Jamaica is mostly known for resorts in Montego Bay and Ochio Rios. But there’s way more things to do in Jamaica beyond the resorts! If you’re looking for an alternative holidays in Jamaica and prefer a solo adventure, Jamaica’s northeast coast will be a great solution for you.
What’s in Portland and Port Antonio? Sandy beaches including James Bond Beach, misty mountains, nature and even a castle.
I spent a week in Portland and Port Antonio area and explored a bit of downtown Kingston and Port Antonio and made plenty of time to explore Jamaica’s wonderful beaches. I did some rafting down the Rio Grande, swinging around Frenchman’s Cove and even made it to the coffee plantation. Below are my recommendations for things to do in Port Antonio and beyond.
Things to do in Jamaica Beyond the Resorts
Frenchman’s Cove & James Bond Beach
The grounds at the cove spread about 42 acres with villas throughout, however, the actual beach is relatively small, though never crowded. What makes this beach so unique is that the river meets the ocean there, which makes is rough to swim sometimes. And the swings. There are many swings just hanging there, and together with Sher we spent hours on them! The spot is surely photogenic!
This is why this place was used as a Dr No location in a famous scene where Ursula Andress comes out of the water in a white bikini. I’m sure you remember this! In fact, not many people know this, but Ian Flemming wrote a lot of his James Bond books right there at the Frenchman’s Cove in Jamaica.
Entrance: $8 US adults, $4 US kids (4-12)
When I heard that I was going to do some rafting on Rio Grande I thought of being equipped with helmets on grand rapids. But Rio Grande is actually really calm, and the rafts are made out of actual bamboo, which was a surprise. Each long raft offers 2 seats plus the raft captain.
The ride down the river takes about 2 hours and it's nice and smooth. But don't forget sunscreen, as you'll be exposed to sun during the entire ride. You can also raw your own raft if you dare - as keeping the balance on the bamboo isn't the easiest!
If you want to do an extreme rafting experience, you’ll need to go to Jamaica’s Rio Bueno instead.
Jamaica’s Blue Lagoon where you can hire a local to sail you around the bay. What's different at the Blue Lagoon than at Rio Grande? The color of the water, as the name indicates!
You can book a day tour here.
You probably never thought of Jamaica having any castles. Well, me neither, but it does. The castle was commission by Baroness Elizabeth Siglindy in 1960s, who wanted to live there, but she actually never did. During the construction of the castle, an argument between the architect Levy and the baroness led to Levy taking over the estate and making it his primary residence.
The place hosted many famous people, as it can be entirely rented for special occasion and if you're rich enough just for the night. I had a chance to eat dinner there and sitting in its dining hall felt like I'm attending at least a fancy ball.
Two stone alligators guard the castle's entrance. I was told that one was male and the other was female as the sculptor give the female one the vagina as a joke.
Jamaica has mountains too and they're actually beautiful - called Blue Mountains. Their highest point is Blue Mountain Peak (2256 m) from which you can see the entire island from the summit, or even Cuba on a clear day. It's a great place to hike with many trails.
But it can also be a great place to simply visit one of many coffee plantations. There are a few big ones, but the majority of them are privately run. My group was invited into the home of a couple who produces coffee beans. Their coffee and cake they made were both delicious and we learned about the roasting and growing process during our hike among coffee plants.
If you're a reggae fan, you should also make a stop at the Bob Marley's Museum.
The drive takes at least 1 hour to get there from Kingston by car. If you don't want to rent a car, or hire a driver, you can also book a day trip tour here.
Where to stay in Jamaica outside of the resorts?
The Mockingbird Hill
The Mockingbird is an eco-hotel that prides itself on serving only fresh ingredients and daily changing dinner menu. Everything I tried there was absolutely outstanding and if you are looking for a true eco-resort experience, the Hotel Mocking Bird Hill has a unique ambiance all it’s own.
Spanish Court Hotel
If you're up for a city stay in Kingston, Spanish Court Hotel might be your best choice. It's modern, everything works just fine and the food at the restaurant was delicious. So was the breakfast.
What to eat in Jamaica?
The most popular Jamaican dish is jerk chicken. It's basically a spiced chicken breast smoked on a giant grill and cut into slices. It's delicious. But so is any other type of meat and seafood, as everything is freshly grilled.
An interesting place to eat is Juici, which locals describe as 'Jamaican McDonalds'. It looks basic, but serves delicious patties which are very traditional. My favorite one was the one filled with grounded beef and cheese. If you want to get a local experience, you can't miss Juici!
How to Get Around Jamaica?
The fastest way to get around the country is hiring a driver with a car. I'm usually a fan of renting a car and driving on your own, but people really drive like crazy in Jamaica, so it's safer to let someone who knows the rules drive. Also, there are many narrow mountain roads that less experienced drivers might struggle with.
If you still insist on renting a car, a price would be approx. $30 per day.
It costs $300 to hire a driver for a day. Our driver was Willy and he was awesome. You could contact his company Paradise Travel if you want to rent him.
Other practical information:
Trick for saving on water: If you want to save money on water get a LifeStraw Water Bottle. It's a water bottle with special filter that will allow you to drink tap water. Or even some from the pond, puddle or waterfall - everywhere!
Arrange your travel insurance
Don’t forget to arrange a health insure before heading to Jamaica. The easiest and the most reliable travel insurance is World Nomads Travel Insurance. Get it before your trip to avoid unnecessary troubles that might ruin your holidays!