Don't like Jamaica, oh no, I love it

You don't have to travel with a lover to enjoy the romance of this Caribbean island, writes Janet Matricciani

THERE ARE really only two ways to holiday in Jamaica: wild group parties at all-inclusive hotel resorts such as Hedonism in Negril, where wearing a bikini is over-dressing; or romantic escapes to deserted sandy coves with your dream partner. Having recently got married, the latter option seemed ideal to me, despite my husband's inclination towards the former.

We started off in Kingston, ignoring warnings from friends that it was too dangerous. The capital city has its own tourist attractions: the Bob Marley Museum, for example. Bob is something equivalent to Robin Hood or Hiawatha in folk-hero status here, and for $7 (pounds 4) you get a mini- tour around Bob's empty house, see the bullet holes where he was shot but didn't die and the bed where he had cancer and did, and get to watch part of an 80-minute "documentary". (Bob in concert with no supporting commentary.) If you are lucky, you might even see some of his many offspring hanging out in the back yard.

Kingston also houses the National Gallery of Jamaica, a collection of good restaurants, several five-star hotels (I recommend The Courtleigh), and much else besides.

However, our plan was to rent a car and drive north through the Blue Mountains (where Jamaica's top-quality coffee of the same name is produced), and then stay in a quaint hotel located in a small bay on the other side of the island. As it turned out, my husband suddenly had a crisis at work and couldn't come. I was forced to settle for the romance of solitude.

I hopped into a little rented Mazda and I was off. There is only one decent road across the middle of the island, but - just in case visitors find the route too easy - several side tracks lead misleadingly into the distance. The drive through the Blue Mountains is simply stunning. Spectacular bushes and yam plants hide the real produce: marijuana (known as "ganja"), and the views over hill after hill are magnificent, especially at sunset or sunrise.

Finally, after about two hours, I emerged on the northern side of the mountains. Here, the road forks in two. The left lane goes off into Ocho Rios ("Ochie" if you really want to blend in), a mega-tourist resort that is usurping Montego Bay in popularity as a port of call for cruise ships.

There is a nice Italian restaurant called Evita's on the hillside overlooking the harbour, and some pretty foliage and a few jungle flowers in Shaw Park Botanical Gardens, but the real attraction is the rather crowded Dunns River Falls: water cascading rapidly over a series of pools that eventually drop 600m into the sea.

Dunns would normally just be a photo opportunity, but then someone had the bright idea of climbing up the pools. Now, daisy-chains of humans line up patiently at the bottom just for the pleasure of laboriously winding their way up the shallow pools amid the thronging masses. If you are this desperate to hold hands, go to a singles resort.

Ocho Rios and Mo Bay are also popular destinations with the honeymoon crowd. My friend Charlotte got married at the Sans Souci Hotel, one of many resorts run by the Superclubs group. The hotel will organise everything (photographer, video, flowers, champagne, cake, and music) - all you need to do is supply the groom.

I took the right turn at the fork and headed for the Blue Lagoon (yes, the one made famous by the Brooke Shields film). This is a delightful location, set at the end of a short but appalling road. (Watch for the tiny sign indicating your arrival.) A lingering dip in the lagoon, with its mixture of cold and warm patches, is therapy of the most blissful sort. The water is completely unpolluted, as are most of Jamaica's water spots and beaches.

Refreshed, I motored on to Port Antonio, a bustling colonial town that is rapidly being restored to its former glory. The downtown markets are fast and furious fun. I was too late to drive the hour-and-a-half up to Berringsdale, where rafts set off on leisurely two-hour trips down the river. This was apparently a favourite activity of Errol Flynn and Princess Margaret, though not together, I guess.

Finally, I arrived at the romantic Dragon Bay Hotel, located on the coast about 40 minutes drive from Port Antonio. Double rooms - and almost all guests are couples or families - are about $100 (pounds 61), with a free upgrade to a suite if the manager takes pity on you for being a woman all by yourself. I ended up in a beautiful suite with wicker furniture, a huge bed and windows looking onto a private cove.

