(Published in the Caymanian Compass, Weekender, Friday, 21 February, 2014)
At less than an hour away, the busy cosmopolitan city of Kingston, Jamaica, offers a wealth of sightseeing opportunities. For those looking for some rest and rehabilitation, the neighboring Blue Mountains are just a short drive away.
During a recent press trip to Kingston Weekender managed to squeeze in a few hours of sightseeing. Here are some of our top favorite things to see and do.
Bob Marley Museum
A visit to Kingston definitely means a visit to the Bob Marley museum, the reggae legend’s home in his later life. The colonial-era house on Hope Road includes Marley’s personal treasures, photographs, memorabilia, gold and platinum records, as well as his recording studio. The tour even includes the room where Marley survived an assassination attack, with guides pointing out the bullet holes which remain on the walls to this day.
Bob Marley purchased the house in 1975 and lived in it until his death in 1981. It was converted into a museum by his wife Rita Marley some six years later. Dominating the forecourt, painted in Rasta colors, is a life-size bronze figure of the reggae great. Guided one-hour tours, which includes a 20-minute film, run regularly throughout the day and cost US$20.
Scotchie’s jerk stand
No trip to Jamaica would be complete without sampling some local cuisine. Jerk is a Jamaican speciality, and Scotchie’s is one of the island’s most famed jerk spots – it has even been featured on the U.S. Travel Channel’s “No Reservations” hosted by popular culinary personality Anthony Bourdain.
At this rustic open-air restaurant just a five-minute drive from the Bob Marley museum, diners cay enjoy hearty portions of jerk pork or jerk chicken, washed down with a refreshing Red Stripe and a side of festival, bammy or roasted breadfruit. Order at the hole-in the wall, then enjoy your jerk feast at one of the thatched-roof huts. The meat is prepared the authentic way, grilled on sweetwood and pimento wood logs in huge pits, and tastes absolutely delicious. If you can’t make it to Jamaica, Scotchie’s is set to open a branch here in Cayman called Pepper’s Smokehouse at the former location of Aqua Beach, Seven Mile Beach.
Located in the heart of Kingston and just around the corner from the Bob Marley Museum, this stunning heritage site is one of Jamaica’s most celebrated historical landmarks, offering a striking contrast to the hustle and bustle of the city. The mansion is the architectural dream of Jamaica’s first black millionaire, George Stiebel, constructed during the late 19th century. Guided, one-hour tours of the house are held regularly throughout the day.
After, be sure to stop off for ice cream at “i-scream” in the courtyard of Devon House. A household name across Jamaica, the ice cream shop sells more than 27 flavors, including Bordeaux cherry, rocky rivers, Devon stout and sour sop. Be warned though, portion sizes are more than generous; my one scoop resembled about four scoops and I struggled to devour it before it became a melted mess.
Jamaica’s stunning Blue Mountains form the longest mountain ridge along the eastern edge of Jamaica and views from its peaks are absolutely breathtaking. The roads, which criss-cross through the mountains, are narrow, winding and unmarked, so a tour guide is a must. Weekender booked with Sun Island Executive Tours. For US$120 our friendly tour guide Denise picked us up from our Kingston hotel and took us on a personalized tour. Note: The Blue Mountains are often a few degrees cooler, so be sure to take a lightweight jacket or jumper.
Our first stop in the Blue Mountains included a visit to Strawberry Hill for lunch. Nestled 3,100 feet above sea level in Irish Town, the famed boutique hotel and spa features 12 Georgian-style cottages with awe-inspiring views of lush valleys and the city of Kingston below. Guests can enjoy lunch on the porch of the resort’s restaurant with breathtaking picturesque views of the mountains. Reservations required.
Craighton Estate Great House
Jamaica is famed for its Blue Mountain Coffee. At Craighton Estate, just around the corner from Strawberry Hill, a guided one-hour tour will take your through the historic coffee farm where you will see and learn how the coffee is grown and harvested. The historic plantation house was constructed in 1805 by George Craighton and has been linked to many notable figures in Jamaican history, including two governor generals. After the tour, enjoy a cup of the estate’s famed coffee on the porch of the plantation house and soak up the views. Tours cost US$20. A must for coffee-lovers.