Jamaica is a beautiful, tropical island nation in the Caribbean, located 145 kilometres south of Cuba. It’s a country probably best known as the homeland of reggae legend Bob Marley and more recently Olympics track superstar the Usain Bolt.
It’s not hard to see why it’s a popular holiday destination with it’s warm, turquoise waters and vibrant culture full of colour and music. The average temperature in Jamaica is a balmy 29 degrees and when we were there (in July) the average sea temperature was also 29 degrees!
We stayed in the Coach House located within the Good Hope Estate, a former sugar plantation built in 1774, with a 2000 acre heritage park and a 260 year old Great House. Good Hope and the Coach House are located in “Cockpit Country” – a beautiful area of dense jungle and farmland, surrounded by high mountains. We woke up to the sounds of woodpeckers building their nests, hummingbirds feeding from hibiscus and the warm mist sitting in the guango trees in the hills of the jungle. If the beach is more your scene, you also have access to the private estate beach (pictured above) – and don’t worry, there’s a bar, showers and sun lounges in the beach hut!
While we were there we visited Chukka: Good Hope Adventure Park, also located on the estate. We had an afternoon paddle down the Martha Brae river, through tunnels of jungle and bamboo forests, stopping for a red stripe beer every now and then along the way. We just missed out on the completion of Chukka’s new AquaPlay Park with jungle pools, waterslides and a bar (we’ll have to go back for that!).
The local food in Jamaica is amazing (it helped that we had an incredible chef – Barbara) – there was no dish I didn’t love! There is a very active arts and crafts scene. So many things, including houses and buildings along with sculpture and art, are made from hand using local materials. People paint their houses in eye popping fuchsias and yellows and in contrast the equally beautiful, elegant colonial buildings with raw timber, stone and white, vaulted ceilings.
I’ve never felt so far away, or somewhere so culturally different, as I did when I was in Jamaica. It was a captivating place and just what you need after a stressful 12 months of work. Jamaica has a the combination of being a really exciting and unique place to visit with lots of options for adventurers (including kids), but also lots of options for just lying by the beach and luxuriating. Either way, you will come home from Jamaica truly relaxed and knowing that “every little thing is gonna be alright!”
Eat: Ackee fruit, rum cakes, salt fish, papaya, coconut, pineapple, breadfruit, Jackfruit, plantain (they make yummy crisps from plantain locally too!), goat curry with fried dumplings and Jerk – everything (pork, chicken, fish)!
Drink: Rum, rum and more rum! The trick is to have it with fresh local coconut water which rehydrates you (or so the locals say) and prevents a nasty hangover. Coconut water tastes different here. It’s very subtle, delicious and not too sweet. Drink coffee too! It’s incredible and it’s grown locally. Red Stripe beer. If you need something fizzy and non-alcoholic I liked “Ting,” partly because I just liked practicing my Jamaican accent.
Speak: While English is spoken almost everywhere in Jamaica, if you want to sound like a real local, you’ll need to pick up some of the local language: Patois. I only learnt a few phrases (and most of them are too rude to repeat*) but greeting someone with a “whappen?” (what’s happening?) or a “waah gwaan”? (what’s going on) will earn you some respect.
Listen to: Bob Marley
Watch out for: Hurricanes (between June and September is hurricane season, but these rarely hit Jamaica), the Bermuda Triangle (haha), zika and denge fever (keep applying the deet and see the WHO website for more info), theft (be street smart especially in towns like as Falmouth and Kingston), roads (travelling in the tray of a truck is common and road rules are largely ignored).
Getting there: To get there, you can fly from Sydney or Melbourne direct to Dallas or Los Angeles with Qantas or Virgin Atlantic and then get a connecting flight to Kingston or Montego Bay via American Airlines or Canada Air. There are lots of options from London airports with Virgin or Canada Air, either via New York, Miami.
See more beautiful pictures of Jamaica in our photo album below.
Find out more about visiting Jamaica: http://www.visitjamaica.com
*Ok, I’ll tell you one bad one: “bumboclaat” means something to do with a cloth to wipe your bottom? Don’t say it to a policeman!