Most travelers and tourists have heard wonders of Jamaica's all-inclusive resorts but there is a Jamaica beyond the beach waiting to be discovered.
I have been wishing to visit Jamaica since I was a child and my mother returned from a vacation in the Home Of All Right conch shell in hand with pictures and stories of the vivid land. Each time I heard the sounds of the island country from One Love to Three Little Birds or saw the majestic beauty of the Caribbean jewel in films like The Blue Lagoon that desire would ripen. I thought my longing was fulfilled in an unforgettable trip filled with adventures, exquisite foods and breathtaking views but I realized that one trip to Jamaica will simply keep you wanting more.
Here's why you should visit Jamaica now:
As my plane circled Norman Manley International Airport amid a sunset of deep oranges and yellows I was able to see the vibrant green that stood out on the lush Blue Mountains that was apparent even at dusk._ When you lay eyes on Jamaica and when your feet hit the ground your senses will immediately tell you that the third largest island in the Caribbean is alive. My jaunt in Jamaica was filled with pop culture delights and would take me off the beaten path but was guided by what I view as the unofficial ambassador of Jamaica; Lyndon Taylor of Finn Partners and was complimented by a must have while in Jamaica; transportation, excursions and guided tours from Paradise Travels in Jamaica. With guides like Wilford Burgess a.k.a. "Willie" they don't just take you to the sights they go the extra mile to help you experience them.
My experience kicked off in Jamaica with a tasting of the culture at Sweetwood Jerk Joint. Jamaica is definitely the place to discover authentic jerk. You will immediately smell mouth watering jerk meat being cooked that ranges from pork, chicken, sausage, lamb and fish. I tasted my first festival at the Emancipation Park eatery and more delectable sides of breadfruit and bammy.
There is something that will tempt every taste bud in Jamaica from national dishes like ackee and saltfish to baked and boiled plantain. There is simply an astounding array of tropical fruits that grow all over Jamaica and perfectly compliment the spice-rubbed meats and Red Stripe beer. By the time that we hit the path to make our way to Port Antonio, Portland after our luscious meal nightfall had taken over and I couldn't see the landscape as much as I could feel it. I soon learned that is part of the spirit of the what some call the Jamaican riviera. It is all the feels. The mountainous journey was both bumpy and smooth will endless curves and vegetation that frequently spilled over onto the road and the fragrant smell of an array of fruits lingers in the air.
My stay in Jamaica started off at Goblin Hills Villas. Sitting on 12 acres of breathtaking lawns and gardens Goblin Hills Villas is located in one of the unspoiled corners of Jamaica in San San Port Antonio, Jamaica. You step outside your villa into unparalleled beauty and are able to see where the Blue Mountains meet the Caribbean sea.
It juxtaposes being the perfect place for both lovers and lovely families. Each villa is staffed with a housekeeper to prepare and serve meals, do your shopping and carry out all housekeeping duties. After a delightful night where you are lulled to sleep by the sounds of the sea and crickets nestled into the lush vegetation you will awaken to a breakfast buffet served on your own patio. The energy you need to begin a day of play.
Port Antonio, Jamaica is not for the sightseer. It is for the doer! There is plenty to see but in Port Antonio, you are invited to experience Jamaica's playground.
Living just a 15-minute drive from one of the top waterfalls in the world Niagara Falls, I am definitely a fan of the moving works of mother nature's art. But, living so close to one of the best falls in the world, in order to impress me there has to be a wow factor. Jamaica's Reach Falls has it.
Bring your climbing shoes and swim suit because you can actually climb to the upper pools, access the top of the cascades and feel the water tumbling over the limestone with your hands. Nestled into the rainforest, simply taking the walk to get to Reach Falls is stunningly beautiful.
The beauty of the region has attracted Hollywood for years. Films including Tom Cruise's Cocktails and the remake of Lord of the Flies featured Reach Falls. Visiting Reach Falls is both a rush and relaxing at the same time.
The Blue Lagoon
Bucket list! The Blue Lagoon has been one of the spots that I have always wanted to visit after watching the film named after one of the most beautiful spots in Jamaica once known as "The Blue Hole". Nature has changed the way the landscape looks from the film a bit but the waters that launched Brooke Shields? movie career is still breathtaking. The turquoise blue water changes color a bit from every shade of emerald to a royal blue as freshwater springs meet the seawater. After passing by the shops featuring conch shells, fresh made foods and island apparel you can take a boat ride to tour the lagoon or simply dive into the water swim until you hit the sapphire colored waters.
Frenchman's Cove Beach
Frolic in paradise at Frenchman's Cove Beach. Located in the lush parish of Portland, Jamaica Frenchman's Cove Beach is a small piece of heaven. It is one of the island's best white sand beaches. Walk the glistening white sand that runs into a small blue lagoon and is flanked by two small cliffs and dense vegetation. You have to take a swing in the lagoon before having a relaxing lunch at Anna Banana. The tropical beauty of Frenchman's Cove is what attracted Hollywood for another Tom Cruise film 'Knight and Day' which also starred Cameron Diaz.
