Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Places to visit in Jamaica: Ocho Rios

If you are planning a trip to Jamaica and this is your first visit to the country, you may wish to know about which places to visit. You may also want to know about the various accommodation options available to you. Just before you settle on a hotel, know that you can also plan a self-catering holiday on the island by staying in what are commonly known as Jamaican rentals. These rentals comprise private villas, cottages and apartments to suit all requirements and budgets. They are more affordable than hotels, provide you privacy and space, and unlike all-inclusive resorts, the other accommodation option on the island, allow you to immerse yourself in the local culture and explore the island at your leisure and pace.

Jamaica is a relatively small island promising the vacationers the ideal opportunity to relax and rejuvenate amidst nature’s abundant attractions. However, there are some places that you should definitely visit during your trip and one of them is Ocho Rios.

This is undoubtedly the best known tourist site on the island. The main attraction here is the Dunn’s River Falls, where you can see water cascading down from a height of more than 600 feet and then making its way to the Caribbean Sea. However, what makes these falls even more spectacular is the fact that the water cascades over a series of protruding rocks that form a sort of natural staircase leading right to the top of the falls. Visit the falls and you’ll see people forming a human chain to keep from falling and making their way to the top. You can carry along a waterproof camera and stop at the steps to capture the fun and the views. Should you want to opt out from the climb any time, you’ll find train guards there to lead you away from the steps.

Another major attraction here is the Dolphins Cove, a marine park, where apart from other activities, you can actually swim with a family of bottlenose dolphins.

You can also visit the nearby Green Grotto caves that are believed to have sheltered the original inhabitants from the attacks of the Spaniards. Over a period of time, they also sheltered smugglers, run away slaves etc.

Jamaica is synonymous with Bob Marley and if you love his music, you can enjoy a tour of the Bob Marley Mausoleum and also visit ReggaeXplosion.

Given the fact that Ocho Rios is such a favourite with the tourists, you will find a number of accommodation rentals such as Ocho Rios apartments, ideally located nearby. These apartments are located in secured complexes and provide you great facilities and great services and spectacular views of the Ocho Rios bay.

Monday, May 30, 2011

Sightseeing and things to do in Jamaica

If you are planning a trip to Jamaica, you will plenty of opportunities for sightseeing and indulging in both water and land activities. There are a wide range of accommodation options available from hotels to all-inclusive resorts to Jamaica villas, cottages and apartments to suit all tastes and budgets. Where you stay will make all the difference to not only your trip but also to your pocket. Hotels are comfortable but they are provide a highly impersonal and formal environment and so if you want get away from it all, they might not prove to be the right choice. Then there are the all-inclusive resorts which can be pretty expensive because you have to buy the entire package. Secondly, your choices of what to see and do would be limited to what the all-inclusive resort provides. Of course, you have the freedom to do your own thing but it will cost you extra. Jamaica villas, cottages and apartments, on the other hand, give you all the freedom, privacy, comforts and space you need. Added to these, these rentals are more affordable and provide you the perfect opportunity to experience and discover the real Jamaica.

Once you have made your accommodation and travel arrangements, you can examine the sightseeing opportunities and also things that you can do. There are some activities that are kids-friendly and others that are meant strictly for adults. If you are travelling with kids and want to go out for an adults only activity, you can contact the staff of your rental and they will arrange for childcare facilities and will also keep them happy and busy. Listed here are some activities that you can consider.

History and culture tours: Jamaica has a rich and colourful history and culture and to get a glimpse of both, you can enjoy guided tours of the various estate houses that dot the island. One such estate is the Prospect Plantation that dates to 1721. Even today it is in working condition and attracts dignitaries from across the world. For those interested in Gothic horror and witch craft can check out the Great Rose Hall and to get a glimpse of the Caribbean art, you can visit Harmony Hall.

Natural attractions: You really must visit Dunn’s River Falls, one of Jamaica’s premier attractions. You can wade right into the cool, refreshing water and join a human chain making its way right to the top of the waterfall on the slippery stone steps. You can also consider trekking the misty Blue Mountains. The panoramic views on and down the climb have to be seen to be believed. Then there is a boat ride you can take on the Luminous Lagoon.

Water activities: No trip to Jamaica can be complete without spending time on its world-famous beaches like the Seven Miles Beach and also enjoying various water activities such as diving, swimming, snorkelling, kayaking and scuba diving.

Jamaica villas guide to Runaway Bay

Runaway is a small, peaceful town located in the north coast of the island in the scenic St Ann parish. It is perfect for those who want their own quiet corner and yet be within distance of the attractions on the island. You can set base in Silver Sands Jamaica on the north coast from where you can enjoy day trips to Runaway Bay as also other tourist hotspots.

