Explore Port Antonio and Jamaica’s East Coast

Explore Jamaica’s dreamy east coast landscape and experience rugged cliffs, peaks, waterfalls, and ancient forts. Port Antonio and the east is one of the lesser visited areas of Jamaica, in part due to the lack of a nearby airport. Yet the Port Antonio region is home to some of the lushest and most spectacular scenery on the island, and a string of the alluring public beaches for which Jamaica is known.

Port Antonio, Jamaica
This tiny hideaway overlooking the sea near Port Antonio originally served as a live-in recording studio for performers such as No Doubt, Alicia Keys, and Amy Winehouse. Although recording sessions still go on, Geejam is now a seven-room hotel, its guests often honeymooning couples acting out fantasies having nothing to do with rock and roll. Geejam’s cabins, especially, are very private, and guests sometimes spend days taking meals on their veranda and splashing in their outdoor Jacuzzi without being seen by anyone but the staff, who appear only when called. Of course, who wants to stay hidden forever when the Bushbar restaurant promises convivial chitchat, an occasional game of pool, and even live music? Not to mention that the hotel beach, in a cove across a road at the bottom of the property, promises four-poster sunbeds and, yes, Wi-Fi.
Fairy Hill, Jamaica
Located along a stretch of coastline that’s sometimes called the birthplace of jerk cuisine, the Boston Bay Jerk Center is hard to miss. Various meats are cook on open pits using a technique that may explain why jerk never tastes so good at home: Uncured pimento logs are placed over a bed of hot coals, and the meat is laid directly on the green logs. The whole operation is then covered up by a sheet of corrugated zinc and cooked until it’s black on the outside and tender underneath. You can place your order by the quarter, half, or full pound. Don’t forget to add jerk sauce, which you can also buy by the bottle as a souvenir.
Blue Hole Rd
You’ll more than likely gasp when you first glimpse this 180-foot-deep, jade- and sapphire-colored body of water surrounded by verdant rain forest. Though you can spot it from the road as you drive along Port Antonio’s east coast, the Blue Lagoon is best appreciated while gliding across it on a bamboo raft. The entire scene looks straight out of the movies, which is why locals would probably tell you that it was a location for the eponymous 1980 movie starring Brooke Shields (which, in fact, was filmed in Fiji). Even if you don’t hop on a raft for a float, at least get out of the car to take in the stunning view. (An on-site restaurant and deck were closed for renovation some years back and still haven’t reopened.)
Off the coast of Port Antonio is a small, uninhabited plot called “Pellew Island,” otherwise known as “Monkey Island"--there used to be a colony of imported monkeys here. To get here, you could first head to San San Beach, a beautiful and private stretch open daily (10 a.m.4 p.m daily, US$5). Rent a kayak and snorkel gear and make your way over to the small plot, within clear view ahead. The island is completely covered in vegetation, there’s a small white sand beach, and the waters are shallow. Rest your kayak on shore and snorkel around the island for as long as you please. Visibility is incredible and this is one of the best snorkeling spots in the area. Just watch your step if you’re barefoot, as there can be sea urchins on the seabed.
Few venture this far east in Jamaica, but those who do will find one of the most authentic sides of the island, and the most secluded of getaways. A charming fishing village about thirty minutes past Port Antonio, Long Bay is as peaceful and scenic as it gets, with just a handful of affordable, casual guesthouses perched atop dramatic cliffs and overlooking a long stretch of deserted beach. No frills here, just nature and culture. The fresh ocean air, the roadside fresh seafood shacks and friendly locals will have you staying longer than you planned. Be sure to drive along the coastal highway and head as far as Manchioneal, another stunning fishing village that feels thousands of miles away from the touristy side of Jamaica.
Manchioneal, Jamaica
Reach Falls is an off-the-beaten-path delight. Located up in the John Crow Mountains on Jamaica’s east coast, this 30-foot jade-colored cascade tumbles into several pools in the surrounding rain forest. You’ll need a bathing suit and a waterproof camera to capture the natural splendor. Local guides are available to help you make your way across the swimming holes and levels, and show you the best spots. Or you can explore it solo. Because of its distance from tourism spots, there are no crowds, no harassment, just an entrance fee to your very own Garden of Eden. On-site changing rooms are available as you exit by the parking lot. Small fun fact: The falls play a minor role in the 1988 Tom Cruise movie Cocktail.

Port Royal, Jamaica
Port Royal, once known as the wickedest city on earth and the Sodom of the New World, revels in its pirate past. The once-great city, now a fishing port, was at its height in the 1600s, when numerous brothels and drinking establishments thrived on pirates’ plundered gold. In 1692, the effects of an earthquake submerged part of the port, a tragedy that has actually preserved the town from being torn down or built over. Entire buildings and streets are clearly visible just beneath the water. The town that remains on dry land offers visitors fascinating archaeological sites to explore, including fortified walls, cannons, and crumbling buildings.
Port Antonio, Jamaica
For those who aspire to travel as trendsetters in Jamaica, it helps to know that Port Antonio, way out on the eastern end of the island, is the destination to head for. And the address to shelter at is the Trident Hotel, whose 13 waterfront villas would not look out of place on South Beach. Nor would the crowd that hangs around its infinity pool or in its restaurant, Mike’s Supper Club, where local musicians and the occasional celeb sit down to knock out tunes on the 1917 Ferrari-red grand piano. The Trident Castle, a kind of fantasy annex, is a former private residence whose grand rooms, sea-view terraces, and dollhouse-size chapel make it ideal for destination weddings. A hard road to get there? Not for guests who avail themselves of the helicopter pad.
Port Antonio, Jamaica
This stunning white-sand stretch, just a five-minute drive east of Port Antonio, is the only beach in Jamaica with waves high enough to surf. Boston Bay is also one of the few remaining public strands on the island. It continues to attract more locals than tourists and as such is nearly vendor-free. You can watch kids splashing about on their boards, or you can rent your own for a Surfing 101 lesson. Be forewarned: As at many beaches, sometimes the waves are flat, but you can console yourself with a short stroll down the beach to the famous Boston Bay jerk chicken stands.
Port Antonio, Jamaica
Stroll inside the Errol Flynn Marina, located right in Port Antonio town, for a waterfront respite along manicured lawns and sailboats. Enjoy an afternoon “I-Scream” cone from the on-site Devon House, a household name in Jamaica. There are public benches by the water, as well as bars and restaurants. If you can, stay long enough to enjoy the sunset.
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