Situated along the island’s northeast coast, Port Antonio has been dubbed the ‘Jamaican Riviera’ for its natural glamour and rich history.
From exceptional cuisine and culture to a prized array of scenic nirvanas, the Port Antonio experience combines authentic Jamaican roots with a modern Caribbean lifestyle. The area’s eighty-kilometer shoreline features some of the world’s most stunning beaches, waterfalls, caves and rainforests.
Port Antonio is a mecca of natural attractions – including the iconic Blue Lagoon, Rio Grande River rafting and Somerset and Reach waterfalls – that resonate with the legacy and sequestered elegance that define the area.
The town of Port Antonio is a cornucopia of local culture nestled in a relaxed coastal setting. You can visit the Errol Flynn Marina, shop at the Royal Mall and Musgrave Market or enjoy an evening out at one of the vibrant rum shacks, sound systems or nightclubs.
The Blue Lagoon’s timeless glamour and exceptional setting makes it one of Jamaica’s most prized destinations. The largest of the island’s spring-fed lagoons boasts a depth of nearly 180 feet – some claim it has no bottom – and blends tones of emerald, turquoise and sapphire to create an almost biblical aquatic haven. The mix of warm tidal and ice-cold mountain waters welling up from a mineral spring, offers the perfect balance of soothing and invigorating restoration. The already famous property landed on the world map in 1980, when Randal Kleiser‘s “Blue Lagoon” starring Brooke Shields and Christopher Atkins made its cinematic debut. The Blue Lagoon has attracted countless visitors over the years, including Robin Moore of The French Connection and Caddy Shack fame, who also owned some of the property’s Villas that are still named after him. Scenes from Tom Cruise’s hit film Cocktail were shot on location. Plans for the revival of this landlocked cove – including a heritage museum, botanical gardens, restaurant, pier-side craft kiosks and luxury villas – point to a prime boasting right for Port Antonio and its surroundings.
One of the more coveted outings in Port Antonio is a rafting tour down the gently winding Rio Grande. The river is the birthplace and bedrock of Jamaican rafting that was originally used as a means of transporting banana crops from the local plantations to Port Antonio’s bustling harbor. Once the banana boom dwindled, the rafting tours became a popular leisure activity championed by the likes of Hollywood scion Errol Flynn. Legend has it that Flynn enjoyed gathering his well-heeled guests for midnight excursions under a canopy of stars. Experienced guides who are knowledgeable about the river and its ecosystem, now man the bamboo-crafted vessels. Guests may also stop off at Belinda’s Riverside Canteen for an authentic, freshly prepared Jamaican meal that can be enjoyed right on the river’s edge. Swimming in the river is perhaps the best part of the journey.
The natural world at its modern-day best, Reach Falls is ranked as one of Jamaica’s more exceptionally situated waterfalls. Located on Driver’s River, the falls are sheltered by virgin rain forest and accentuated by crystal clear rock pools, lovely bamboo stands and draping vines. Flowing from the John Crow Mountains, the falls form their own self-contained ecological sanctuary. Reach Falls has been the location for more than one Hollywood film, not the least of which was Roger Donaldson’s 1988 popular film Cocktail starring Tom Cruise.
This forest-shrouded oasis is as steeped in history as it is in unique and unsurpassed beauty. Situated on a former indigo and spice plantation, the site was home to Spanish settlers and still has relics of many of the original aqueducts, some dating back nearly 400 years. Cloistered by the rainforest, the falls are offset by luxurious deep rock pools, dramatic natural caves and stunning rock formations. Once at the top, there is also a cave with ‘hidden falls’ that may be visited by boat. The highlight, of course, is the beautifully cascading Daniels River. An array of exotic birds and wildlife form the backdrop to the Rhythm & Booze bar and Fusion on the Falls restaurant. There is also a Jerk Pit offering some of Portland’s best chicken and pork recipes as well as a swim-up bar where guests can order a poolside cocktail.
Unlike other Caribbean islands with overpopulated, all-inclusive attractions, Port Antonio’s beaches are generally secluded, unspoiled getaways defined by their unique character and pristine beauty. A visit to the world renowned Frenchman’s Cove, or to the white sand havens of Boston Bay, Long Bay, Winnifred Beach or San San Beach provide luxurious retreats that are as relaxing and tranquil as they are regenerative and invigorating. Surfing, horseback riding, kayaking, river rafting, private boat tours, snorkeling, scuba diving and yoga retreats are just a few of the leisure and recreational activities that can be enjoyed at these locations. Rafting down the Rio Grande is a popular favorite, complimented by a home-cooked on-site river lunch of local fare.