Are you wondering what are the things to do in Portland Jamaica? My husband and I went to visit Jamaica for a week and part of our itinerary is to explore the beautiful parish of Portland. Located on the northeastern coast of Jamaica.
Tourism in the Portland region began in Port Antonio in the 1880s. Thanks to it being a major banana port before, people were able to see just how gorgeous this town was, as it still is to date. Port Antonio is popularly known as “Portie” or The Peaceful Parish, as people call the city.
The Portland region became popular with wealthy American tourists up to the 1940s and 50s when it became a glamourous tropical hideaway for Hollywood stars. As the saying goes, you haven’t seen the real Jamaica until you visit Port Antonio and the Portland Parish.
Let me share with you some of the best places and things to do in Portland Jamaica. My husband and I had a great and relaxing time in this tucked-away region of Jamaica.
The list of the best things to do in Portland Jamaica:
During colonial time, the Spanish gave the name of this mighty river that runs from the heart of the mountainous area of the Portland region to the coast. The Rio Grande is 3,034 kilometres / 1,885 miles long and one of the longest rivers in Jamaica.
The Rio Grande was originally used to transport bananas and other local produce from the interior of the Portland region to Port Antonio where it will go to various countries for export.
The Rio Grande is one of the main highlights of our trip to Jamaica. Cruising on a bamboo raft is one of the relaxing things to do in Portland Jamaica. Bamboo rafting was made popular by Errol Flynn during the 1950s. It’s a 2 to 3-hour activity and you will pass by a lot of scenic views, flora and fauna that thrive by the river as well as the locals that still use the Rio Grande as their preferred route to travel.
During our trip to Portland, my husband and I did the river walk tour to the Reach falls in Manchioneal.
The Reach falls were originally discovered by the slaves who are seeking refuge on the John Crow mountain range from the oppression of their plantation masters.
The cascading Reach falls are truly mesmerizing. You can find various varieties of ferns and birds and freshwater pools blanketing the surrounding area of Reach falls.
The Frenchman’s Cove in Port Antonio is the picturesque and quintessential scene of the tropical paradise of Jamaica. The Frenchman’s cove was a popular tropical destination for the rich and famous in the ’40s and 50s. The secluded beach area gives nice privacy to its beachgoers.
Since my husband and I stayed in the Mockingbird Hill Eco-boutique hotel, it’s only a 7-minute drive to the Frenchman’s cove. The beach is open to the public with a day pass entrance fee. The Frenchman’s Cove also offers villas if you wish to stay within the estate.
Blue Mountain National Park
The Blue Mountain is one of the iconic natural landmarks in Jamaica. It is a UNESCO world heritage site for natural and cultural value. It is the longest mountain range on the island and the highest point is Blue Mountain Peak at 2,256 metres / 7,402 feet elevation. The trek to the summit usually takes around 7 hours to a 14-mile hike.
The Blue Mountain is the home of the world-famous Jamaican Blue Mountain Coffee which is hailed as the best coffee in the world. You can book a Blue Mountain Coffee tour that will show you the highlights of the coffee-making process and an option to stay the night in the Blue Mountain top.
Winnifred Beach is one of the free beaches to visit in Jamaica. The beach is mainly used by the Fairy Hill local community nearby. There are some local food stalls and shops where you can buy food and drinks for a relaxing afternoon for an authentic rugged Jamaican experience.
The Free Winifred Benevolent Society is a local group that helps to maintain Winnifred Beach. The beach was under threat of private development and the group was the one who are leading the fight to keep the beach open for everyone and for free.
The Winnifred beach was also featured on Anthony Bourdain‘s show Parts Unknown.
Located near Boston bay is the rugged Boston beach. Here you can enjoy the rockery beaches and the big waves where you can enjoy different watersports.
Boston bay is also a culinary hotspot and considered the birthplace of the world’s favourite — Jerk food. Whether it is chicken, pork, beef, goat, lamb or fish! You got to try the Jerk food of Boston bay! The delicious spicy cuisine originated here and made its way to Kingston and all over the world.
Somerset Falls is another cascading waterfall in the Portland parish. Admission to Somerset falls is $1,000 JMD per person and you will get to enjoy the rustic experience of the lush garden and the rugged falls.
The Somerset falls are known for the grotto cave underneath the falls. The falls are best approached using the gondola.
The Nanny falls is located in the Maroon town of Moore town in the depth and hills of the Blue and Crow Mountain range and part of the Nanny town Heritage route.
Nanny or The Right Excellent Nanny of the Maroons is the famous and respected leader of the Maroon community that lead the first Maroon war against the English troops in 1720 – 1739. She was declared a National Hero in 1975.
Visiting the Nanny falls is one of the off-the-beaten-path things to do in Portland Jamaica. It is around 1.5 hours drive from Boston Bay and you would need a Maroon tourist guide to accompany you for the whole duration of your trip. This is part of the Maroon community policy and it must be observed and respected.
The Blue Lagoon of Portland was one of the filming locations of the famous 1980s movie — The Blue Lagoon. The name stuck to the public ever since. The Blue Lagoon was also known as “the Blue Hole” in Portland.
The lagoon is only 20 minutes drive from Port Antonio. When you reach the blue lagoon, you will get to enjoy the tranquillity of the place and nature. There are various group tours that can be arranged to visit the Blue Lagoon.
Folly Lighthouse and Mansion Ruins
The Folly lighthouse and the Folly Mansion ruins are located in the Folly Point peninsula in Port Antonio.
The Folly lighthouse is still a functioning lighthouse used by the Jamaican port authority. It was built in 1888 and was an integral part of Port Antonio’s busy port area due to its banana exports and the Banana boats that helped Jamaicans migrate to other key cities in the US and the UK.
The Folly mansion ruins were built by Alfred Mitchell, an American businessman, for his wife in the early 1900s. The mansion was grandeur and has an elegant design to impress. However, due to World war I the mansion was abandoned and was eventually turned over to the Jamaican government.
Charles Town Maroon Community
Charles Town is another notable and respected Maroon community in Portland parish. Charles Town Maroon Community is an independent indigenous tribe that is deeply rooted in the cultural and historical past of Jamaica since 1754.
Governed by the Colonel, the Maroon community has their own laws and policies that oversee the function and flow of its own group.
There are three main attractions within this Maroon community. The Maroon museum showcases the historical artefacts and memorabilia that educate the visitors about the cultural side of the community.
The Asafu cultural yard ground is where the Annual Charles Town Maroon celebrations are held. Lastly, the Sambo Hill Hiking trail that leads to the Blue and John Crow Mountain range if you are up for an adventure.
John Crow Mountain
The John Crow mountain range is part of the UNESCO World Heritage site for its cultural and natural distinction in Jamaica. It is home to 800 endemic plants and 200 species of resident and migratory birds in Jamaica. This makes the John Crow Mountain range a perfect spot for birdwatching enthusiasts.
The John Crow mountain is also the home of the endangered largest butterfly in the western hemisphere known as the Giant Swallowtail (Papilio Homerus).
Holywell Nature Walks
The Holywell Nature walks is located at the feet of the Blue and John Crow Mountains facing Kingston. The Holywell nature walks are one of the best things to do in Portland Jamaica for families and couples. It is surrounded by the lush flora and fauna of the island and home to Jamaica’s national tree – the Blue Mahoe. The Holywell Nature walks has five walking trails to enjoy with various levels of hiking difficulties.
I hope that this list of best things to do in Portland Jamaica helps you to plan and enjoy your visit to the region.