Negril sunset.
Jo Cooke

Best of Jamaica: 20 Favorite Moments

Top Sights in Jamaica
By Jo Cooke

Rum, reggae, and white-sand beaches may be the primary images associated with this tropical isle, but that is just the start of the story. From tumbling waterfalls to sipping rum punch, here are 20 favorite moments.

Photo Caption: Negril sunset.
The Oasis Spa, Negril.
Jo Cooke
Enjoying a 'Reggaesage'
At the Oasis Spa in Negril, the therapist works her way up and down your back as if it's a percussion instrument in this unique massage experience. Bob Marley classics played by a steel band are piped into the treatment room as you are pummeled and caressed in time to the beat. It's both invigorating and sensual, the perfect start to a holiday, easing you into the easy pace and colorful vitality of Jamaican life.

Photo Caption: The Oasis Spa, Negril
The famous rum punch at Canoe in Negril, Jamaica.
Drinking Rum Punch in the Lounge Bar at Canoe
Kick off your flip-flops, put your feet up, and spend the afternoon sipping rum punch at Canoe on the waterfront in Negril. Each bar has its own secret recipe for this fruity cocktail. Canoe's concoction is particularly delicious, potent, and addictive. After two you won't have a care in the world -- or be able to feel your legs.

Photo Caption: The famous rum punch at Canoe in Negril, Jamaica
Jerk chicken being cooked at Scotchies Too in Ocho Rios, Jamaica.
Eating Freshly-Cooked Jerk at Scotchies Too
Get your jerk fix at Scotchies Too, a rustic garden eatery in Ocho Rios. Admire the rows of chicken slowly roasting over the pimento-wood barbecue pits and watch as your chosen cut is chopped into shape. Heap on lots of hot sauce to set your stomach on fire, then cool yourself down again with an ice-cold Red Stripe beer or some coconut water -- all for under $5.

Photo Caption: Jerk chicken being cooked at Scotchies Too in Ocho Rios, Jamaica
The Blue Mountains in Jamaica.
Watching the Sun Set at Lime Tree Farm
Remote and peaceful, Lime Tree Farm accomodation in the Blue Mountains offers a chance to immerse yourself in Jamaica's outback with its panoramic views of the great outdoors. As day fades to night the peaks become silhouettes, the sky looks like a black velvet tarpaulin speckled with diamante, and the moon feels so close you could reach out and touch it.

Photo Caption: The sun setting over the Blue Mountains in Jamaica
The view from Noel Coward's Firefly in Ocho Rios, Jamaica.
Sitting on the Window Ledge at Firefly
The window ledge at Firefly is said to be the very spot where British wit and playwright Noel Coward contemplated and drew inspiration for his writing. Look out across the lawn to the outline of the pool where the jet-set once played, and then write your postcards in the hope that some of his talent rubs off on you. The view of the northeastern coastline is incredible from here, too.

Photo Caption: The view from Noel Coward's Firefly in Ocho Rios, Jamaica
YS Falls in Jamaica.
Posing for a Photo at YS Falls
Jamaica takes its name from the native word Xaymaca, which means land of wood and water. Few vistas can sum up this description better than the cascades on the YS estate in the south of the island. Stand on one of the platforms in front of the ice-white curtains of water that beat the rocks below. You'll be framed by a wooded wonderland of intertwined ferns and ginger lilies.

Photo Caption: YS Falls in Jamaica
The Blue Hole Mineral Spring near Negril, Jamaica.
Bathing in the Blue Hole
The Blue Hole is a secret garden, very much off the beaten track. It has a natural pool at its center, fed by an underground spring. Bluer than the sky and cool enough to make you tingle, it is the perfect place to escape the crowds on a sultry summer day.

Photo Caption: The Blue Hole Mineral Spring near Negril, Jamaica
Snorkeling off the cliff of the west end of Negril, Jamaica.
Snorkeling Beneath the Cliffs of Negril's West End
Slip into the ocean and you will immediately have a window to an underwater world. Fish dart around the undulating seabed, among the sponges, and in and out of the caves that pock the shoreline.

Photo Caption: Snorkeling off the cliff of the west end of Negril, Jamaica
Calabash Bay in Jamaica.
Body-Surfing the Rollers at Calabash Bay
In contrast to the calm waters of the north coast's beaches, those in the south like Calabash Bay, have some wave action. Swim out to beyond where the waves break, then let them carry you back into the sandy shore.

