One Love Island

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One Love Island
From limestone cliffs and jade lagoons to soaring waterfalls and dramatic mountains, Jamaica’s romantic allure is inescapable. Add sexy spas, reggae rhythms, and moonlit dinners, and you’re in for a tryst.
By Lebawit Lily Girma, AFAR Local Expert
Photo by Lebawit Lily Girma
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    Find Nirvana on Near-Empty Beaches
    Finding quiet beaches away from the masses is possible—but it does require some extra effort. Cornwall Beach is a wide expanse of soft white sand. There may be one or two other couples, but crowds and vendors are delightfully absent during the week. Couples who seek complete solitude, save for a few local fishermen, will find it along the eastern edge of Port Antonio. On the south side of the island, Treasure Beach is as peaceful as it gets, set in a fishing and farming community. Tourist sightings are few, and secluded coves are plentiful.
    Photo by Lebawit Lily Girma
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    Jamaica’s Most Romantic Restaurants
    The Caribbean capital of street food is also well known for fine dining establishments; some are set on cliffs, while others can be found inside caves or along the beachfront. In Negril, couples can dine overlooking cliffs at Ivan's Bar, or al fresco directly above the caves and gushing sea at Rockhouse Restaurant. Waves crash near the entrance, and rose petals flutter around in the wind. At the Houseboat Grill in Montego Bay, a raft whisks diners to the restaurant: a real houseboat floating on the water. Sit on the top deck where you can watch night descend on the hills. Nearby, the Seahorse Grill is a great choice for an al fresco, starlit dinner on the dock of the Montego Bay Yacht Club. The Sugar Mill serves top-notch Caribbean cuisine in a lush garden, beside an ancient waterwheel. If you're in Port Antonio, upscale Geejam offers the most romantic setting over the eastern coastline of Jamaica. In Kingston, 689 by Briam Lumley presents new Jamaican cuisine with dishes like oxtail lasagna, while up in the Blue Mountains, Strawberry Hill's restaurant hosts a popular Sunday brunch and breathtaking views at 3,000 feet above sea level.
    Photo courtesy of David Yellen/Island Outpost
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    Hidden Waterfalls and Coves for Couples
    While many of Jamaica’s waterfalls and coves are world famous, there are still areas where couples can find a place all to themselves. Negril’s cliffside is one such oasis. Spiral staircases lead restaurant patrons down to intimate coves tucked beneath the cliffs. Here, you can dip into clear waters and frolic out of sight in hidden corners. Find your favorite swimming hole at Reach Falls, without a doubt the most stunning cascade on the island. Multiple pools surrounded by lush foliage offer supreme privacy. The Blue Lagoon, in Port Antonio, is a romantic, cobalt blue paradisiacal spot for romantic boat rides.
    Photo by Lebawit Lily Girma
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    Outdoor Adventures for Lovers
    Jamaica offers a vast range of outdoor adventures for lovebirds. Active couples can indulge in a horseback ride for two, bike up in the Blue Mountains National Park at sunrise, or wind through the countryside on an ATV tour. Jamaica’s pristine falls and gardens set the mood for intimate swims or walks. Mayfield Falls are an adventurous, fun hike through a river before reaching a trio of cascades. Rafting on the Blue Lagoon’s 180-foot-deep waters is as mesmerizing as it sounds, as is gliding on the bioluminescent Luminous Lagoon at night, and river gardens like Konoko Falls and Park are ideal for a quiet picnic.
    Photo by Lebawit Lily Girma
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    Romantic Jamaican Road Trips
    Exploring Jamaica by car is an adventure you’ll long remember. One of the most romantic drives is from Ocho Rios south on the A3 through Fern Gully, a three-mile gorge surrounded by rain forest and oversized fern trees. The northern section of the A3 highway passes through seaside towns and reaches colorful Port Maria, with its crescent-shaped beach. Continuing on to Port Antonio and the Blue Lagoon, the scenery grows more sublime the further east you go and winds past towering cliffs, crashing blue waves, and fishermen's shacks. Stop roadside for a meal, before ending up at the gorgeous Reach Falls for a jungle and waterfall escape.
    Photo by Lebawit Lily Girma
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    Where to Drink as the Sun Sets
    Jamaica’s sunsets are nothing short of spectacular. The most romantic spots on the island to catch the blazing sky are on the cliff side of Negril and on the beachfront. As the sky turns all shades of orange and red, sip on cocktails upstairs at Rick’s Café and watch the cliff divers, or pick the lively Ivan's Bar for a more intimate crowd, preceding dinner. Beach lovers can go to Drifters Bar on the beach side, for some live music with a sundowner. Montego Bay gets decent sunsets too—Pier 1 is the best pick for a fancy cocktail with a view, but the Houseboat Grill, set on a boat, is also a unique setting over the harbor. For an unforgettable view of the southern coastline, head to Lovers’ Leap, where legend says two slaves jumped 1,700 feet to their deaths to avoid being separated. Grab a drink from the on-site bar before gazing at the infinite horizon from the balcony. If you're in Kingston, stop by Redbones Blues Cafe for some cocktail and jazz vibes.
    Photo by Lebawit Lily Girma
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    Explore Jamaica’s Glamorous East Coast
    Jamaica’s eastern parish of Portland is the island’s most beautiful, once home to a number of celebrities. A breathtaking mélange of cliffs, canopies, and winding roads lead to such brilliant sights as the Blue Lagoon. On day one, drive to Boston Bay Jerk Centre for a snack before walking over to the adjacent Boston Bay Beach. Swim and sunbathe on this quiet stretch of sand, then head over to Boston Bay Beach next door, so you can brave the waves together with a surfing lesson. On day two, go bamboo rafting on the Rio Grande, or head to the town of Port Royal for some pirate history before catching a boat over to Lime Cay. Check into your choice of clifftop guesthouses, and drive to neighboring Reach Falls, set in a veritable garden of Eden.
    Photo by Lebawit Lily Girma
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    The Gift of Arts and Crafts
    From red, green, and gold Rastafarian sarongs to intricate woodcarvings, it’s tough to leave the island without a bag full of handmade arts or crafts. The most unique selections are found on the west and north coasts. In Negril, stroll through the beachfront crafts market—a maze of stands filled with carvings, clothes, and locally made trinkets. Be sure to haggle. Browse the paintings and crafts at Ahhh Ras Natango Gallery, before or after a stroll in the magical gardens. Also be sure to check out Harmony Hall Gallery, four miles east of Ocho Rios, for stunning paintings and crafts from more than 100 artists. Recover from all that shopping with a meal at Toscanini’s on the gallery’s ground floor.
    Photo by Lebawit Lily Girma