Jamaican me crazy - Feb 2022
I consider myself a seasoned traveller and have booked holidays with Abbotts Travel previously. With all the restrictions ever-changing and having not left the country in over two years, I was nervous and went to seek Julian's advice at an appointment at Abbotts Travel.
He gave me great ideas on places to go to in Jamaica, as well as advising on the various complicated form filling required and sorting out a PCR test. As it was last minute, with four girls to organise, it was fantastic that he could put the flights on hold while everyone made a decision – otherwise, it’s like herding cats.
Wednesday: Finally, we’re on a BA flight jetting to the sun with a Moon Jamaica travel guidebook and a G&T. Kenny’s Tours collects us at Montego Bay airport in a minibus and drives us the hour and a half along the coast. It’s dark and we’re tired from the excitement of our 10-hour flight for our 10-day trip and we slumber in the back.
Arriving at Skylark in Negril, gorgeous graphic retro prints greet us in the reception area.
The spacious bedroom has a large four-poster bed, wicker baskets, cool décor with turquoise and pastel pink accents, and a striped ceiling.
We enjoy an ice-cold Red Stripe and share snacks alfresco at Miss Lily’s restaurant, enjoying the warm evening air.
Thursday: In the morning, stepping out onto powder white sand and seeing various stunning shades of azure blue sea, the waves lapping – it’s a slice of Caribbean Paradise.
A firm but fair and much-needed massage is divine at the hotel.
Strolling down Seven Mile beach, a parasailer gliding overhead, marvelling at the beautiful pale pink conch shells. The sun sparkles on the warm water as we’re serenaded by a passing band playing … what else but reggae.
Dinner is red snapper fish washed down with too much rosé and we delight in listening to the orchestra of tree frogs from our room balcony.
Friday: A beach walk before breakfast barefoot on the sand. We see a sign Welcome to Hanover which seems apt as I have a slight hangover today.
Ahh, just what we need - coconut water, as we stumble across friendly RJ who is selling coconuts. He cuts them with a machete to pop a straw in. We walk along to sit on a deserted beach watching a pelican fish: twisting, diving and plunging into the water.
As we walk back, RJ hacks off the lid and makes a spoon out of the coconut for us to eat on the way home. Hotel breakfast is a generous portion of yummy poached eggs and roast potatoes and a fresh watermelon juice.
At the hotel boutique, I can’t resist buying a gold ‘One Love’ bangle, before dashing to catch the hotel’s courtesy bus out front to its sister hotel Rockhouse. We lounge around the stylish boutique hotel perched over Pristine Cove and swim in the turquoise blue infinity pool.
Onto Rick’s Cafe for sunset and rum punch with a cherry on top. We watch the spectacular diving with spectacularly loud music. The lifeguards and divers plummet from high platforms into the water below as a live show blares on stage. Boats gather on the waves to see the divers and the orange setting sun, which is probably nicer than being in the super loud bar.
Walk to Catcha Falling Star and a leisurely wait in the beautifully lit Ivan’s bar allows us to indulge in several cocktails on the cliffs.
Saturday: Taxi to Dolphin Cove to get fitted into a tiny life jacket for a swim with the smiling dolphins. It’s set on 23 acres on the sea, and it’s amazing. The trainers whistle as Great Egrets swoop in for the thrown fish.
We dance, kiss, are towed along, and even pushed up under our feet by two dolphins soaring through the water. The photos are expensive, and we don’t look our best, soaked but happy, but worth the brilliant memories.
Into the aviary where colourful lovebirds surround us, land on our handfuls of seed to feed and even on our heads. Matilda, the ostrich next door snaps the feed up in jerky unladylike movements. Lunch is a huge portion of jerk and curry chicken, rice and peas (in Jamaica, dried beans are known as peas).
We eventually turn up late to meet friends at Half Moon beach after a lost cab journey to be greeted by an apt sign “Running late soon be there”. There is a private... actually make that... a Pirate, party which makes for great people-watching at the bar under a carved wooden mermaid. Another spectacular sunset, and then we head to Fireman’s Lobster Pit for dinner.
