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JAMAICA, WEST INDIES TRAVEL & ACCOMMODATION GUIDE - CARIBBEAN

Catamarans Moored outside Margaritaville Pub and Restaurant, Montego Bay, Jamaica
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CARIBBEAN TRAVEL GUIDE
Jamaica Travel Guide:
American Express Travel Gives Jamaica A Top Destination Rating
The Buccaneers - Pirates of the Caribbean   by Anthony Thomas
Dunn's River Falls in Jamaica   by Clint Leung
General Facts About Jamaica   by Dottson Bando
Honeymooning in Jamaica   by Diane McCalley
Jamaica - A Tropical Paradise   by Denny Phillips
Jammin' in Jamaica   by Caitlin Moore
Montego Bay Makes Mondays Bearable    by Caitlin Moore
Natural Wonders In Ocho Rios, Jamaica   by Mark Freeman
Negril Jamaica Vacation   by Harvey J. Williams
Ocho Rios, Jamaica, Shore Excursion Tips   by Lamar Jayden
Planning a Jamaica Vacation   by Anthony Thomas
Boston Beach, Port Antonio, Jamaica, West Indies, Central America
Boston Beach, Jamaica
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Jamaica - A Tropical Paradise   by Denny Phillips

From the brilliant white sand beaches to the diverse island culture, Jamaica is one of our favourite Caribbean tourist destinations. The crystal clear ocean waters and the year-round warm climate makes it the ideal travel vacation for sun-lovers. There are many diversions to keep visitors happy: fishing, scuba diving, wind surfing, horseback riding, swimming, snorkelling, golfing just to name a few. In the evening there is fine dining at Jamaica’s elite restaurants and resorts—combined with truly unique Jamaican cuisine, and the night life is certainly hopping!

One of the best things that I have found about Jamaica is the warm, friendly people and the rich, diverse Island culture blended from around the world. In fact, Jamaica’s motto is “Out of Many, One People.” 
 
Although African and European influences dominate the culture, the British, Spanish, Irish, Indian, Chinese and German are all represented as well. The official language of Jamaica is English, but sometimes you wouldn’t know it as you will most likely hear “Patois” which sounds like a foreign language but is actually a combination of rhythmic English and slang. “Irie mon” is a common phrase you may hear, which really just means “cool” or “everything is good.” The currency in Jamaica is the Jamaican Dollar, but US dollars are widely accepted.

Jamaica is the largest English-speaking Island in the Caribbean and it is the third largest island overall, spanning 4,400 square miles. The best tourist spots are on the north coast, with Montego Bay and Ocho Rios being the most popular, as well as Negril on the west coast. I have toured the whole Island, from Kingston (Jamaica’s capital) through the Blue Mountains to Port Antonio, around the north coast, on down through Mandeville, Alligator Pond and Treasure Beach and back around to Kingston, so I am well able to tell you a bit about each destination you may wish to travel to.

Banana Vendors, Kingston, Jamaica
Banana Vendors, Kingston, Jamaica
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Ocho Rios is located, as I said, on Jamaica’s north coast and is known as Jamaica’s garden centre. Some of the most popular daytime activities include biking, diving, deep-sea fishing and golf. Ocho Rios also has one of the best polo facilities in the Caribbean.
 
Ocho Rios, Jamaica, West Indies, Caribbean, Central America
Ocho Rios, Jamaica, West Indies, Caribbean, Central America
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Of course, the must-see attraction in Ocho Rios is the famous Dunn’s River Falls, where visitors, lead by a sure-footed Jamaican guide, are able to climb up a series of falls that cascade from the mountains to the sea. The falls themselves are a spectacular sight and climbing the falls is an adventure not to be missed. As a bit of trivia, in the film “Cocktail” with Tom Cruise, Duns River Falls is in a memorable scene. Close by, just off of Main Street in Ocho Rios are two craft parks, the Ocho Rios Craft Park and the Olde Market Craft Shoppes, and The Ocean Village Shopping Centre is also nearby. Here there are hundreds of vendors selling local crafts, and everything from gold watches to wood carvings and the famous Blue Mountain coffee. Also, you will be able to sample the traditional jerk pork prepared over an open grill – a spicy culinary experience for the adventurous. There is also duty-free shopping at the Taj Mahal Shopping Centre.

Just west of Ocho Rios in Aracobessa is another favourite tourist attraction, James Bond Beach and Ian Fleming’s former home called Goldeneye.
 
Montego Bay is where most travelers arrive in Jamaica, which is home to the North Shore airport and the island’s busiest cruise ship pier. Montego Bay is Jamaica’s second largest city and is Jamaica’s original tourist hotspot.

Montego Bay’s attractions include a number of plantation tours, as well as a new attraction featuring the legendary great, Bob Marley. For the adventure traveller, there are also bamboo river rafting tours. As well, there is great fishing by fishing charters for marlin, tuna and kingfish. One may also go cycling, golfing, horseback riding or scuba diving here, and there is another popular local shopping district. A popular tour from Montego Bay is to Wyndham Rose Hall Plantation which was once a legendary 18th century sugar plantation, and a popular spot for golfers would be on the Robert von Hagge Championship Golf Course.

