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Two of Jamaica’s major tourist areas are Montego Bay and Ocho Rios on the island’s north shore. Approximately 45 miles of highway separate the two destinations and, if you arrive at Montego Bay’s Sir Donald Sangster International Airport and are booked at an Ocho Rios resort, you’ll find yourself inevitably traveling the tourism corridor. So why not make the most of it? What follows is a one-day itinerary of attractions on your route that will give you the option of turning a 90-minute drive into an unforgettable full day of Jamaican experiences.
Touring Bellefield Great HouseDrop by the Bellefield Great House and Estate for the first tour of the morning. Bellefield dates back to 1794, making it one of the oldest sugar plantations in Jamaica. A visit to the 3,000-acre estate will give you insight into how the gentry lived back in the 18th century. Tour the mansion with its antique furnishings, stroll the gardens and visit the sugar mill, where you’ll get a taste of freshly-pressed cane juice, coconut milk, spicy jerk chicken and authentic Jamaican rum. www.bellefieldgreathouse.com
Snacking With the Locals in FalmouthStop into the historic town of Falmouth, which is currently undergoing a huge revitalization with the building of a new cruise ship dock. But Falmouth is appealing in part because it’s relatively untouched by tourism. The town has a slightly ramshackle appearance, but the people are friendly and you’ll get a glimpse of everyday life in Jamaican. If you want to really blend in, buy a homemade Jamaican patty and a grapefruit-flavored Ting, Jamaica’s soft drink of choice. Stand under a store awning and enjoy your quick bite as the daily life of Falmouth rolls by before your eyes. www.falmouthjamaica.org
Chukka Caribbean Adventures Dogsled ExperienceChukka Caribbean Adventures provides a variety of tours, but they have one tour that truly sticks out. The company’s Dogsled Experience utilizes a team of sled dogs to pull a five-seater buggy over a dirt track through the countryside. All of the dogs at Chukka are rescue dogs from the streets of Jamaica, and hauling a buggy is like play for them. You’ll love it, too, especially since there is a chance to meet and play with dogs before setting off on your ride. Once you strap into the buggy, you’ll set off on a bouncy, hurtling ride guided by a Chukka musher. www.chukkacaribbean.com
Lunch at Scotchies TooThe original Scotchies in Montego Bay is world famous for being a place to get authentic Jamaican jerk cooking. The company has expanded with a second location near Ocho Rios called Scotchies Too. This new restaurant is more tourist-friendly, with attractive pavilions scattered about where diners can relax over a plate of jerk pork, chicken or fish, with sides of festival bread (fried, sweet dough) and roasted yam. Try the jerk chicken sausage, a new item on the menu, or if you like their potent hot sauce, you can buy a bottle to take home. www.scotchies.com
Hiking Dunn’s River Falls Coming to Jamaica and missing Dunn’s River Falls is like visiting New York and skipping the Empire State Building. It’s a 600-foot climb to the top. Linking hands with other climbers and helping each other over the slippery spots is part of the fun. Guides aren’t required, but they’re worth it (they are also very entertaining). There are lockers and changing rooms at the park’s entrance making it easy to switch into a bathing suit. If you have any wiggle room in your schedule, make your trip to the falls when there are no cruise ships docking in Ocho Rios; otherwise, it’s a crowded scene. www.dunnsriverja.com
Island VillageIsland Village in Ocho Rios is your next and final stop. This place has something for everyone. Island Village is an open-air mall with ocean views. If you’re in a small group, pick a spot to meet in an hour and go your separate ways to explore. Visit The Reggae XPlosion, an interactive Reggae exhibition; the Internet Jungle; Jimmy Buffet’s Margaritaville; Eight Rivers Gaming Centre; and numerous duty-free and curio shops. If you have shopping to do for the folks back home, Island Village will probably fill the bill. www.islandvillageja.com