Recently back from a trip to the Caribbean, Jamaica was our island of choice. I often wonder what inspires greatness – and being in Jamaica made me a see a whole new perspective of how people can be easygoing in the typical sense of island life, and yet this is the place that has made some of the best Reggae musicians, sportsmen and writers.
Yah Mon, there’s something about Jamaica.
A fairly large island, Jamaica has beautiful white sand beaches and the lush Blue Mountains in the backdrop. The island is visa free for Indian nationals and a short flight away from Florida (1.5 hours). The capital of Jamaica is Kingston, but there is hardly any traveler interest there being a city with high crime rates and low options to get by. It is ideal to fly into the Northern city of Montego Bay which really is the hub to all key places to explore from there.
We spent a week in Jamaica, here’s what i recommend you can do…
Negril and the Seven Mile beach
Negril is an hour’s drive from Montego Bay and lined with Resorts on the famous Seven Mile beach. This beach is classic Caribbean with white sands and quiet blue waters.
The resorts in Negril are typically all inclusive, which means that apart from unlimited cocktails and shacks even water sports and a sunset cruise are part of the deal. There’s tons to do on the property – for the actively inclined like me, there are different water sports, deep sea snorkeling and scuba diving. The key is to sign up for what you are interested in at the time of check-in, you can always cancel later. For those who just want to hang out by the beach, there are bars every few meters – with cocktails on tap and even bars inside the pool (Note: Must try cocktails: Anything and everything with the local Appleton Rum – Pina Colada, Miami Vice, Dirty Banana…the barman is your best friend!).
Wake up to breakfasts like these with Mimosas. No one is in a hurry in Jamaica!
…There’s plenty of entertainment through the day with beachside Reggae performances…
Local kids chilling by the beachside…
…and of course Deep Sea exploration.
The Caribbean reef is stunning with bright corals.
It might seem really touristy, but Rick’s cafe is a must do. For only one reason – you can jump from the cliffs. There is no experience as exhilarating as that – To jump from the cliffs with the crowds cheering on. Rick’s is a landmark in Jamaica – but here’s my tip – just go there for a jump, see the sunset and get back! Anything longer and you are in for a tourist trap.
Remember that scene in Life of Pi when everything in the deep sea waters lit up at night? Bioluminiscence – Emission of light by living beings in the water, similar to fireflies, except in this case everything lights up into a beautiful blue/green neon light in water. Jamaica is one of the few places in the world with this phenomena. Be warned, the waters are very swampy-marshy. But you tend to ignore all of this once the sun sets and every single being the water illuminates. Fascinating especially to watch fish create unreal light patterns when they jump in and out of the water surface.
Jamaicans call this place The Glistening Waters and have daily tours to the location. Avoid full moon nights.
The Blue Mountains are famous for Blue Mountain Coffee, banana and pineapple plantations, and plenty of wild and free spirited Marijuana growing street side. Makes for a great trip to visit Bob Marley’s museum, or to take a break from the beach for mountain biking. This area is largely unspoilt, so don’t expect any facilities, except for local stores. Having said that, makes for a great day trip!
Bob Marley Museum
There’s a Bob Marley Museum in the capital Kingston, and another one high in the mountains called the Nine Mile museum. We chose the trek to Nine Mile. The journey into the mountains is long, with poor roads. As we got further away from the villages, and deeper into wilderness; there was a sort of eerie calm up the hills. There are a bunch of enthusiastic (and very high!) group of young volunteers who run the place. They showed us the two-room home where Bob lived with his mother, where he sat for inspiration and wrote his songs and his shrine where he is buried. As we entered the shrine there was a strong smell of marijuana – we were asked to show our respect by lighting up, or at least light a marijuana incense in his honor.
Bob’s shrubs 😉 – Pot-in-a-pot
Exploring Local Food
Caribbean food challenges your senses – it is spicy, has big helpings and needs two hands to finish. We loved the Chicken Patties and famous Jerk chicken. The local fruit Ackee (with saltfish) is also super popular and can be had for breakfast .
There’s some inspiration from India in the food that you find in local cafes. When driving along the countryside, made our way one afternoon to a restaurant tucked away in a beach corner. We found that a lot of their food has a lot of similarity to India in terms of looks and names, but still very different in taste.
The people of Jamaica are friendly, easy going and always ready to share stories. Here’s a song that i think really captures the spirit of this happy, vibrant island:
- Best time to travel: The winter months (October – Dec) are ideal in terms of weather. If you choose to go mid-year, expect afternoon showers.
- Travel Route: Jamaica is well connected from major cities in the US,and neighboring countries such as Mexico.
- Ideal Budget: My travel style is not backpacking. It’s mid-range and adventure based. For this style of travel, i recommend a budget of INR 1,50,000 per couple for a week.