Sunday: We meant to visit the Blue Hole sinkhole, but the blue sea beckons and we’re feeling lazy. A beach walk to see the coconut seller who shows us his catch of the day, proudly holding up an iridescent parrot fish. This afternoon we take a boat trip to tiny Booby Cay island with unlimited Rum Punch and Red Stripe. The capricious captain barbecues us a delicious lobster lunch and we head back, tipsy and garlicky from our booze cruise for the peachy perfect sunset.
Tonight, we head south in a taxi for a couple of hours to Treasure Beach dozing on the rocky dark road. Next stop is Jakes Hotel on Calabash Bay, which has just been listed as one of ‘The best family hotels in the world 2022’ on Conde Nast Traveller and is reminiscent of one of our favourite places, Pikes in Ibiza.
Our whimsical hotel garden room has peppermint walls, and recycled glass bottles set into the walls for a stained-glass effect. Double beds with white mosquito nets, a fan, mahogany furniture, turquoise and yellow blinds, funky and fabulous printed armchairs. A retro walk-in blue-tiled shower with a seashell framed mirror is in the bathroom. The artworks in our friend’s breezy sea view room would look at home in the Saatchi gallery.
Monday: Breakfast at the brightly painted octopus tables by the outside pool overlooking the ocean. We feast on Spanish cheese and Callaloo (a cross between spinach and spring greens) omelettes washed down with fruit juice. These are so delicious we order them all week long, sharing French toast and fruit platters. The staff are very charming and helpful.
Walking past the colourful bungalows, marvelling at the ocean view, blue skies, and flowering cacti, as hummingbirds flit amongst the tropical gardens, to the deserted little Jack Sprat beach. Then a scramble over rocks and twisted buttonwood tree to the Frenchman’s Beach. The coastline is more rugged here than Negril's picture-postcard sea views.
We book a boat to Pelican Bar, Floyd's legendary bar perched on stilts on a sandbar in the ocean. The wood has been carved with visitors’ names so we befriend the carpenter with his ‘Bob Marley’ roll-up to carve ours too. A light rain shower means we head inside the bar, decorated in number plates, caps, and flags, for an entertaining game of dominoes.
Tuesday: The hotel organises a driver for our tour which takes us through Black River town and Middle Quarters to YS falls. We hang out on the Zipline, kitted out in harness, big gloves, and helmets. We glide down the five ziplines over the waterfalls. After our exhilarating and muggy descent, a guide leads us to the waterfalls for a refreshing dip. He takes photos as we swing on a rope swing, splash about and swim on the spot, fighting the current of the falls.
We watch the incredible ‘doctor bird’ hummingbirds dart around as we exit via the gift shop.
At Appleton Rum Estate to see the factory and taste the rum. Peacocks strut around the grounds as we grab lunch before joining the tour. Sampling the rum is obviously the highlight, and the blue plastic Smurf-like ponchos amuse us when there is a sudden downpour and we’re too punch-drunk to care.
Wednesday: We spend a very happy morning browsing in nearby Callaloo Butik (we first met Claudia at Skylark). The shop is well-curated and stylish, so full of lovely things, great gifts, soaps, homeware, clothing, and accessories. The best type of therapy… retail therapy. This afternoon is spent chilling on the beach, wearing my new African print shorts.
Thursday: At Jack Sprat’s restaurant in Calabash Bay there is music playing on the breezy outdoor deck overlooking the ocean. Reggae and dance records hang on the walls and there’s a great rum bar where we buy Pina Coladas and souvenir baseball caps.
Friday: We meet the infamous Eggy at his bar-restaurant shack on Frenchman's Bay on Fisherman’s beach.
Tonight, we end up back at Jack Sprat’s for dinner – there’s fresh, grilled seafood and lobster pizza, and a bonfire blazing on the beach.
Saturday: Sad to leave, but it’s time to Montego home.
The hawkers on the beach were few and far between, polite, friendly, and not hassle-y at all. In fact, everybody was friendly, and we didn’t feel threatened at any point. People are pretty relaxed out there. Or stoned? 70% of the population smoke according to the lovely taxi driver that drove us in the wrong direction for some time, so if that's true, I believe he may have been in the top percent!
Pay in Jamaican dollars. All the prices will be in US dollars however it works out cheaper when paying in local currency. I used a Revolut card plus I ordered Jamaican dollars travel money from the Post Office in advance.
Written by Crystal McClory
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