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Jamaica means beaches, reggae, jerk chicken and chilled Red Stripe beer – a sun-soaked Caribbean vacation where you can kick back and let the good vibes soothe your work-weary soul. Yes, the beaches, such as Montego Bay’s Doctor’s Cave Beach with its crystal-clear sea and powder-soft sand, are gorgeous, and we suggest you schedule plenty of time to make the most of their golden charms. But there’s plenty of other stuff to do too.
Montego Bay, or MoBay to locals, is Jamaica’s second-largest city after Kingston and is the country’s most popular tourist destination. It’s home to Donald Sangster International Airport, one of the busiest in the Caribbean and your likely point of entry, and is also a bustling cruise port. When you’ve relaxed and recharged on that parasol-shaded lounger, why not head out into the surrounding hills and shores, to explore tropical gardens, lush green jungle, grand old plantation houses and watery wonders.
Even closer to Montego Bay, only around 20 minutes by car, is another location where a powerful woman from Jamaica’s past has left her mark. Annie Palmer, the ‘White Witch of Rose Hall’ was the lady of the house at this majestic Jamaican Georgian mansion, and her ghost is said to haunt its grand rooms and stairways. Built in 1770, it is one of the few sugar estate Great Houses left on the island and has been restored to its 18th-century glory with interiors and furnishings of the period. Laid out on a hill overlooking the ocean, the Hall’s gardens are a stunning spot, popular for weddings, and there are two 18-hole golf courses that take you past historic aqueducts, sugar-mill ruins and a waterfall that had a starring role in the James Bond movie Live and Let Die, much of which was filmed in Jamaica. You can also take a tour of nearby Cinnamon Hill Great house, where Johnny Cash and his wife June Carter-Cash spent many of their later years and where a selection of their personal possessions are displayed. Come evening, the Haunted Night Tour – ‘not for the faint of heart!’ – sets the mood for a spirited retelling of the life and death of Rose Hall’s unquiet ghost.
For more fabulous views, from the mountains, across MoBay city and to the ocean beyond, head to eco-tourism gem Ahhh…Ras Natango Gallery and Garden. This family-run attraction encompasses a gallery, a botanic garden, a bird sanctuary, the Outpost juice bar and a craft shop. Take a tour of this little slice of tropical paradise to learn about the delicate orchids, star-burst bromeliads, blousy bougainvillea and other local plant life that is lovingly tended in the terraced gardens and say help to the resident turtles. Birds hop and swoop boldly about the place – around two-thirds of Jamaica’s endemic species can be found here, and if you visit in the morning or late afternoon you might be lucky enough to feed hummingbirds, including Jamaica’s national bird, the swallow-tailed hummingbird, also known as the doctor bird.
The deep-green hills around Montego Bay and the shores bathed by the gently lapping Caribbean Sea – both are equally alluring options for a perfect Jamaican vacation. Perhaps you’d like a property with views across the treetops from the spacious terrace, your own pool and tennis court and a barbecue grill for those balmy evenings – although you can also have your own chef to rustle up delicious Jamaican dishes.
Or is the ocean calling your name? In that case, may we suggest one of our Montego Bay beach villas ? Stone floors, vaulted ceilings, and white walls make for a cool, calm retreat at the end of a long day in the sun – choose a home where the sand is just steps from your veranda, and where beach toys, kayaks, and snorkeling gear are all on hand to help your day go swimmingly. With villas ranging from 4 bedrooms all the way up to 12, there’s plenty of room for everyone, so take your friends, take the whole family, take your wedding party – then sit back and take it easy.