Jamaica – that land of history, breathtaking landscapes, beautiful beaches – and the birthplace of Reggae Music – is filled with “Irie.” That’s the Jamaican word meaning “everything’s great,” and after a week-long trip to this sun-baked hotspot, I’m happy to report that the island is filled with alluring charm. Is it any wonder, then, that Jamaica, in 2019, has been ranked by Trip Advisor as the Number One Caribbean destination, and the Number 14 Best Destination in the World? In addition, the International Council of the Pacific Area Travel Writers Association (PATWA) named Jamaica as the “Destination of the Year”, while TravAlliance Media has lauded it as Best Culinary Destination, Best Wedding Destination, and Best Honeymoon Destination. (All it takes is one look at the overwater bungalows at Sandals Royal Caribbean resort to see why. Overwater bungalows, to be honest, are one of the world’s most seductive sanctuaries!)
But it is Jamaica’s friendly people that are one of the biggest reasons for all the acclaim. Jamaican people, I have found, are some of the world’s friendliest people, who genuinely wish to see you enjoy their native country. For example, we took a beautiful raft ride down the Martha Brae River (more on this in a minute), and our guide couldn’t have been more warm, down-to-earth, and real. You could just tell that he was proud of his island, and wished to share all of its beauty with us. He was right off of a picture-postcard of the island, and no matter what we asked him about Jamaica, he told us the answer and gave us an enthusiastic, “Yaaman.”
But I’ll give you an even better example. We spent one entire day traveling around the island, with our wonderful driver, Willie Burgess. A wonderful example of humankind, Willie couldn’t have been more professional, helpful, and courteous – right down to getting us some reef shoes so that we could climb Dunn’s River Falls. (More on that in a minute, too). When all was said and done, he went off-itinerary to take us to a special place that he was proud of. It was to the parish of St. Ann, home to the Puddin’ Man. This excursion – which he paid for out of his own pocket — was a delightful surprise – and a delicious one – and now we yearn to revisit this special place on our next visit to Jamaica.
The puddings are made by hand in a nondescript store right off the main street, and they are more like pound cake than pudding, but equally yummy. My favorite was the hot, sweet potato, which is tasty. It has, as they say, hell on top, hell on the bottom, and a hallelujah in the middle. You can even see, outside, the Caribbean steel drums, covered with hot charcoal, in which they bake the puddings. A must-see – and a must-taste.
A Wet Adventure
Jamaica is also famous for its authentic activities beyond the beach. Dunn’s River Falls is a 55-foot waterfall with terraces of cascading water along a 600-foot-long spring. Geologists describe it as a living phenomenon, as it continues to form terraces from sediments in its water, making it a “travertine waterfall.” It is also one of a few in the world, and the only one in the Caribbean that empties into sea. My word of advice? Bring your own reef shoes from home, because you will need them on the slippery rocks. Our guide was amazing as he held my hand to assist me, pulled me up the rocks, and also took pictures – while surrounded by oceans of waterfall waters! Again, our guide couldn’t have been more gracious, and more eager to show us a good time. My husband Bill and I loved this adventure, and it is definitely an activity all family members would enjoy. Don’t forget your towel!
We also went bamboo-rafting down the Martha Brae river, and here’s where I put aside my notebook and simply let my hair down, and b-r-e-a-t-h-e-d. Like I said before, our guide was incredibly sweet, and took great care of us as he explained the flora and fauna, and the birds, and the sky above. Whatever you do, don’t fail to stop and jump in for a quick dip!
My excursion also included a half-day at the posh Half Moon Bay Resort. Inspired by the lush and tropical gardens that surround it, and centuries-old healing traditions from Jamaica, the Fern Tree Spa, as it’s called, is a sanctuary nestled between rolling hills and the azure waters of the Caribbean sea. Treatments are delivered in a nurturing seaside setting that features indigenous plants, herbs and fruit trees. The spa – measuring 68,400 square feet – is also the biggest in the Caribbean, with numerous delights to beautify your body, satisfy your spirit, and even tempt your taste buds.
It also features a full-service hair salon complete with Susan Posnick Cosmetics, and a retail area featuring luxe brands such as Farmhouse Fresh and Elemis. The Country House Line is also available, which is a line made locally, featuring indigenous ingredients from Jamaica. Who doesn’t love that?
In addition to all of this, something else made my jaw drop. I wound up getting a much-needed pedicure, although I wasn’t sure of the price of it at the outset. I treated myself anyway, but my technician, Shelian, felt bad that she hadn’t initially told me the cost. To my complete amazement, she offered to pay for the service – the pedicure she just provided to me – and while I did not accept her generous offer, I was really blown away at just how special she was as a person. That experience is something that has never before happened to me in my life. How incredibly thoughtful!
Jamaica. Is it any wonder it is the island of one love?
For more information, visit www.visitJamaica.com
Look for other wonderful reviews about Jamaica on Trip Advisor.
By: Debbi Kickham