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).

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Travel
ebookHow to enjoy the perfect short break in 20 great cities
Arts and Entertainment
Under the skin: Sarah Kane in May 1998
theatreThe story behind a new season of Sarah Kane plays
Arts and Entertainment
Preening: Johnny Depp in 'Mortdecai'
filmMortdecai becomes actor's fifth consecutive box office bomb
Sport
Bradford City's reward for their memorable win over Chelsea is a trip to face either Sunderland or Fulham (Getty)
football
News
Lars Andersen took up archery in his mid thirties
video
Voices
Focus E15 Mothers led a protest to highlight the lack of affordable housing in London
voicesLondon’s housing crisis amounts to an abuse of human rights, says Grace Dent
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
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

    Recruitment Genius: Tour Drivers - UK & European

    Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: This is a fantastic opportunity to join a is a...

    Old Royal Naval College: ORNC Visitor Experience Volunteer

    Unpaid voluntary work: Old Royal Naval College: Join our team of friendly volu...

    Recruitment Genius: Customer Service / Sales Assistant

    £8 per hour: Recruitment Genius: This airport parking organisation are looking...

    Recruitment Genius: PCV Bus Drivers

    £8 per hour: Recruitment Genius: Do you enjoy bus driving and are looking for ...

    Day In a Page

    Woman who was sent to three Nazi death camps describes how she escaped the gas chamber

    Auschwitz liberation 70th anniversary

    Woman sent to three Nazi death camps describes surviving gas chamber
    DSK, Dodo the Pimp, and the Carlton Hotel

    The inside track on France's trial of the year

    Dominique Strauss-Kahn, Dodo the Pimp, and the Carlton Hotel:
    As provocative now as they ever were

    Sarah Kane season

    Why her plays are as provocative now as when they were written
    Murder of Japanese hostage has grim echoes of a killing in Iraq 11 years ago

    Murder of Japanese hostage has grim echoes of another killing

    Japanese mood was against what was seen as irresponsible trips to a vicious war zone
    Syria crisis: Celebrities call on David Cameron to take more refugees as one young mother tells of torture by Assad regime

    Celebrities call on David Cameron to take more Syrian refugees

    One young mother tells of torture by Assad regime
    The enemy within: People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back – with promising results

    The enemy within

    People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back
    'In Auschwitz you got used to anything'

    'In Auschwitz you got used to anything'

    Survivors of the Nazi concentration camp remember its horror, 70 years on
    Autumn/winter menswear 2015: The uniforms that make up modern life come to the fore

    Autumn/winter menswear 2015

    The uniforms that make up modern life come to the fore
    'I'm gay, and plan to fight military homophobia'

    'I'm gay, and plan to fight military homophobia'

    Army general planning to come out
    Iraq invasion 2003: The bloody warnings six wise men gave to Tony Blair as he prepared to launch poorly planned campaign

    What the six wise men told Tony Blair

    Months before the invasion of Iraq in 2003, experts sought to warn the PM about his plans. Here, four of them recall that day
    25 years of The Independent on Sunday: The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century

    25 years of The Independent on Sunday

    The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century
    Homeless Veterans appeal: 'Really caring is a dangerous emotion in this kind of work'

    Homeless Veterans appeal

    As head of The Soldiers' Charity, Martin Rutledge has to temper compassion with realism. He tells Chris Green how his Army career prepared him
    Wu-Tang Clan and The Sexual Objects offer fans a chance to own the only copies of their latest albums

    Smash hit go under the hammer

    It's nice to pick up a new record once in a while, but the purchasers of two latest releases can go a step further - by buying the only copy
    Geeks who rocked the world: Documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry

    The geeks who rocked the world

    A new documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry
    Belle & Sebastian interview: Stuart Murdoch reveals how the band is taking a new direction

    Belle & Sebastian is taking a new direction

    Twenty years ago, Belle & Sebastian was a fey indie band from Glasgow. It still is – except today, as prime mover Stuart Murdoch admits, it has a global cult following, from Hollywood to South Korea