- Totally tropical treasure
- Coast life
- Reggae, rum and Rastas
This characterful Caribbean island is full of contrasts and contradictions: jungles with hidden waterfalls, rainforests merging into beaches, a Blue Lagoon and Blue Mountains, and millionaires’ mansions within walking distance from ramshackle huts.
Errol Flynn once declared, ‘Jamaica’s more beautiful than any woman I’ve ever known.’ Flynn fell in love with Jamaica in the 1940s and Ian Fleming and Noel Coward swiftly followed. Montego Bay and Negril still lure in the tourists, but the parish of Portland is a quieter spot, despite being home to some of the island’s most seductive beaches. Expect warmth in more ways than one – spicy jerk chicken, dancehall queens with pulse-quickening moves, sea and sand stroked by sunrays, sizzling soca bars and belly-burning rum. Luckily, Jamaica also excels at cooling down and chilling out. If the heat gets too much, dip into the turquoise waters, sip an ice-cold Red Stripe, and turn your lights down low…
Jamaica is the birthplace of mento, ska, rocksteady and reggae beats, so spend some time soaking up the sounds in one of the beachfront bars or rum shacks.
- A route taxi in Jamaica is essentially a high-speed minibus, offering an on-demand (stops anywhere) service for a random selection of people, travelling in vaguely the same direction. Ask your hotel to book your journeys with a trusted local cab driver (they will also give you an idea of journey costs). Keep your cabbie’s number and be his best customer throughout your stay.
- Tipping culture
- 10–20 per cent is standard, depending on your appreciation.
- Siesta and fiesta
- Most places close on Sundays and public holidays. During the week, restaurants and shops shut their doors around 6pm, or 8pm Friday–Saturday. Banks finish business at 2pm Monday–Thursday, staying open until 4pm on Fridays (closed at the weekend). There are 24-hour cash machines in town centres.
- Packing tips
- Light linens; mosquito spray; heel-free shoes for scaling the Blue Mountains and a stash of CDs for your 4x4: Bob Marley’s Natty Dread, Black Uhuru's Grammy-winning Anthem, Jimmy Cliff’s The Harder They Come and Sean Paul’s Dutty Rock.
- Recommended reads
- Ian Fleming wrote many of his Bond novels esconced in his beloved Jamaican retreat, Goldeneye, near Port Maria. Dr No, Live and Let Die and The Man with the Golden Gun are all partially set on the island. Reggae lovers may like Catch a Fire: The Life of Bob Marley, written by Timothy White and based on White’s interviews with Marley and those closest to him. Jean Rhys’ Jane Eyre-prequel, Wide Sargasso Sea, is partly set in Jamaica.
- Regional specialities
- Try traditional Jamaican breakfast: ackee and saltfish, steamed callaloo, plantain and steamed dumplings. Boston Bay claims to be the birthplace of jerk, so visit the beach and choose from throngs of jerk stalls selling chicken, pork and fish. Douse the flames on your tongue with a chilled Red Stripe. Equally delicious is the island’s Asian-influenced fare – curried goat and chicken, served with rice and peas. The tropical fruit has Willy Wonka-esque names – nesberries, june plum and sweetsop – but the delicious flavours are real. Sip some dark rum from the historic Appleton sugar estate.
- Jamaican dollars (J$). Although American dollars are widely used, exchange rates vary and you’ll always get your change in Jamaican currency. It’s always easier to pay in cash rather than relying on plastic.
- Time zone
- GMT – 5.
- Dialling codes
- +1 876 (only dial the seven digit number for local calls).
- Do go/don't go
- Port Antonio is a year-round affair. The rainy season (June and October) is actually a popular time to visit, with travellers revelling in the torrential tropical downpours (the rain’s warm at least) that keep Portland so green and lush. Storms are generally short-lived, and there are plenty of dry and sunny days in between. High season is mid December–mid April, and hurricane season is from the beginning of June until the end of November. It’s wise to avoid going during the American spring break (March–April), though Portland is less affected by this than Montego Bay and Negril.
Don't go home without...
Sampling a sun-ripened honey banana – Portland is famous for them.