Outside magazine, October 1995
From the 7,402-foot Blue Mountain Peak, one of the Caribbean’s loftiest vantage points, you can survey all of Jamaica’s undulating coast. And on a clear day, you’d swear you can just make out Cuba off to the north. The Blue Mountains are about as far as you can get from the frenzied self-indulgence of Negril on the west coast; if you just want to hang out and listen to reggae
Start the seven-mile ascent of Blue Mountain Peak from Penlyne Castle, 32 miles from Kingston. The trailhead begins at the village and follows a road through coffee plantations and towering eucalyptus trees; from there it’s a moderate but steady two-mile climb up Jacob’s Ladder and through dense ferns to the rarely manned ranger station at Portland Gap. (Hiking boots are
In the town of Jacks Hill, in the foothills six miles from Kingston, the Maya Lodge (doubles, $30; 809-927-2097) is a rustic hostelry with cabins, dorm rooms, and campsites. Owner Peter Bentley also operates Sense Adventures (809-927-2097), which runs overnight hikes into the Blue Mountains ($125 per person) and three-day canoe trips on the Black River ($250 per person).
Hardware Gap, in Newcastle, five miles away, is the starting point of the Fairy Glade Trail, a three-and-a-half-hour scramble over roots and rocks to the 4,037-foot summit of Mount Holeb. You’ll pass through tropical montane and elfin forests dense with orchids and ferns, and you’ll bushwhack through thickets of wild ginger. After the climb, suck down a Ting (a grapefruit
To the south, you’ll find some of Jamaica’s best diving off the cays and reefs of Port Royal, at the entrance to Kingston Harbor. While most of Jamaica’s reefs have been plundered by overzealous fishermen, these are in relatively good shape. The Buccaneer Scuba Club (two-tank dive, $50; 809-924-8464), which operates out of Morgan’s Harbor Hotel (doubles, $116), will take you to
The best beaches on this side of the island are to the north in Port Antonio, a slow-paced banana port two hours from Kingston. Frenchman’s Cove is a protected inlet fed by a swimmable freshwater stream. Stay above the beach at Hotel Mocking Bird Hill (doubles, $120- $140; 809-993-3370), a small, environmentally friendly hotel with ten double rooms.