Port Antonio: Things
to do and see
Hours: Open daily
Spend a day on the island once owned by actor Errol Flynn. It’s
just a seven-minute boat ride from the mainland to this hideaway,
which is home to several small cottages, a bar and a watersports
operator. The ferry operates around the clock from West Street Harbor.
Navy Island is a quiet place for a picnic.
The complete story
Adventure Guide - This travel guide walks with the adventurous
traveler to the heart of Jamaica, to the miles of sand beaches,
to the rugged Blue Mountains, to the country villages that provide
a peek at the real Jamaica|
The land on which Firefly sits was originally sold to Noel Coward
by Chris Blackwell’s mother. After the playwright’s death, the property
was given to the Jamaican government; today Chris Blackwell leases
the historic site and manages tours. The tour is well worth the
drive to Port Maria, especially for travelers interested in the
early days of Jamaica’s tourism industry, when it attracted a rich
and famous clientele.
5 Smatt Road, PO Box 89
Port Antonio, Portland
876-993-3881, fax 876-993-4962
E-mail: [email protected]
Perfect for the adventure traveler who really wants to get out
and see more of Jamaica, Valley Hikes offers guided hikes into some
of the most interesting regions of Jamaica. Tours are operated by
one of 18 trail guides from the surrounding communities; all have
been trained and certified by the Jamaica Tourist Board.
Excursions include visits to the Valley communities to meet descendants
of Nanny of the Maroons, Jamaica’s only national heroine.
The goals of Valley Hikes are not only to introduce travelers to
this region but also to generate income for the area residents and
to promote and develop ecotourism in the Rio Grande Valley.
The company has developed many trails that offer a variety of experiences,
from soft-adventure to rugged. Many hikes take place under a forested
canopy that is home to many endemic bird species as well as the
Valley Hikes also works to promote environmental conservation by
organizing special training for trail guides, sponsoring clean-up
activities and environmental awareness programs.
In the Lower Valley, travelers staying in Port Antonio should budget
two hours for return travel time to and from all hikes. The hikes
Darley Trail: This four-hour hike over medium grade begins at Berridale
and crosses the Rio Grande by raft. You then continue with an easy
walk to the Say River, following its course and passing three waterfalls.
Stanton Trail: This three- to four-hour hike of easy to medium grade
offers the choice of two loop trails. Trails begin at Stanton and
both offer a panoramic view of the Rio Grande.
Plantation Trails: These two- to four-hour hikes of moderate grade
also offer two options. The long hike starts at Premiers Bananas
and takes the Golden Vale route. On this hike, you meet at the end
of a teak-lined walk and travel through banana and coffee plantations.
The shorter hike is a loop trail that starts in Berridale and includes
a tour of a local farm and plantation.
Bird Watching Trails: Valley Hikes offers several hikes along different
trails of easy to medium difficulty; budget one to four hours for
these hikes. You can pick the difficulty level and length of hike
you’d like to take.
In the Middle Valley, budget three hours return travel time to
Port Antonio hotels for these hikes:
Mooretown Trails and Falls: This four-hour hike over moderate grade
starts in the community of Mooretown, home to descendants of the
Maroons. Groups meet the Colonel, the leader of the community, on
Nanny Falls: This two- to three-hour walk over easy terrain is a
good short hike in the Rio Grande Valley. It begins in Mooretown
and continues down a dirt road. Along the way, you can sample fruits,
learn about the herbal medicines and take a swim in Nanny Falls.
Cornwall Barracks and Dry River Falls: This three- to four-hour
hike over moderate grade starts at Cornwall Barracks. You’ll cross
a swinging bridge over the Rio Grande and continue for an hour to
Dry River Falls. The return hike takes in more of the Rio Grande
Valley as well as Maroontown.
Nanny Town: This overnight trip includes two full days of hiking
over very difficult grade. It starts at Coopers Hill and follows
a trail to Nanny Town, where you’ll overnight at a campsite on the
Makunnu River. The trail continues to Johns Hall, a deserted village,
and travels along steep slopes of the Blue Mountains.
