There's more to Jamaica than Ochi, Mobay and Negril, and as much fun as these locations can be, visitors to the island would be wise to get off the typical tourist path and experience more of the "real" Jamaica at these cool destinations.
Greenwood Great House
Once the home of 19th-century poet Elizabeth Barrett Browning, Greenwood Great House retains much of its original furniture as well as oil painting, a collection of musical instruments, and antiques and artifacts. Open for tours.
Negril Light House
This lighthouse on the western tip of Jamaica, a popular sunset-watching spot, is more than 65 feet tall and was one of the first concrete lighthouses ever built when erected in 1894. Visitors can climb 103 steps for awesome views of the Caribbean and to see the solar-powered light, which flashes every two seconds to warn ships away from shore.
Jamaica’s Maroons were African slaves who escaped into the island’s rugged, mountainous outback to win their freedom. Accompong Village is named for a Maroon leader and Ashanti warrior from West Africa who — along with his siblings Quao, Cuffy, Cudjoe, and Nanny — fought the British to a standstill and won possession of this land under a 1739 peace treaty. Each Jan. 6, ceremonies here honor the struggle and victory of the Maroons as well as the establishment of the town.
A Jamaican National Heritage Site, Firefly is home and the burial place of Sir Noel Coward, the British playwright, author and actor. Coward spent a great amount of time at this simple vacation home, built in 1956, and his houseguests included such luminaries as the Queen Mother and Queen Elizabeth II, Sir Winston Churchill, Sophia Loren, Elizabeth Taylor, Sir Alec Guinness, Richard Burton, and neighbors Errol Flynn, Ruth Bryan Owen, and Ian Fleming. The house is open for tours.
Tumbling down limestone cliffs, YS Falls is one of Jamaica’s most beautiful sites yet visited by just a fraction of island visitors, especially compared to the crowds that mob Dunn’s River Falls. Visitors can enjoy the views of this eight-stepped falls from the comfort of nearly spring pools or zip line through the forest canopy.
A notorious pirate haven, Port Royal — located at the mouth of Kingston harbor — was the domain of Blackbeard and Henry Morgan, who declared the “wickedest city on earth” as their capital before it was destroyed by a 1692 earthquake. You can learn about the town’s checkered past at Fort Charles and the Maritime Museum.
Rhodes Hall Plantation
Get up and ride at Rhodes Hall, a 550-acre estate with varied terrain that offers a fun equestrian experience for riders of all abilities. Horses roam freely here but are hardly the only inhabitants: the estate includes a swamp that’s one of Jamaica’s largest crocodile preserves, and the property is also home to geese, guinea hens, chickens, ducks, goats, mongoose, parrots, hummingbirds, pelicans, sandpipers, herons, and even peacocks.
Blue Hole Mineral Spring
When you get tired of jumping from the cliffs of Negril, test your courage at this mineral spring about 20 minutes outside of town, where you can leap from a 22-foot cliff into clear, cold waters. The good news: if you survive the jump the mud at the spring’s edge is said to have healing powers (there’s also a mineral swimming pool for the less adventurous).
Falmouth Food Tour
The Falmouth cruise port has put this historic but once-sleepy town on the tourist map, but many visitors still don’t venture far from the touristy cruise dock.The Falmouth Food Tour, a collaboration with Falmouth Heritage Walks, serves up both tasty local cuisine and history during a 2.5-hour walking tour of the town.
Cockpit Country Adventure Tours
With its deep, wooded hollows, the Cockpit Country of Jamaica's Trelawny Parish provided a natural defensive stronghold for the Maroons — escaped slaves who successfully fought the British for their freedom. A Cockpit Country tour will introduce your to this rich history as well as the region's natural wonders, which includes limestone caves, underground rivers, tumbling waterfalls and jagged cliffs. Cockpit Country Adventure Tours uses local guides to lead hikes into forests teeming with exotic wildlife and plants, with the added bonus of stays at small bed & breakfasts and dining on authentic Jamaican cuisine.
Good Hope Plantation
Located close to the town of Falmouth, Good Hope Plantation is an adrenaline-lover's paradise — a historic estate home surrounded by soft adventure activities like ziplines, ATV tours, tubing and kayaking. Operated by Chukka, outings to Good Hope Plantation include tours of the great house and aviary, fishing and swimming, and Appleton Rum tastings.