If you’re new here, welcome. It’s my blog anniversary week and I’m hoping to celebrate by pushing out one post every day this week. Wish me luck, I’ll need it. You may not have had a chance to read up on the blog and learn that I’m Jamaican. **Bup Bup** **Sounds off Dancehall Horn**. Big ups to all my Yardie people. You also may not know that August 6th is Jamaica’s Independence Day. On this day, like a few others throughout the year, Jamaicans all across the world celebrated Independence with a ceremonious meal (ackee & saltfish, dumplin, plantain, etc), at some Jamaican Association celebratory event, or at the dancehall the night before. If you haven’t noticed, “turning up” is what we do. Besides burnin’ up the track–big ups to Usain Bolt, you’re still the greatest to EVER touch the track. We likkle but tallawah. Rather, we’re a small island, but we’re not to be underestimated.
This year, Jamaica celebrates 55 years of Independence, and I thought what better way to celebrate with my readers than to share 7 things you must do while in Jamaica:
Visit Dunns River Falls
Dunns River Falls, I would say, is probably Jamaica’s most popular tourist attraction as it seems even people who’ve never been to the island have heard of it. It’s a famous waterfall located in Ocho Rios, just down the road from the second must do on this list. Visitors typically enjoy climbing up the falls, taking photos, and watching the sunset. Like a few of the other items on this list, I learned a bit about Dunns River Falls that I didn’t previously know:
- Used as a filming site in a James Bond movie
- It’s the location of the legendary “Las Chorreras” battle between the English and the Spanish for claim over the island
- Its iconic layered tiers are made of limestone rock
- “It’s one of the few travertine waterfalls in the world that empties directly into the sea”
- It’s referred to by geologists as a “living and growing phenomenon” because it “regenerates itself from deposits of travertine rock” Source: www.visitjamaica.com
Go To Mystique Mountain
Located in Ocho Rios not far from Dunns River Falls, Mystic Mountain is literally an adventure land positioned in the Rain Forest. You read that right. And it isn’t for the faint of heart. You’ll take a ski lift up to the top of the mountain which is a whopping 700 feet above sea level. From the top of the mountain, you can see the coast line and the port area where the cruise ships come in. It’s a truly breathtaking view. On to the adventure. At the top of the mountain, there are a bunch of fun activities which include a bobsled track, zip lining, a waterslide with an infinity pool, and an area with memorabilia and information about Jamaica’s historic bobsled team.
- Zip Line – Fun but scary as hell! There are 5 or 6 lines of different types and lengths, so once you start you have to finish as it’s the only way down. Jamaicans have a sense of humor so be prepared for your guides to mess with you (especially if you’re scared)!
- Water Slide – If you love a great view make sure you spend a little time in the pool as it overlooks the coast line.
- Bob Sled – The track is suspended in the rainforest and it resembles a rollercoaster. It looks like a casual ride, but don’t be fooled. Those bobsleds go much faster than they appear to. It’s a lot of fun though.
I may be biased, but I think Jamaica is probably one of the few places in the world where everyone’s belly will leave happy. Your diet aside, there’s something for everyone, and it’s usually delicious. In fact, whenever I go, I scale back eating to make sure I’m hungry enough to eat to my heart’s content. Go ‘head and eat your way through Jamaica. It’s totally that serious. It may sound silly to have eating as a ‘must do’ item because you have to eat, but food is such a major part of the Jamaican culture. There are some food experiences you absolutely must have if you go (diet depending) or else you’re cheating yourself out of the full Jamaican experience.
- Tastee Patties – Tastee is the BEST brand of patty in the world, don’t debate me. If you’ve never had a tastee patty, you don’t know what a
goodreal patty tastes like. Most people are typically only aware of chicken and beef patties but there are other variations like shrimp, veggie, etc. For a more filling meal, place it inside some coco bread to enjoy as a sandwich.
- Jerk Chicken On the Side of the Road – I tell people you don’t know real, authentic jerk chicken until you’ve had it off the side of the road in Jamaica. It’s typically grilled in a barrel grill (see picture below) and often served with a slice of hard-dough bread (Jamaican white bread) and bbq sauce if you’re interested. If you’re a pork eater, try the jerk pork as well, it’s just as amazing.