In the Upper Valley, several hikes are offered. Times given below
include four hours return travel time to Port Antonio hotels.
White River Trail: This nine- to 10-hour hike over hard grade starts
at Millbank and continues to White River, which is known as a good
spot to see swallowtail butterflies. Fit travelers can follow the
river upstream to see the seven falls. On the return hike, the trail
follows a higher ground to Millbank for excellent views.
Guava River Trail: This seven-hour hike over difficult terrain starts
at Bellevue. The trail winds into the heart of the Blue Mountains,
following the Guava River much of the time. You can swim and dive
in the river and – if you’re super-fit – can continue upstream to
see hot springs.
Watch Hill: This four- to five-hour hike over moderate grade offers
two options to reach Watch Hill, once used by the Maroons as a lookout.
Along the way you’ll see banana plantations still in use and an
18th-century sugar plantation.
Some of the island’s most challenging bike rides are in the Blue
Mountains and on the roads south of Port Antonio. If you’re up to
the challenge, you can rent a bike from:
D & L Rentals, 876-993-3282, or Rainbow Rentals, 876-993-2248.
BLUE MOUNTAIN BICYCLE TOURS LTD.
Main Street, Ocho Rios
876-974-7075 or 974-7492, fax 876-974-0635
Excursions with Blue Mountain Tours include brunch, lunch, refreshments
and all bike equipment. The tours cover 18 miles (all downhill)
through the Blue Mountains and the tropical rain forest.
Adventures on Water
The beaches of Port Antonio are one of the town’s top attractions,
drawing visitors from overseas as well as local families who come
to enjoy the soft sand.
Boston Beach. Located at Boston Bay about 11 miles east of Port
Antonio, Boston Beach is one of the most popular. It is open daily
and no fee is charged. After a spicy meal at one of the jerk stands,
take a dip in the sea. Be wary of waves at Boston Beach, which are
often high enough for surfers.
Navy Beach, out on Navy Island, is accessible by ferry, which costs
about US $3 per person. Navy Beach is quiet and peaceful, one of
three small beaches on the island (one is clothing-optional).
San San Beach is five miles east of Port Antonio. The beach is small,
but the water is beautiful.
Blue Lagoon is not really a beach, but with water this pretty, who
cares? Blue Lagoon is a must while you’re in the Port Antonio area.
Bring your towel and stay for the day. It’s just one mile east of
San San Beach and is open daily. Admission is charged. This beautiful
sight is one that has to be seen to be believed. The cool, spring-fed
waters cry out to swimmers. Floating docks encourage you to sun
a little or you can lie out on the small beach. After a swim, try
some Jamaican dishes in the casual lagoon-side restaurant. You might
hear that the lagoon is bottomless (Jacques Cousteau dove here to
find out), but it has been measured at a depth of 180 feet.
Frenchman’s Cove in Port Antonio is one of the best beaches on the
island. This stretch of sand is very popular with locals.
RIO GRANDE RAFTING
Hours: 8:30 am-4:30 pm daily, except Christmas and Good Friday
This river ride was the first in Jamaica and is still the most
famous. Wear your swimsuit if you’d like to take a dip in the river.
As you head down the river, be prepared for entrepreneurs to offer
you everything from Red Stripe (“One for you and one for your captain”),
overpriced Pepsis, carved bamboo cups, flowers, bird feeders made
from coconut husks, bamboo whistles and more.
The ride is especially recommended in late afternoon (rafts stop
about 3 pm) when you’ll enjoy the sounds of frogs and crickets,
sometimes incredibly loud, from the shoreline. In the late afternoon
the banks come alive with the activity of the rural residents who
use this waterway for everything from clothes washing to bathing
or fishing. On a recent trip we watched two young boys spear fishing
along one stretch, a woman doing the weekend washing on rocks around
another bend, and a young boy catching fish by hand under the muddy
banks. Raftsmen expect a tip at the completion of the journey; US
$5-10 is appropriate.
Port Antonio is a favorite of deep-sea anglers. Home of the Blue
Marlin Tournament, the quiet community attracts those in search
of tuna, kingfish, wahoo and dolphin. Check with your hotel for
local operators or call the Bonita II, 876-993-3086.
