As you may or may not know, the widely desired getaway of Jamaica is divided into 14 parishes. Due to its size, however, Kingston Parish was consolidated with its neighbour St. Andrew in 1923 to become Kingston & St. Andrew, a part of the Kingston and St. Andrew Corporation. Nonetheless, we will treat each parish as their own, exploring popular and not so popular gems and watering holes available within their borders.
Jamaica’s fourteen parishes are further sub-divided into three counties: Cornwall, Middlesex and Surrey. Cornwall, the western most county comprised of Hanover, St. James, Trelawny, St. Elizabeth and Westmoreland. Juxtaposed/Sandwiched by the others, Middlesex includes St. Ann, St. Mary, St. Catherine, Clarendon and Manchester. Surrey includes Portland, St. Thomas, St. Andrew and Kingston. These counties have mere historic presence today, as they no longer hold any politically administrative significance.
All the parishes have gems to offer, but there may be a few that are for a different niche.
This parish has become a running joke among locals, especially during banter on social media. The parish is mostly overshadowed by its neighbour, St. James and is the only Jamaican parish without a KFC.
Hanover, one of Jamaica’s smallest parishes is also one of the quietest and houses one of the safest harbours - Fort Charlotte. However, this should not detract from the beauty which still emanates from Jamaica’s far corner. Oozing with history, feel free to explore The Hanover Museum which tells the tales of the parish’s tumultuous beginning. For the athletic folks, The Tryall Club offers golf and tennis alongside your high-class entertainment.
Capital: Montego Bay/MoBay
Montego Bay located on the north west of the island is packed with all the ingredients for a fun tropical vacation, Montego Bay famously called “Mobay” is a thriving cruise ship port and a hot spot for value-seeking tourists. Activities in Montego Bay affords one the opportunity to possibly clear a bucket list. Divers and snorkelers can explore the protected waters of the Montego Bay Marine Park (Jamaica’s first marine park) as well as reefs fringing the blonde-sand beaches. Other popular things to do include fishing, golfing, guided river rides on bamboo rafts, visiting the Ahhh… Ras Natango Gallery and Garden (free shuttle service available if within MoBay) or the historic Rose Hall Great house. There is also a branch of the National Gallery of Jamaica in Montego Bay - National Gallery West.
Trelawny is home to the source 40% of Jamaica’s underground water supply, thus being able to supply six western parishes with fresh water. The Cockpit Country located in both Trelawny and St. Elizabeth has a karst landscape (formed form soluble rocks such as limestone) makes for the perfect filtration ground. It is one of the most biodiverse areas in the world, and is not accessible by roadways. The area may be traversed via Maroon settlements such as Trelawny Town and Accompong, which surround the area. Cockpit Country was recently threatened by bauxite mining a limestone quarrying, but an islandwide petition allows for the preservation of the area. The environmental NGO Jamaica Environment Trust (JET) is ensuring that the proper legislation is billed for future purposes.
Trelawny is also known for its beautiful rivers and beaches and its historic landmarks. Engage in some retail therapy on the boardwalk after a peaceful walk, touring historic landmarks or going rafting in the Martha brae river. The Braco Stables offers horseback riding, hiking, biking, rafting and more enjoyable tours.
Capital: St. Ann’s Bay
St. Ann is referred to as the ‘garden parish’ though I think it’s safe to say that this label could be any of the fourteen. Ocho Rios, though not the capital is the main tourist town in this parish. You have your choice of swimming with the dolphins and sting rays at Dolphin Cove (with another location in MoBay) right across from Dunn’s River Falls and Park, Moon Palace, or turn it up a notch and go diving at Blue Hole or Mystic Mountain Rainforest Adventures. 3.3 miles of Ocho Rios is Yaaman Adventure Park.
Dunn’s River is historically marked as the site of the battle between the Spanish and the English for the island. The battle of “Las Chorreras” fought in 1657.
Get your fix of jerk chicken and pork, and go for a peaceful journey through Fern Gully. Fern Gully is approximately 5 kilometres long and is preserved by the National Heritage Trust. This cool drive will fill your eyes with sights of over 500 species of tropical ferns. Visit Mystic Mountain, and scenic tours of the Green Grotto, and Runaway Caves whether by horse or ATV bikes at chukka cove. The resorts on the north coast are fantastic with a beautiful view of the ocean. Take a ride through history with a visit to the Orange Valley Estate and Great House (on the border of St. James and Trelawny) and go for a tour.
Capital: Port Maria
Known for the beach where the first James bond film was shot, James bond beach is located in St. Mary, the parish has tons of beaches, falls, a botanical garden and has a plantation in which is open for visits, caves and forts which were built during wars and great houses and a lighthouse.
Castleton is home to one of the most magnificent botanical gardens in this hemisphere. Castleton Botanical Garden has a thousands of varieties of plants, coffee and fruits. Some are even useful for pharmaceutical purposes. It is the perfect place to have a relaxing day and go for a dip with the Wag Water River flowing through the property.
