Mini guide to Jamaica, Caribbean
An evening view of Negril Beach, Jamaica. (Michael Lawrence/LPI)
Nowhere else in the Caribbean is the connection to Africa as keenly felt as in Jamaica, once the nexus of the slave, rum and sugar trade.
In addition to its unique culture, Jamaica has some of the world’s best coffee plantations, world-class reefs and tropical beaches.
The most-visited site in Kingston is the Bob Marley Museum, housed in the red-brick manse that Marley turned into his Tuff Gong studios. The hour-long tour offers fascinating insights into Marley's life (00 1 876 927 9152; bobmarleyfoundation. com; 56 Hope Rd; 9.30am-4pm Mon-Sat; £12).
In the 1970s, Negril lured hippies with its offbeat beach-life and anything-goes attitude. They may have left but the gorgeous Seven Mile Beach at Long Bay still has easily accessible coral reefs with some of the best diving in the Caribbean (one/two- tank dive £25/£45; negrilscuba.com).
Looming over the eastern half of the island, the Blue Mountains are home to the celebrated coffee plantations, where you can ascend 2,000 metres above sea level and luxuriate in the cool of a fern forest. Guides can be hired at Hagley Gap, the gateway to the park (half/full day £20/£30).
Greenwood Great House was built by the Hon Richard Barrett in 1800. Surviving the slave rebellion of 1831, it still has much of its original furniture (00 1 876 953 1077; greenwoodgreathouse. com; Greenwood, Falmouth; 9am-6pm; £9).
The Black River is stained by tannins and provides a complex ecosystem for more than 100 bird species. South Coast Safaris offer tours to the Great Morass (00 1 876 965 2513; departing from the old warehouse; tours with lunch at 9am, 11am, 12.30pm, 2pm and 3.30pm; £12-£20).
Eat and drink
It's no small tribute to 3 Dives Jerk Center that its jerk (spicy marinated chicken grilled over a charcoal fire) is worth the usual long wait. Eat jerk and sip Red Stripe on the cliffs (00 1 876 782 9990; The Cliffs, Negril; lunch and dinner Nov-May, dinner Jun-Oct; quarter/half chicken £2.50/£4.50).
The Pork Pit has been MoBay's spiciest jerk joint for decades. Eat at open-air picnic tables shaded by a 300-year-old silk-cotton tree. Try jerk chicken, pork, fish and shrimp with yams, festival (cornbread fritters) and sweet potatoes (00 1 876 952 3663; 27 Gloucester Ave, Montego Bay; lunch and dinner; mains £3-£10).
Toscanini's, housed in an elegant villa, is one of the finest restaurants on the island. Enjoy the fusion of Italian recipes with Jamaican ingredients, beneath the slow-turning ceiling fans (00 1 876 975 4785; Harmony Hall, Ocho Rios; lunch and dinner Tue-Sun; mains £6-£15).
Dickie's Best Kept Secret is in an unsigned cliffside cottage on the A4, just west of Port Antonio. It's run by Dickie Butler and his wife who promise to cook you anything you want. Thus, the five-course meals have to be pre-ordered (00 1 876 809 6276; breakfast £7, dinner £16).
Redbones Blues Café is a hive of cultural and culinary activity. Dishes include a seafood trio of shrimps, mussels and salmon in a coconut sauce (00 1 876 978 8262; 1 Argyle Avenue, Kingston; lunch and dinner Mon- Fri, dinner Sat; mains £12-£25).
Not far from the Bob Marley Museum, the Mikuzi Guest House offers 14 comfortable rooms, several with kitchenettes, in a brightly painted house shaded by banana trees. Few restaurants are nearby, however, so you'll need a car (00 1 876 978 4859; mikuzijamaica.com; 5 Upper Montrose Rd, Kingston; from £30)
Above the Coral Cliff Hotel, the Knightwick House bed and breakfast is close to the action in Montego Bay without being submerged by it. The colonial building - with terracotta floors, wrought-iron railings, balconies and abundant artwork - has three modest-yet-appealingly furnished bedrooms (00 1 876 952 2988; Corniche Rd, Montego Bay; from £42).
Jake's wins the award for chicest accommodation between Negril and Kingston. The rooms and cottages have oceanfront or garden views and are dressed with antiques, louvered windows and glass, bead and shell fretwork (00 1 876 965 3000; jakeshotel. com; Treasure Beach; rooms from £70, cottages from £140).
One of Negril's most beautiful hotels, the Rockhouse has 34 rooms, built to blend in with the jungle-like garden and volcanic rock of the hotel's surroundings. Catwalks lead over the rocks to an open-sided dining pavilion overhanging the ocean (00 1 876 957 4373; rockhousehotel.com; West End Road, Negril; from £100).
Strawberry Hill hotel and spa is a luxury retreat in the Blue Mountains just north of Irish Town. Gaze at Kingston and the harbour 915 metres below from a deckchair by the infinity pool, or roam the bougainvillea-draped grounds (00 1 876 944 8400; strawberryhillresort.com; Blue Mountains; from £185).
Buses and taxis run between Kingston and every point on the island. Otherwise, driving on the island is easy. Island Car Rentals has offices in New Kingston and both airports, along with the other international agencies (£25 per day; islandcarrentals.com).
British Airways, Virgin, Delta and American Airlines all fly to Kingston or Montego Bay from London and Manchester (from £550; ba.com). Norman Manley Airport is 12 miles from Kingston (taxi £15); Donald Sangster Airport is two miles from Montego Bay (taxi £3).