At an altitude of between 4,500 and 5,500 ft. in the hills of St. Andrew is Cinchona Botanical Gardens. Established in 1868, they are the highest botanical gardens in the entire Caribbean. These exotic gardens were designed by a Kew Garden expert back in in 1868. Cinchona takes its name from the tree from which came quinine – the first treatment for malaria.
On a clear day you can take in the views of Strawberry Hill, the Blue Mountains, Liguanea plains, and Kingston. But anyone who has visited knows that’s like saying from the Blue Mountain summit you can see Cuba.
Ah man, it was only a matter of time before one of the main buildings at the gardens came down. I was last there in February 2016 when the structure looked like it was being held up with a piece of string. Now, months later and after weeks of heavy rain, it seems the rotting timbers could take no more water. One of the local gardeners told me, deh rain wata too heavy for it, mi seh, de goverment mussa duh someting now.’ I concurred, they must. But whether or not they actually do anything is another matter. Regardless, there’s still something special about these gardens.
The eucalyptus & rubber trees, cork oaks, birds of paradise & lilies are truly beautiful. It may have fallen into disrepair, but it manages to feel like walking through one of the temperate houses at Kew Gardens, London. Definitely worth exploring.
Directions to Cinchona
The mountain road gets tricky at times (use 4 wheel drive option). If it’s raining it can become impassable as the car just slides in the clay. But if it’s not raining I’ve driven all the way up to the gardens. Previously in bad weather, I parked on a small grassy ledge just after the signpost for Cinchona and hiked the rest of the way up (about a mile or so). Take waterproofs!