For the uninitiated, Jamaica is a land where contrasting elements clash and then combine in endlessly cool ways.
It’s marketed as sun, sea and sand yet has a vibrant, verdant mountainous interior, it’s legendarily laid-back but inhabitants need to be industrious and innovative to survive and it’s the home of conscious reggae but US country music is perpetually popular.
Stay in the package tourist compounds that permeate resorts like Ocho Rios and Montego Bay and the most you can expect to experience is a sanitized version of Jamdown that doesn’t let you truly taste the contrasts which make it much more than the sum of its parts.
But provided you plan properly, it’s possible to safely stray further afield and unlock the unique magic of this Caribbean gem.
With that in mind, read on to discover some hidden hotspots any traveler to Jamaica should take time to explore.
The history of Jamaica’s Maroons stretches back into the 17th Century, when they first escaped the Spanish colonists who enslaved them and formed free African communities in the island’s treacherous Cockpit Country.
They later fought a guerilla war against British forces which was so successful that the Brits sued for peace and granted the Maroons an autonomous status which they claim to this day.
Arrange a tour of Accompong from Ocho Rios and you’ll experience this mind-blowing living history first-hand and meet descendants of the rebel army which fought off two formidable colonial foes.
Local guides will walk you through their history and you’ll see landmarks from their famous campaigns, learn about the healing power of herbs and potions and even witness traditions preserved for posterity which are probably lost to their African homelands.
For many locals and visitors alike there’s no better place on earth to chill out completely, crack open a cool Red Stripe beer and consider your next move than Jamaica.
But here’s a well-kept secret that you won’t read about in many mainstream travel publications – the best way to relax in Jamaica might be booking a cabin at Zion Country in Portland.
This excellent eco-lodge complex is owned and operated by the charismatic Free-I, who emigrated here from his native Netherlands back in the 90s to create his own portion of paradise.
The brightly-colored cabins are comfy but basic, there’s a private beach where you can spot manatees, the food from chef Owen is simply to die for, and friendly locals will happily share a beer or three with you while you set the world to rights.
Jamaica’s tourist industry would benefit Jamaicans more equitably if the country differentiated itself from competitors by marketing cultural experiences like those we’ve described more widely.
But until the nation markets itself in a more nuanced way, you can take advantage of attractions like those above feeling relatively uncrowded and exclusive.
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So ends our article, but please share your thoughts on hidden Jamaica in the comments section.