Filter By Categories

NEWS » this-sliver-of-jamaica-isnat-perfect-but-itas-awful-close
next news >>

This Sliver of Jamaica Isn’t Perfect but It’s Awful Close

Source: Daily Beast-
Sometimes words fall short in capturing the essence of a thing. When it comes to Portland, you just have to go there to get it.
The parish of Portland on Jamaica’s northeast coast isn’t perfect, but it’s a close second. When it comes to Jamaica, Negril, Montego Bay, and Ocho Rios suck up all the buzz, but those in the know will whisper to you, Portland is the place to go. 
Its beauty is unmatched. Portland has the highest elevation on the island with the Blue Mountain Peak rising to more than 7,400 feet. It is home to Jamaica’s longest coastline and more than 75 caves. The almost daily rain, because it lies in the path of the prevailing northeast trade winds that bring rain, has an upside—lush, tropical vegetation as far as the eye can see and an embarrassment of riches in banana, coconut, and breadfruit trees. Then there’s the brilliant turquoise waters of the Blue Lagoon, a 180-foot deep extinct volcano, awash in surrounding tropical greenery. Tiny Portland, with a population of just over 80,000, is all about the waterfalls, with four of them—Reach, Somerset, Nanny, and Nonsuch Falls. Reach Falls is the most popular. Go there and you’ll know why. There are underwater caves, a heart-shaped jacuzzi, mountain views and crazy beautiful vegetation. I stepped in one way and came out another. There’s something healing, invigorating in those waters that work wonders.
There’s plenty more to the Portland story. Back in the ’50s and ’60s Hollywood’s glam squad liked to hide out in Portland. Errol Flynn lived in the parish’s capital Port Antonio, the Rat Pack were regulars, Queen Elizabeth II stayed twice during those years at DeMontevin Lodge. Princess Margaret rafted on the Rio Grande in 1955. The Beatles loved Frenchmen’s Cove. Portland was special then and special still.
Its history also includes the legacy of the enslaved Maroons. That Boston Jerk that Portland is famous for, be it slathered on pork, chicken, fish, or whatever else you desire, traces its origins to the Maroons. They “jerked” wild boar by cooking it in pits underground, which they did to prevent the smoke from giving away their location. The seasonings used from nature were highly spiced and the meat was even more flavorful from being cooked over pimento sticks. The annual JerkFest in Boston celebrates jerk cuisine—expect reggae music, rum and brew tastings, cookoffs and more.
Today, Portland’s vibe is chill. Here, jungle plus sea equals serenity. You fall in love with a place where the locals are friendly and everybody has a nickname, like the taxi driver who’s called Jingle because he was born on Christmas or the guy who pilots you on a raft up the Rio Grande. He introduces himself as the Chairman of the Board because he’s in charge, but his real name is Glen. Laughter comes easy in these parts.
For sure though, water is the elixir of life. If Frenchmen’s Cove doesn’t make you ooh and aah something is wrong with you. Water from the Blue Mountains flows to join the Caribbean Sea. The sea and river combo are magical and made more dramatic with the canopy of tropical greenery and white sand beach. If you’re not staying at the resort, you can get a day pass. The food is awesome too and plentiful. Go for the escovitch fish. You’ll get a big red snapper fried and marinated in a sauce of vinegar, spices, onions, carrots, and peppers, rice and peas, and bammy, a flatbread made from cassava. This here is good Jamaican eats.
For the surfers, Boston Beach is the best spot in Jamaica for hanging ten. San San Beach is another favorite. But a must is Winnifred Beach. It’s public. Mix with locals and experience the real Jamaica. The music will be pumping, young folks profiling taking selfies, couples cuddling, families relaxing and for sure the food is cooking from the vendors who have food stands. You might find yourself doing a little shopping with the artisans showcasing their labor of love. A visit here will likely be one of the best memories of your trip.
