A person who is tired of Treasure Beach is probably lacking in a few essential life forces – like a pulse. Welcome to a unique and wonderfully old-fashioned part of Jamaica that gets all the facets of the quintessential Caribbean experience exactly right without even trying.
Ironshore & Rose Hall
As you head east of Montego Bay the coast becomes a long stretch of screensaver-worthy beach, speckled with golf courses, all-inclusive resorts, high-end condos and expensive malls, all of which are marketed at wealthy tourists and the Jamaican upper class, many of whom opt to live here instead of the ritzier suburbs of Kingston.
Deriving its name from the azure haze that settles lazily around its peaks, this 45km-long mountain range looms high above the eastern parishes of St Andrew, St Thomas, Portland and St Mary. The Blue Mountains were formed during the Cretaceous Period (somewhere between 144 and 65 million years ago) and are the island’s oldest feature.
St Ann’s Bay
In 1509 the Spaniards built the first Spanish settlement on the island about 700m west of St Ann’s Bay, at Sevilla la Nueva. The site was abandoned within four decades and it was later developed as a sugar estate by a British planter. Other planters established sugar estates nearby, and the town grew and prospered as a bustling seaport with forts on opposite sides of the bay.
Spanish Town was Jamaica’s capital for more than 300 years. Now circled by ghettoes, it’s very much Kingston’s poor neighbor, although its historic center contains the Caribbean’s most extensive assortment of Georgian architecture (albeit in a sad state of repair), its greatest cathedral and Jamaica’s national archives.
Taking its name from the Spanish oro cabeza (golden head) Oracabessa, 21km east of Ocho Rios, is a small, one-street, one-story village with a vague aura of a Wild West town. The street itself is lined with Caribbean vernacular architecture, with wooden houses trimmed with fretwork. This was a major port for shipping bananas in the 19th century.
This wide flask-shaped bay, 8km west of Runaway Bay and 8km east of Rio Bueno, is a popular resort spot for locals drawn to Puerto Seco Beach, and many of Jamaica’s wealthiest families have holiday villas up in the hills here. The town itself has only marginal appeal. A giant bauxite-loading facility dominates the town.
May Pen & Around
This well-known spa, operating since 1794, is fed from a saline mineral hot spring that bubbles up at the foot of Round Hill, 3km from the sea. The waters are a near-constant 33°C (92°F). The spa, which is attached to the Milk River Hotel, is owned by the government. Public and private baths are available.