Beautiful, varied and unique, sunny Jamaica is a popular choice for a winter break. With its unique music scene, pristine beaches, laid-back culture and breathtaking landscape, this is a country that has everything you could want from an island escape. Here are just five reasons to visit Jamaica this winter. Stay at Melia Braco Village, Rio Bueno The small seaside village of Rio Bueno, located between the bustling resort towns of Montego Bay and Ocho Rios, is a more peaceful destination on Jamaica’s popular north coast. The biggest and best resort here is the upscale Melia Braco Village, which is sprawled across acres of landscaped gardens and private beaches bordering the crystalline Caribbean Sea. With its unique colonial-style architecture, Melia Braco Village resembles the town square of Falmouth, and the authentic Jamaican vibe is pervasive throughout; the smell of jerk cooking floats on the breeze, guests sip raw sugarcane juice and fresh coconuts, and traditional Mento bands provide a chilled-out ambience. Its five-star status means this all-inclusive resort has all the amenities you could possibly need, and with five international restaurants, two bars, private beaches, a gym and a spa, as well plenty of kids’ activities, you could easily stay within the resort grounds for your whole trip and not get bored – but of course, it would be a shame not to experience another side to Jamaica. You can arrange trips with Jamaica Tours Ltd (the officially recommended company) through the resort tour desk. Eat at Boston Jerk Centre, Portland You can’t come to Jamaica and not sample their most famous culinary offering – jerk cooking. If you only visit one place, make sure it’s Boston Jerk Centre, considered the original birthplace of Jamaican jerk. This is simple food at its best; essentially seven shacks along a dusty road, there are no frills to be found here, only organic, authentic jerk cooking, sleeping dogs, and a resident DJ in a musical shack. Here you can sample jerk cooking that’s as close as you can get to the first ever jerk dishes, and many of the ‘jerkmen’ cooking here are the grandchildren of those responsible for making jerk globally popular. While jerk was originally centred around pork, nowadays you can try jerk chicken, fish and lobster, as well as conch soup. Vegetarians don’t have to miss out either: the roasted breadfruit and yams are delicious, and fresh juices and fruit can be found at s the stalls too. Explore Port Antonio If you only do one excursion while in Jamaica, head to the city of Port Antonio on the northeast coast and make a day of it. The gateway to the island’s tropical jungles, mountains and waterfalls, Port Antonio is a must-visit if you want to experience a Jamaican town that’s not geared towards tourists. This jungle-bordered, slightly-ramshackle town offers a local experience that’s almost impossible to find in either Montego Bay or Ocho Rios. The higgedly-piggedly backstreets are home to grand-yet-shabby colonial buildings, bleating goats, street vendors, and laid-back bar and grills. Head to the markets to pick up a few souvenirs, sip freshly cracked coconuts, and purchase authentic jerk seasoning – but don’t forget to haggle! Swim at Frenchman’s Cove & the Blue Lagoon From Port Antonio it’s only a 15-minute drive to Frenchman’s Cove. The small size of this cove belies its reputation; with a pristine, sheltered white sand beach, swaying mango trees and its very own fresh water stream (complete with an Instagram-worthy swing), this is one of the most alluring beaches in the Caribbean. Frenchman’s Cove is actually a private estate, but you can access the beach and its amenities for $10. Just a few minutes further east is the equally famous Blue Lagoon, where the shimmering waters change colour throughout the day, from royal blue to vivid turquoise and then emerald green. Local fishermen will take you around the lagoon on boats or rafts, and you can leap from tree branches into the water and even have a dip in a natural cold spring. Surrounded by steep, jungle-cloaked hills, the water here is fed by underground springs as well as the Caribbean, and it’s a beautiful spot to kick back and enjoy the last of the day’s sunshine. Visit Dunn’s River Falls The spectacular Dunn’s River Falls is one of Jamaica’s most famous attractions, and for good reason. About three miles from touristy Ocho Rios, the falls themselves have remained unspoiled, and the hiking here, through dense rainforest packed with wildlife and unique fauna, is some of the best in Jamaica. Anyone with the faintest interest in geology will be fascinated by Dunn’s River Falls, which is described as a living phenomenon; the falls regenerates via deposits of calcium carbonate from the river, and the result is those iconic, naturally terraced steps that have featured in films like ‘Dr. No’ and ‘Cocktail.’ The refreshing mountain water cascades 300 metres down to the turquoise pool beneath, and you can spend the day here swimming and sunbathing. Alternatively you can take a boat tour, many of which combine the falls visit with river tubing – or if you’re feeling too lazy to climb the steep falls, you can just admire the view from the boat observation deck, taking a dip every now and then to cool off.
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