Adventure, food, history and culture gets to the heart of things in Jamaica, and the lush island offers visitors a variety of options to choose from
The turquoise waters of Jamaica’s Caribbean Sea lures you in, inviting you to allow your cares to melt away, to enjoy the warmth of its sand and the salty breeze. Yes, sunshine vacations are wonderful for lolling about the beach and lounging by the infinity pool. But, you would be impressed by the number and variety of things to see and do on the island if you allow yourself to leave the resort. Waiting just outside your gates is a whirl of adventure and activities to satisfy any need. Eco-tourism, museums and history, cultural venues and any number of music and food festivals—there’s something for all and sundry.
Less than an hour’s drive from Montego Bay, there are farms, stables, multi-faceted adventure tours, all manner of water sports and activities, a number of historical properties, markets and museums. You can even step back in time at Croyden in the Mountains, a 132-acre working plantation.
If it’s history that piques your fancy, Jamaica also has over 20 restored Great Houses throughout the island. These massive properties still house many original pieces which often date back to the 1700’s. Thanks to heavy reconstruction efforts throughout the years, guests can walk through these grand estates and picture life as it was for the plantation owners, while in darkened basements, find remnants of ‘bear traps’ and other tools of torture that were used on the slaves who toiled there. (There have never been any bears on the island.)
Seeking adventure? Plan an experience at CHUKKA Good Hope Plantation for a day of unforgettable experiences, beauty, and sheer fun. Splurge a little and purchase the Ultimate Thrill Seekers pass which gives you full access to the plethora of activities available at the plantation.
Fly through the trees while experienced guides take you through three Zip Line adventures, or opt for an adrenaline filled ride through the vast grounds on a dune buggy or ATV. Here your guide will stop to cut down a variety of succulent fruit directly from the trees, and you’ll see pre-colonial ruins from one of the oldest historical sites in Jamaica.
After your adventures, or perhaps in between them, stop in at the aviary and wander through the lush greenery and tropical blooms, while listening to the sounds of the colourful birds—it’s a wonderful place to sit and reflect, or catch your breath. Before the day is done, make your way up to the great house. The view from the top of the hill it’s perched on will leave you breathless as you look out and witness the splendor and sheer majesty of Jamaica’s mountains.
If seafood is your weakness, visit Sky Beach Restaurant for farm and ocean-fresh local fare. Guests are invited to select their own fish from the daily catch which can include conch, lobster, snapper or octopus. Diners can also decide how they would like their selections prepared. While many in my party opted for their dishes to be stewed or grilled, being out of my depth, I asked for a recommendation. The chef suggested I have my lobster served in a coconut curry, and it was to die for—highly recommend. Another good choice is the bar’s perfectly creamy, decadent piña coladas.
The ambiance at the bar and grill is rather casual, but the space is divided into distinct sections, each of which are comfortable and relaxing. Guests can also opt to be seated at one of the tables on the edge of the ocean, where the warm water will lap at your feet while you dine.
A chic place to stay while in Montego Bay is at one of the newly renovated, adjoining Hyatt properties. Choose between the adult-only Hyatt Zilara, or family friendly Hyatt Ziva. The rooms are beautiful and are outfitted with robe and slippers. THe bathroom is spacious and their plush bedding beckons you at the end of a long day. With a plethora of pools, nine delightful restaurants (no reservations necessary), several bars and lounges, a 24-hour coffee shop and room service, gym and spa, it’s an indulgent escape. Stop by Zilara’s lobby in the afternoon to enjoy fresh, made-to-order crêpes or wander in for a drink at Fez, the rooftop Moroccan bar.
For help planning your next trip to Jamaica visit the Jamaica Tourist Board for travel tips, things to do, where to stay and a list of events taking place throughout the country.