The island of Jamaica sits as a glistening gem almost directly in the middle of the Caribbean Sea. Jamaica offers brilliant sun, sugary white sands and a variety of resort life. The island also has a unique culture and history that gives it an unmistakable character. Openness and friendliness are the qualities of its people, while spiciness and heartiness are the traits of its delightful cuisine. Travellers to Jamaica often stay near its sandy shores to soak up the sun rays and snorkel among its world-class reefs. The palm-fringed beaches are home to delightful restaurants and music establishments showcasing the distinctly Jamaican blend of roots reggae and other Caribbean-influenced music.
Looming above the coastline of Jamaica are the mist-shrouded and majestic Blue Mountains. Jamaica’s lush hills are renowned for their delicious coffee, and the coffee trade played a large role in the development of Jamaica’s economy. Aside from coffee, the mountains, set against a beautiful jungle-like landscape, offer adventurous activities for the intrepid visitor.
A Spirit of Adventure
Getting to the wilderness of Jamaica’s Blue Mountains takes some effort. The rugged region requires a steep drive uphill on narrow, winding roads. Driving up to the scenic lookouts can be harrowing, but it’s definitely worth the spectacular vistas.
Visitors can also hike or ride bikes into the mountains. A great way to visit mountain waterfalls and the tiny, charming mountain restaurants is to rent mountain bikes. Bikers should be prepared to feel a burn in their thighs, since some of the mountain roads rise well over 2,000 metres. The plus side of biking up the high, steep terrain is that bikers get to enjoy the rush of downhill cruising. Exciting mountain biking tours are often included as part of cheap vacation packages to Jamaica.
The hiking in the Blue Mountains is best suited for experienced hikers, since the terrain can be rough, rocky and wet. Luckily, there are some trails suited for beginner hikers just seeking a simple mountain stroll. All hikers in the region should come prepared with essentials like extra water, bug spray and sun protection to stay safe and enjoy the scenery. A good option for all hikers is to hire a guide or join a tour group.
Aside from hiking and biking, visitors can view the mountains while ziplining. Just in the last decade, ziplining outfitters have cropped up throughout the mountain range, offering visitors a birds-eye — and rather swift — view of the scenery. Ziplining works by harnessing visitors to a tall, sturdy wire that has been constructed to carry them at canopy level across thousands of yards of terrain. Not for the faint of heart, ziplining is considered a relatively safe adrenaline rush.
Nature’s Abundance in the Form of Coffee
The flora of the Blue Mountains is green and gorgeous, teeming with native palms, ferns and fragrant flowers year round. Nature has created the ideal soil and climate in the Blue Mountains for coffee plants to thrive, so Jamaica has developed a vibrant coffee industry. Coffee thrives at an elevation of 600 to 1,500 metres, making Jamaica’s beautiful upcountry the perfect growing environment. The heavy forest cover and ample rains help coffee farmers grow some of the world’s most delicious, single-origin beans. It’s not surprising that many visitors are drawn into the Blue Mountains by the prospect of incredible coffee. By visiting one of the many high-altitude coffee plantations, visitors can view the growing and harvesting process of one of the world’s favorite drinks and enjoy guided coffee tastings.
An Earth-Friendly Attitude
The Blue Mountains of Jamaica have become a popular spot for ecotourism — a form of travel that benefits the environment by engaging in activities that reduce environmental impact. It’s easy to see why the pristine region inspires an eco-friendly attitude. Many eco tours combine low-environmental impact camping and bird watching. The tours also focus on sustainable tourism and development of the local communities. Also known as “responsible travel,” such tours often include a volunteering aspect wherein visitors devote their time and skills to local farms or to providing educational or medical services to mountain villages. Ecotourism in Jamaica is often combined with more traditional vacation activities and sightseeing, so travellers can feel good about their stay while still enjoying what Jamaica has to offer.
About the Author: Darlene Williams is a travel writer who leads ecologically sound tours around the Caribbean. She designs travel adventures as a freelance travel agent and delights in delivering the best experiences to her customers.