Of course, the beaches in Montego Bay are not to be missed. But beware – a friend, while visiting Jamaica, sat under a coconut tree and got conked on the head by a falling coconut, in fact three coconuts! I asked her why she didn’t move away after the first one hit her (of course, the coconuts fell in a bunch of three – but I thought it was funny!) (P.S. – She wasn’t really hurt!)

View over Montego Bay, Jamaica
View over Montego Bay, Jamaica
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Negril is located on Jamaica’s western coast with a seven-mile long fantastic white sand beach. It extends from the nineteenth-century Negril Lighthouse in the parish of Westmoreland in the south to Bloody Bay (so named for the days when whalers cleaned their catch there) in Hanover Parish in the north. Negril is famous for its “hippie” era where the hippies set up a colony there and enjoyed the laid-back lifestyle and “ganja”. From this hippie-era colony, Negril has been labelled the “Capital of Casual”. Although I wasn’t interested, Negril does offer some clothing optional beaches.

Laws control resort development and no building is allowed to be taller than the tallest palm tree. Negril doesn’t offer the extensive shopping of Ocho Rios, but it does have an assortment of unique shops, including the Negril craft market.
 
Cliffside Table at Pickled Parrot at Sunset, Negril, Jamaica
Cliffside Table at Pickled Parrot at Sunset, Negril, Jamaica
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Negril is said to offer some of the best scuba diving in Jamaica. You can also enjoy deep-sea fishing excursions, a vast amount of water sports, and golf at a new golf course, Negril Hills. If you choose to go parasailing, the sight of the sparkling azure waters and the dazzling white sand beach is a truly memorable experience. Other activities can include tennis, squash, glass-bottom boat reef trips, sunset catamaran cruises and spectacular nightly entertainment.

Although I stayed at a number of different locations in Jamaica, a memorable one was at a family-oriented all-inclusive resort. They offered everything one could want, from unlimited alcoholic beverages for adults to baby-sitting services, and even a special snack bar geared to children with all-you-can-eat pizza, macaroni ‘n cheese, and hamburgers. I was very impressed with how the staff entertained and watched over our children. In one instance, our kids were kayaking around a little bay area. 

Being adventurous they ventured out towards open water. The staff member followed them in his kayak and gently herded them back. I was very impressed how he handled it. It was a very pleasant stay there.

On the whole, I love Jamaica, from the warm friendly people to the crystal clear waters and all-year round warm climate. There is not much that Jamaica doesn’t offer for an ideal vacation. The Island is unique in its culture and cuisine (have you tried boiled green banana, saltfish and ackee, jerk chicken or fried breadfruit?) The resorts are experts in what they offer guests – especially the all-inclusive ones. The only thing that I might caution you about is travelling alone/unaccompanied outside of the resorts. It can be dangerous, but if you stay within your resort or take guided tours, you shouldn’t have any problems. “No problem, mon!”

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Denny Phillips, who majored in English at University, has created several articles inspired by her love of cooking, travelling and art. Read other articles by Denny on her websites:    http://www.goodcookingcentral.comhttp://www.vacationtravelquest.com

Dunn's River Falls in Jamaica   by Clint Leung

One of the ports of call for our Royal Caribbean cruiseship during the week of November 28/04 was Ocho Rios, Jamaica. Probably the most famous site in the region is Dunn's River Falls and we chose to tour it on our own rather than through one of the cruiseship tours. Once we disembarked from the cruiseship, there were cabs and shuttlebuses available at the pier. Cabs to Dunn's River Falls were $22 US for a return trip. Cabs allowed 1-3 people per vehicle. We were also told at the pier that small shuttlebuses also go to the Falls at $5.50 US per person. These were also based on return trips. The only problem with shuttlebuses was that we had to wait until they filled up the shuttle before leaving for the Falls so since we were the first on the bus, we had to wait about 15 minutes for it to fill up. The driver then asks you when you want to be picked up at the Falls for the return trip. Our driver suggested 2 hours to see the Falls so we agreed on this time duration.
 
Once at the Falls, a woman then came onboard the shuttle to sell tickets for admission to the site at $10 US per adult person which was the same rate at the park's ticket booth. Once inside the Dunn's facility, there were rentals for special rubber shoes as well as lockers. We carried a small backpack so we didn't require paying for a locker. We also brought along our scuba diving booties so we didn't have to rent those rubber shoes on site either. The cruiseship shop was also selling these rubber shoes in advance. Shoes of some type are highly recommended as the rocks on the Falls can be slippery and some of the bottoms of the water pools are a bit rocky. If you have old sneakers you don't mind getting wet, they will be suitable for the climb up the falls as well. Our scuba diving booties turned out to be sufficient. 
Tourists at Dunn's River Falls, Ocho Rios, Jamaica, West Indies, Central America
Tourists at Dunn's River Falls, Ocho Rios, Jamaica, West Indies, Central America
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The entrance to the site is at the top of the falls so we took some stairs that were adjacent to the falls to the bottom where the beach and entrance to the climb were.

