The True Jamaica
Staying in a resort means that you can have a sun vacation with everything on-site. Restaurants, pools, activities, the beach, and guest rooms are all in one place. You never have to leave if you don’t want to, meaning you don’t have to worry about driving. However, you never get to experience what a destination is truly like, in this case the real Jamaica. Part of traveling to a new place is to have an adventure, exploring and experiencing the local people and culture. Resorts isolate you from what a destination is truly like.
Resort food can be hit or miss and if you don’t like it it can put quite a damper on your trip. Also, many resorts often serve food buffet style because they need to be able to feed a large amount of people at every meal. Sometimes this means that the quality suffers and what’s on offer isn’t always healthy and rarely true authentic Jamaican cuisine. Another issue you may encounter at a resort is that there may be inflexible restaurant operating hours, meaning you can’t decide to have a late dinner or whenever you want. Finally, eating in the same place everyday can get stale, with not much variety to choose from.
Stay outside of a resort in a Jamaica villa rental and you can have a completely different eating experience. You are free to choose any restaurant you want and times that you can eat are almost always much more flexible. You will also have the opportunity try authentic local cuisine, such as jerk chicken made in the traditional way, something you’ll never find at a resort. You can eat in places that are popular with locals and not just filled with tourists.
Resorts offer guests a sanitized version of the local culture. They usually offer cultural experiences on-site in the form of entertainment, music, or food, but this is tourist designed and leaves you with little insight into the true cultural identity of Jamaica. To really get to know a place, you need to explore its local towns, listen to musicians in local haunts, and eat food in the same places islanders do. The programs you find at resorts tend to be similar, something that doesn’t change much wherever you go in the world with a distinct lack of charm and character.
The only way to discover what Jamaica is all about is to avoid the resort experience. Even though it’s a small island, Jamaica has a long and interesting history with warm and friendly people. Over the years it has had African, Indian, Chinese, Spanish, and British influences, which has created a unique culture. Music and dance has always played a significant part in Jamaica’s culture, and a night in a Dancehall will be like something you’ve never experienced before. Even Jamaica speech has a beautiful, melodic tone. Traditional dances reflect the country’s ethnic history, such as the African gerreh, the slave time jonkonnu, and the European maypole.
Another rich aspect of Jamaican culture is its storytelling. Before modern gadgets children and adults would spend the evening listening to Jamaican folk tales, some of which may give you chills.
Resort gift shops will have some examples of Jamaican crafts, often not truly authentic, but mass produced to feed tourism desires. These shops can never satisfy the want of exploring crafts made by the local people, something many tourists overlook. However, Jamaica has a strong crafting culture and with some digging, you will uncover the hidden makers of the real deal. Authentic craft items are a great way to uncover more about the island.
You can find these types of crafts at local markets or roadside stalls. Crafts include beautiful wood carvings, handmade jewelry, and straw made goods, such as hats, mats, and baskets. Pottery is also a popular craft. One type in particular to look for is pottery made from Jamaican red clay. Pottery made from this substance dates back to the original Taíno inhabitants of Jamaica before any Europeans set foot there.
Many tourists don’t explore Jamaica’s real history, much of it is still hidden with most locals not even knowing about it. One such feature are the hidden former plantation houses. While there are some of these estates that have been preserved and are popular attractions, the island has many of these houses that have been left to decay, hidden away by the thick jungle. However, there are some guides that will take you to these places that are barely ever touched by people these days, but you’d never find these in a guide book.
Outside of the main tourist areas Jamaica has wonderful attractions that have yet to succumb to tourism, particularly on the island’s South Coast. Visiting independently lets you meet local people who will be able to tell you about these places. Places you won’t hear about otherwise, be it hidden waterfalls and wildlife. One such place is the area surrounding the Black River, an untouched natural habitat that shows you the real landscape of Jamaica.
Another hidden gem is Port Antonio in the North East of Jamaica. It is full of hidden lagoons, lush forests, caves, secluded beaches, and near the Blue Mountains. It has long been a vacation spot for the rich and famous, but tourism has passed it by, making it worthy of a day trip.
Whatever adventures your road takes you down, the key to uncovering the real Jamaica is to get out and meet it head on. Mingle with locals and get their tips that only they know. Step out of your comfort zone and the sterile, generic resort environment and you won’t be disappointed with the magic of Jamaica.
Please do not hesitate to contact us regarding your Ocho Rios/Jamaica travel questions and/or any special requirements. We are just as excited as you are when it comes to Ochi, so send us your questions, inquiries or make a reservation whenever you’d like.