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).
The small fishing village of Whitehouse is another great place to sample provincial coastal life. It stretches for about 2km along the A2, parallel to a series of beaches where motorized boats and pirogues draw up and unload wahoo, tuna, barracuda, bonito, snapper, kingfish, marlin and lobster taken on the Pedro Banks, about 130km out to sea.
Rose Hall to Greenwood
East of Ironshore the A1 dips and rises past coastal scrubland, residential estates and several colonial-era great houses. There used to be a nice beach here, but it has been absorbed by the staggeringly enormous Iberostar condo/hotel/shopping complex of which we shall write nothing more, remembering the advice our mothers gave us regarding having something nice to say.
Keep heading about 2km south past Reach Falls and the road rises into a series of silly curves and waves around a vividly blue bay. Surrounding this bay is the fishing village Manchioneal (Man-kee-oh-neal), where colorful pirogues are drawn up on the wide, shallow beach. It’s a center for lobster fishing and the surf is killer – July is said to be the best month.
Gazing down from the lawn at Firefly, you might think Port Maria is a quaint fishing village nestled around a deep turquoise and aquamarine bay with mountains rising behind, but up close it’s largely unappealing. St Mary’s Parish Church, at the extreme west end of town, was built in 1861 in quintessential English style.
East of Kingston
Watching Long Mountain close in on the sea from Downtown Kingston, it’s easy to think there’s nothing east of Kingston beyond the turnoff to the Palisadoes, home to Norman Manley International Airport and Port Royal. Yet the A4 does manage to squeeze past and make it to St Thomas parish and up into Portland.
Around Port Royal
The idyllic Lime Cay is one of half a dozen or so uninhabited, white sand–rimmed coral cays about 3km offshore from Port Royal. Immortalized in the final showdown of the movie The Harder They Come, it’s ideal for sunbathing and snorkeling. Shacks sell food and drinks. Arrange a trip from Morgan’s Harbour Yacht Marina (Wednesday to Sunday only, J$1000, minimum four people).
The paved road from Annotto Bay ends at Robin’s Bay (known as Strawberry Fields in the 1970s, when it was a hippie free-love haven). There are persistent rumors about pirate’s treasure still hidden away in the area’s sea caves. The area has some of the most rugged and undeveloped country on the north coast.
Green Island Harbour
Immediately north of Negril, the A1 swings around a wide expanse of swampland – the Great Morass. After 16km you pass the shores of a deep cove – Green Island Harbour – where pirogues line the thin, gray-sand shore. Minibuses and route taxis going between Negril and Lucea stop in Green Island Harbour.
The Santa Cruz Mountains don’t tend to slope very gently into the coast even at their most gentle, but at Lover’s Leap, 1.5km southeast of Southfield, they positively plunge over 500m into the ocean. This headland provides a very photogenic, end-of-the-world-esque view, and is tipped by a red-and-white-hooped solar-powered lighthouse.
Little Bay & Around
Southeast of Retirement, a badly eroded side road loops down to Homers Cove (locals call it ‘Brighton Beach’) and, immediately east, Little Bay, with handsome beaches and peaceful bathing. Little Bay is imbued with the kind of laid-back feel that pervaded Negril before the onset of commercialization.