This island is the third-largest of the Greater Antilles after Cuba and Hispaniola. With its small population of 3 million people, Jamaica is known worldwide for its vibrant culture. That is very impressive for its size. It is the birthplace of jerk, reggae, blue mountain coffee, and a wonderland of allure and breathtaking natural beauty. From picturesque cliffs and majestic waterfalls to pristine lagoons and bubbling hot springs. This utopian island offers many adventurous options with varied landscapes, tours and excursions to satisfy the desires of the adventurous or the most laid back traveler.
Like all countries, Jamaica struggles with environmental issues. Those are compounded by the fact that it is a small country. That’s why many dedicated local activists and entrepreneurs are working towards a sustainable future. The Jamaica Organic Agriculture Movement is just one of many working to develop local organic agriculture on the island. The wide variety of vegan “ital” dishes is a result of the great influence of Rastafarians and local organic agriculture.
Rastafari and reggae – sounds like a cliché at first. But reggae and the “Rastafarian” faith originated here and the people are very proud of it. Jamaica was the home of Bob Marley. In Kingston is a museum in his honor where fans from all over the world can go on a journey of discovery. Reggae, as well as dancehall and ska, can be heard all over the island; they are part of the national identity.
Best offers to Jamaica from the USA to Jamaica are to Montego Bay (MBJ) or Kingston (KIN). A direct flight should be your preferred option – no transfer and usually less pollution. There are flights from New York (JFK/EWR) and Chicago (ORD) to Montego Bay.
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Furthermore, Jamaica is a fantastic place to eat vegan- the tropical climate means there’s no shortage of interesting vegetables and fruit. The food is tasty since many herbs and spices are home grown, often wild and organic in the mountains. Jamaican food is influenced by African, Asian and especially Indian food- influences that provide a vegetarian twist. In fact, the Indian diet was the inspiration for the vegan “Ital” diet of Jamaican Rastafarians. Away from the coastal regions, much of Jamaica is rural and given over to agriculture.
The markets are always well stocked with seasonal vegetables and fruits, and in the mountains there are many gardens of small farmers who grow mainly root vegetables, herbs and spices. A walk in the mountains is a particularly sensory experience, with the scent of wild garlic, ginger and thyme wafting in the air. The abundance of locally grown organic products and the beautiful surroundings have led to a small number of farm-to-table restaurants.
One of the best is “Stush in the Bush“. The local organic herbs, vegetables and fruits, served with a healthy dose of Rastafarian chic, are a unique experience. “Eits Cafe” in the Blue Mountains outside Kingston serves great food straight from the farm. It’s not a vegan restaurant, but there are plenty of vegan options on the menu. Everything is grown on a local „food basket“ farm.
On the west side of the island, there is a monthly farm-to-table experience at “Dools Farm” in St. Elizabeth. Again, not all the dishes are vegan, but many of them are. The food is grown on farms and served in an atmospheric setting at a beautifully decorated long table under a huge tree.
With a vibrant culture, tranquil countryside and plenty of urban enthusiasm, you can experience the splendor of this colorful island. Whether it is rafting down the “Martha Brae“, dozing on the beach, hiking up a mountain, exploring underwater worlds or playing a round of golf- you won’t get bored in Jamaica! The island is especially great for active travelers. Visitors staying in Ocho Rios should climb through Dunn’s River Falls and Park. You can take a guided climb and hike a path along the waterfall or just sit back and relax down on the beach. When visiting Montego Bay you have to try the golf courses, especially the “Tryall Club” or the “White Witch Golf Course“.
On the eastern edge of Jamaica, you will find the majestic “Blue and John Crow Mountains” source of the fragrant Blue Mountain Coffee and a scenic masterpiece for nature lovers. It was in fact declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2015. Most vacationers experience the Blue Mountains with just a sip of coffee. Therefore, if you have the endurance, travel to the area to look at the mountains or hike through them.
