Jamaica: Scenes from the Road

Jamaica: Scenes from the Road

Over this past Christmas/New Year holiday, Jave and I spent a week in his hometown of Negril followed by a week road tripping around the island.

During our week in Negril, we actually stayed in Hanover Parish nearby in a cute AirBnB rental located in a gated community. The drive from our house in Hanover to Westmoreland where Negril is was about 15 minutes or so.

Since our house was set just off the main road, we probably could’ve relied on taxis to get us to and from, but Jave has family and friends all over Westmoreland, and we needed the freedom to easily get around whenever and wherever; so we rented a scooter. We’ve decided that for future Jamaica trips, we’ll always rent our own place and our own ride because doing so actually helps us to save on hotels and taxis, and it keeps us from being dependent on family for accommodation and rides which we absolutely hate.

Our little scooter was such a blessing as we were able to easily get to the beach, Ketto, Jave’s grandmother’s house in Savanna-la-Mar (“Sav” for short), and we were able to easily run a bunch of errands. Plus, there’s just something so liberating about riding a scooter in a foreign country.

We agreed that we had to wear helmets at all times (Jave grew up riding motorcycles island style – i.e., helmet-free – so at first, he was a bit resistant), and we agreed not to be out on the road too late at night (we broke this rule a few times). But thankfully, we were able to get around without any problems or accidents.

Here are some photos from our week scooting around Westmoreland…

We passed this beautiful waterway which leads to the sea each day as we scooted back and forth between Hanover and Negril.
Each day as we scooted back and forth between Hanover and Negril , we passed this beautiful waterway which leads to the sea
You'll find billboards like this all around the island
You’ll find billboards like these all around the island
Country roads leading to Ketto
Country roads leading to Ketto

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jamaica-trips-road-trip

My backseat view...
My backseat view…

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The cute post office in Ketto
The cute post office in Ketto
The main road from Negril to Savanna-la-Mar
Scenery along the main road from Negril to Savanna-la-Mar
Scenery along the back road from Negril to Savanna-la-Mar. Jave warned that it's not safe to drive this road at night because robbers set up traps along this road.
Scenery along the back road from Negril to Savanna-la-Mar. Jave warned that it’s not safe to drive this road at night because robbers set up traps along this road.
Resting near a cane field
Resting near a cane field
The road headed down from the cliffs in Negril...
The road headed down from the cliffs in Negril…
If ever in Negril, be sure to stop at this brown building with yellow trim...it's a restaurant the locals call "corner bar" and they have the BEST curry conch and brown stew chicken. You're welcome.
If ever in Negril, be sure to stop at this brown building with yellow trim…it’s a restaurant the locals call “corner bar” and they have the BEST curry conch and brown stew chicken. Whether long or short, there’ll always be a line. You’re welcome.
Stop on the cliffs to enjoy the sunset.
Stop on the cliffs to enjoy the Caribbean sunset
I love this pic of our shadows as we head down from the cliffs.
I love this pic of our shadows as we head down from the cliffs

To kick off our road trip around the island during our second week in Jamaica, we returned our scooter and picked up a car rental from a home-based taxi business in Hanover.

I highlighted our stops on this map. The little isthmus that juts out near Kingston is Port Royal.
I highlighted our stops on this map. The little isthmus that juts out near Kingston is Port Royal.

From there, we headed southwest through Savanna-la-Mar to our first stop, Treasure Beach.

Now, can you drive around Jamaica in a single day? Jave and other locals swear it can be done in about 8 hours or so.

Do I recommend driving around the island in a single day? Absolutely not! I think it’s best to pace yourself and spend a few days in various visit-worthy destinations around the island.

So after a few nights in Treasure Beach where we backtracked one day to cruise Black River, we headed to Kingston for a few days. We spent the majority of our second day in Kingston in Port Royal. Then, we headed to gorgeous Port Antonio for a few nights. Afterward, we originally planned on spending two nights in Ocho Rios (or “Ochi” as locals call it), but instead, we spent one night there, and headed back to Negril to spend one extra night close to family before heading back to L.A.

I fell in love with Jamaica during my first visit to Montego Bay back in 2006, and I have to say that our road trip only deepened my love for Jamaica because we got to see so much of its beautiful nooks and crannies, many of which neither of us had ever seen before.

