Jamaica is one of your favorite islands in the Caribbean. Or so you claim. You’ve been to all-inclusive resorts outside of Montego Bay and Seven Mile Beach and Rick’s Cafe in Negril. But those tourist-filled spots are only a small portion of the “Land of Wood and Water.” To really get to know the island, you need to head into the mountains.
After landing in Kingston, spend the day exploring the historic downtown, listening to reggae music around Emancipation Park, and eating spicy jerk chicken—washed down with a Red Stripe Beer, of course. Then, when the afternoon traffic and the heat become unbearable, head north into St. Andrew Parish and the Blue Mountains. The island’s longest mountain range is home to its highest point. You can see both the north and south coasts, along with Cuba on a clear day, from Blue Mountain Peak.
There are supposedly 365 bends on the winding road up the mountain. You certainly don’t doubt it—and you’re glad you weren’t driving—when you finally reach Irish Town. It’s surrounded by thick greenery and fruit trees. The driveway you turn onto is lined with juniper. The air is cooler and fresher and smells like flowers when you step out of the car. Birds are chirping. Jamaican giant swallowtails flutter through the air. While a plantation-style hotel stands in front of you.
That hotel is Strawberry Hill. It’s main building was built in the 18th century for the son of Jamaica’s prime minister. It’s now a quiet hotel where time looks like it stands still. A wraparound veranda has views of the infinity pool with Kingston and the Caribbean Sea in the distance. Winding footpaths lead to cottages nestled into the mountain. While inside your white, wood-framed cottage, you’re welcomed with a four-poster bed, rosemary scented toiletries, and locally made snacks.
By the time you return to the main house, rum punches are being served at the wood-paneled bar. Sip your drink from a hammock and watch dusk fall over the great lawn. Kingston’s lights start to brighten the sky. Candles flicker in the dining room behind you. And your stomach starts to grumble with the smell of grilling crab and fish.
In the morning, watch the blue-hued clouds disperse as you drink Blue Mountain Coffee back on the great lawn. The beans grow up to 5,000 feet above sea level. Hike along the Hope River and cross tiny bridges along the way. Swim in little swimming holes and under strong waterfalls. See a 19th-century British Army base in nearby Newcastle. Learn how the delicious coffee is grown at high elevations at the Creighton Coffee Estate. Then return to the hotel’s spa for a coffee elixir body scrub. Now you can truthfully say Jamaica is your favorite island.