When you’re on holiday you naturally want to spend time chilling out by the pool or on the beach, but when feet get itchy you’ll need stuff to do. Fortunately Jamaica is big (146 miles long x up to 52 miles wide), with landscapes varying from mountains to rainforest to beaches, and packed with interesting sights. I’ve been to the island three times now and here are just a few of my top things to do in Jamaica:
• Swimming with dolphins at Dolphin Cove – it’s on many a bucket list, and for good reason. On our visit to Dolphin Cove we got up close to Wendy – we tickled her tummy, gave her a kiss and swam with her…such a privilege. There is a professional photographer and you are not allowed to take any shots of your own. This is pretty standard practice, but the prices charged are astronomical. We found that when we started to walk away, however they were suddenly willing to do a much better deal. As everywhere on Jamaica, haggle, haggle, haggle! Visit www.dolphincoveja.com
• Getting a taste of Noel Coward’s life at Firefly . I love this place. The author and playwright lived out his final years alone here. It’s really small and simple, but in the most incredible location with views over the North Jamaican coast. It’s been left exactly as it was when he died – right down to the bits and bobs in his medicine cabinet, his music scores still sitting at his piano. Visit www.firefly-jamaica.com.
• Whizzing down zipwires in the forest – we did it at the Good Hope Estate, with Chukka Tours. The instructors are good at calming fears (albeit in a ‘don’t be such a big pussy’ kind of way!). Once you’ve completed the course, you can loll along the Martha Brae river on an inner tube – a serene experience and our guide even gave us all an exfoliating foot rub with limestone from the river. Chukka’s base, on the Good Hope Estate, is glorious. It’s an old plantation and you can take a tour of the Great House and see the ruins of the old slave hospital. For further details visit www.chukka.com/book-jamaica/ocho-rios.
• Climbing Dunn’s River Falls – These incredible waterfalls, near Ocho Rios, could have been purpose built for climbing, but they are completely natural. You will never have them to yourself – they one of the island’s most popular attractions – but they make for a great outing. Prepare to get very, very wet and wear jelly shoes or any shoes with grip that you don’t mind getting wet. For more details, visit www.dunnsriverfallsja.com.
There’s lots that I have never done in Jamaica – I would love to explore the Blue Mountains, for example, and to check out the Bob Marley Museum. All the more reason for a return visit I reckon. Let me know if there’s anywhere else on the island you’d recommend!
One point I wanted to make about Jamaica, too, whilst I have your attention. Many visitors book into a high security prison (ahem, sorry, all-inclusive hotel) venturing out only to go on organised group tours. Whilst there are lots of great all-inclusives there, there really is no need to feel absolutely terrified of travelling anywhere independently. Most serious crime in Jamaica is between the locals and tourists are rarely targeted. Obviously, as when you are in any poor country, you need to be aware and use your common sense – don’t flash cash and jewellery, or wander off alone at night, for example.
On my recent visit, I stayed in two drool inducing luxury villas (click here to see my write-up on them) which are bookable through Butler & Lloyd. Their concierge service for guests mean they can book all your transportation around Jamaica, and sort out all your activities – as well as the mainstream ones I’ve talked about above they can organise more ‘local’ ones, too – anything from a Sunday church service in the hills to a lobster and rice meal in a fishermens’ cafe. Contact them at www.butlerandlloyd.com.