Excellent vacations come in all shapes and flavors, but the universal signature of a stellar trip is authenticity. Whether your dream getaway revolves around food, thrills or serenity, savoring the regional twists of a destination is what makes traveling so worthwhile. In the case of Jamaica, authentic experiences abound. While reggae clubs and waterfalls have long been seen as the island’s can’t-miss staples, seeking out the lesser-known highlights rewards wanderlust nirvana. There’s a treasure trove to choose from, but taking the time to adventure out to the following three of Jamaica’s best gems provides enchantment to last a lifetime.
In Jamaica, there’s no shortage of enchantingly cool waters to dip into — Dunn’s River Falls, Island Gully Falls and the endless stretches of pristine coastline all come to mind. But, the Blue Hole Mineral Spring makes for a refreshing break that you may not have heard of.
This swimming hole oasis in Negril is hidden away 25 feet below ground level. The entirety of the cave is karst limestone, which subsequently bestows its mineral properties to the upwelling of water. Thrill-seekers will delight in plunging into the sinkhole from the opening’s edge, while those just looking for a relaxing dip will be equally delighted to know there is a ladder available. Either way, peace of mind is provided by the lifeguards circling the perimeter up top. There is no wrong time to visit; the mineral spring stays open until the early-bird hours of the morning, when the last visitor leaves — something to consider if your Jamaican vacation consists of any late nights.
There are bars, there are beach bars and then there are legendary watering holes — venues so unique they feel like a world unto themselves, removed from the hubbub of everything outside its walls. Pelican Bar represents the latter of the options.
Built atop stilts on a sandbar a mile offshore in Parottee Bay, a first impression of the Pelican Bar may have you thinking “long-lost pirate lookout.” The truth is far less sinister. Local fisherman Floyd Forbes had a dream of a bar rising out of the sea, and promptly acted on it. The dream became a reality in 2001 — the bar had taken shape piece by piece, be it driftwood, scrap wood or palm frond, ferried out in his fishing boat. New additions to the bar’s architecture come daily as visitors are encouraged to bring trinkets (think: license plates and flags) to leave their mark on the spirit of the place, infusing the sea shack with an air of global community.
Originally designed as a hideaway hangout for his fisherman friends, Floyd’s Pelican Bar thrives on maintaining that simplicity. It’s important to understand: This is not a five-star resort bar. The bar’s staff is often busy playing dominoes; there’s a decent chance you’ll be invited to play with them. The drinks menu is what can fit in the cooler: Red Stripe beer, rum punch and rum and coke. The food menu is simply fresh lobster and fish — emphasis on fresh — but it’d still be wise to have your boat shuttle call ahead and order the food for you. You must pay cash, and there are no restrooms — just the ocean. This isn’t a modern venue in any sense; this is an opportunity to enjoy a drink or meal on a tropical sandbar a world away from the rest of the world. It’s a unique definition of paradise, but life experiences as authentic as this are few and far between.
Seafood is certainly abundant, but jerk is the marquee of Jamaica’s culinary scene. Spicy, smoky and savory, there’s no shortage of jerk pits on the island to sample. But, for a choice steeped in both the history of the dish and the island itself, Boston Jerk Center is the clear-cut locals’ favorite.
Located in Fairy Hill, only a stone’s throw from the site of the world’s first commercial pit, this home-grown natural mall is comprised of seven jerk pit businesses — several of which are manned by descendants of the island’s original commercial jerkmen. A cornerstone of the community, there is no locale more driven in the art of jerk — you’ll discover some friendly competition among the vying stalls, with you deliciously caught in the middle. Plan to arrive hungry, and make a meal out of sampling each one’s offerings. With that, the music shack’s sweet serenade and the breath of fresh air supplied by the great Jamaican outdoors, it’s likely this will be your favorite meal of your vacation.
Ready to head to Jamaica and cherish the island’s authentic gems yourself? Give one of our travel agents a call. Not only do they have a wealth of travel insights like the ones above to share, but also their professional relationships provide them with exclusive perks and amenities from the leading names in travel. Savoring all the above is fun, but savoring it as just one part of a luxe getaway — generously provided courtesy of GoGo Vacations — is a fair degree sweeter.