Last week, I had the distinct honor of joining a dozen other travel and lifestyle bloggers on a tour of Jamaica, sponsored by the Jamaica Tourist Board. I'm still processing everything we saw and did on the trip, and will write in more detail about it later. I wanted to share some of the highlights of my trip in photos, and give you some ideas on what to do if you are lucky enough to visit Jamaica.
My companions and new-found friends on this trip were Zippy of Champagne Living, Linda of Welcome to Linneyville, Tami of Talking with Tami, Jewel of Jewel's Fab Life, Stephanie of Trazzler, Tracey of Solo Traveler, Gayle of Hipster Travel Guide, Nancy of Lost Girls World, Brendan of Brendan's Adventures, and Reid of Dotting the Map. Rounding out the group was JJ, the official blogger for the Jamaica Tourist Board's Island Buzz Jamaica. Be sure to check out their blogs over the next few weeks for more tips and photos of our time there.
Here are my Top 5 Things to Do in Jamaica:
1. Shop in a Craft Market
A multitude of Jamaica craft vendors await you at the Old Fort Craft Market, Montego Bay Craft Market and similar markets around the island. Featuring handmade crafts like hats, jewelry, and original carvings and paintings as well as the usual tourist souvenirs, each vendor has a booth filled to the top with items to remind you of your time in Jamaica. I had heard that the vendors can be aggressive, but I found them to be friendly and not shy about bargaining. If you want to exercise your negotiating muscle, you could walk away with some lovely items for a song. One shopkeeper told me, "I'll tell you my price, and will not be offended by your price."
2. Take a Ride Through the Jungle
Chukka Caribbean Adventures offers you the chance to take a nature trail ride on a gentle horse followed by a dip in the ocean on horseback, zoom through the jungle on your own ATV, or take a thrilling ride on a dune buggy up a rocky path to the top of a mountain. If you opt for the dune buggy, like I did, prepare to get dirty as you ford a few streams and giant mud puddles along the way. No worries, though, since there is a shower and changing room at the end of the trail, along with a Jerk stand to get lunch and a bar for frozen refreshments.
3. Have a Close Encounter with a Marine Animal
Ever want to pet a stingray or be pushed through the water propelled by a dolphin? At Dolphin Cove, near Negril, you can do both of these things and more. I am not a good swimmer, so I opted for the "kissed by a dolphin" encounter, where I just waded into the water and let a friendly dolphin named Miguel plant one on me. Miguel let us pet him and did a few tricks for his enrapt and enthralled audience. This is a great place for small kids, who can encounter as much (or as little) of the animals as they wish. Oddly, you can also ride a camel at Dolphin Cove, guaranteed not to spit at you. Unlike our adventure in Egypt, there's no extra charge to actually get off the camel.
4. Visit a Haunted Plantation House
Rose Hall is an imposing, stone house overlooking a gorgeous vista of azure water and white sand beach. The old plantation house was restored in the 1960's by an American couple as a tourist destination. Rose Hall was once home to the cruel tyrant Annie Palmer, a women who murdered three husbands, several lovers, and countless slaves, practiced voodoo and watched slaves being tortured and beheaded for sport. Some say Annie's ghost still roams the passageways of Rose Hall, and the place is definitely creepy. We had a wonderful tour guide named Treisha who regaled us with tales of Annie's treachery and ended the tour with a performance of a song written by Johnny Cash about Annie Palmer. Definitely a must-see for those visiting Montego Bay.
5. Set Sail on a Catamaran Cruise
Dreamer Catamaran Cruises of Montego Bay offers an exciting option for honeymooners and singles who want to live large on the water, snorkel the cool blue Caribbean waters, and party like rock stars in the Jamaica sun. Featuring an open bar, non-stop dance music, a Caribbean dance lesson, and even foot massages for the ladies by a very accommodating crew with names like Spongebob, Hugo Boss, and Shorty. There were no kids on this cruise, and it seemed more suited to an adult audience. The snorkeling was a bit rough on the day we went out, but the sunset and the friendly crew more than made up for it. The highlight of the cruise for me was spotting frigatebirds in full mating regalia, the males with large red throat pouches extended, desperately vying for female attention. We looked for these in the Galapagos, but it was not yet mating season, so we didn't see any with the throat pouches extended like in Jamaica. This was way more exciting than doing the Macarena with the crew for me, but I'm nerdy like that.
Jamaica is full of exciting activities for young and old, with a buzzing nightlife, gorgeous beaches, and hotels to accommodate any budget. What are you waiting for? Like the Jamaica Tourist Board slogan says, "Once you go, you know."
The best activity of all? Just being able to relax and enjoy the view.
Disclosure: My trip, including airfare, hotel accommodations, admission prices, and meals were sponsored by the Jamaica Tourist Board. I did not receive any additional compensation or incentive to write this post. The opinions expressed in this post are original and my own, and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Jamaica Tourist Board.
All photos were taken by Glennia Campbell using a Nikon D90 DSLR. Copyright 2011, All Rights Reserved.