The waters off Port Antonio are quieter than those of Ocho Rios
or Montego Bay. Wall diving is especially popular here. Contact
Lady G’diver (876-993-9888).
Dive sites near Port Antonio include:
Alligator Head. This 50-160-foot site is for intermediate and advanced
divers and is known for its sea fans, sponges and tubes.
Alligator West. A good choice for beginners, this area has calmer
waters. Look for coral formations and plenty of colorful fish.
Bluehole. Another beginner’s dive. Located near the Blue Lagoon.
Watch for rays in these beautiful waters.
Fairy Hill. This 50-120-foot dive features a pinnacle covered with
Trident Wall. Best for intermediate and advanced divers, this wall
dive showcases black coral, sponges and more.
Whether you go out on your own or with a guide, you will see an
impressive number of birds in and around Port Antonio. Hotel Mocking
Bird provided us with this list of species that have been sighted
on their property: ring-tailed pigeon (endangered), Jamaican parakeet,
chestnut-bellied cuckoo, Jamaican owl, Jamaican mango, black-billed
streamertail (endangered), Jamaican tody, Jamaican woodpecker, sad
flycatcher, rufous-tailed flycatcher, Jamaican becard, Jamaican
crow, white-chinned thrush, Jamaican euphonia, Jamaican stripe-headed
tanager, orangequit, Jamaican oriole, Jamaican elenia, northern
patoo, bananaquit, Caribbean dove, common ground dove, vervain hummingbird,
loggerhead kingbird, greater Antillean bullfinch, greater Antillean
grackle, northern mockingbird, greenrumped parrotlet, worm-eating
warbler, ruddy quail dove, ovenbird, prairie warbler, grey king
bird, Cape May warbler (migrant), white-crowned pigeon, stolid flycatcher,
northern parula warbler, black and white warbler (migrant), American
redstart, blackpoll warbler, black-throated green warbler, mourning
warbler (migrant), turkey vulture, black-throated blue warbler.
Eco-Parks & Natural Delights
CRYSTAL SPRINGS RESORT
Buff Bay (1 hour from Port Antonio)
This eco-park is an adventure traveler’s delight. Here, among 158
acres, you’ll find over 15,000 varieties of plants, one of the largest
orchid collections in the Caribbean and bird watching tours. Accommodations
are also offered (see Where to Stay).
NONSUCH CAVES AND ATHENRY GARDENS
East of Port Antonio (first right after Dragon Bay)
Hours: 10 am-4:30 pm daily
The three-acre Athenry Gardens are home to the Nonsuch Caves, filled
with stalactites and stalagmites. The caves can be seen on a guided
walk along well-lit passageways. The gardens are especially nice,
with many local species accompanied by mountain views.
East of Port Antonio off A4
Hours: daily during daylight hours
These falls are well known for their starring role in Cocktail
(Tom Cruise’s character comes here for a little aquatic hanky-panky).
A beautiful setting. Take a dip in the clear waters here.
A4 west to Hope Bay
876-926-0989 or 913-0108
Hours: daily 10-5
These beautiful falls on the Daniel’s River are surrounded by rain
forest. Be sure to wear your bathing suit – you wouldn’t want to
miss the chance to take a dip here. Take a ride on the gondola for
a spectacular view, then stroll around the gardens.
This hometown of the Windward Maroons is 11 miles south of Port
Antonio and was the home of Nanny, a national heroine. The Colonel,
the leader of the Maroons, also lives here and you will probably
have the opportunity to meet him during your visit. You are welcome
to walk around the town. Be sure to see Bump Grave in the town square,
the town’s best-known site and burial place of national heroine
Nanny. The tomb of Nanny is decorated with flags.
Port Antonio has one notable shopping center, called the Village
of St. George. Located on West Street, the building was designed
using architecture from around the world to represent the many cultures
that built Jamaica. This center is a good place for souvenirs, unique
gifts and some food items.
More information on Port Antonio
• Where to stay
• Where to eat
• Things to see &
for anything and everything Jamaican in our online store.