Pierre: What better way to soothe those pre-world-travel jitters than by taking a short vacation to Jamaica? As you may imagine, planning to take off for 1 year can be slightly stressful (in a good way), so we blew some of Robin’s Jet Blue points and hopped on a flight to Montego Bay. Several dozen Red Stripes later, I’m happy to say that we had a great time and that Jamaicans are some of the nicest people I’ve ever met.

Map of Our Route Through Jamaica

Our route through Jamaica.

We landed in Montego Bay, but quickly jumped in a small minivan and headed to Negril. While it’s generally considered a tourist destination with large, all-inclusive hotels, we booked a room at Tensing Pen. It turned out to be rather quiet and absolutely beautiful — though there’s no beach — and within a few minutes of many delicious local restaurants. The hotel itself is perched on some cliffs, which makes for some great cliff diving/jumping into a warm, turquoise ocean.

Red Stripe

Aaaah, Red Stripe overlooking the ocean, as seen from the cliffs of Tensing Pen.

We were lucky enough to catch a reggae concert by local legend Beres Hammond, who put on a great performance well into the night. Thousands of people, both tourists and locals, came to catch the show. It was a 5 minute walk from Tensing Pen!

Beres Hammond in Negril

Beres Hammond served up some great reggae. While people in the 70s and 80s held up lighters, now concertgoers hold up cell phone cameras (see bottom right corner)!

From Negril we headed southeast to Treasure Beach, a tiny village on Jamaica’s southern shore. The “town” is actually a collection of coves with small, uncrowded beaches. Local fishermen anchor their boats in the coves and catch fish during the day.

Captain Joseph took us to the Black River and the famous Pelican Bar

Captain Joseph took us to the Black River (crocodile central!) and the famous Pelican Bar.

We hired a boat to take us to the Black River and the Pelican Bar, a ramshackle bar on stilts that sits on a sandbank about 1 km offshore. There we got to eat lobster and fish while washing it all down with Red Stripes. Delicious!

Frenchman's Cove in Treasure Beach serves as a "port" for many fishermen

Frenchman's Cove in Treasure Beach serves as a "port" for many fishermen.

Pelican Bar & Staff

Pelican Bar & staff, hanging out in the middle of the Caribbean Sea.

Jake’s, our hotel in Treasure Beach, makes a serious effort to source all their food from local fishermen and farmers. Since our stay fell on a full moon, we had the chance to experience their “farm to table” dinner. While it usually takes place in the middle of a field, threatening rain clouds forced the organizers to move it to the hotel owners’ house. ¬†And what a house it was! Wow!

View of Treasure Beach from the hills

View of Treasure Beach and an approaching rain storm from the surrounding hills. We had dinner at the hotel owners' house as part of a local "farm to table" event.

Our trip ended with a visit to Kingston and a few days in the Blue Mountains where we sampled some of the best coffee in the world. Surprisingly, most of Jamaica’s coffee production ends up in Japan, but you can find some Blue Mountain coffee beans if you look really hard.

Sadly, we relied on TripAdvisor for our lodging in the Blue Mountains. The #1-rated hotel was Mount Edge Guest House, but it turned out to be rather mediocre: no hot water for 3 days, sporadically-available food, dirty sheets, and random noisy neighbors that were chopping wood at 5 am. The staff, however, was extremely accommodating and friendly but they just didn’t know how to run a hotel. They should call it a hostel, and should charge rates that are more in line with similar establishments.

LESSONS LEARNED:

  • It seems to be perfectly OK for any Jamaican to address another dreadlocked Jamaican as “Hey, Rasta-man!” No word on whether or not it’s OK for us to address them this way.
  • Any question can be answered with “Yah, mon”, “Respect”, “Everytime”, or “I love it!”
  • When a boat captain says it’ll be a bit bumpier on the way back, pop some Advil ahead of time.
  • Don’t encourage Jamaican dogs to run with you. You may end up face down on the pavement.
  • The food takes a long time to prepare, but that’s because it’s freshly-made and delicious. It’s worth the wait. Definitely eat at the jerk restaurants you’ll see along the road, as it’s the best stuff on the island.
  • While marijuana is technically illegal, the entire island is pretty much high 50% of the time. In some cases, 100% of the time.
  • If you’re staying north of Kingston, shell out the cash for a room at Strawberry Hill (if you can afford it). We’re pretty sure they have hot water.

2 Comments

  1. Heather
    March 9, 2012

    Thank you for this info.
    We are heading to Jamaica in May (2012) and are pretty much doing this same vackay!

    looking forward to our stay at Jake’s and hoping for a farm-to-table experience.

    one love,

    heather

    Reply
    • Pierre
      March 9, 2012

      Heather, definitely go for the farm-to-table dinner at Jake’s. If it rains, you’ll have the opportunity to see the owner’s magnificent house up in the hills (amazing)! If it doesn’t, you’ll still have a great dinner at someone’s farm. Win-win!
      Pierre

      Reply

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Jamaica (Feb 14-23, 2011)

  • Caribbean