The Trident Hotel and Trident Castle
The Trident Hotel in Port Antonio, Jamaica is one of the best luxury villa experiences in all of Jamaica. The Trident Hotel is literally set on the edge of the Caribbean Sea and is a mix in the ultimate in contemporary luxury and retro elegance.
You will live like a celebrity in The Trident's spacious villas each come equipped with oceanfront porticos and private soaking pools. The hotel features a helicopter landing pad for those who don't wish to take the drive up the mountain and has amenities including a media lounge, gym, spa and a gorgeous private beach. You can dine at the eclectic Mike's Supper Club which features music and exquisite cuisine.
Celebrities like Jay-Z and Beyonce routinely vacation there. The Trident Castle is simply majestic. The properties have been featured in the film The Mighty Quinn_ starring Denzel Washington. The band Arcade Fire recorded their Album Reflektor there and Snoop Lion aka Snoop Dogg filmed his video "Here Comes the King" there.
GeeJam Hotel and Studios
Music is a much a part of Jamaica as the lush vegetation is. Record producer Jon Baker was attracted to the island and found it a great escape to create but what he created was a place for the sound and for the sightseer to live. He founded both the GeeJam Recording Studio and the luxury GeeJam Hotel.
GeeJam Studios is the leading residential recording complex in the Caribbean. Artists can come and record an album, rent out the space or the entire property for a colossal_ jam or to simply retreat into a creative space.
GeeJam Hotel and particularly the BushBar has been nominated by the Jamaican press as one of the "top ten most fascinating places to hang out." And I could see why after spending the most amazing evening watching The Jolly Boys perform while enjoying the best meal of my trip when I was served curried shrimp over a bed of rice.
Musicians like Katy Perry, John Legend, Florence and the Machine, Diplo, Alicia Keys, Drake, The Gorillaz, Snoop Dogg and Gwen Stefani have all recorded record albums on-site at the resort's state-of-the-art recording studio. Stars like Amy Winehouse have spent extended time at GeeJam Hotel while recording. Geejam is nestled in the heart of the bush but is surrounded by modern technology and chic living.
When visiting Jamaica, many have not viewed Kingston as one of the top destinations. However, the historic buildings, museums, culture, and food from having Sunday Brunch at Terra Nova a beloved Kingston tradition, to having lunch at M10 in a chill open air setting and more, it all tells a different story and should be part of every traveler's plans while in Jamaica.
Courtleigh Hotel and Suites in Kingston, Jamaica
I loved staying in the modern Courtleigh Hotel & Suites which is conveniently located from not only the Norman Manley International Airport but is also the perfect jump off point for visits to the old pirate city of Port Royal , the famous Devon House (where you have to go for the most delicious ice cream ever and shopping), the Bob Marley Museum (former home of the Reggae King), Lime Cay for swimming and the magnificent Blue Mountains (over 7000 feet above sea level) for hiking, birding or a sightseeing tour.
Bob Marley Museum
You can't go to Kingston without going to the Bob Marley Museum! The museum is located on the legendary site of the musician's home and is an essential site to visit while in Jamaica. The house features 19th-century architecture and you will immediately be greeted by the colors and art that have influenced the region.
Peter Tosh Museum
The Peter Tosh Museum honors the life and work of Peter Tosh, Jamaica?s global music legend and founding member of the critically acclaimed reggae group, the Wailers. The recently opened museum, located at the newly re_named Peter Tosh Square at The Pulse Centre on Trafalgar Road was opened with the 40th anniversary of the commercial release of the classic and prophetic hit single "Legalize It".
Jampro, Jafta and Propella
Being a filmmaker, while visiting Jamaica not only the lush locales but the people and their vivid stories make it easy to see why this is a storytelling paradise. Having had the chance to visit the locations of historic films was definitely a highlight of my trip along with joining in on a Filmmakers Roundtable. The Jamaican investment and promotions agency Jampro is doing more to build the film industry in Jamaica. Jampro has created unique opportunities to showcase filmmakers from Jamaica with their Propella program that was initiated with the Jamaican Film and Television Association (Jafta). I was able to screen the first short films from the Propella Project including Shoot The Girl, Silent Hearts, Shock Value, Sugar, and Origins. Jafta believes as I do that the best way to promote Jamaica is through rich stories that the world is fascinated by.
Experience Club Kingston VIP Lounge
Before leaving Kingston you have to experience Club Kingston at the Norman Manley International Airport. Club Kingston offers fast track privileges through security and immigration, complimentary beverages, WiFi, Galaxy tablets, spa, and refreshments.
I left the Home Of All Right with a conch shell in hand with pictures and stories of the vivid land that I was able to share with my own daughter. But I will be doing something different, I am already planning our return trip back.