Capital: Port Antonio
Portland is located on the northeast coast of the island and you will find gorgeous beaches, waterfalls. Markets and art galleries, eco-tourist destinations and recreation and other fun things to do in Portland and also hiking the famous blue mountain.
Capital: Morant Bay
St. Thomas located southeast and mainly known for its beautiful falls,has mostly nature lovers activities to do from visiting the famous Reggae Falls, to the Bath Botanical Garden which is the second oldest botanical garden in the western hemisphere. There are historical sites to view and beaches to swim in.
Capital: Half Way Tree
Kingston located south east of the island is known as the first metropolitan city in Jamaica and the capital of the island. Kingston offers a wide variety of activities to partake in, such as the Bob Marley Museum, Peter Tosh Museum, the National gallery, and historic sites (eg. The plaque of World War II volunteers located at Clock Tower). Kingston has a multitude of restaurants offering varying cuisines to enjoy.
The amalgam of parishes has its own offering of flowing rivers to offer, and the Blue Mountain Range can be explored through hikes and a sleepover at one of the cabins and bungalows. Stony Hill also has some gems such as the Falling Edge Waterfalls and Boone Hall Oasis. Cane River Falls can be found approximately from the Harbour View roundabout (leaving the Palisadoes Strip).
Capital: Spanish Town
St. Catherine more famously known for the most dangerous bridge in the country, Flat Bridge, because of its low and flat structure, it is dangerous to cross as it has no barriers preventing anyone from going over into the Rio Cobre’s (the parish’s only river) heavy current. Linstead is one of the parish’s major towns, and can easily be your main source of fresh produce.
St. Catherine is also known for its Hellshire and Fort Clarence stretch of beaches. With Spanish Town being the country’s capital in the past, there are many historic sites to view such as the site which operated as King’s House for over a century and the Spanish Town Court House. Two Sisters Cave is also open for your more adventurous days.
Capital: May Pen
Clarendon famous known for the lunch stop at Juici patties in Clarendon Park, has few attractions. The Milk River Bath Spa houses one of the best natural spas in the island and the world, located in the capital of May Pen. The Milk River is the main source of fresh water and irrigation in the parish. Its mineral spring is also found to be one of the most radioactive in the world, thus boasting many beneficial properties, more than its first world counterparts.
Vernamfield may also be found in this quiet parish. Currently utilised for racing purposes, there are plans brewing to revive the land for aviation purposes. During World War II, the expanse was used by the United States Army Air Forces as an airfield. Hales Hall Great House is another stop which can make your list. It stands upon land given to Major Thomas Hales, an English officer in 1655. Halse played a leading role in the Maroon Wars. After his death in 1702, the house was expanded and owned by Francis Saddler Halse.
Manchester has a temperature that is remarkably lower than the rest of the island year-round. Jamaicans will always boast that they cater the best Chinese food with frequent statements such as “Jamaican Chinese food is better than real Chinese food.”. If you wish to test this theory, check out Bamboo Garden Restaurant lauded as one of the best in Mandeville. For more traditionally Jamaican meals, head on over to Alligator Pond and visit Little Ochie for your choice of fresh seafood meals cooked to perfection, be it jerked or fried.
Capital: Black River
St. Elizabeth known as the ‘bread basket’ is largely renowned for its farming activities. Home to the Black River safari tour and the lovely YS waterfalls is St. Elizabeth Jamaica, there is also the Appleton estate rum tour for alcohol lovers which is also kid-friendly. Middle Quarters is the place to visit. Just outside of Black River, this town boasts some of the best peppered shrimp in the island.
St. Elizabeth is also home to some of Jamaica’s maroon settlements. Maroons were runaway slaves; once slaves on plantations, escaped and seek refuge in what is now known as Accompong village (within the Cockpit Country). The history lesson continues to the popular scenic view of Lovers Leap where two slaves that were in love decided to jump from a cliff because their undying love for each other was forbidden by the slave masters. The property houses a lighthouse and a restaurant. The view from the cliff overlooks the sea. Close to sunset, the waves washing up on shore look as though birds are fluttering. Other activities include going hiking and visiting the popular fishing town of Treasure Beach for seafood and a calming evening.
Capital: Savanna-la-mar/Sav-la-marWestmoreland mostly known for its tourism capital Negril, one of the main attractions in Negril, Jamaica is the beaches, specifically the famous Seven Mile Beach. Approximately an hour and a half’s drive from Sangster’s International Airport (Montego Bay), a little known fact is that the length of the beach is actually less than seven miles in length. The popular beach is comprised of two bays - Bloody Bay and Long Bay - in the north and south and are under 2 miles and 5 miles, respectively.
Although Negril is a small town of about 3,000, it stretches across two parishes (Hanover and Westmoreland) and there are a number of beautiful beaches for people to enjoy. This natural oasis is ideal for sunbathing, snorkeling, cliff diving at Rick’s Cafe and even scuba diving, along with a number of other fun water sports.