Honeymoon in Jamaica
Where to eat, sleep, and play on this Caribbean island
Even though there are many wonderful islands in the world, Jamaica has something special. I have visited many times and finally concluded that the place puts a spell on you—infixing you with a constant desire to return. High, green and gorgeous, Jamaica is a honeymooner's dream, an island with misty mountains that soar to nearly 7,500 feet and beaches that stretch into tomorrow. The accommodations run a tempting gamut from an intimate hilltop inn and a sprawling seaside resort to a hyperactive all-inclusive, stylish full-service hotel. Most of the action is centered along the north coast—spared Hurricane Ivan's fury—from sandy, sultry Negril, past the jangling nerve center Montego Bay, to palmy Ocho Rios and serene, romantic Port Antonio. All will seduce you in different ways.
Hand in hand, you'll fall for Jamaica's zesty food, music (be it calypso, soca, reggae, or the wild new offshoot called dancehall), remote beaches and hidden coves, lazy rivers for canoeing and clamorous step-down waterfalls, and its flowers, birdsong, and starry nights. The island's vivid, engaging people will teach you to relax, take one thing at a time and say "Irie, man"—a universal greeting, a short version of "everything's cool."
Things to Do (Besides the Beach)
There will be sun-blessed hours when you won't wander beyond the hotel beach or swim-up bar, but then you'll feel the tug of an island demanding to be experienced. To satisfy your inner nature child, head for Dunn's River Falls, three miles up the jungly coast from Ocho Rios—Ochie, as locals call it. This steep-stepped series of cascades rises from a native beach to 600 feet through a towering rain forest. You'll imagine you've joined a conga line as everyone starts snaking along the gushing ledges, urged onward and upward by a talky local guide. Feel free to break off from the group and take a dip in a deep, cool pool. How about a raft trip for two on one of Jamaica's scenic rivers? The Rio Grande is the oldest river-raft operation, dating back to 1911, when farmers first ferried loads of bananas downriver. Much later, the actor Errol Flynn, a hell-raising fixture in the area, organized the raftsmen to carry tourists as their cargo. Two people sit snugly in a single seat as a paddler conducts the skinny 30-foot raft along the green river. You'll pass bamboo thickets and twittering birds. You can stop for a swim or let a riverside vendor cut you a "jelly," a green coconut with a still-soft kernel you suck with a straw.
Rent a car or hire a driver and take in the island's culture and history. Jamaica is dotted with great houses, remnants of the long-ago plantation culture. Near MoBay, you'll find Rose Hall, grandest of the great houses, but also the eeriest, said to be haunted by the ghost of Annie Palmer, the so-called white witch who murdered several husbands on the spot. Greenwood Great House, circa 1790, looms on a flower-bright hill where John Crow vultures soar on cool breezes. Pack a lunch and explore the colorful coastal road from Ocho Rios to Port Antonio, full of literary echoes and gorgeous scenery. Near the village of Oracabessa, the seaside house Goldeneye was once owned by Ian Fleming, creator of the James Bond thrillers; today it is a string of lovely rentable villas. The playwright Noël Coward built a house, Firefly, on a nearby hill; it's now a relaxed museum, hardly altered from the glorious days when luminaries like Katharine Hepburn, Winston Churchill, and Errol Flynn were his guests. On the narrow winding road to Port Antonio, you'll pass schoolchildren—boys in tan outfits, girls in blue—teasing and waving, men pushing wooden wagons loaded with sugarcane, and by the side of the road, racks of metal pots and kettles for sale.