So, you’re coming to The Rock for a two week break in September. You’ve exhausted tips from Les and Brenda on Trip Advisor, who visit Sandals MoBay every year and you want to make sure you’re cramming as much jerk, dancehall, Bob Marley and one love souvenirs into your Jamaican vacation as you can. You’re in the right place.
Ignore the Jamaicans on the flight over, who’ll tell you Kingston is a rotten place even though they haven’t visited since that one time in 1984. It certainly has got an edge but unless you’re hanging out in Tivoli or Mountain View the only crime you need to watch out for is opportunist muggings. But don’t let that put you off. In K-town there are wonders for everyone and food wise you won’t go hungry, relax and enjoy your stay. There are two parts to Kingston uptown and downtown; the latter you have no business being there on your own once it gets dark. In no particular order:
1. Bacchanal Jamaica – Kingston
Introduced in 1989 to Jamaicans by a group of carnival loving revellers, 2016 saw the 28th anniversary of carnival in Jamaica. Bacchanal Jamaica kicks off in January and then continues for some eight weeks to its climax on the weekend after Easter, yeah, that’s right almost 3 months of carnival. Jamaicans love a party. The opening of Mas Camp in February, weekly reveling at Bacchanal Fridays, bi-weekly Socacise classes, Beach J’ouvert, Bacchanal J’ouvert and the Road March attracts revelers galore. Carnival costumes are incredible and prices vary from outfit only to all inclusive including refreshments and meal on the road and final fete make-up.
2. Rockfort Mineral Spa
50x more radioactive than Vichy and Bath. Rockfort is located in East Kingston, close to the site of the “Rock Fort” which gives the area its name, not far from Norman Manley airport. It’s believed the natural spa was uncovered in 1907, as a result of the earthquake which destroyed Port Royal. Come and cure your ailments, just mind the cement dust (factory located right next door) doesn’t give you emphysema. Closed Mondays.
3. Devon House
Built in 1881 it originally belonged to George Stiebel, Jamaica’s first black millionaire. Beautiful property, expertly restored by Jamaica Heritage, ticket includes a free Devon House ice-cream. Ranked 4th best ice-cream in the world don’t you know. Try the popular Soursop or Kingston’s favourite Rum and Raisin.
4. Trench Town Culture Yard
The Trench Town Culture Yard is the “government yard” where Bob Marley and the Wailers lived and composed many of their best known songs in the 70s. The “government yards” consisted of blocks of around 10-20 rooms surrounding a common cooking and washing area. You’ll even get to see Bob’s former residence, the small tenement kitchen where he stayed, that has been left in its original condition (washing up done though). While you’re there check out Trench Town library, they do great work with underprivileged kids and if you could volunteer any time or resources, you’d make some youngsters very happy.
5. Lime Cay
Lime Cay a small uninhabited island approximately 2 miles south of Port Royal. Morgan’s Harbour hotel runs regular boats to the Island (as you drive into Port Royal it’s the first hotel on the right – with a big sign saying Lime Cay taxi) or talk to one of the fisherman . Apparently, at the weekend there is a kiosk there selling food and drinks. Though we visited on a Saturday and there was no kiosk or any sign of food and drinks. So take your own supplies or your romantic visit might result in a trip to A&E with sun stroke and dehydration. Oh and you’ll need water shoes- the water around the island is filled with sea urchins (or sea eggs as they’re known locally).
Lime Cay, (for Morgan’s Harbour) – 1 876-967-8075
6. Fort Rocky
Constructed during WW ll to prevent the German invasion of the Island, it now in ruins. Fail. But used as a party venue. Win.
Fort Rocky,near Port Royal, Kingston, Jamaica
7. The Bob Marley Museum
Kingston’s most visited attraction, the Bob Marley Museum on Hope Road. It was also Obama’s first stop when he first visited Jamaica back in May. I haven’t actually visited. A case of, I only live a mile or so away from it and can’t be bothered. Oh hush now, at least I’m honest.
8. Port Royal
At one time this was called the wickedest city on earth now it’s just probably the place with the most litter. Disaster has befallen the city many times though and it has been repeatedly ravaged by hurricanes and earthquakes. The largest of these earthquakes occurred in 1692, sending 90% of the city under water. Port Royal is now a sleepy fishing town containing crumbling run-down remnants of its former glory. Port Royal residents are what what make this place special. They’re a friendly, hardy bunch and on the run up to Hurricane Matthew (Oct 2016) nearly all residents refused to be evacuated to nearby hurricane shelters. Don’t forget to visit Fort Charles, Horatio Nelson, who later became Britain’s greatest naval hero, lived in the small ‘cockpit’ while stationed here for 30 months. Oh and the Kingston staple Gloria’s – which offers the best seafood in Kingston is only a short walk away. Expect it jerked or curried…
9. Sabina Park Cricket Stadium
I don’t like cricket, I love it. If you’re in town and fancy watching a game, head to Sabina Park, which was established in 1930 when the first test match was played here. Its most famous moment is when Garfield Sobers made a record breaking score of 365 not out in 1958. This record stood unbeaten for 36 years. Opt for a private box over the regular seating to preserve your sanity and hearing. Or you could just stand outside the grounds and pose for a photo, like Jean-Philippe. He’s French and doesn’t understand cricket anyway.
10. Emancipation Park
Emancipation Park provides a very welcome oasis of greenery and tranquillity in the heart of New Kingston. There’s a 500m ‘jogging’ track around the park’s perimeter and a permanent stage where concerts and shows are held. The land was donated by the Liguanea Club (located about 30 metres from the entrance). It’s a private members club but open to the public for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Or follow the smoke and get some jerk action from Sweetwood Jerk, handily located just opposite. For me, I like nothing better than to take a stroll down there on a tropical evening; ideally with an ice-cream from Sub Zero (just over the road) and watch the old fellas playing dominos and chess.