Despite its small size, Runaway Bay offers its visitors a host of activities from swimming and enjoying the sun to exploring rainforests and caves.

You can start by exploring the Green Grotto Caves, which are deeply woven into the nation’s history. They first served as home to the Ararak Indians, the original inhabitants of the island and later to the Spaniards when it became a British colony and finally to the runaway slaves from the plantations. Today they are home to a number of bats. You can explore the maze of tunnels and go for a boat ride in the lake.

Nearby are the Dunn’s River Falls, in Ocho Rios, undoubtedly the most popular resort town in Jamaica. The water here cascades from a height of 600 feet over a series of limestone rocks that form a natural staircase to the top. So the actual fun is climbing up to the top. Go to the falls and you will find people joining hands to form a chain leading to the top.

Near to the Dunn’s River Falls is the Dolphins Cove that promises much fun and activities for the entire family. You can enjoy a picnic on the beach, go river rafting, explore rainforest trails and swim with a pair of lovable dolphins. Also, if you feel adventurous enough, swim with trained nurse sharks.

There is much more that you can do in Runaway Bay and surrounds. To explore the area, you can set base in Jamaica villas located on the north coast of the island. The staff would be able to guide you on the popular tourist attractions and where to go off the beaten path.

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Cultural and religious festivals in Jamaica

Jamaica is synonymous with its beaches, reggae and rum – a heady combination for a relaxing holiday where you can let your hair down and forget all the cares of the world. The high season on the island is from mid-December to mid-April and the demand for Jamaica rentals is at the peak so if you are planning your visit during this period, it would be wise to book your accommodation well in time. Jamaica enjoys warm, tropical climate through out the year and you can avail of attractive discounts on properties, shops and restaurants during the rest of the year.

Most festivals are marked by big parades, costumed merrymakers, grand parties and sumptuous feasts. A case point is the Christmas holiday, the Junkanoo festival.

New Year Celebrations: Jamaica ushers in the New Year with much pomp and splendour. The festivities include fireworks, parties and shows held in all parts of the island. Since this is during the high season, the festivities see the participation of both the visitors and locals.

Accompong Maroon Festival: Maroons have played an important role in the history of Jamaica. They are in fact, the descendents of the escaped slaves of Jamaica who fought against the colonial rule on the island. Every January 6th, the Accompong Maroon Festival is held to honour their leader Cudjoe who led them to triumph over the British during the 1700s. The celebrations include beatings of drums and blowing of Abeng, singing, dancing, ceremonies and feasts.

Carnival Months

February is the carnival month in the Caribbean and there are festivities and parade in Jamaica also. However, the main celebrations are held during the month of April, starting from Easters Day. The streets in major resort towns come alive with parades, costumed merrymakers, parties and feasts. Various events such as calypso competitions, all-night dancing and numerous fashion shows are held.

Emancipation Day and Independence Day: The island celebrates Emancipation Day every first day of August and Independence Day is observed during the 6th day of August. The celebrations which continue through out the week include competitions in the culinary arts, cultural displays and beach parties with calypso, reggae and soca music.

Christmas Day

Christmas is the most anticipated holiday on the island. Shops, restaurants and even public places are bright with Christmas decorations. The atmosphere is soaked in the spirit of Christmas and there are extensive parties, reunions, parades, cultural shows, Junkanoo and street dancing and other merrymaking activities.

The festivals in Jamaica are an attraction in their own right and some like the Jazz and Blue festival held in the month of February see international performers also. Visitors can enjoy the festivities in all major resort towns such as Kingston, Montego Bay, Negril and Ocho Rios. Since accommodation in these places can get a bit expensive, people generally prefer to book Jamaica villas and cottages on the north coast of the island. These rental properties are away from the crowds and within easy driving distance of the resort towns.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Park and reserves in Jamaica

Jamaica is generally seen as a beach destination but beyond the sun, sand and surf, there is a treasure trove of natural attractions to be explored in its reserves, parks and botanical gardens. Most of these can be found in and around the famed north coast of the island. For your convenience, you can choose your accommodation in any of the Jamaican rentals to be found here.

You can start with the Swaby's Swamp Safari in Falmouth. In fact this well preserved Georgian-era town is in the limelight for the opening of a new pier that is expected to give a huge boost to the number of visitors coming here. Coming back to the park, this four-acre mangrove swamp and reserve is home to the Cashoo Ostrich Park which also doubles as a working farm. Apart from the ostriches, the crocodiles too attract a fair share of visitors. Guided tours are available and you can go hiking the beautiful trails or spend time in the fruit orchards.

