Santa Cruz is a bustling market town and the most important commercial center in southwest Jamaica. Black River may be the capital of St Elizabeth parish, but Santa Cruz is arguably the more important settlement thanks to its economic clout. Unfortunately it’s less attractive.
West of Kingston
The Nelson Mandela Hwy (A1) connects Kingston to Spanish Town, Jamaica’s second- largest city, before becoming the A2 and soldiering on to May Pen, the capital of Clarendon Parish and home to Halse Hall, a former plantation. From here, it’s a mere 20-minute drive to Milk River Bath, the island’s most celebrated mineral spa.
Bluefields & Belmont
Bluefields in southeastern Westmoreland parish is appropriately named: look out the door here and it’s either big light-blue skies beyond the mountains or sea-blue harbors lapping the rocky beach. In 1519 this was Oristan, one of the first Spanish settlements in Jamaica; Bluefields Bay provided safe anchorage for Spanish explorers, British naval squadrons and pirates.
South of Montego Bay
The hill country inland of MoBay is speckled with villages clinging to rocky outcrops, narrow roads and large fields of fruit, vegetables and, deeper in the interior, ganja. This is friendly country, where locals aren’t as jaded with tourists as their counterparts on the coast.
Just east of Falmouth is one of the most incredible natural wonders of Jamaica, along with a smattering of good-value accommodations, clean beaches and one of the island’s more innovative cultural exhibitions. The 25,000-seat Trelawny Greenfield Stadium is located opposite the small village of Rock.
There is little of interest in this sprawling residential suburb besides Fort Augusta, at the eastern end of Port Henderson Beach, dating from 1740. The original fort was destroyed when lightning struck the magazine holding 3000 barrels of gunpowder, killing 300 people. The fort is now a women’s prison, housing a number of Western inmates guilty of drug smuggling.
Long Bay is well-named; its creamy beach sweeps for 1.5km, with strong breezes pushing the waves forcefully ashore. A strong undertow makes it bad for swimming, but surfers love the waves. While the strong easterlies bring good surf it also leaves Long Bay exposed to extreme weather.
Dry Harbour Mountains
Paved roads lead south from Discovery Bay, Runaway Bay and St Ann’s Bay and ascend into the Dry Harbour Mountains. In this off-the-beaten-track area, the badly potholed roads twist and turn through scenic countryside as they rise to the island’s backbone. Only two main roads run east–west. The lower, the ‘Great Interior Rd’ (the B11), parallels the coast about 11km inland.
Roaring River & Blue Hole
If you’re looking for a brief escape from the fun-in-the-sun ethos of Negril, an hour or two in and around the caves at Roaring River Park could do the trick, although it's not a patch on Mayfield Falls. This natural beauty spot contains mineral waters that gush up from the ground in a meadow full of water hyacinths and water lilies.
Lethe, in Greek mythology, was one of the rivers surrounding Hades, and to cross it caused you to lose memories of your previous life; it could happen to you in Lethe, Jamaica, if you spend enough time in this hilltop town. The turnoff for Lethe is 3km south of Reading off the B8 (signs show the way).