I ate lunch by myself and lay out in the sun, even declining the offer of a scuba trip. In the evening, I watched the Saturday night show but when the fire-eating "Jungle King" suggested I take a walk in the woods with him, I knew it was time to call it a night.

The next morning, it was time to begin the eastern route back to Kingston. Along the way, I discovered the fairly hidden Reach Falls (I had just finished my dip when the tourists arrived); the mineral baths at the aptly named town of Bath (my skin turned a peculiar shade of green that wouldn't wash off for several days); and a beautiful deserted beach, Long Bay, the best kept secret on the island. As the customary early- evening torrential downpour began, I headed for Kingston, ready to tell my husband what a singularly romantic time I had had without him.

FACT FILE

jamaica

Getting there

Air Jamaica (tel: 0181-570 7999) offers non-stop flights from London to Jamaica for pounds 440 plus pounds 20 tax from 1 October to mid-November, rising to about pounds 700 around Christmas.

Getting around

Island Rental Cars, based at the Hilton Hotel in New Kingston, rent cars from pounds 45 to pounds 60 per day.

Where to stay

In Kingston, the Courtleigh Hotel costs about pounds 60 per night; the Hilton or Meridian Hotels cost about pounds 100 per night. Dragon Bay Hotel rooms and villas cost from pounds 60 to pounds 150. Contact the Jamaican Tourist Board (tel: 0171-224 0505). For details about Hedonism II, contact Calypso Travel (tel: 0181-994 7878). An all-inclusive week, with flights, costs pounds 1,199. For other packages, contact Elegant Resorts (tel: 01244 987999) and Thomson Holidays (tel: 0171-387 9321).

Further information

Jamaican Tourist Board, 1-2 Prince Consort Rd, London SW7 2BZ (tel: 0171-224 0505).

The Independent travel offers: Discover a world of inspiring destinations

Arts and Entertainment
books
Voices
Caustic she may be, but Joan Rivers is a feminist hero, whether she likes it or not
voicesShe's an inspiration, whether she likes it or not, says Ellen E Jones
Arts and Entertainment
The Doctor and the Dalek meet
tvReview: Doctor Who Into the Dalek more than compensated for last week's nonsensical offering
Sport
Diego Costa
footballEverton 3 Chelsea 6: Diego Costa double has manager purring
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Life and Style
3D printed bump keys can access almost any lock
techSoftware needs photo of lock and not much more
Arts and Entertainment
The 'three chords and the truth gal' performing at the Cornbury Music Festival, Oxford, earlier this summer
music... so how did she become country music's hottest new star?
Life and Style
The spy mistress-general: A lecturer in nutritional therapy in her modern life, Heather Rosa favours a Byzantine look topped off with a squid and a schooner
fashionEurope's biggest steampunk convention heads to Lincoln
News
Dr Alice Roberts in front of a
peopleAlice Roberts talks about her new book on evolution - and why her early TV work drew flak from (mostly male) colleagues
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Star turns: Montacute House
tv
Travel
ebookHow to enjoy the perfect short break in 20 great cities
News
i100Steve Carell selling chicken, Tina Fey selling saving accounts and Steve Colbert selling, um...
Arts and Entertainment
Unsettling perspective: Iraq gave Turner a subject and a voice (stock photo)
booksBrian Turner's new book goes back to the bloody battles he fought in Iraq
News
The Digicub app, for young fans
advertisingNSPCC 'extremely concerned'
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Some of the key words and phrases to remember
booksA user's guide to weasel words
Independent Travel Videos
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Amsterdam
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Giverny
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in St John's
Independent Travel Videos
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Travel

    Business Development Manager / Sales Pro

    £30 - 35k + Uncapped Comission (£70k Y1 OTE): Guru Careers: A Business Develop...

    Graduate Sales Executive / Junior Sales Exec

    £18k + Uncapped Commission (£60k Y1 OTE): Guru Careers: A Graduate Sales Exe...

