ian Fleming, Aim for the morn- exploring and hikers; bikers and Firefly, the beautifully-located retreat of ings too, as these and adventurers can dis- famous English playwright Noel Coward tend to be less cover a rich array of flora which has been preserved and is well worth busy than after- and fauna. visiting, if only for the views. noons. For serious walkers, Visitors looking for a more local flavour For a quieter the seven-mile hike to the should step out on hikes in Maroon Country alternative, visit summit takes three to four in the east of the island where there’s the Somerset Falls hours, while chance to meet local maroons – descen- near Port Antonio, cyclists can get dants of runaway slaves who made which are less-known, a lift up one of their home in the or the Mayfield Falls the mountains and mountains. I The Bob Marley Museum near Negril which are in a enjoy the 18-mile But probably the perfect area for cave diving, cliff- Jamaica Tourist Board downhill ride which finishes most famous local is jumping or simply messing about in the with a refreshing waterfall dip. Bob Marley. He may water. Wildlife fans can swim with have died nearly 30 And if you want a true chill-out, try river dolphins at Dolphin Cove years ago, but nowhere rafting on one of the long bamboo rafts that (www.dolphincovejamaica.com) Jamaica Tourist Board drift lazily down the Rio Grande or the Great near Ocho Rios or at the Half Moon or Martha Brae rivers. resort near Montego Bay Daredevils can visit Mystic Mountain (www.halfmoon.com/dolphin- (www.rainforestbobsledjamaica.com), encounters.php). one of the island’s newer attractions near Alternatively they can splash Ocho Rios where they can soar through the around with stingrays at Stingray City treetops on a chairlift, hurtle through the for- (www.stingraycityjamaica.com) on est on a bobsled or swing through the forest James Bond Beach, near the north on a zip-wire. coast village of Oracabessa, a 25-minute All-out fun at Jamaica’s It was almost midnight and I was being given a severe dressing down by the two girls manning the doorway I wanted to all-inclusive resorts enter. So severe, they made me strip down to my underpants before they would let me pass. But then they were virtually as nature intended, save for some tiny scraps of cloth and strategic body painting. I should have expected nothing less. After all, it was the official opening night of Jamaica’s adult-only Hedonism III resort and the event I was trying to get into was the late-night disco following the Neptune-themed opening party. This was clearly not going to be a night for the self-conscious or prudish. A fact underlined by the sight that caught my eye when I stepped up to the bar. As the sea of near-bare flesh gyrated on the dance floor, a naked body suddenly flashed past just above the crowd’s heads in a large, clear plastic tube hung from the ceiling. The resort’s flume tube goes straight through the disco, and revellers had obviously decided to discard all their clothing to try it out. It may have been 10 years ago, but the experiences from that visit are etched SuperClubs vividly in my memory. Perhaps none more I Hedonism III disco and flume tube so than during the golf tournament the 10 The Travel & Leisure Magazine November/December 2009
  5. 5. I Pool-side at Sandals Sandals Negril does his spirit live on more strongly than in popular tourist attractions, drawing thou- One of his former homes in the Jamaica. sands of visitors wanting to pay homage to Trenchtown area of the capital, called His birthplace and final resting place in the music legend. Culture Yard, is also open to the public. the rural district of St Ann near Ocho Rios The Bob Marley Museum is located in His final resting place is the Bob Marley and the Bob Marley Museum in Kingston the superstar’s original recording studio in Mausoleum (www.ninemilejamaica.com) (www.bobmarley-foundation.com/ New Kingston where he recorded many of which comprises the tiny house in the vil- museum.html) are among Jamaica’s most his songs. lage of Nine Mile where he was born. model had dispensed with her bikini and was being body painted by any golfers who fancied giving her a lick of paint. All very distracting as you tried to hit your ball from the nearby tee. Back at the resort, things continued in similar vein. A stage show ended with a member of the audience being covered in whipped cream and volunteers sought to SuperClubs Half Moon remove it without using their hands. On the way to the beach, I walked I Water sliding at Hedonism III underneath a see-through Jacuzzi – I Fern Tree Falls at Half Moon next day. Organised by the resort’s parent diverting my eyes from the naked German underpants, to the wind. company, SuperClubs, it featured guests whose bodily bits were wobbling in The two Hedonism