Jamaica: Once You Go, You Know

Paradise Palms Villa

Paradise Palms Villa

By Lisa Collins-Haynes

Las Vegas Informer

There’s just something about this place, I can’t quite explain it and I can’t get enough of it.  Jamaica.  I love every aspect, every encounter and every square inch of that Caribbean paradise.  Once you go, you know.

Each time I visit Jamaica it reveals another hidden jewel that I hadn’t discovered previously.  Long ago I decided to forgo the traditional route of touring the country like a common tourist.  Off the beaten path has always been my M.O., so no sense in diverting from what I know best.  I’m finally convinced that I won’t rest until I turn over every rock in Jamaica just to see what’s under it.  That’s how captivated I am with this country.

GreatView Villa

GreatView Villa

So if you love Jamaica as much as I do, or you at least want to see some of the cool things I’ve gotten in to, then follow my lead.  I’m not sure if I’ve explained that getting off the beaten path doesn’t have to compromise your comfort.  For example, luxury resorts with all inclusive, spas and pools are fine for the traditional approach, but consider renting a villa or private home for your visit.  Some offer full staff like the GreatView Villa nestled in Spring Farms or self-catering options are available at Paradise Palms.  A full staff may include a cook, housekeeper, laundress and butler to care for your every need.  Paradise Palms has staff available, but by request.  You are expected to provide your own meals, but can make special arrangements if needed.

Robbie's Seahorse Grill

Robbie’s Seahorse Grill

Hungry?  Well by know you should be.  There are several options to fill any appetite, but let’s remember less tradition and more beaten path.  When tourists are on resort, there are so many restaurants to choose from, one rarely needs to venture out to seek a good meal.  However if you find yourself looking for something different, here are a couple places you can try.  Robbie’s Seahorse Grill at the Montego Bay Yacht Club should not be missed.  Executive Chef Robbie Joseph, has over 35 years of experience combining global cuisine with a twist of West Indian flare.  His creations and signature style leave your mouth watering for an encore.  The cuisine is only matched by the outstanding service provided by a highly trained staff.

GrillFor this next place, you’ll need to jump in a cab and ride about 30 miles outside of Montego Bay to a town named Falmouth.  Have the taxi take you to Herbie’s.  Just in case he doesn’t know where it is, here are the directions: Once you get to the Martha Brae Bridge in Falmouth, turn left.  Then turn left again.  Then turn right onto a gravel road.  At the corner will be a brightly colored shop.  Keep driving until the road ends and you’ll be at Herbie’s (trust me on this one.) Talk about off the beaten path and this is the epitome of it.  Can’t say much for decorations, as it’s only a covered hut with a few booths inside, but what it lacks in sophistication it surely makes up for in taste.  Herbie’s is a local fish hut that specializes in steamed fish and crackers.  You can also get fried fish and conch.  Herbert Mowatt, a local fisherman takes his boat out each morning at 5 a.m. to literally get the catch of the day.  A family owned business for over 24 years, his wife and daughter help run the fish hut.

Sunset - Port Antonio

Sunset – Port Antonio

When you’re ready to place your order, Teka will ask you to pick out your fish.  Red Snapper is my personal favorite, but you can try Butter, Mullett, Parrott, Shad and Snook.  Now Mrs. Mowatt has the secret ingredients to give the steamed fish its bold and spicy flavors.  From my bird’s eye view, I could see that she adds a dry spice rub (salt, pepper, and fish seasoning maybe), chopped callaloo, okra, carrots, escallions and Jamaican crackers.  Then she wraps it perfectly in foil and places it on an open air grill.  About half an hour later you’re wondering how you learned to clean a fishbone so quickly like Heathcliff the Cat from the comic strip.

Royal Mall - Port Antonio

Royal Mall – Port Antonio

How about a little sightseeing now?  Renting a car for the day from Fox Rental Car is my recommendation and either drive yourself or hire a driver. A daytrip to Port Antonio is worth driving the three hours through the windy-windy, twisty-twisty pothole riddled roads of Jamaica.  The countryside drive is very scenic.  The vast amount of the shades of blues and greens that you see in the Caribbean Sea will instantly grab your attention.  The changes in color are determined by the temperature and depth of the water.  On the way, you’ll see groves of cassava, coconut, papaya and pineapple farms in St. Mary’s Parish.

Blue Lagoon

Blue Lagoon

Take time to go rafting on the Rio Grande River and take a stroll on the black sand beach.  The Blue Lagoon, Somerset and Reach Falls are great points of interest and offer beautiful views and a relaxing break from the long drive.  If you want to shop, check out the Royal Mall or Musgrave Market.  Now if you really want to see something that will take your breath away, then it’s worth a drive over to see and take a short rafting trip at the Blue Lagoon.  The beautiful and deep turquoise water will blow you away.  You may recognize the Blue Lagoon from the movie Cocktail with Tom Cruise.  As you wrap up your sightseeing adventure in Port Antonio, no trip would be complete without visiting the Errol Flynn Marina to get ice cream from Devon House and stroll the boardwalk watching the sunset.

Mt. Zion School Children

Mt. Zion School Children

Another interesting tidbit is that the Jamaica Tourist Board offers a program called Meet the People. (MTP)  It’s a cultural exchange whereas tourists are matched with MTP Ambassadors based on similar careers, interests or hobbies.  The ambassadors serve as the local guide for a day and show a more personal and cultural side of Jamaica that can be missed if you don’t know where to look.  Additionally, think about making a difference while on vacation.  Several volunteer and sponsorship opportunities exist throughout the country, check SOS-Children’s Villages.  You may also want to take some time to visit the mystical village of Mt. Zion and read a few books to the children at the Mt. Zion All Ages School for starters.

The off the beaten path type of trip is best for couples, group trips and solo travel.  Your itinerary can be as loose or planned as you please, but one thing is for sure: you won’t be able to see it all in a week’s time.  So ensure that you either plan to stay longer or plan for many repeat visits to the island.

L.HaynesLisa Collins-Haynes

Lisa Collins-Haynes is married and the mother of one daughter. She is currently working as a Freelance Travel Journalist and has had several articles published.  Lisa is a self-professed out of control travel spirit (O.C.T.S) and she invites everyone to follow her new travel blog at www.octsblogger.wordpress.com.

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