Kingston, Negril and Jamaica's South Coast
Following is an excerpt from this guide that specializes in some of the most popular areas of Jamaica. Also included in the guide is complete detail on where to stay, where to eat, what to see and what to do to make your trip unforgettable. We landed at Kingston''s Norman Manley International Airport long after dark. The city was celebrating Friday night in its traditional manner; the Friday Night Jam filled the streets with people glad the work week was over. We were in Kingston. But not for long. Our ride was taking us out of the city and up the Blue Mountains to Strawberry Hill. For the next hour, we wound our way through the city streets that we''d return to in later days, finally making our way out of the humidity and crowds and into the hills. The air grew cooler as we climbed, moving slowly back and forth on the switchback road. Finally, we were there. A pale glow lit the main building and restaurant, around the property we could see the small cottages outlined in dim light. But the real sight was from the restaurant itself. From here, we could see the lights of Kingston in the distance, far below us. The city was still partying down there, but here all was quiet as most visitors went to bed early, ready to rise the next morning to a foggy sunrise and a forest draped in quiet mist. We''d be bird watching the next day. It was time for our Friday Night Jam to end, not to reggae or dancehall music, but to the sound of night frogs and insects in the nearby forest. The capital city of Kingston lies on the south shore. This metropolitan area of over 800,000 residents is visited primarily by business travelers. Within this sprawling metropolis, however, beats the true heart of Jamaica. Travelers interested in the culture and history that define this island nation should make time for a visit to Kingston, the largest English-speaking city. Kingston is big, brash and boisterous. Life spills out from storefronts and homes onto the streets, filling the sidewalks and every inch of available space. Goats roam the downtown area, sidewalk vendors peddle all type of merchandise from carts and tables, pedestrians are everywhere. Kingston dates back to 1692. The city is built along the harbor, stretching from the Blue Mountains in the east to the boundaries of Spanish Town in the west. Kingston is not for everyone. It does not offer a relaxing, fun-in-the-sun vacation. Head to the North Coast resort communities for that type of getaway. Instead, if you''ve had a few dates with Jamaica and you''re ready to visit her parents, then it''s time to head to Kingston. Things aren''t always pretty here, but its a necessary part of the experience. No sheet, no eat is the motto of the weekly toga party at this resort known for its adults-only atmosphere. Hedonism II attracts fun-loving couples and singles over age 18 who come to this westernmost point of Jamaica for a vacation of sun, sand and something more. Guests leave their inhibitions behind, seeking pleasure in the form of festivities like Toga Night, buffets to tempt the most devoted calorie counters, bars open until 5 am, and nonstop adult fun. The real wildness in Negril lies just outside the city limits. Here, in an area known as the Great Morass, you can see a side of the country that most visitors never glimpse. Crocodiles, not vacationers, lie in the steamy afternoon sunshine. Peddlers sell, not marijuana, but shrimp caught using techniques over 400 years old. And spectacular birds, not parasailers, fill the air with dashes of color and a cacophony of exotic sounds. Today, Negril has gained respectability and is home to all types of resorts that attract everyone from swingers to families. Law mandates that no building here can be taller than a palm tree so low-rises follow the coast from Bloody Bay (named for the days when the whalers cleaned their catch here) to the cliffs at its southern end, where the Negril Lighthouse still signals the rocks to ships.