resorts represent hospitality tents by the tees of several the bubbles.There were actually two one extreme of the all-inclusive scene in holes, each hosted by a different resort beaches: one labelled the Nudes Beach, Jamaica.There are family resorts, such as branch. At the first tee, chefs in white hats and the other the Prudes SuperClubs’ Starfish Trelawny Resort & cooked up breakfast while uniformed Beach. Spa or the Beaches resorts masseuses gave golfers a pre-game Of course there operated by Sandals. Some are massage in the tent hosted by its were many other romantic escapes popular with upmarket Grand Lido Resorts & Spas. A activities and honeymooners or couples few holes along, the Cuban resorts were parts of the getting married, while others serving up lashings of rum while a salsa resort that did appeal to the sporty and band laid down infectious rhythms. not involve active types.The choice is Then there was the Hedonism tent, disrobing. It was yours. hosted by the new resort and its more just an option if And of course, if you really established and equally-outrageous sibling, you had no want to, you can let it all hang Hedonism II. Outside, two bikini-clad inhibitions and out... I Snorkelling at Hedonism III models wearing giant angel wings sat on wanted to throw the edge of a hot tub, while inside another caution, and your Peter Ellegard SuperClubs November/December 2009 The Travel & Leisure Magazine 11
  6. 6. All photos: Jamaica Tourist Board I Jamaica’s waterfalls are among its top attractions I Rafting on the Martha Brae Where to stay Large family-orientated resorts, chic upmar- Jamaica facts ket retreats, trendy boutique hideaways and small independent hotels – Jamaica has them all. When to go But it is most famous as the birthplace of The best weather is from December to April, the all-inclusive concept which started with which is the high season. July and August are the opening of the Jamaican resort, Couples, also popular, but are in the hurricane season in the Seventies. which runs from June to September/October. Couples Resort is still open, but it has since been joined by a huge choice of other Visa all-inclusives, namely those owned by the UK passport holders do not need a visa for Sandals/Beaches group and SuperClubs – stays of up to 90 days. both of which are owned by Jamaican fami- lies and have several resorts on Jamaica and Getting there other Caribbean islands. British Airways (www.ba.com) flies from Gatwick to Kingston and Montego More recently, Spanish hotel chains such Bay and Virgin Atlantic (www.virginatlantic.com) operates from Gatwick to as Riu, Iberostar and Barcelo have built a Kingston and Montego Bay.There are also charter flights with Thomsonfly string of modern all-inclusive hotels, but (www.thomsonfly.com) and Thomas Cook Airlines holidaymakers wanting something more (www.thomascookairlines.co.uk). Flight time is around 10 hours. unusual should head for the mountains. Strawberry Hill in the Blue Mountains is Tour operators an 18th century plantation house that UK operators featuring Jamaica include British Airways Holidays became the hideaway of record mogul Chris (www.ba.com),Thomas Cook Holidays (www.thomascook.com),Thomson Blackwell and the place where Bob Marley (www.thomson.co.uk),Virgin Holidays (www.virginholidays.co.uk), First recuperated after being shot in the 1970s. Choice Holidays (www.firstchoice.co.uk), ITC Classics It offers rustic, laid-back luxury along (www.itcclassics.co.uk), Kuoni (www.kuoni.co.uk), Hayes & Jarvis with stunning views over Kingston. (www.hayesandjarvis.co.uk) and Harlequin Holidays Other one-off gems include Rockhouse, (www.harlequinholidays.com). The Caves, Jake’s (described as the chic-est shack in the Caribbean) and Tensing Pen – Getting around built into the cliffs overlooking Negril’s Choose from domestic flights between Kingston stunning white-sand beach. and Montego Bay, local buses, JUTA tourist buses Well established upmarket alternatives (www.jutc.com), taxis or hire cars.Travelling that still hold traditional charm include around can be an adventure, but it gives visitors Jamaica Inn in Ocho Rios, plus Round Hill a great flavour of the island. Make sure you and Half Moon near Montego Bay. TL travel only on licensed buses and taxis. Jamaica has a good network of roads but they may not always be in the best condition, Sara Macefield has been writing about plus other drivers tend to drive fast and furiously – so be warned! the Caribbean for the last 15 years, visiting so many times she has been nicknamed the Tourist information “Caribbean Queen”. She has been to most islands, but Jamaica is one of her favourite Jamaica Tourist Office: call 020 7225 9090 or visit www.visitjamaica.com places to relax with a rum punch. 12 The Travel & Leisure Magazine November/December 2009