The most famous park on the island is however the Blue Mountains and John Crow National Park. As is obvious from the name, the park encompasses two ranges of mountains and is also home to the highest peak on the island, the Blue Mountains peak rising to a height of 7402 feet above sea level. The park also houses the largest remaining rainforests on the island. Needless to say hiking and camping are the favorite activities here and catering to the needs of the visitors there are many tour operators offering guided tours. The most sought out tour is the tour that starts from Mavis Bank and passes through elfin woodlands to reach the summit at 7,402 feet. The park is home to 28 species of birds and there are 150 other migratory species that make their stop here.

You can also visit the Montego Bay Marine Park, which is home to several species of stingrays, moray eels, sharks, numerous other types of fish and sharks. You can also admire the coral reef formations and walk through the dense areas of mangrove trees, which serve as home to a wide variety of wildlife. The park also offers excellent scuba diving and snorkeling opportunities.

The Royal Palm reserve also deserves a mention. Set in Great Morass swamplands across 7000 acres, the park supports diverse creatures such as crocodiles and a wide range of birds, including herons and egrets, living amongst the mangroves. Also located here is the Negril Watershed Environmental Protection Area, dedicated to tropical preservation and protection.

For the bird enthusiasts, there can be no other place like the Marshall's Pen, which was a plantation in the 1800's. Today it is a bird sanctuary housing the native birds as well as also the migratory birds that make their stop here.

These are just some of the parks and reserves found on the island but they do support the fact that there is more to the island than its beaches. The High Season in Jamaica is fast approaching so choose your ideal Jamaican accommodation and get set to explore the beautiful and well-preserved natural attractions of the island.

Friday, May 20, 2011

How to rent Jamaica villas

If you are planning a trip to Jamaica, you can stay in Jamaica villas for a more personalized and unique experience. These Jamaica villas are your home away from home and offer a more intimate experience than a hotel. Depending on your budget and whether you are travelling single, as a couple, with family or friends, you can find a villa, cottage, studio or apartment that is perfect for your needs. A little bit of thought in this direction will help you find the right villa at the right rate. So how to rent a Jamaica villa?

First, decide on when you are planning your vacation. The high-season in Jamaica is between mid-December to mid-April, which means that if you are planning your visit during this period, make sure to book in advance to avoid disappointment. Also, you are more likely to get a better deal if you book well in time. During the off-season, you can avail of special discounts and packages. The added advantage is that there is less of a holiday crowd, which means you get to explore the beaches, outdoors, mountains and waterfalls in peace. If your dates are flexible, you are more likely to get a better deal.

Enter the term Jamaica villas in the search bar and you will be inundated with choices. As a rule, you must compare rates, that is nightly, weekly and extended stay rates. There are some Jamaica villas that have minimum number of nights stay as pre-condition. Also, if you are travelling with your family including kids and grandparents, ensure the Jamaica villas have facilities to keep them occupied and well taken care of. This means your rental should provide babysitting services etc so that you can venture out if you wish to.

Generate a list of questions you would ask the property manager, marketing agents or the owners themselves. For example, you can ask for more photos of the property in question and whether it provided access to tourist attractions, makes arrangements for tours and transfers etc. If you are planning to take your pet along, you must ensure that the vacation rental is pet-friendly. Feel comfortable with your choice before sending money. Ask whether you can pay by credit card so that if you experience any problems, you can dispute the charge. Avoid paying by cash because that can leave you more vulnerable.

Book a rental only when you are sure it works for you in terms of location, price and rental terms so you have an enjoyable, stress-free vacation.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Safety tips for your Jamaican trip

Jamaica is a traveler’s delight. Offering lots of sun, sand and sea, this land of reggae and jazz promises everything that you would want for a dream Caribbean vacation. There are plenty of sightseeing opportunities as also things to do both in water and land. However, to ensure that your trip is a smooth one, you must keep certain safety measures in mind.

Travel in groups

Jamaica is famous for its all-inclusive resorts where you can rent your own private Jamaican villa, condo, studio and apartment. Some of these resorts such as the Silver Sands Jamaica encompasses a private beach and also provides facilities, services and plenty of activities to do within its protected environs. However, should you wish to venture out, you should travel in groups instead of venturing out alone to ward off unwanted interest.

Avoid venturing out after dark

After dark, it is advisable to remain in crowded tourist areas and at all costs you should avoid the inner cities. Also avoid some problem areas such as Hollywood, Beverly Hills and Spanish Town.

Maintain a low profile

For your own safety, don’t flaunt valuables such as expensive watches and jewelry. Keep important documents under lock and key in your own private apartment. When traveling out, just keep the amount of money you would require rather than carrying all of it.

Carry mosquito repellants and bug sprays

Use mosquito repellants and bug sprays to protect yourself against tropical diseases and also to ward off ants from your luggage. If you forget to pack it, you can purchase it from the villa mart of Silver Sands Jamaica.