In future posts, I’ll share more about Black River, Kingston, Port Royal, and Port Antonio, but for now, here are several pictures I snapped from the road…

Headed to Treasure Beach, we crossed this bridge over the Black River
Headed to Treasure Beach, we crossed this bridge over the Black River
Beautiful Black River
Beautiful Black River
When leaving Black River in St. Elizabeth en route to Kingston, you'll pass through a bunch of bamboo trees that line the road known as Holland Bamboo. Cars fly through here, so if you want to snap a picture, do it quickly.
When leaving Black River in St. Elizabeth en route to Kingston, you’ll pass through a bunch of bamboo trees that line the road known as Holland Bamboo. Cars fly through here, so if you want to snap a picture, do it quickly.
On the road to Kingston...
On the road to Kingston…
Passing through Mandeville...
Passing through Mandeville…
Making a pit stop for patties...I could eat a patty everyday.
Making a pit stop for patties…I could eat a patty everyday.
(l) Once you hit the highway, you'll know you're close to Kingston. (r) Remnants of the public passenger railway that once ran through Jamaica. Supposedly, service will revive from Montego Bay to Kingston sometime in the near future.
(l) Once you hit the highway, you’ll know you’re close to Kingston. (r) Remnants of the public passenger railway that once ran through Jamaica. Supposedly, service will revive from Montego Bay to Kingston sometime in the near future.
Before heading into Kingston, we stopped to check out Hellshire Beach in Portmore
Before heading into Kingston, we stopped to check out Hellshire Beach in Portmore
If we hadn't gotten so full from patties, we would've had a bite at Aunt Merle's, a beachfront fish shack
If we hadn’t gotten so full from patties, we would’ve had a bite at Aunt Merle’s, a beachfront fish shack
Hellshire Beach
Hellshire Beach
I'll share more pictures from Kingston in a future post, but here's one as we headed from Port Royal back to the city...we passed the airport along the way.
I’ll share more pictures from Kingston in a future post, but here’s one as we headed from Port Royal back to the city…we passed the Norman Manley International Airport along the way.
Leaving Kingston - headed east towards Port Antonio
Leaving Kingston – headed east towards Port Antonio
We passed this quarry as we left Kingston
We passed this quarry as we left Kingston
The stretch from Kingston to Port Antonio seemed liked the longest. Lots of greenery along the way...
The stretch from Kingston to Port Antonio seemed liked the longest. Lots of greenery along the way…

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jamaica-trips-road-trip

Jave stopped on the side of the road to take some sugarcane from a nearby field. I've never seen anyone break down sugarcane so fast.
Jave stopped on the side of the road to take some sugarcane from a nearby field. I’ve never seen anyone break down sugarcane so fast.

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After a lot of countryside driving, we started seeing the coast again...
After a lot of countryside driving, we started seeing the coast again…

Our road trip around Jamaica has involved a lot of me hanging out of the passenger window snapping photos of my husband’s beautiful island and asking him to pull over whenever I see stunning scenes (we stop a lot!). The other day we came down a hill and around a corner and this is what we saw. I gasped. After pulling over, I walked back up the hill and back around the corner as @javeskitchen patiently waited in the car below. On my way back to the car, a local man stopped me to chat. Then he said something in raw patois that I didn’t understand. “You don’t understand my language?” he asked. I smiled and shook my head “no.” (With a few exceptions, I only understand my husband’s raw patois.) Then, he asked what I do for a living. After telling him, he said he was wondering if I was a photographer since I stopped to take a picture of his bay. “No, I’m not,” I told him, “but your bay is beautiful.” “So are you,” he said. I thanked him and walked away blushing.

A photo posted by Dana Carmel (@thatgirlcarmel) on

This car strapped with surfboards whizzed past us and we knew we were still headed in the right direction towards Boston Bay which is a popular surfing spot.
This car strapped with surfboards whizzed past us and we knew we were still headed in the right direction towards Boston Bay which is a popular surfing spot
The scenery as we headed north from our hotel in Portland Parish (south of Boston Beach)
The scenery as we headed north from our hotel in Portland Parish (south of Boston Beach)