There are official guides dressed in blue polo shirts and shorts who will take groups up the falls. Normally, they will ask to carry all cameras for you so they can take photos of you as you climb. Of course, they expect to be well tipped for their services. Also, groups were told to hold hands forming a human chain up the falls. This was suppose to make things safer but as we witnessed, this method of going up the falls is not a guarantee against falling. We saw a woman let go and she fell down the rocks during one of the steeper sections. She wasn't badly hurt but we imagined that she sustained some nice bruises. There are various points along the falls where you could get off the falls and back on the stairs to walk up the rest of the way. Not everyone there attempted to climb the falls as many were happy to just walk dry along the side on the stairs. We chose not to go with any of the groups which tend to go up the left side of the falls. We made our way up on our own mostly on the right side. With some breaks for photos, we made it all the way up the falls in about 30 minutes. Going with a group would have taken longer for sure. The water is a bit cool and if you have a wetsuit, it is highly suggested that you wear it for the climb. Cameras used there up the falls are also recommended to be water resistant since they likely will get wet. We left our digital camera on the ship and took one of those $25 underwater cameras.

After climbing the falls, we headed back down to the relatively small but uncrowded beach where the ocean water was warmer until it was time to depart. The exit back at the top of the falls was strategically located at the end of a market so we did have to go through some locals who tried to sell us their souveniers. These locals who worked inside the Dunn's site were hustling but not as aggressively as those in the town of Ocho Rios. The shuttlebus arrived at the site parking lot on time as agreed. The total amount we spent including the park admission and the shuttle was $31 US for the two of us. Taking an organized tour through the cruiseship would have cost more than double this amount. So it is quite possible to tour Dunn's River Falls on your own rather than take the more expensive tours. We were glad that we did see Dunn's River Falls but we thought that it was not nearly as impressive as depicted on photos in travel brochures.

The official website for Dunn's River Falls is http://www.dunnsriverja.com

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Clint Leung is owner of Free Spirit Gallery http://www.FreeSpiritGallery.ca, an online gallery specializing in Inuit Eskimo and Northwest Native American art including carvings, sculpture and prints. Free Spirit Gallery has numerous information resource articles with photos of authentic Inuit and Native Indian art as well as free eCards. 

FEATURED HOTELS IN KINGSTON, JAMAICA

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Courtleigh Hotel and Suites, Kingston
Located in Kingston, this business-friendly luxury resort is conveniently close to the airport, near National Arena  and National Indoor Arena. Courtleigh Hotel And Suites has a health club, an outdoor pool, and a fitness facility. There are 2 restaurants as well as a bar/lounge and a poolside bar. A hot and cold buffet breakfast is complimentary to guests. Transportation services at this property include an airport shuttle (surcharge) (available on request) and an area shuttle (surcharge). The staff can arrange concierge services, tour/ticket assistance, wedding services, and event catering. Additional amenities include a nightclub, multilingual staff, and gift shops/newsstands. The property has designated areas for smoking. 
Wyndham Kingston Jamaica
This business-friendly property is located in the business district, in Kingston, close to National Gallery of Jamaica and National Arena. Hilton Kingston has tennis courts, an outdoor pool, a sauna, and a fitness facility. This 3.0-star Kingston property features massage and treatment rooms, a hair salon, and beauty services. Hilton Kingston has a restaurant, a bar/lounge, and a poolside bar. Room service is available during limited hours. Amenities featured in guestrooms include air conditioning, coffee/tea makers, and televisions. 
Jamaica Pegasus Hotel, Kingston
Soaring 17 stories above the financial and business district of Kingston, the Jamaica Pegasus Hotel is an ideal destination for business and leisure travelers. The hotel is within easy walking distance of many international offices, embassies, historical landmarks, cultural venues, fine restaurants and retail boutiques. From the spacious conference rooms, equipped with the technology critical in today's business environment to the lush tropical gardens, perfect for weddings and other never-to-be-forgotten occasions, the hotel envelops guests in elegant warmth, comfort and functionality.
The Spanish Court Hotel, Kingston
This city-center hotel is located in Kingston, close to National Indoor Arena and National Arena. The Spanish Court Hotel has an outdoor pool and a fitness facility. Business amenities at this 4.0-star property include a business center, complimentary wireless Internet access, and meeting rooms for small groups. Guests are served a complimentary breakfast each morning. This property provides an airport shuttle (surcharge). Event facilities include conference rooms. The staff can arrange tour/ticket assistance, wedding services, event catering, and dry cleaning/laundry services. Additional amenities include air conditioning in public areas, self parking, and secure parking. This is a smoke-free property. 
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