On a British-era colonial estate amid fountains, rushing streams, flowering gardens, and grassy lawns shaded by banyan and cedars is a Spanish-style building housing a museum dedicated to the Caribbean’s vanished native peoples, the Arawak and Taino—coyaba is an Arawak word meaning “place of rest,” often taken metaphorically to imply heaven or paradise.
A guide will offer to take you around the property, identifying plants and flowers. Bring your suit for a dip in the plunge pool at the base of the stair-stepped Mahoe Falls, which you can also scramble around (smaller, but much less contrived than Dunn’s River Falls—no enforced daisy chains of hand-holding tourists shuffling along).
The property’s new Ysassis Lookout Point, with its peekaboo views over the jungle to the harbor of Ocho Rios Bay below, is purported to be the site where Cristóbal Arnaldo Isassi, the last Spanish governor of Jamaica, hid out for the two years following the 1655 British takeover of Jamaica (led by by Robert Venables and Admiral Sir William Penn, whose son went on to found Pennsylvania).
Isassi’s ragtag assemblage of Spanish soldiers and guerrillas made two assays against the English—in 1657 near Dunn’s River Falls, and again in 1658 from a hastily built fort on Rio Nuevo—but the Spaniards were defeated both times. By 1660, Isassi was forced to flee to Cuba. Spain never made another attempt to retake Jamaica.
The irony: Venables and Penn only conquered Jamaica as a kind of consolation prize, since they had failed in their original mission to capture Hispañola and were afraid to go home to Oliver Cromwell empty-handed; even so, Cromwell threw them briefly into prison in the Tower of London for their failure.
- Reid Bramblett