- Fish – Roasted or fried fish is another Jamaican staple that is also often served along side a slice of hard-dough bread or a few pieces of festival (fried dough/cornmeal). I will warn you that roasted (wrapped in foil) or fried fish is often served whole, so if you’re afraid of seeing the fish head you’ve been warned!
- Ackee & Saltfish – It’s the traditional or national dish of Jamaica and is typically eaten for breakfast with any number of sides such as rice, bread, dumplin, or boiled banana and yam. It’s my absolute favorite meal ever in life and I could (and would without question) eat it at any time of the day. Ackee is actually the national fruit of the island and is native to West Africa. Many believe the yellow edible portion resembles scrambled eggs. What we refer to as saltfish is salt cod or in some places called Bacalao. The combination of ackee & saltfish may seem odd –fruit and fish–but it’s a marriage of salty sweet goodness that’s heaven sent.
Visit Devon House
Devon House is a National Monument and historic landmark in Kingston built in 1891 that was the residence of Jamaica’s first Black millionaire, George Stiebel. It was preserved and is a pretty popular landmark today that has a restaurant, museum and many other interesting features available to the public. The house still has some original pieces in it. I actually had to research the history of Devon House because my childhood memories of it centered around the ice cream. Yes, ice cream, or Devon House I Scream. If you make it to Devon House, make sure you have some ice cream, it’s like no other.
Visit Green Grotto Caves
The Green Grotto Caves are another slice of Jamaica’s rich history located along the island’s north coast between Ocho Rios and Montego Bay in Discovery Bay. The caves are known to have been used first by the Arawak Indians, later as a hiding spot by the Spanish, by runaway slaves, by arms smugglers running to Cuba, and most recently as a rum storage house. Apparently, a grotto is a cave with an underground river and the green part of the name comes from green algae on the walls, hence the name “Green Grotto”. There is a lake inside the caves made of a mix of salt and fresh water. Two cool facts that I learned about the caves are that they were used in a James Bond movie and that they are considered to be Jamaica’s first natural attraction.
Go to Port Royal
Port Royal is an infamous town with quite an interesting history, to say the least. It was once known as the ‘wickedest city on earth’ and is most famous for pirates, having been considered the headquarters for pirating in the 17th century. It’s also known for its sunken city where in 1692 a devastating earthquake hit the island and a tsunami that followed literally swallowed part of Port Royal and sunk it. I’m not sure how much–if any–of the sunken city can be seen today. Port Royal is also home to the oldest British Fort in Jamaica, Fort Charles, which can be toured today. Aside from its infamous background, Port Royal is known locally as a town where one can go to find music, dancing by the beach, and fish! Remember those fish frys I mentioned earlier?
Bob Marley Museum
Do I really need to say more? If you don’t know who Bob Marley is…you’re getting a little ahead of yourself reading this post first. Only arguably the most famous person and the most popular ‘symbol’ of Jamaica, the Bob Marley museum in Jamaica is at his home. You can take a guided tour of the museum and see many of Uncle Bob’s (as I affectionately call him) personal affects. If you love reggae music, this is definitely a must do. It doesn’t get any more authentic than this.
I’ve always grown up knowing Negril as a major tourist town and I suppose it’s still seen that way. It’s home to many popular adult only hotels such as Hedonism II, known for diving points, and Seven Mile Beach is regarded around the world as one of the top ten beaches. Speaking of diving, if you’ve heard even just a tiny bit about Jamaica, I’m willing to bet you’ve heard (or seen) about diving at the famed Rick’s Cafe. I’m not sure at what point Rick’s Cafe became a world famous diving location, but I sure am entertained by those brave enough to jump. Sometimes I wonder if people even go there for food and drinks anymore!
Well, that’s my list of 7 things you must do while in Jamaica, but please know it could be much much longer. There is so much to see, to eat, and to do in the land of wood and water. Happy 55th Independence to all Jamaicans, at home or abroad!
Have you ever been to Jamaica? Have you done any of the items on this list? Did you do anything in Jamaica not listed here that you thoroughly enjoyed? Let me know in the comments!
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