There’s a reason celebrities like Beyonce, Tom Cruise and Denzel Washington have chosen Portland, Jamaica as a vacation destination- it’s simply breath-taking. As a Jamaican, I am a bit spoiled by pristine beaches, and let me tell you, Portland has some of THE best! While driving along the lush, hilly terrain of the capital, Port Antonio, perfect shades of blue welcome you emphatically with lulling waves- a beauty that woos, promising to wash away any worry! This locale is one of Jamaica’s best secrets, as most tourists tend to frequent Negril, Ocho Rios, and Montego Bay. Unlike the more flocked destinations, Portland is more laid back and authentic- a haven of untainted nature and alluring adventure. Having visited on several occasions (it’s that good, that even a Jamaican can’t get enough), here are 10 Top attractions that this paradise parish has to offer.
1. Somerset Falls
I’ve placed this as my first choice because it’s simply awe-inspiring! I’ve been twice and was blown away both times. Unfortunately, it’s not the type of waterfall where you have a myriad of shallow pools to swim in, but it’s the type of waterfall that’s hidden in a cave! A short boat ride will take you there, and if you are adventurous enough, you can jump from a large limestone rock, into the water which lies 30 feet deep! I’m a scaredy cat, with the swimming competence of a beginner and I did it (mind you, while holding the hand of a professional deep sea diver and of course with a life jacket, because I’m cautious like that)! Should you choose not to jump, you can still experience a thrill from simply soaking up the intricate beauty of this limestone hideaway or lay on the rocks for a revitalizing massage from the powerful waterfalls. Since my first visit in 2007, Somerset Falls has done a wonderful job improving its facilities. Features that have been added include a pool, a kid’s water park and picnic areas which make it perfect as a family destination.
2. Errol Flynn Marina
My friend who is native to Portland, chose to have her wedding here, of all places. I’ll just leave that right there to let you know it’s legit! The Errol Flynn Marina is a large green space overlooking the pier, where you can spot mountains meeting the sky! If you’re a sucker for romantic strolls on the beach, put this place on your bucket list- it will definitely meet your expectations, particularly during sunset. What’s even more amazing is that there is no entrance fee! If you’re a foodie like myself you’ll be happy to know there are restaurant options on site as well, so here you can get the best of all worlds!
3. Reach Falls
Another place of adventure! Just be prepared to travel over the hills and valleys, but it’s truly a hidden gem! Upon my visit, we figured it must have gotten its name from the fact that after the long journey, Jamaican visitors’ like us bellow out emphatically in patois, “We finally reach!”. I don’t usually opt for tour guides, but we did on this visit and it was an excellent choice! He took us into the Lover’s Cove and the Rabbit Hole (the latter is by far the most daring thing I have ever done). The Rabbit Hole is a narrow underground tunnel with one way in and one way out. As it ebbed with water, we held our breath for several seconds, trusting our guide with our lives, until he led us out. It is refreshing to note that the compound has comfortable changing facilities!
4. Blue Lagoon
The Blue Lagoon is one of the most well-known spots in Portland due to it’s rumoured Hollywood feature in the movie bearing its name. These still, enchanting waters that show off captivating shades of blue, are 180 feet deep, so you have to be really brave to swim in this one (I didn’t have the courage, so I stayed near the shore). The most memorable part of my trip was riding past the luxurious villas on our boat ride, I aspire to stay in one, one day and if you are able to- go for it! During your trip, be sure to stop by the nearby Monkey Island, for fabulous views.
5. French Man’s Cove
You’ll notice a trend here! Water! Yes, Portland has endless meccas of H20 and this one is an island favourite! Frenchman’s Cove is an ultimate getaway in the eyes of locals when they are craving a prestigious beach. To arrive at the waters, guests take a short trek through a lovely rainforest path, a welcomed experience for nature lovers. The swimming area is particularly unique; as it offers a tributary – where a crisp river meets the Caribbean sea. This means you have not just one, but two swimming sanctuaries, it’s like a BOGO deal! A perfect contrast between fresh vs salt, calm vs troubled, warm vs cold. It gets me every time, whilst I love the beauty of the ocean, I actually prefer to swim (I mean dip, since I can’t swim) in rivers. I’m personally not gung-ho about the sand and salt that come in the all-inclusive package seas have to offer! Like the Marina, French Man’s Cove has an on-site restaurant and like Reach Falls, the changing rooms are well furnished!
If there’s anything in Jamaica that defines romance, rafting on the Rio Grande is it! It’s actually on my bucket-list, unfortunately, I haven’t experienced it for myself (although I got a scaled down version on my Somerset visit) but it’s a must-do! I even know someone who proposed on this magic bamboo ride (see what I did there Disney fans?)! So if you’ll be in Portland for your honeymoon, anniversary or a special occasion, go rafting! It’s a signature of visiting Portland!
7. Trident Castle
So, in my opinion, this is the most spectacular thing in all of Jamaica. I know I just went out on a limb. But it is! Trident Castle has captured my heart because I love architecture and fairy-tales and it’s the perfect combination of both! Insert *swooning sigh of fantasy*! It’s actually where I wanted to have my wedding, but ahhhmmm…funds. From my excursions, there is nothing else quite like it in Jamaica (I personally don’t know of any other preserved castles or palaces)! NOTHING! It’s a luxurious all-white palace atop a peninsula overlooking the blue-est of waters, accented by rich, green foliage! Sigh! Perfect photo opp for Instagram!
8. Boston Jerk Centre
Jerk chicken is one of Jamaica’s most renowned dishes, and the town of Boston is where it all started! Stop here for your perfect cuts of Jerk Pork or Chicken wash it down with a Red Stripe beer and chill on the nearby Boston beach, which is free to the public!
9. Goblin Hill Villas
I”ll let my words be few because when one arrives at Goblin Hill, the view leaves you lost for words! You will want to check-in immediately! Goblin Hill Villas provide a birds-eye-view of the Blue Lagoon and its surroundings from a lush, green, elevated position! Such beauty makes me proud to call Jamaica the land of my birth!
10. San San Beach
Craving a tranquil, more secluded beach experience? Then this will be one of your best bets! Crystal clear waters, a white sand beach and vendors selling local lionfish!
So, there you have it! My 10 Best Experiences in Portland, Jamaica to date! Which one intrigues you most?