By Lisa Penza
As I stepped from the cool air conditioned airport into the heavy, humid air of Montego Bay, my glasses fogged up. A common, irritating occurrence at home during the summer, made charming by the fact that I was in Jamaica for a few days of sun, sand and spas! While humid, it was temperate and, after a quick stop at Tastee Patties for a ‘welcome’ beef patty, the cool greeted me again as I loaded into the van to head to the resort.
Adrian Harrison, Jamaica Tour Board Marketing Officer, had shared with us the Jamaican Bucket List – a top 10 of sites to see and things to do while visiting. Many locals have their own versions of this list, with most agreeing on certain “must-sees.” Adrian gave us his own personal list and my mind was set to do as many items on this list as possible. I already had one under my belt – try a beef patty, which was completely worth the hype. I’d had quite a few here in New York but, and this really goes without saying, none compared to an authentic Jamaican beef patty. Less than an hour here and I’m well on my way!
Next on this list: climb Dunns River Falls. The falls can be approached by land or sea, so being the adventurous party we were, we took to the sea. We boarded Island Routes Catamaran Cruise and headed off. Ok, so maybe this party catamaran cruise, complete with DJ and bar, isn’t exactly roughing it, but it was a hell of a great time! Stopping for a bit of snorkeling before our trek up the falls didn’t hurt, either.
At the falls, we’re instructed by our expert climber tour guides to hold hands and start the journey up together. The adrenaline rush mixed with unparalleled scenery as we experience a waterfall head on make for an event like no other. It takes about 45 minutes to traverse the falls, of course stopping and posing for pictures along the way. Finally at the top, we take a picture together, thrilled in our accomplishment. Ticking that off the list, we head back to the catamaran and tick off another on the top 10 – have a Red Stripe Beer.
Lunch came next, as well as another top 10 item: trying jerk chicken and pork at Scotchies, one of Jamaica’s premiere jerk restaurants. Prepared for hours on a wooden grill so as not to dry them out during the long cook time, these meats are perfectly cooked. Spiced just right, you can add as much heat as you like, but be warned! The hot sauce is made from the super-strong scotch bonnet pepper, a staple in Jamaican cuisine. A little pepper packs a lot of punch.
Next on the list was bamboo rafting down the Martha Brae River. A completely different experience than our party catamaran cruise and hike up the falls, this is a relaxing, lazy ride on some of the calmest water I have ever seen. The Martha Brae is mineral water, which felt great as my feet hung over the side and our raft guide pointed out sites and explained the history of these unique rafts. Now a popular tourist attraction, these were once used to transport bananas to ports. We took in the scenery as we slowly made our way down the river (our guide assured us – on the Martha Brae, slow is the way to go), it was the perfect time to just sit, reflect and enjoy the simplest pleasures. The sounds of the river, the cows watching us pass from shore, the beautiful greenery. These rafts are built for two, so perfect for a romantic excursion.
Beach at the Jamaica Inn
Having made it this far into my trip without a visit to the beach is practically sacrilege. With some of the most beautiful beaches in the world, never mind the Caribbean, of course a leisurely day on the sand makes it into anyone’s top 10. The water was clear and cool, though still warm enough, made perfect with a rum punch made with Appleton Rum, Jamaica’s own. It was the perfect time to unwind from a hard day of vacationing and prep for the next day of indulgence in Jamaica.
By the end of the trip, my girlfriends and I had managed six of Adrian’s top 10 – we had yet to try Devon House ice cream, visit the Bob Marley Museum, attend a Reggae concert or go horseback riding in the sea. The way I see it, all the more reason to go back to Jamaica!
Next month, come back for a look at the fabulous Jamaica Inn!
To start your own bucket list trip, check these links:
Jamaica Tourist Board http://www.visitjamaica.com/
Island Routes Catamaran Cruise http://www.islandroutes.com/tours/descriptions.cfm?event=ehTours.dspDescription&tid=412&cid=6
Dunns River Falls http://www.dunnsriverfallsja.com/
Martha Brae http://www.jamaicarafting.com/