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jamaica-trips-road-trip

Trident Castle in the distance
Trident Castle in the distance

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Port Antonio
Port Antonio
Before leaving Port Antonio, we decided to try to find the mouth of the Rio Grande so we could raft down the river...
Before leaving Port Antonio, we decided to try to find the mouth of the Rio Grande so we could raft down the river…
Google maps routed us through this mountainside community and then said, "You have arrived." But we clearly hadn't...we were lost.
Google maps routed us through this mountainside community and then said, “You have arrived.” But we clearly hadn’t…we were lost.
After asking locals for directions, they told us to head down this really rough dirt road. There weren't any signs indicating that we were headed towards Rio Grande. We ended up passing a cemetery.
After asking locals for directions, they told us to head down this really rough dirt road. There weren’t any signs indicating that we were headed towards Rio Grande. We ended up passing a cemetery…
...and a banana farm. Not wanting to get even more lost and not wanting our tires to pop on the rocky dirt road, we decided to call it quits and headed back to the main road. We've added rafting down the Rio Grande on our list of things to do on our next visit to Jamaica.
…and a banana farm. Not wanting to get even more lost and not wanting our tires to pop on the rocky dirt road, we decided to call it quits and headed back to the main road. We’ve added rafting down the Rio Grande on our list of things to do on our next visit to Jamaica.
You'll see lots of mom & pop gas stations like this one when driving around Jamaica
You’ll see lots of mom & pop gas stations like this one when driving around Jamaica. Some of them sell bad gas. Jave prefers to gas up at the larger brands.
During our honeymoon to Ocho Rios years ago, Jave and I took a day trip to Port Antonio, and we passed through Annotto Bay. At the time, it felt kind of sketchy. As we passed through this time, it seemed like they've really cleaned up this little seaside town.
During our honeymoon to Ocho Rios years ago, Jave and I took a day trip to Port Antonio, and we passed through Annotto Bay. At the time, it felt kind of sketchy. As we passed through this time, it seemed like they’ve really cleaned up this little seaside town.
On the outskirts of Annotto Bay...
On the outskirts of Annotto Bay…
Roadside fruit vendor...
Roadside fruit vendor…
Heading into Ochi, you'll start to see lots of really nice homes and condos off the main road
Heading into Ochi, you’ll start to see lots of really nice homes and condos off the main road
Our AirBnB rental in Ochi wasn't too far from Fern Gully, a 3-mile stretch of winding roads that are surrounded by ferns. Unless you stop at one of the roadside vendors, there's no place to stop and take pictures along this narrow road.
Our AirBnB rental in Ochi wasn’t too far from Fern Gully, a 3-mile stretch of winding roads that are surrounded by ferns. Unless you stop at one of the roadside vendors, there’s no place to stop and take pictures along this narrow road.
Coming out of Fern Gully, we saw this towering cruise ship in the distance.
Coming out of Fern Gully, we saw this towering cruise ship in the distance
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After leaving Ochi, we headed back to Negril…another long but easy stretch since the roads along the north coast are in really good condition.
Passing through Trelawny...
Passing through Trelawny…
Passing through Montego Bay. Montego Bay has totally changed since my first visit in 2006. Now, the main road is lined with plush resorts (none are pictured here).
Passing through Montego Bay. Montego Bay has totally changed since my first visit in 2006. Now, the main road is lined with plush resorts (to be clear, the main road isn’t pictured here).

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Passing back through Hanover, you'll know that Negril is close
Passing back through Hanover, you’ll know that Negril is close

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jamaica-trips-road-trip
Passing by Grand Palladium in Hanover. Hanover is also where the Tryall Club is located – the country club where Jave and I got married.
Lucea Town in Hanover
Lucea Town in Hanover…once you get through Lucea, you have about 40 or so more minutes until you reach Negril.
I hope you've enjoyed my snapshots from the road around Jamaica!
I hope you’ve enjoyed my snapshots from the road around Jamaica!

PINNABLE
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Have you ever road tripped around Jamaica or any other Caribbean island?

  • Marcella Solomon

    Your pics are amazing I have been following your blogs. What kind of camera do you use?

  • Jamaica, from your pics looks beautiful. That’s where my husband’s family and some of my cousins are from. I had planned on visiting in December, but I changed my mind because of Zika… One day, I will get to visit. Oh, and I can break down some sugarcane in 1-2-3! lol

  • Your blog is beautiful! And I loved your recap. (Your photos are bomb, girl.) The billboards, cute post office and ocean made me smile the most. You got me wanting to go to this place like riiiiight now!

