Monday, December 12, 2011

Port Antonio - The Other Side of Jamaica

Portland Parish, or Portie, lies in the northeast portion of Jamaica, stretching from the Caribbean Sea across the Rio Grande Valley and up into the Blue Mountains. AKA the “Other Side of Jamaica”.  The lush, green landscape of Portland and its undeveloped, non-commercial atmosphere is a far cry from the all inclusive resort-oriented Jamaica that most tourists experience.  The parish’s capital, Port Antonio, is a charming, rural town on a twin harbor complete with narrow streets, a marina, a central square and lively market. The area surrounding Port Antonio is ideal for the independent traveler seeking economical and eco-friendly accommodation in the form of villas, guest houses, rustic beach-side huts and cliff-side cabins.  Many of these places can arrange for pick-up and drop-off at the Kingston or Montego Bay airports.
Boston Beach
Portland's secluded bays, pristine beaches, woodland waterfalls, “bottomless” pools, and panoramic mountain views make it the most scenic and peaceful part of Jamaica.  Most visitors come to Portland for the nature-based activities: hiking, birdwatching, butterfly watching, river rafting, eco-trips, horseback riding, snorkeling/diving, deep sea fishing, caving, camping and more. Notable attractions include:
The Rio Grande
The Rio Grande / River Rafting - River captains use poles to guide you down this lazy river on 20 foot long bamboo rafts, originally designed for transporting bananas.  It takes about 3 hours to complete the cruise from  Berridale to St. Margaret's Bay, with stops along the way for food and drink.

Frenchman’s Cove - 5 miles east of the center of Port Antonio. Tucked away in a cove fed by a freshwater stream, it is considered one of the world's most beautiful beaches.  Open to the public. Admission Fee approx. US $4.

The Blue Lagoon - A 180 foot deep fresh water lagoon surrounded by a tropical garden.  Legend has it that the pool is bottomless and some sort of dragon lives in it. The water comes from springs in the surrounding mountains and is an unusual shade of turquoise and blue.   A National Heritage site. 

Blue Mountains
The Blue Mountains - Heard of Blue Mountain coffee? This is where it comes from!  The Blue Mountains rise up from the sea and culminate at Blue Mountain Peak, which, at over 7,895 feet, is the highest point in Jamaica.  There are many challenging hiking options in the Blue Mountains, often leading to breathtaking waterfalls and/or through rainforests.  Temperatures in the mountains are much cooler than the rest of Jamaica. 

Boston Beach - Fifteen minutes east of Port Antonio, Boston Beach is the home of jerked pork and  chicken, and has a cluster of stands that serve up these tasty snacks.  The public beach attracts surfers.

Winnifred Beach - Locals hangout on a scenic bay between Dragon Bay Beach and Boston Beach. Portie residents are campaigning to keep Winnifred Beach free and open to the public. 

San San Beach - Lengthy white sand beach with a protected coral reef just offshore.  The place to go for snorkeling and observing sea urchins, fish and other marine life.  Entrance fee $6.
Somerset Falls
Somerset Falls - Waterfalls and swimming holes in the rainforest. About 10 miles west of Port Antonio.  Also has a short hiking trail with views of the water. 

Reach Falls - Dramatic falls in the middle of the jungle with a narrow hiking path that leads to a cave and whirlpool.  Open to the public from Wednesday to Sunday.  US $10 for adults and $5 for children under 12.

Nonsuch Caves - A cave system with nine different chambers of stalagmites and stalactites...and bats!  On a coconut plantation with a botanical garden and a nice view of Port Antonio. 

Jamaican Music - Mento, Kumina, Maroon drumming and other indigenous musical forbears to Reggae can still be heard throughout the island.  Legendary Mento band the Jolly Boys are from Port Antonio.

Maroon drumming
Six Water Grog will be visiting Portland Parish in April 2012.
All photos courtesy of Port Antonio Tourism. 

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