Like her athletes, Jamaica has more than one medal winner when it comes to resorts, writes Jo Cooke
Sun, sea and sand? So far, so classically Caribbean. But rivers, waterfalls and mountains? Exciting attractions, action-packed excursions and city sightseeing? All of the above are possible distractions in Jamaica. In fact, you can offer clients a holiday that feels totally tailor-made to their tastes.
Wherever you point holidaymakers, it should add up to an easy sell. From coast to coast, Jamaica has it covered, offering a unique blend of experiences to suit a variety of client groups. Here is our guide to whether to send them north, south, east or west to get the best from their trip to this perennially popular Caribbean destination.
North coast nirvana
Best for: All-inclusive beach-side partying
Tell me more: Think of Jamaica and Negril, Montego Bay and Ocho Rios are the names most likely to ring a bell. The ‘Big Three’, as this trio of resorts is collectively called, line up along the island’s north coast and each has a USP that reliably pulls in the crowds year in, year out. Montego Bay’s hotels include highly regarded brands such as Sandals, Hilton and Holiday Inn, and the Brucie Bonus here is you can be by the pool within 10 minutes of leaving Sangster International Airport. Top golf courses, duty-free shopping and nightlife options are plentiful, too.
An hour’s transfer to the west, meanwhile, takes you to Negril. Dubbed the ‘Capital of Casual’, these palm-dotted beaches are straight out of a daydream, and lined with bars, craft stalls and reggae hangouts. The town’s West End has clifftop watering holes and eateries for all budgets and is the best place in the country to watch the sunset. Water sports also abound in Negril and the vast majority of accommodation butts right up to the sand.
Ocho Rios, on the other hand, is a 75-minute drive east of the airport, and the one to suggest to those who like a little action with their relaxation. Top-rated attractions Dunn’s River Falls, Dolphin Cove and Mystic Mountain, with its cable car and hilltop bobsleigh ride, are just outside the bustling resort centre that offers craft markets, clothes shops, a cinema and bars where locals and visitors mingle.
Sell it: The north coast is the ideal place to send first-timers who will likely be swept up in the easy vibe, charmed by its natural beauty and impressed by its diverse attractions.
Best for: Luxury-loving adventurers
Tell me more: If clients want to get off the beaten track for a taste of local life, suggest the undeveloped south coast. While the region has a rural backwater feel, clients can still have all the usual bells and whistles at Sandals Whitehouse European Village & Spa in Westmoreland. One of very few full-service hotels in this part of Jamaica, Sandals is set on a glorious swathe of beach that never gets crowded.
Beyond the resort’s elegant, tree-lined drive the winding roads are dotted with fruit stands, fish stalls and coconut sellers, and the landscape is one of cane fields and pastureland. Must-sees include YS Falls, Appleton Estate where you can go on a rum tour, and Black River where a pontoon boat safari along this tranquil waterway showcases birdlife and crocodiles.
Sell it: The south coasts suits honeymooners, nature lovers and those who like to keep things low-key.
East is eden
Best for: Funky boutique hotels and swanky beaches
Tell me more: Picture-perfect Port Antonio is Jamaica’s original resort. It attracted Hollywood’s heyday glitterati including Errol Flynn, Katherine Hepburn, author Ian Fleming, Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton. Portie, as it’s known, still has an air of understated glitz. Rock, rap and reggae stars come to record at Gee Jam hotel’s modern studio, and the yacht-lined marina is still a chic place to have lunch. The town has a faded glamour, too, with dusty period architecture flanking the busy streets.
Portie sees more rain than other resorts, which ensures it is cloaked in exotic palms, ferns and blooms. Nonetheless, the beaches are its stand-out feature. Tucked away behind said tropical foliage, Frenchman’s Cove is secluded and exclusive, while Winnifred Beach is abuzz with locals playing sports, dominos and listening to West Indian rhythms on portable stereos.
Trident hotel is the ideal base, with 13 light and airy rooms set on the ocean and boasting a private beach. Nearby attractions include river rafting along the Rio Grande and visiting the Blue Lagoon, made famous by the movie Cocktail starring Tom Cruise.
Sell it: The east coast suits those who like to be in the know, and enjoy following in the footsteps of the rich and famous.
Capital of cool
Best for: Those who want it all
Tell me more: Jamaica’s metropolis lies on the southeast coast and is hugged by the towering, majestic John Crow and Blue Mountains. Kingston is a hubbub of happenings, with restaurant and bar openings on the rise. It’s hot in the city, though, so to make the most of this side of the country, park yourself in the lofty heights of des res Strawberry Hill. Brainchild of Island Records mogul Chris Blackwell, who signed Bob Marley and the Wailers and Grace Jones, among others, Strawberry Hill hotel has 13 stilted, traditionally crafted cottages etched into the foothills. The views are incredible, encompassing the hinterland, city and ocean beyond.
The hotel can arrange a car and driver to take you on an insider’s tour of Kingston, where unmissable calling points include the Bob Marley Museum at his former home on Hope Road, nearby Devon House, built by Jamaica’s first black millionaire, and Emancipation Park with its controversial Redemption Song, a giant bronze statue of a naked couple.
As if that weren’t enough, at the far reaches of Kingston Harbour you’ll find yourself in Port Royal. Once called Sin City, this is where the real pirates of the Caribbean, including fearsome Bluebeard, enjoyed a life of debauchery in between relieving passing Spanish galleons of their gold booty.
When you fancy a day on the sand instead, arrange to be taken to Fort Clarence Park and Beach at Hellshire where Kingstonians play at weekends and holidays. Dotted with sea grape trees, it’s a great place to take a dip, knock back a rum punch and feast on fried fish and steamed lobster cooked to order.
Back at Strawberry Hill, hike to sleepy villages or make the five-hour climb to Blue Mountain peak, where on a clear day there are views of Cuba. Afterwards, you’ll need to visit the hotel’s Ayurvedic spa or have a cup of Blue Mountain coffee, considered one of the best coffees in the world.
Sell it: With a beach, mountains and a city centre, those who stay in this neck of the woods really can have their cake and eat it.
Turquoise Holidays offers a week at Strawberry Hill from £1,799, including continental breakfast, dinner for two, a Blue Mountain Coffee Scrub for two, a Blue Mountains trip, BA flights to Kingston and private transfers.
Sandals offers seven nights’ all-inclusive at Sandals Whitehouse European Village & Spa from £1,649 including flights and transfers, valid January 4-25, 2017.
ITC Luxury Travel has seven nights’ B&B at Trident Hotel from £2,345, with BA flights to Kingston (economy outbound, World Traveller Plus inbound) and private transfers, departing October 24.
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