The image of sea, sand and sun is what often comes to mind when one thinks of a vacation in Jamaica, coupled with lots of rum and jerk chicken. You’d be surprised to learn that there are many sides to the ‘Reggae Isle’, including the popular ecotourism sector loved by yogis, environmentalists and nature-loving tree huggers. ‘Sustainability’ is the buzzword and accommodations all around the island offer farm-to-table cuisine and the chance for guests to get down and dirty in the fields.
If you consider yourself a natural green thumb or just prefer to stay at lodgings that are mindful of the environment, you’ll find a wide array of places to stay and things to do. Hotel Mockingbird Hill in Portland is a Green Globe certified hotel that has earned twice the American Express/CHA’s award for being the most Environmentally Friendly Small Hotel. You’ll find 10 charming eco-boutiques tastefully decorated with locally made furniture crafted from sustainable wood. This hotel also works closely with the Jamaica Conservation and Development Trust to help offset carbon emissions generated by visitors and practices efficient solar energy.
The nearby Great Huts is another environmentally friendly bed and breakfast that offers a variety of activities within the mountains that it calls home. Guests have the option of hiking the famous Blue Mountains on foot or bike, splashing in the refreshing rivers that run through the mountains or rafting cozily along through the blue lagoon with an expertly endearing guide.
The Golden Eye Hotel has hosted the likes of actors Harrison Ford, Johnny Depp and Quincy Jones; supermodels Naomi Campbell, Kate Moss and Christy Turlington; chef and decorating icon, Martha Stewart; and singers Harry Belafonte and Fatboy Slim who have all donated US$1000 to the Orracabesa Foundation and planted a tree in celebration of their participation in the program. The Plant-A-Tree Initiative aids in community development through health projects, environmental initiatives, educational projects and sports programs.
A tour inside the Green Grotto Caves in the aptly named Discovery Bay, St. Ann takes visitors underground and back to a time of Jamaica’s first inhabitants aids in community development through health projects, environmental initiatives, educational projects and sports programs. Trek inside to view the stalactites and stalagmites and reward yourself with a dip in the underground lagoon.
From tour-operated visits to World Heritage Sites like the Blue and John Crow Mountains National Park, the Underwater City of Port Royal and the Seville Heritage Park, to walking tours in Falmouth and treks off the beaten path inside the hills of St. Ann and on the black sand beaches of the South Coast, the nature lover will love a vacation in Jamaica for the breath-taking site, fresh food, warm and friendly smiles and authentic scenes.
- by Monique Solomon