Northern Jamaican waters are world-renowned for their game fish, including dolphin fish (mahimahi), wahoo, blue and white marlin, sailfish, tarpon, barracuda, and bonito. The Port Antonio International Marlin Tournament is held at Port Antonio every September or October, depending on the phases of the moon (and presumably, the migration patterns of the marlin) for that particular year. Most major hotels from Port Antonio to Montego Bay have deep-sea-fishing facilities, and there are many charter boats. For more information on this loosely organized annual event, contact the Sir Henry Morgan Angling Association, c/o Dr. Ronald Duquesnay (tel. 876/909-8818; or e-mail him at email@example.com).
Nadine, a 12m-long (40-ft.) sportfishing boat (tel. 876/993-3209 or 876/909-9552; www.jamaicascene.com), with a tournament rig, is available for charter rental. Designed for up to six passengers at a time, it charges US$1,000 per half-day or US$2,000 per full day, with crew, bait, tackle, and soft drinks included. It docks at Port Antonio's Marina, off West Palm Avenue, in the center of town. Call Captain Paul, or a member of his crew for bookings.
Port Antonio may never rival Montego Bay as a golfing mecca, but the 9-hole San San Golf Course & Bird Sanctuary (tel. 876/993-7645), lying 6km (3 3/4 miles) east of San San Beach, offers dramatic scenery, with a backdrop of lush vegetation on one side and the ocean on the other. A round of 9 holes costs US$50. You can also play the course twice for US$70. Caddies cost US$12 with pull carts going for US$5. Clubs are rented at the pro shop for US$10. Birders often flock to the area to see the many species here.
The Rio Grande Valley is one of the lushest places in the Caribbean to go on hiking jaunts. Hiking trails often follow paths blazed decades ago by hunters seeking wild pigs.
If you're not a serious hiker and want only an easy preview of this luxuriant valley, you can take the 30-minute hike to the Scatter Waterfalls from Berridale, 10km (6 1/4 miles) southwest of Port Antonio. Here bamboo rafts will transport you across the Rio Grande, where you can walk to the falls in about 20 minutes. There you'll find pools for cooling off and a little bar serving fresh tropical punches.
Most other hikes are far more strenuous. One of the most difficult is the 19km (12-mile), 2-day hike to Nanny Town, named after Queen Nanny, the Amazon-like warrior goddess of the Maroons. One of the most remote places in all of Jamaica, this was the legendary hideout of the Maroons in the 1700s, who came here to escape from the British and went undiscovered for years. A campsite can be found along the Makunnu River. This hike is only for the seriously in-shape and valiantly stout of heart who are intrigued by, rather than daunted by, some of the roughest terrain within the Blue Mountains.
Less difficult is the 5-hour hike to Watch Hill, a former lookout point for the Maroons. You'll pass miles of banana groves and the decaying ruins of an 18th-century sugar plantation. This hike is graded moderate.
Our favorite trail is the 6km (3.75-mile), 7-hour White River Falls ★ hike starting at Millbank, a hamlet south of the Maroon stronghold of Moore Town. Know before you embark on this hike that the drive from Port Antonio to the debut of the hiking trail, because of horribly maintained roads, will require up to 2 bone-bruising hours of transit time, each way. This hike takes you along the White River, and you can also go upstream to the Seven Falls. After a swim in the first one or two falls, you may decide not to press on, as the going gets rough and the trail is slippery. If you're lucky, you'll see colonies of the rare swallowtail butterfly. These beautiful insects are enormous, and make for one of the most memorable sights nature has to offer in Jamaica.
Shorter and easier hikes in the Lower River Valley can also be arranged, including a 4-hour hike, rated medium grade, along the Darley Trail.
One final trail, also difficult, is the 7-hour, 11km (6.75-mile) Guava River Trail, starting in the hamlet of Bellevue. The trail goes along the Guava River in the heart of the Blue Mountains. You can swim in the river and continue upstream until you come to some hot springs.
Although it's not exactly adventurous (it's a tame and safe outing), rafting the Rio Grande is the best rafting experience on the island, and the most fun. Rafting started on the river as a means of transporting bananas from plantations to waiting freighters. In 1871 a Yankee skipper named Lorenzo Dow Baker decided that a seat on one of the rafts was better than walking, but it was not until actor Errol Flynn arrived that the rafts became popular as a tourist attraction. Flynn used to hire the rafts for his friends, and he encouraged the rafters to race down the Rio Grande against one another, betting on winners. Now that bananas are transported by road, the raft skipper makes perhaps one or two trips a day down the waterway. If you want to take a trip, contact the Rio Grande Experience, Berrydale (tel. 876/993-5778).
The rafts, some 10m (33 ft.) long and only 2m (6 ft.) wide, are propelled by stout bamboo poles. There's a raised double seat about two-thirds of the way back. The skipper stands in the front, trousers rolled up to his knees, the water washing his feet, and guides the craft down the lively river, about 13km (8 miles) between steep hills covered with coconut palms, banana plantations, and flowers, through limestone cliffs pitted with caves, through the "Tunnel of Love," a narrow cleft in the rocks, and then on to wider, gentler water.
Trips last 2 to 2 1/2 hours and are offered from 9am to 4pm daily at a cost of US$72 per raft, which holds two passengers. A fully insured driver will take you in your rented car to the starting point at Berrydale, where you board your raft. If you feel like it, take a picnic lunch, but bring enough for the skipper, too, who will regale you with lively stories of life on the river.
Snorkeling & Scuba Diving
At a depth range of 24 to 27m (80-90 ft.), Alligator Long is one of the most visited dive sites east of Port Antonio. Advanced divers come here. Divers go along a narrow coral ridge 9m (30 ft.) high and peppered with sea fans, sponges such as the azure vase sponge, soft gorgonians, and many coral heads. Marine life includes the pork fish and several species of hamlets (the indigo hamlet, for example). You'll see squirrelfish darting about, along with stingrays, triggerfish, and spadefish.
The best outfitter, Lady Godiva's Dive Shop, lies within the Port Antonio Marina (tel. 876/993-8988), 11km (6 3/4 miles) from Port Antonio. Full dive equipment is available. Technically, you can snorkel off most of the beaches in Port Antonio, but you're likely to see much more further offshore. The best spot is at Winnifred Beach on the other side of Dragon Bay. The reef is extremely active and full of a lot of exciting marine life. Lady Godiva offers two excursions daily to this spot for US$21 to $30 per person including snorkeling equipment for the day.
Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.