A trip to Jamaica is, for many, the holiday of a lifetime. Think of golden sands, clear water, friendly people and laid back lifestyle…..sounds like bliss!
For the majority of visitors to this colourful island, it’s enough to lounge on the beach, sipping a cocktail and letting the world go by. Perhaps a tour or two to the major sites – Dunn’s River Falls, Kingston Town, the Bob Marley Museum – will be enough to quench your cultural thirst. But look behind the typical holiday in Jamaica, and there’s a whole other world waiting to be explored away from the well trodden tourist trail around Montego Bay
Want to get off the beaten track in Jamaica? Here are a few top tips on how to get the most of your time on the island.
- Hire a car and get inland
You’d be surprised at how different the landscape and atmosphere is a couple of miles inland and away from the tourist centres. Remember, much of Jamaica caters to cruise passengers who never stray far from the port. A quick drive away from Montego Bay will, for example, show you the parts of Jamaica that tourists always miss – tropical countryside, isolated villages, beautiful scenery…..the list is endless.
- Visit local markets
We’re not talking about the larger ones that cater mainly to tourists at Montego or Ochos Rios. We’re talking getting down with the locals in their own comfort zone. Try Linstead market for some real local vibe, maybe you’ll even hear someone singing “Carry mi ackee goa linstead market”
- Climb the mountains
Lush scenery, spectacular views, animals, birds……and complete seclusion. A trip to the mountains will get you away from the masses and open your eyes to the real Jamaica.
- Discover secluded beaches
Wonderful, secluded beaches exist all over this island, and few apart from the very lucky are aware of them. Get away from the packed and soulless tourist beaches and head to Treasure Beach for some quality time with the sea.
- Trek in Cockpit Country
Perhaps one for the more adventurous, Cockpit Country is a vast untouched area of Jamaica, perfect for hiking and quiet reflection. Best to trek here with a local who knows the area well.
- Meet the locals
There are plenty of tour companies organising tailor made outings to a ‘typical Jamaican’ home. Nice indeed, but if you want real independence why not try a day’s volunteering at a local school or community centre? You’ll see a side of the country normally hidden from tourists, and give something back to the people.
- Do the Black River with a local
The longest river in Jamaica, known for its dark colour and interesting and varied species of animals (including crocodiles!) is very much on the tourist trail. But walk on past the tourist boats crammed with cruise passengers and take a relaxing authentic trip with a local fisherman for a 100% – they’ll have the time to point out a lot of things that the mass tour guides won’t!
- Rent an apartment or villa or arrange a stay with a local family.
Ok, so staying in a villa is not exactly showing you how the average Jamaican family lives. But it will give you a lot of independence and more insight into the country than staying at an all inclusive resort – you’ll have to do your own shopping, cook your own food and be largely independent.
Even better, try and arrange a stay with a local Jamaican family! Some adventure and alternative travel companies can organise this for you, or you can use your own contacts to get an authentic taste of Jamaica!
Uncovering the unseen side of Jamaica will be rewarding and entertaining, and you’ll have an opportunity to directly support the local community. You’ll see sights and places that most only dream of, and meet friendly and opening people.
Beware however that some areas are remote, and assistance can be long in arriving if you get into trouble. Keep your wits about you in large towns and cities and remember that this is a developing country and crime does happen.
Millions of people visit Jamaica every year and have a trouble free holiday. They return with stories of great food, beautiful scenery and welcoming locals. So don’t let the odd story about crime stop you going off the beaten track in Jamaica!