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36 Hours in Jamaica

36 Hours in Jamaica

Posted by Shanelle Weir on March 31, 2014

Sun, sand and sea: a timeless recipe, readily available throughout the Caribbean. But sun, sand, sea — and city? Visit Jamaica to indulge in that one. Sure, the resplendent island has a range of resort areas where one can merrily get one’s beach-bum on. But it’s also got Kingston, a woefully underrated, misunderstood metropolis. Yes, there are slums and there is crime. But there is also cosmopolitan culture, pulsating night life, a booming local music scene and a host of other urban delights. With a new airline (Fly Jamaica), a 130-room Marriott under construction in the island’s capital, modish-yet-playful new lounges in both international airports (Club Kingston and Club Mobay, decked out in sprightly Jamaican colors) and restaurant openings across the island, it’s an ideal time to take a side of city with your sand, and heed the tourism board’s Bob Marley-inspired mantra, trite yet spot on: Come to Jamaica and feel all right.


1. Bolt to Bolt | 1 p.m.

Just after touching down in Kingston, pay homage to that most-revered Jamaican. No, the other one: the one who runs, not sings. Usain Bolt’s Tracks & Records is a restaurant, sprawling sports bar (with more than 45 TVs, including a 20-foot one) and ultracool shrine to the fastest man alive, complete with Brand Bolt products for sale. The menu is a mix of classic Jamaican dishes, like roast fish and viscous red pea soup, and funky remixes, like jerked chicken quesadillas and the “jam Asian Cobb salad.” Lunch will come to about 1,200 Jamaican dollars, or $11.40, at 105 Jamaican dollars to the United States dollar. (Almost all businesses in Jamaica accept local or United States currency; they may charge in one or another, but accept both.) Look for the monthly “Behind the Screen” concert series, which features big-name reggae artists, unplugged.

2. R&R Downtown | 3 p.m.

Kingston is the mecca of R&R. That’s reggae and Rastafarianism, two of the Caribbean’s most monumental cultural movements. Get a crash course in them, along with a snapshot of Jamaican history, flora and arts, at the sundry museums that make up the Institute of Jamaica in historic downtown Kingston, near the waterfront. There’s the National Gallery, which nicely fuses classic Jamaican art with avant-garde exhibitions; the Natural History Museum; the Jamaica Music Museum; and Liberty Hall, which honors the back-to-Africa pioneer Marcus Garvey in the original headquarters of his Universal Negro Improvement Association ($5 admission for adults).

3. Sunset Cocktails | 6 p.m.

Surprised that concrete-jungle Kingston is so beautiful? Be triply surprised as you watch the sun set in shades of ginger over the majestic Blue Mountains while sipping a martini at Sky Terrace, on the roof deck of the chic Spanish Court Hotel. The SoHo-style 107-room hotel, which opened in 2009 as the first new hotel in Kingston in over three decades, has steadily improved, adding a rooftop spa, an eclectic gift shop and, later this year, a modish wine bar.

4. Local Celebrity Dining | 8 p.m.

Call him Jamaica’s Jamie Oliver: 27-year-old Brian Lumley, former chef to the French ambassador and the face of several local brands, is perhaps the island’s most talked-about celebrity chef. His new restaurant, 689 by Brian Lumley, sits in the heart of New Kingston, the tourist-friendly hotel hub. Its specialty is pasta with West Indian flair: pesto and lobster, jerk chicken linguine and conch penne. (Dinner, about 7,000 Jamaican dollars for two, with wine).

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