Beautiful and mysterious, Jamaica gained fame as the birthplace of reggae, but also holds a plethora of natural jewels. The brilliant colours of the Caribbean are echoed in the turquoise waters, golden beaches, emerald-green mountains and deep-blue lakes. With so many reefs, rainforests and rivers, visitors will never run out of ways to enjoy some of the best – and least expensive – wonders that Jamaica offers.
Negril/Seven Mile Beach
Although it’s really just a little over four miles long, Negril feels long and spacious. It’s hugely popular but still a bit difficult to get to which limits the visitors to locals and those staying at the resorts. A newly opened hostel brings cheap beds to those of us that want to enjoy the luxury resort area at budget prices.
Plan for an “experience” when you visit, and don’t be shocked if you see nude sunbathers on the shores. If your chosen section had too much “exposure” for your comfort, just pick up walk a little farther down the beach. Sunday’s tend to be family days and usually safe for those with delicate sensibilities. Some amenities can be had for a price, but enjoying the sand and surf is absolutely free.
A bit rougher and rockier than Negril, Boston Beach is more for surfers and sunbathers – and visitors with an appetite. There are claims that jerk seasoning originated here and food offerings are a delicious mix of smoked pork and chicken, perfectly seasoned and reasonably priced. Don’t blow your budget but do plan to spend a little at the beach shacks.
Doctor’s Cave Beach
There is a small fee to get in and uber-budget travellers can easily skip this, but if you are willing to blow less than $10 for a day of entertainment, Doctor’s Cave Beach Club (yes, it is a club) is beautiful and the beach is part of the Montego Bay Marine Park and its many protected species. The reef is easy to snorkel and the club rents equipment to visitors.
Since this is one of the hot spots in Montego it can quickly fill with cruise ship passengers when the boat is in. Either avoid the area when you see the giant cruise vessels, or go early to snag yourself a good people-watching spot and enjoy the parade of tourists.
A meticulously planned Georgian town that was once one of the busiest ports in the country and a hub of the slave trade, Falmouth declined after slaves were emancipated in the British Empire. With no commercial incentive to grow, the little town retained its Georgian character and quietly faded into history. Although some sights may have an entrance fee, enjoying the intriguing architecture while wandering the streets is completely free. The best buildings to peek into include the court house, the All-Age School, the post office, St Peter’s church with its mahoe and mahogany inlaid crosses and the Greenwood Great House filled with rare musical instruments.
As with much of Jamaica, the cruise ships periodically flood the town with visitors for a few hours at a time. Start your visit early to avoid the biggest crowds.
Blue Mountain John Crow Mountain National Park
Hikers and campers will be thrilled to discover that the Blue Mountains are laced with trails and campsites. If planning an extensive hike, build your itinerary around the expected weather of the season and plan for damp, muggy days. Tours are available (for a price), but experienced campers can enjoy the park for only the cost of the entrance fee and campsite fee.
Dunn’s River Falls
The natural stair-like terraces provide a 180 m pathway for the water that cascades down from hills. Climbing the falls is a popular activity and can either be undertaken alone or with the help of tour guides. The footing is slippery, the path is wet and hikers are sprayed with water for much of the climb, but the journey is beautiful and there are plenty of spots to take a break and snap a few photos.
The two-hour climb will run you about $20 but there is nothing that says you have to leave once you’ve seen the falls. Pack a lunch and plan to play in the pools to make this a budget-friendly way to spend the day. If possible, visit on a cruise-ship-free day for the best experience.
The road is bad and once you’ve found the spot, the trails aren’t that well maintained, but the series of water holes are gorgeous – deep blue circles surrounded by lush, green forest. Rope swings hang over some of the pools while others have shallow edges that let you slide in. A narrow trail along the river leads to a small waterfall. Your $10 entrance fee easily covers a full day of entertainment.