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Think Jamaica is just beer and jerk chicken? Think Again!

Think Jamaica is just beer and jerk chicken? Think Again!

Posted by Shanelle Weir on April 08, 2014

It’s the one Caribbean island that everyone has heard of and everyone has an opinion on – some of them not so good. But whatever you do, don’t listen to the scaremongers and go and find out yourself. It’s a shimmering green gem of a country full of some of the friendliest people you’ll ever meet who are fiercely proud of their homeland and heritage. And there’s no better time to go than spring.

The prices are much lower than high season winter, while the weather is a steady 28-31 degrees and the beaches are less crowded. As Jamaican newbies we had no idea what to expect outside of Red Stripe beer, Bob Marley and Usain Bolt (it’s the birthplace of both men) but quickly discovered we’d landed in paradise. Think Bounty advert white sand beaches, azure waters and swaying palm trees and you’re beginning to get the picture.

Add the towering Blue Mountains, lush jungle, buzzing towns and a million and one things to do and you’re talking. Of course it’s very easy to stay in the bar and on the beach chilling for your entire holiday. Especially if you stay in a delicious all-inclusive resort like Sandals.

Jamaica is the original home of this luxury holiday company that has since spread throughout the Caribbean offering everything tourists need.Our base was the stunning mountainside Sandals Grande Riviera Beach and Villa Golf Resort in the seaside town of Ocho Rios in the north of the island.

With 529 villas, 105 pools and 16 restaurants, all with breathtaking ocean or mountain views, it would have been easy not to have moved. Especially as the villas come with a butler service which will organise everything from restaurant bookings to packing your case for you. It’s not as pompous as it sounds and the lads looking after us – Alshane and Ormando – were more like mates in the end.

But we were determined to explore the real Jamaica outside our resort. Despite what you may have heard, we felt perfectly safe wherever we went and the highlight was visiting Bob Marley’s home in the notorious Trench Town “slum” district of the island’s capital, Kingston. As there was no organised tour, we hired a licensed taxi independently and simply told the driver-cum tour guide where we wanted to go.

Kingston is on the south side of the island, across the banana grove and coffee plantation-covered mountains. The capital is a bustling, slightly overwhelming, sprawl with the downtown port area and its magnificent, if slightly faded, colonial architecture sitting cheek-by-jowl with the posh, corporate buildings uptown.Incredibly there are Kingstonians who live in the city their whole lives and never venture from one part to another.

Our first stop was the Trench Town Culture Yard, which was the young Bob Marley’s first home in the city. Entire families still live in one tumbledown concrete room in this area and you do need to be sensible with your valuables. Bob’s home has now been turned into a museum charting the incredible music to have come out of this part of Jamaica. A local guide will also walk you around Trench Town itself – and while the poverty is depressing, the locals are feisty and friendly.

It’s a sin that more tourists don’t brave the area’s tough reputation.

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Monthly newsletter featuring articles hand picked by our country managers from the best content across the Caribbean Region on PanamericanWorld.