- Coastline Totally tropical treasure
- Coast life Reggae, rum and Rastas
This characterful Caribbean island is full of contrasts and contradictions: jungles with hidden waterfalls, rainforests merging into beaches, a Blue Lagoon and Blue Mountains, and millionaires’ mansions within walking distance from ramshackle huts.
Errol Flynn once declared, ‘Jamaica’s more beautiful than any woman I’ve ever known.’ Flynn fell in love with Jamaica in the 1940s and Ian Fleming and Noel Coward swiftly followed. Montego Bay and Negril still lure in the tourists, but the parish of Portland is a quieter spot, despite being home to some of the island’s most seductive beaches. Expect warmth in more ways than one – spicy jerk chicken, dancehall queens with pulse-quickening moves, sea and sand stroked by sunrays, sizzling soca bars and belly-burning rum. Luckily, Jamaica also excels at cooling down and chilling out. If the heat gets too much, dip into the turquoise waters, sip an ice-cold Red Stripe, and turn your lights down low…
Do go/Don’t go
Port Antonio is a year-round affair. The rainy season (June and October) is actually a popular time to visit, with travellers revelling in the torrential tropical downpours (the rain’s warm at least) that keep Portland so green and lush. Storms are generally short-lived, and there are plenty of dry and sunny days in between. High season is mid December–mid April, and hurricane season is from the beginning of June until the end of November. It’s wise to avoid going during the American spring break (March–April), though Portland is less affected by this than Montego Bay and Negril.
Planes Fly from London to Kingston airport with BA (www.britishairways.com) or Virgin (www.virgin-atlantic.com). The main American carriers also run flights from the usual hubs, along with Air Jamaica (www.airjamaica.com). Air Canada connects Toronto and Kingston (www.aircanada.com). A private transfer flight from Kingston to your hotel costs from US$675 for a single trip in a four-seater plane. You’ll get a bird’s-eye view of the Blue Mountains on the way. If you want to make a grand entrance, hire a chopper from Kingston to your hotel for around US$995 each way (for four passengers).
Automobiles Port Antonio is a two-hour drive from Kingston – drive along the coast or through the mountains (then swap on your way back). If you’re planning on exploring, it makes sense to hire a 4x4 and a driver.
- Taxis A route taxi in Jamaica is essentially a high-speed minibus, offering an on-demand (stops anywhere) service for a random selection of people, travelling in vaguely the same direction. Ask your hotel to book your journeys with a trusted local cab driver (they will also give you an idea of journey costs). Keep your cabbie’s number and be his best customer throughout your stay.