Visit virtually any parish or town in Jamaica and you’re bound to find a historical site or tourist attraction. The popular tourist towns, like Ocho Rios, Kingston and Negril, are filled with popular sites and attractions that locals and tourists flock to. There are, however, some worthy gems hidden in the rural towns of Jamaica that are just as beautiful. Check out a few of Jamaica’s best-kept secrets.
One of the oldest botanical gardens in the western hemisphere is the Castleton Botanical Gardens, located in the small village of Castleton, on the outskirts of Kingston. The beautiful, 15-acre (six-hectare) gardens are a peace-lover’s dream, boasting over 180 species of palm and other exotic trees and flowers. The Wag Water River flows through the gardens, adding to the beauty and tranquil nature of the property. Castleton Gardens is popular among Kingstonians as a great picnic location.
Located east of Treasure Beach, Lover’s Leap is a sheer, 1700-foot (520-metre) cliff overhanging the sea. What’s more fascinating than the stunning views the cliff has to offer is the romantic but tragic story of 18th-century slave lovers Mizzy and Tunkey – the couple that inspired the cliff’s name. Lover’s Leap also features a traditional Jamaican restaurant that serves up delicious Jamaican food and drinks.
The remote Windsor Mineral Spring in St. Ann’s Bay is unlike any other body of water in Jamaica. At first glance it may look like a typical spring, until you notice some unusual activity: in a small section of the spring there is water that can actually catch fire. This is believed to be caused by a high concentration of sulfur in the water. ‘Fire massages’ are usually given to visitors and residents even use the pond to cook.
The Luminous Lagoon is one of Jamaica’s true natural wonders. The lagoon glistens blue thanks to the microorganisms that fill the waters, giving off a luminous effect at night. It is located in Falmouth, Trelawny and there are said to be only three of its kind in the world. Tours are offered out into the lagoon, where guests can see this natural treasure up close.
Reach Falls is just one of the many natural attractions that the parish of Portland boasts. The magnificent waterfall is filled with many natural holes carved out by the water, some big enough to fit two people. If you’re brave enough to jump through these passages, it will take you to a secret, underwater cave that leads to the main pool, where a series of cascades tumble over limestone steps.
Wata Land Park is an eco-waterpark in the White River Valley Area of St. Ann and St. Mary. This huge property features a three-acre (1.2-hectare) beach lake with a massive, inflatable floating aqua park at the centre, along with an obstacle course and water slides. The park is the perfect place for kayaking, sailing, swimming and even hiking.
The spectacular Reggae Falls, located in St. Thomas, make for the perfect romantic getaway, or a fun trip with friends and family. The waterfall flows to the Johnson River and one important feature is the section where warm water springs from a rock. According to locals, the warm water can be used to heal wounds thanks to its sulfur content.
Just ten miles from Ocho Rios is James Bond Beach, sitting on a small peninsula at Oracabessa Bay. The beach was named after author and creator of the James Bond character, Ian Fleming, who spent a lot of time in Jamaica while writing and filming his movies. The attractive strip of white sand and clear, blue waters is known famously for its large reggae events and weekend beach parties – but during the week the beach is pretty quiet. Have a drink at the two-storey Moonraker Bar, hang out at the water sports centre or take a stroll along the shore.
Fort Charlotte is a naval fort in Lucea, Hanover, built in 1746 to protect the northern side of the island. The fort has a reputation for being one of the best-kept forts in Jamaica and has been visited by many notable figures, including Horatio Nelson and Captain Bligh. Fort Charlotte was built from rectangular-cut stone and offers a stunning view of the Caribbean Sea. Several features of the fort are still standing, including the artillery store and the circular base for the rotation of guns.
Treasure Beach, in St Elizabeth, lives up to its name of being one of the most beautiful beaches in Jamaica, with six miles of coral-coloured shores, sometimes black sands, red-tinted waters and private coves. At any one of Treasure Beach’s main bays, there are endless opportunities for snorkelling, diving and water sports. Major events and parties are also held here.
Irie River is a beautiful garden park on the banks of the White River, between St. Mary and St. Ann. The stunning 103-acre (40-hectare) property features rainforest, exotic flowers and trees along with the sandy-bottomed river that flows gently through the park, perfect for swimming. Along the grassy banks are seats and gazebos made for picnics.