South Coast, Jamaica
The South Coast has been called Jamaica’s undiscovered coast and with good reason. Only one hour away from Montego Bay International Airport, visitors can drive through fishing villages, view miles of beaches, and visit great houses and natural waterfalls.
Aside from Sandals Whitehouse European Village, the only grand, all-inclusive resort on this side of the island, accommodations on the South Coast tend to be small owner-run hotels, guesthouses and villas such as Hotel Versailles, and Jakes Hotel, Treasure Beach Hotel, and the Katamah Beachfront Resort on Treasure Beach.
Black and white sands: Treasure Beach, which encompasses Billy’s Bay, Frenchman’s Bay, Calabash Bay and Great Pedro Bay, is a six mile stretch of coves with areas of coarse black and golden-toned sand beach dotted with small hotels and seaside restaurants that serve fresh-caught fish, conch, sea puss (octopus) and Caribbean lobster along with local specialties such as ackee and salt fish, jerk chicken and pork, and curried goat.
Thanks to a natural barrier provided by the central Santa Cruz Mountains, this part of the island is actually a desert where cactus and acacia and lignum vitae trees grow. Despite limited rainfall, mulch farming enables this area to be major producer of fruits and vegetables.
Inland adventures: The town of Black River was a bustling important nineteenth-century seaport as evidenced by its rich architecture. These days, it is also a center for boat tours on the Black River, Jamaica’s largest wetland and home to 300 plus crocodiles, be advised not to jump in for a swim. Be sure to watch for crocodiles who hold their mouths open for the herons that swoop down to clean their teeth, and bladderwort, a plant that eats small animals. Special: Take an unforgettable cruise through one of Jamaica’s most beautiful regions on this Black River and YS Falls sightseeing tour.
Farther along the coast, YS Waterfalls cascade into seven pools, is the setting for thrilling zip-line canopy rides, river tubing and other adventures, while history buffs head towards Negril to explore the 19th-century sugar plantations around the seaport town of Savanna-La-Mar.
Taking the cure: Many legends surround the waters of the river and town of Milk River and the nearby mineral springs, which contains some of the most radioactive waters in the world. The waters, about 90 to 95 degrees Fahrenheit year-round, contain high levels of magnesium, calcium, sulfate and natural chloride that are said to help sufferers of rheumatism, arthritis, sciatica and nerve complaints. However, exposure to these hot, radioactive waters needs to be carefully limited.
A different kind of cure is on tap at the Appleton Estate Jamaica Rum tour, where visitors learn the rum-making process and then have a chance to juice their own sugar cane, sample white rum and boil “wet sugar”.
Mountain cool: If you truly want a break from the heat, the mountain town of Mandeville, offers a chance to play golf in the cool mountain air and admire the impressive mansions and gardens of wealthy 19th century British settlers who found the setting similar to home.