Photo Caption: Calabash Bay in Jamaica
Feeding a hummingbird at Rocklands Bird Feeding Station near Montego Bay, Jamaica.
Feeding a Hummingbird
In the late afternoon, Rocklands Bird Feeding Station hidden in the hills above Montego Bay is besieged by dozens of enchanting hummingbirds. Hold out a bottle of sugar water and place the fingers of your other hand beneath it. If you remain steady, hummingbirds take turns to rest on your fingertips as they sip the syrup. You'll hear the flutter of their wings and feel their vibration as they drink.

Photo Caption: Feeding a hummingbird at Rocklands Bird Feeding Station near Montego Bay, Jamaica
River rafting the Rio Grande, Port Antonio.
Jo Cooke
River Rafting the Rio Grande
The bamboo rafts that ply the Rio Grande used to carry fruit and bananas to waiting ships, until Errol Flynn popularized the journey as a day trip. Climb aboard the narrow 9m-long craft that have a seat made for two, and enjoy a relaxing and romantic 12.8km (8-mile) ride downstream. Stop at riverside craft stalls, at Belinda's Canteen for lunch, take a swim, or just sit back and watch rural life unfold on the river banks.

Photo Caption: River rafting the Rio Grande, Port Antonio
Boston Beach in Port Antonio, Jamaica.
Driving the Coast Road between Boston Beach and White Horses
The section of the A4 between Boston Beach and White Horses, east of Port Antonio offers a feast for the eyes and a snapshot of authentic Jamaican life. It carries you past rugged, rocky beaches bashed by breaking rollers; through fishing villages; rural hamlets; cane fields; and farmland. What's more, it's on a road in a generally good state of repair.

Photo Caption: Boston Beach in Port Antonio, Jamaica
Dunn's River Falls in Ocho Rios, Jamaica.
Playing at James Bond and Honey Ryder at Dunn's River Falls
Stand beneath the gushing cascades of Jamaica's largest waterfall, Dunn's River Falls and you will be following in the footsteps of Sean Connery and Ursula Andress. The love scene from Dr No, the first film about Ian Fleming's fictional spy, was shot with this beauty spot as a backdrop.

Photo Caption: Dunn's River Falls in Ocho Rios, Jamaica
Doctor's Cave Beach in Montego Bay, Jamaica.
Sunbathing on Doctor's Cave Beach
Doctor's Cave Beach in Montego Bay is a stretch of white sand met by turquoise blue sea that looks as though it must have been air-brushed, it is so picture perfect. The saturated colors of nature are complemented by the red, blue, and yellow parasols that dot the beach.

Photo Caption: Doctor's Cave Beach in Montego Bay, Jamaica
Cinchona Botanical Gardens.
Jo Cooke
Visiting Cinchona Garden
Escape to Cinchona Garden, a mountain-top botanical garden 1,524m (5,000 ft) above sea level, and you will feel as if you've discovered a forgotten paradise. Tropical flowers and exotic trees planted by the Victorians thrive just below the clouds. It may be a little unkempt with the bush encroaching fast upon its bedding plants, but it's the best picnic spot in Jamaica.

Photo Caption: Cinchona Botanical Gardens
St. Peter's Anglican Church in Falmouth, Jamaica.
Piecing Together Falmouth's Social History
Spend an hour in the fascinating graveyards of St Peter's Anglican Church and the William Knibb Memorial Church. Read the headstones to discover who lived here during the 18th century when, thanks to the thriving sugar trade, Falmouth was a boom town.

Photo Caption: St. Peter's Anglican Church in Falmouth, Jamaica
Bunny Wailer performing reggae in Negril, Jamaica.
Dancing to live reggae music in Negril.
Jamaica is the birthplace of reggae, and the island is awash with talented musicians. Dance to the touring bands that play in the hotels come sundown, or seek out the local nightspots where the stars of tomorrow play live on stage.

Photo Caption: Bunny Wailer performing reggae in Negril, Jamaica
Watching the sun rise from Blue Mountain peak in Jamaica.
Watching the Sun Rise from Blue Mountain Peak
It may take three hours of uphill climbing in the dark to reach the summit of Blue Mountain but when the clouds clear at dawn you'll have a panoramic view of the island and possibly the outline of Cuba beyond. Hiking to the top of Jamaica's 2,256m (7,402 ft) peak is the island's ultimate high.

Photo Caption: Watching the sun rise from Blue Mountain peak in Jamaica
Appleton Estate in St. Elizabeth, Jamaica.
The Brit_2
Sipping the Island's Finest Rum
Appleton Estate's golden rum is among the smoothest and arguably the best in the world. Try it for yourself on the tour of the estate where it is created and blended. Surrounded by sugar cane fields in the heart of the picturesque south-coast countryside, the journey to the estate is a pleasure in itself.

Photo Caption: Appleton Estate in St. Elizabeth, Jamaica