    Web Developer / Software Developer

    £25 - 60k (DOE): Guru Careers: A Web Developer / Software Developer is needed ...

    Oracle 11g SQL 2008 DBA (Unix, Oracle RAC, Mirroring, Replicati

    £6000 - £50000 per annum + Bonus+Benefits+Package: Harrington Starr: Oracle 11...

    Day In a Page

    The other Mugabe who is lining up for the Zimbabwean presidency

    The other Mugabe who is lining up for the Zimbabwean presidency

    Wife of President Robert Mugabe appears to have her sights set on succeeding her husband
    The model of a gadget launch: Cultivate an atmosphere of mystery and excitement to sell stuff people didn't realise they needed

    The model for a gadget launch

    Cultivate an atmosphere of mystery and excitement to sell stuff people didn't realise they needed
    Alice Roberts: She's done pretty well, for a boffin without a beard

    She's done pretty well, for a boffin without a beard

    Alice Roberts talks about her new book on evolution - and why her early TV work drew flak from (mostly male) colleagues
    Get well soon, Joan Rivers - an inspiration, whether she likes it or not

    Get well soon, Joan Rivers

    She is awful. But she's also wonderful, not in spite of but because of the fact she's forever saying appalling things, argues Ellen E Jones
    Doctor Who Into the Dalek review: A classic sci-fi adventure with all the spectacle of a blockbuster

    A fresh take on an old foe

    Doctor Who Into the Dalek more than compensated for last week's nonsensical offering
    Fashion walks away from the celebrity runway show

    Fashion walks away from the celebrity runway show

    As the collections start, fashion editor Alexander Fury finds video and the internet are proving more attractive
    Meet the stars of TV's Wolf Hall... and it's not the cast of the Tudor trilogy

    Meet the stars of TV's Wolf Hall...

    ... and it's not the cast of the Tudor trilogy
    Weekend at the Asylum: Europe's biggest steampunk convention heads to Lincoln

    Europe's biggest steampunk convention

    Jake Wallis Simons discovers how Victorian ray guns and the martial art of biscuit dunking are precisely what the 21st century needs
    Don't swallow the tripe – a user's guide to weasel words

    Don't swallow the tripe – a user's guide to weasel words

    Lying is dangerous and unnecessary. A new book explains the strategies needed to avoid it. John Rentoul on the art of 'uncommunication'
    Daddy, who was Richard Attenborough? Was the beloved thespian the last of the cross-generation stars?

    Daddy, who was Richard Attenborough?

    The atomisation of culture means that few of those we regard as stars are universally loved any more, says DJ Taylor
    She's dark, sarcastic, and bashes life in Nowheresville ... so how did Kacey Musgraves become country music's hottest new star?

    Kacey Musgraves: Nashville's hottest new star

    The singer has two Grammys for her first album under her belt and her celebrity fans include Willie Nelson, Ryan Adams and Katy Perry
    American soldier-poet Brian Turner reveals the enduring turmoil that inspired his memoir

    Soldier-poet Brian Turner on his new memoir

    James Kidd meets the prize-winning writer, whose new memoir takes him back to the bloody battles he fought in Iraq
    Aston Villa vs Hull match preview: Villa were not surprised that Ron Vlaar was a World Cup star

    Villa were not surprised that Vlaar was a World Cup star

    Andi Weimann reveals just how good his Dutch teammate really is
    Bill Granger recipes: Our chef ekes out his holiday in Italy with divine, simple salads

    Bill Granger's simple Italian salads

    Our chef presents his own version of Italian dishes, taking in the flavours and produce that inspired him while he was in the country
    The Last Word: Tumbleweed through deserted stands and suites at Wembley

    The Last Word: Tumbleweed through deserted stands and suites at Wembley

    If supporters begin to close bank accounts, switch broadband suppliers or shun satellite sales, their voices will be heard. It’s time for revolution