“Blue Lagoon” is Port Antonio’s central lagoon with breathtaking water and captivating surrounding gardens. As the name suggests, Blue Lagoon is of vibrant cobalt blue color that is worth taking some pictures and swimming a few laps. The water is cool and about 200 feet deep, a mixture of salt- and fresh water fed by a nearby mineral spring. As the angle of the sun changes over the course of the day, the water appears to take on various shades of blue. Situated east of Port Antonio is Boston Beach, a small beach where surfers flock to catch a wave – although only small ones. Surfing isn’t big in Jamaica because usually, you don’t get those gigantic waves you can ride forever.
If you are in Portland, though, Boston Beach is one of a few spots on the island where the waves get high enough to surf. It’s great for beginners learning to surf and the casual surfer who enjoys a leisurely time on the board. Rafting on the Rio Grande is also a must while visiting “Port Antonio“.
Of course, a visit to Jamaica is incomplete without spending some time in Negril. A city loved by most for its unique beaches and atmosphere. Negril is all about the sand – seven miles precisely. Located in the far west of Jamaica, Negril along with Montego Bay and Ocho Rios is one of Jamaica’s most popular tourist attractions. While in Negril, be sure to visit Seven “Mile Beach“, “Mayfield Falls” and the Blue Hole “Mineral Springs“.
The best known attraction is “Rick’s Café” which opened in 1974 when Negril was still a tiny fishing village. Today it is a popular place for countless visitors to watch the striking sunset. It’s a touristic but relaxed place on cliffs that tower 30 feet above the ocean. Local cliff divers and daring visitors often make the jump from various platforms into the sea.
This unique small town has some of the most beautiful coastlines in the world. Seven Mile Beach is an inviting strip of golden sand that is perfect for sunbathing or for a dip in the warm Caribbean sea. Take a plunge into the Blue Hole “Mineral Springs” for a decent rush of adrenaline, then enjoy a kaleidoscopic sunset with a delicious drink. Countless bars and restaurants are within walking distance, such as Alfred’s Ocean Palace and “Coletta’s Restaurant“.
Negril also has some amazing snorkeling spots that you simply need to dive into before you leave. Witness the beautiful coral reefs at Half Moon Beach and Pristine Cove. While Booby Cay Island offers vibrant marine life and excellent visibility. Joseph’s Cave with its majestic limestone cliffs is also a great place for an unforgettable snorkeling experience.
Jamaica is popular for its 5-star luxury hotels and accommodations, yet it is home to many great sustainable attractions and is becoming one of the world’s greenest travel destinations as it has actively reduced its carbon footprint. From creating renewable energy and buying local products to recycling waste and saving water many hotels strive to meet the standards of the Travelife Sustainability Award.
The ‘Couples Sans Souci‘ in Ocho Rios and the ‘Grand Pineapple Beach‘ in Negril are just two of the many hotels that have gotten recognition for their environmental friendliness and their gentle impact on nature. All over the island, you can find hotels, bungalows, treehouses, restaurants, and bars that are ´Eco-friendly´ and where sustainability is a priority (more here).
Nowadays, most hotels in Jamaica recognize their responsibility to the island by adapting to climate-friendly practices to conserve energy and reduce their carbon footprint. Also, they are creating their foundations to economize the island’s flora and fauna and support their local community.
So it is possible to treat yourself to a delightful island vacation and be sustainable at the same time. Jamaica is a brilliant choice for eco-friendly, conscious traveler, looking to make a positive impact on the planet and its environment.
Candice lives in Berlin, loves to cook, travel and read. She is a true believer in exploring the world in a positive way. This will have a deep impact on the planet and fellow humans. Candice encourages everybody to discover every culture at least once, to strengthen the unity of all humans in the world.
She loves to travel to hidden and true corners of the world, cooks and eats as diverse as possible and enjoys nightlife with friends. Writing this article had a special meaning for Candis, as she has Jamaican routes.