From Montego Bay I spent a day driving down to Kingston with an afternoon visit to Ocho Rios. The route south on the new highway was a breeze and took just under two hours.
I was headed to the country’s largest and capital city.
Arriving in the evening, I checked into the Courtyard Marriott Kingston. This hotel was centrally located right next to the Emancipation Park and provided modern comfortable rooms. I got a good nights rest as I had a full days tour of Kingston courtesy of Jamaica Tourism Board.
In the morning I took a walk to explore the surroundings. Emancipation Park is a public park and its sculpture “Redemption Song” represents the journey of Jamaica.
Soon after I met Mikie from Burton Tours who would guide me through the sites of the city. He was very friendly and assured me a special day. We started with a site of Jamaica’s most famous musician.
Bob Marley Museum
The previous home of the legend, Bob Marley is now a popular tourist attraction and museum. After registering, you can join a tour and enter the house. See the original recording studio, personal items and even the site of an assassination attempt on Marley’s life (with bullet holes and all!). I found it very informative and saw how much of a visionary the musician really was. A room with newspaper clippings of Marley around the world and throughout history was particularly interesting.
After the museum, Mikie took me up the hill where many fancy villas stood. From this vantage point, there was a great view.
University of West Indies Mona Campus
UWI is an established institution in the Caribbean and started as an offshoot of the University of London in 1948. It serves many countries in the Caribbean but the main campus is in Mona. Interestingly many Caribbean heads of states graduated from this university. We drove through and stopped to view some of the historic plantation remains and buildings. The artwork and murals were impressive.
The University of Technology
We then visited another campus of an important university. UTech is one of Jamaica’s main universities started in 1958. Both campuses were lively with plenty of students out and about.
Built in 1881, Devon House is a National Heritage Site and former home of George Stiebel, Jamaica’s first black millionaire. This beautiful Jamaican Georgian style colonial building is meticulously restored and displays original artifacts throughout the mansion.
After a private tour, we enjoyed a lunch at Grog Shoppe Restaurant. The traditional Jamaican fare was tasty and served in a peaceful garden.
National Heroes Park
The origins of this park can be traced back to 1783 when it was a race track for horses. Today it houses monuments and burial sites of the country’s leaders and heroes. Armed soldiers guard some of the burial sites. There is an atmosphere of calm throughout the grounds. I enjoyed visiting the different artistic monuments.
Located at the mouth of Kingston Harbour is Port Royal founded in 1518. This village was once the largest city in the Caribbean. Pirates, privateers and tradesmen frequented this wealthy hub until much of it was destroyed by earthquakes, tsunamis, and hurricanes.
Today it is a sleepy fishing village and heritage site. Fort Charles built in 1656, is the oldest fort in the country. Its ten cannons and ports give an idea of how it defended the opening of the harbor. Mikie took me inside to a hidden bar for a special shandy he mixed. Yum!
Nearby is St Peter’s Anglican Church from 1726 and also “Giddy House”, a slanted house that has become an attraction.
Then we went to an oyster bar near the fishing port. The owner poured fresh oysters on a table and started shucking them. We could then cover the oysters in one of several sauces like hot pepper, cherry, sweet and sour, and even ganja! They were amazing and I couldn’t stop eating!
We watched the sunset, then headed back to town. I thanked Mikie for such an immersive and fun tour.
I wanted to see what the local nightlife was like, so I spent the night at Reggae Hostel. Soon enough I was in touch with some reggae lovers who were headed to a singsong that night. We hopped into a taxi and arrived at a low-lit courtyard. Some shops were set up outside with a central bar and stage. Gatherers were already dancing to their internal music as the performances hadn’t started.
When the singers got on stage, the hazy crowd gathered and cheered. This was my first reggae concert and even though I was immersed in a ganja cloud the entire night, I’ll never forget it.
The next day I had time to stop at the Jamaica Military Museum before flying out.
A collection of weapons, uniforms, and military medals were on display. There were also tanks, helicopters, bikes, and other vehicles. What I found most interesting was that the museum was within a military zone, so keep your eyes open for present-day uniforms on the soldiers.
Back in the airport, I revisited all the sights of the last few days. There were so many highlights, I couldn’t stop jumping from one to another. Picture perfect beaches, waterfalls, James Bond, luxury resorts, pirates, forts, Bob Marley, colonial architecture, universities, reggae, and that signature friendly Jamaican attitude all contributed to making Jamaica a special place to visit.
Taking off from Norman Manley International (KIN), I watched the turquoise waters below and was already looking forward to my next visit.