As for water fun, take your pick, snorkel, kayak, scuba dive, go out on a catamaran or fishing boat. This is a playground for all things aqua. No worries though if you’re not a water worshipper. Explore Crystal Springs, a 150-acre eco-park with bragging rights for one of the largest orchid collections in the Caribbean with more than 15,000 varieties of plants. There’s a bird sanctuary that offers bird watching tours, picnic grounds, fishponds and a river. The Portland Art Gallery in Port Antonio features local’s fine art, landscapes, and portraits. Do take a walk around the Errol Flynn Marina, it’s not far from the gallery. Make your way to the Folly Point Lighthouse and the Folly Ruins. The ruins are a lesson in foolishness. The backstory about how the ruins got its name is that the owner, in an attempt to wow his bride, mixed seawater with the concrete to quickly build the mansion that was as elaborate as a Roman castle. But the saltwater weakened the material and rusted the steel. The building started disintegrating soon after it was built.
What gets you about Portland is its diversity. You can have drinks and watch the sunset at the uber-luxe Trident Hotel, or you can have a good time too at the Likkle Portie restaurant in Hope Bay. It’s a place locals love. Not fussy. Dine outside at a picnic table. The restaurant is right on the beach where the Daniel river spills into the Caribbean Sea, enough said. The home cooked food puts you squarely in the comfort zone. Maybe try the brown stewed fish or curried lobster taken from the fishing boats that pass in front of the restaurant to be cooked over an open fire. If you’re hankering for a burger, stop in Woody’s Low Bridge Place, just east of Port Antonio. Roots 21 Bar & Kitchen is another casual place with great food. The pumpkin talkari, think pumpkin salsa with or without saltfish and served with roti, is an appetizer that sets off your taste buds for the rest of the meal. Somewhere along the way be sure to sample busso. The mollusk is found in Portland rivers. Think of them as river shrimps. Locals put them in soup, in patties and they can also be served jerked or stewed. For fine dining in Portland the best choice is the Bushbar at the Geejam Hotel. Whether you want jerked lamb chops, lobster or escovitch fish, it’s served up with style and the views of the Caribbean Sea from on high set the stage for a memorable meal.
As for where to stay, the Geejam Hotel is the “It” spot. Secluded, luxurious, and home to a music studio, A-list celebs like Drake, Rihanna, Alicia Keys, Beyonce, and Jay-Z have stayed there. With villas, cabins and the newly launched Rumba Rooms, that each have more than 40 pieces of art, you’ll feel like royalty too. Another recent addition is the infinity pool with a panoramic view of flora, fauna and the ocean. Relax on the private beach or take a kayak out. If billiards are your thing, grab a cocktail from the bar and show off your skills at the outside pool table. You can blame an off game on Mother Nature’s distracting beauty. The service is high touch, impeccable. It sucks to go home.
Then there’s Kanopi House in San San. For a total escape, check in here for a stay in an eco-friendly luxury treehouse snug as a bug in a jungle of 100-foot Banyans. The view from the secluded hillside that overlooks the Blue Lagoon is one you’ll never forget. Be ready to walk up and down the winding bamboo and ginger lily pathways. You will get a workout going from the Living Room (restaurant and bar area) to your treehouse. You’ll feel less guilty about feasting on the callaloo, ackee, green bananas, or the signature coconut curry chicken. The sweeping views of the Caribbean Sea over a candlelight meal is romance 101. A rum punch or champagne ensures the evening’s success.
Consider the Goblin Hill Villas at San San Bay. The attraction is the 12 acres of lawns and gardens that overlook nearby San San Beach and Princess Nina Island. Dining alfresco from your villa deck, especially at sunset, there’s no doubt, yes, you are living large. Settle in one of the lovely chairs on the lawn, lock your eyes on the stunning sea and tropical flowers and enjoy the hummingbirds. If you’re so inclined, swim a few laps in the pool, arrange to do yoga in the gardens, a fitness workout, or get a massage overlooking the sea.
Sometimes words fall short in capturing the essence of a thing. When it comes to Portland, you just have to go there to get it.