  • Valerie Robinson

    Awesome photos! I felt like I was there with you! Love Negril! I will never get used to the driving on the left side of the road thing.

    • Thanks, Valerie! Me either – that’s why I always let Jave drive when we’re there, but even he got confused for a hot second – lol!

  • Honey you took some amazing photos!!! Amazing I went to Montego Bay last year for the first time and loved it but wanna get on the road like you. I need a photo next to the Montego bay signage.

    • Thanks, doll! Yes, definitely get on the road and explore beyond MoBay next time because it’s definitely changed since I first went there years ago. In my opinion, MoBay has too many resorts and is too commercial. I’d strongly recommend you to head to Negril the next time around.

  • Kasi Perkins

    The scooter was an awesome idea! Your photos are gorgeous, and definitely making me want to take another trip to Jamaica! My first trip, I just stayed on the resort, so I have to get out and explore more the next time I go.

    • Thanks, Kasi! Yes – you definitely have to leave the resort the next time you’re in Jamaica. You’ll get a whole different feel for the place.

  • Eva

    I did a little road tripping in Aruba, but never in Jamaica! I hope to do some later this year. Beautiful photos!!

    • Thanks, Eva. Oooh…I’d love to road trip in Aruba. I’ve never been there, but I’d love to go!

  • Beautiful pictures, I’ve never been to Jamaica but I want to go. Like you I could eat beef patties all day long. I bet the fruit on the side of the road is some of the freshest fruit around. Riding around on a scooter totally sounds like a lot of fun.

    • Thanks, Mimi. Yes, I love the fruit in Jamaica. Everything is so fresh and organic…you never have to worry whether your food has been treated with antibiotics or pesticides. And riding the scooter around Westmoreland is always a highlight whenever we go to Jamaica. Usually, Jave borrows one of his cousin’s motorcycles, but it was good to have our own transportation this time around.

  • Christine St.Vil

    I absolutely LOVE Jamaica and can’t wait to visit Montego Bay in October. I’ve only been to Ocho Rios but we had such an amazing time we’ve been counting back on the day we get back. Beautiful photos!

    • Thanks, Christine! Hope you have fun during your upcoming trip. 🙂

  • foodfashionandflow

    Negril is definitely my favorite part of Jamaica and I have road tripped all around many of the Caribbean islands. The food you can get on the side of the road in Negril is pretty amazing.

    • Yes, Negril is my favorite part of Jamaica too for sentimental reasons (and because it’s gorgeous). But during this trip, I also fell in love with Treasure Beach (St. Elizabeth) and Port Antonio…Jamaica in all of its beautiful glory!

  • Gorgeous! You’ve got a great eye. I felt like I was there with you. The colors were amazing. I agree with you on one thing for sure: I could eat a patty every day too.

  • Donna Shana

    Great pics! Looks like you all had a great time, sight seeing and enjoying your vacation. I want to try an airbnb, I’m going to have to research a little more.

    • Thanks, Donna. We had an amazing adventure! Yes, you should definitely try AirBnB. I’ve used them several times. I love a nice hotel, but sometimes when hotels are too pricey, AirBnB is the perfect alternative. When you’re ready to use them, click this link to get a $25 credit towards your stay: http://www.airbnb.com/c/dbell181?s=8.

  • Kemkem

    I enjoyed the trip around the island 🙂 I love that picture of you with the helmet. Those sunglasses rock! I used to be quick with the sugar cane too, but the teeth now..no frigging way 🙂 . Glad you talked him to a helmet too even though l know how he feels. I stopped riding my scooter in L.A after they made the helmet a requirement. My hair..haha! I definitely wore it when l started riding for real though. There are so many pretty spots on the island and it’s always nice not to depend on family for rides 🙂

    • Thanks, Kemkem! I was so mortified when Jave stopped on the side of the road and “stole” sugar cane from a random field – lol. He was so quick too. By the time he got out of the car and I realized what he was doing, he was already back in the car sharing the cane with me. Good thing there aren’t cameras everywhere like there are here. Lol! Glad you eventually started wearing your helmet. No one in Jamaica wears a helmet. It’s so tragic. I can’t tell you how many people we know who’ve been hurt or killed in motorcycle accidents. You’d think that would be a wake up call for people to put on helmets and slow down, but nope!

thatgirlcarmel

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