Not just sun, sand, and sea, Jamaica is attracting international thrill seekers and adventure junkies with attractions that promise to satisfy all tastes. From Kingston to Negril, the Island is rivaling major international destinations with the range of activities now available for visitors to the island.

Kingston: More Than Business

Not traditionally thought of as a tourist destination, the capital city of Kingston is changing its business-focused image with activities and tours to keep the entire family happy.

Hope Gardens, the country’s major botanical gardens and the largest in the Caribbean spread out over 200 acres, recently refurbished and relaunched as a tourist attraction. Located in the heart of Kingston on Hope Road, Hope Botanical Gardens features impeccably designed and manicured flowering gardens showcasing indigenous flora and fauna, a hedge-lined maze for little ones, greenhouses, fountains, butterfly garden, and a zoo that houses a bevy of exotic animals.

The property was once the Sunday haunt for locals back in its heyday. But years of neglect saw a drastic fall-off in interest. Today, the Nature Preservation Foundation, with support from government and private sector, has rejuvenated the park to attract locals and tourists alike. With pink flamingos strolling freely, gardens bursting with color, poui trees, beckoning hibiscus, and a chorus of birdsong including that of the Doctor Bird, Jamaica’s national bird, Jamaicans and visitors have a new sanctuary spot in Kingston.

New Kingston’s Emancipation Park is also a magnet for visitors and locals. Situated opposite the Wyndham and Pegasus hotels means it is the perfect place for weary business travelers to chill. The addition of a bandshell and stage for concerts and cinema events also draws thousands into the park known for its famous larger-than-life bronze sculpture “Redemption Song”. Standing 11 feet tall, the nude couple proudly representing the resilience and brilliance of the Jamaican people, was created by local artist Laura Facey. Emancipation Park takes on that same spirit as it welcomes a growing number of visitors.

For nighttime trawlers and rootsy music lovers, Rae Town is the place to be. Rae Town Sundays, a street dance in this coastal city that faces Kingston’s natural harbor, has become the popular place to be on a Sunday night. Not just for locals, foreigners from all over the world can be spotted rocking to the syncopated rhythms of roots rock reggae blasting from 10-foot speaker boxes. Definitely an attraction for the serious rockers lover, it’s the place to show off your moves and learn the latest dances.

Jungle Flight

Wanna fly? Well, why not take one of the most thrilling flights through the thick jungles of Good Hope in Falmouth. Signing up for a Chukka Caribbean Adventure is the only way to sail through the lush canopy and come away with a new definition of exhilarating. Not only will your feet touch the tops of some of the tallest trees in the forrest, you will literally fly through one of the largest guango trees on the 2000 acre property and over the meandering river that graces the jungly grounds.

Did you know you can also fly on water? That’s the promise, and indeed the experience, once you tube down the Martha Brae river that cuts through the Good Hope property. Don’t be fooled, it’s not all calm and serene. Yes, you will see some of the most scenic spots on the island, but the rapids will also thrash you under stone bridges, around caves, and change course in a split second. There’s no forgetting this ride.

After all the excitement why not take in a Braemar trolly tour of historic Falmouth, the port city where goods and slaves were traded in the 18th century. It all starts at the new Historic Falmouth Cruise Port, a themed destination/attraction created in partnership with Royal Caribbean Cruises and the Port Authority of Jamaica.

The US$200 million facility has transformed the waterfront into a site that easily fits into the national heritage of old Falmouth. With Georgian style buildings in keeping with the rest of the town, the port offers cruise passengers shopping, local fare, exotic eats, and tours to round out the Jamaican experience. From the port, visitors ride through Water Square, Falmouth’s commercial district, to Albert George Market with its famous clock tower, pass the Georgian-inspired courthouse and the majestic St. Peter’s Anglican Church. The guided tour takes you back to British colonial times.

From old Jamaica to snuggling up to nature, there is so much to do. Ocho Rios-based Dolphin Cove will give visitors a chance to swim with, and even kiss, dolphins, sharks, and stingrays. Yes indeed, this attraction brings you up close and personal with some of the most intelligent mammals in the ocean. Take a dip in the natural lagoon and ‘speak’ to the very playful dolphins. And, if you have the nerve, jump in with the sharks for the thrill of your life. The 23-acre family-friendly property also features exotic birds that will literally eat out of your hand, a jungle trail with snakes and iguanas, and restaurants to recharge after all that animal schmoozing.

Tired? Understandably. There is a lot more to see and do all across the island, but it would take a book to go into here. Even when you leave the island, there is an adventure awaiting you at both airports. Get a ‘lass lick’ of Jamaican culture at Club Kingston and Club MoBay, the VIP lounge with a difference. Not only will you be pampered with local food, a shower facility, and a massage, you will be surrounded by Jamaican art, music, and hospitality. Walk good!

by Dawn A. Davis