Precautionary measures on the beaches
It is advisable to watch your steps while walking along the beaches and especially in the waters to avoid being stung by the sea urchins. Similarly, when going scuba diving and snorkeling, avoid disturbing the marine life for your own and its safety.

Drink bottled water

Even though tap water is claimed to be safe for drinking, you should opt for bottled drinking water. Bottles are recycled in Jamaica, however, the part under the cap remain untouched so do remember to wipe the mouth before drinking.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Water parks in Jamaica

There are so many water parks in Jamaica that the island may well be the king of water parks in the Caribbean. Besides, there are Jamaica rentals communities like Silver Sands Jamaica that have their own kids pools. From wave pools to full blown amusement-style parks, you’ll find a wide range of water parks in Jamaica. Two well known ones are Kool Runnings Park in Negril and the Dolphins Cove in Negril.

Kool Runnings Water Park: There is nothing more refreshing than a visit to Kool Runnings Water Park in the island’s ‘Capital of the Casual’ a favourite destination to spend a cool, fun filled day with the entire family. There are plenty of sliding options available from the staid to the adventurous. The 40 feet high and 385 meters long Green Grotto slide is one of the very few waterslides in the world which is equipped with the latest in 3-D visual reality imaging and audio technology which allows visitors to create their own ride. On Coconut Island, kids under 48” can have fun in a shallow pool with shorter slides under the supervision of well-trained lifeguards. The park’s dry area, ‘The Anancy Village’ also offers a wide range of escapades.

Dolphins Cove: The marine park offers fun for the entire family. The cove in Ocho Rios is surrounded by 5 acres of lush tropical rain forest and is set against the backdrop of Jamaica’s picturesque North Coast.

It promises you an experience of a lifetime. Guided tours to the park are also available. The most unique attraction here is the swim with a pair of adorable bottlenose dolphins. For this, you’ll first get an orientation from the instructor after which you can wade into the water and play and swim with the mammals.

You can also go for a kayaking expedition in the Caribbean Sea and if you wish opt to captain your own mini-boat and get a glimpse of the underwater world. There is also a jungle trail in the rainforest which you can explore. You’ll be able to glimpse the rare flora and fauna and plants indigenous to the island.

Both Negril and Ocho Rios are within convenient distance of Silver Sands Jamaica.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Top cultural activities in Jamaica

Jamaica, the ultimate land of the sun, sand and sea in the Caribbean, also offers a myriad of cultural activities that you can enjoy on your visit. Also, to gain a first hand experience of the lifestyle of the people and their customs and traditions, you can consider staying in private Jamaica rentals comprising Jamaica villas, cottages and apartments.

Here are some of the cultural activities that you can enjoy.

Bob Marley Museum: Jamaica is synonymous with Bob Marley and if you are a fan of reggae, this is one museum that you must visit. Located in Kingston on Hope Road, the museum houses an interesting collection of memorabilia. Guided tours are available and visitors can see his office, the bicycle on which he went out to sell his records, and many other mementoes.

Bob Marley Mausoleum: The bus tour starts from Ocho Rios and takes you to the village of Nine Mile, where Bob Marley was born and is buried. The house belonged to his grandparents. The bus trip is complete with reggae music and rum punch.

Walkers Wood Jerk Country Tour: Anyone who has been to Jamaica must be familiar with Jerked meat, made all the more popular at Boston Beach in Port Antonio. However, it is Walkers Wood, a village community, which is at the heart of the jerk seasoning industry. The tour takes you around the spice garden and factory where you can watch the spices being mixed together.

Country-Style Tours: These tours are based in the hill town of Mandeville and offer you the opportunity to meet the local people and gain an insight into the Jamaican way of life. These tours can be personalized to your liking for example, food, music or the national heritage. You will be taken into some of the island’s small communities to experience at first hand your chosen tour.

Accompong Maroon Settlement: The settlement is located in the heart of the Cockpit country, famous for its rugged landscape and unique wildlife. As the name indicates, the small town is home to descendants of the first freed slaves. You can explore the cave where the treaty with the British was signed in 1738 and visit the Presbyterian church, which is the oldest building in Accompong.

Rose Hall Great House: Once a great 18th century plantation house, Rose Hall Great House has been beautifully restored and turned into a national monument. It was once owned by Annie Palmer, known as the “White Witch” who according to legend murdered three husbands and many slaves.

Tuff Gong Recording Studios: This is the studio where Marley recorded his greatest hits. It is still used as a recording studio but mainly as a tourist attraction.

You can enjoy the best of the island's cultural activities and hospitality by staying in Jamaica rentals such as Silver Sands Jamaica.

Monday, May 9, 2011

Jamaica Eco-attractions: Royal Palm Reserve

There are many eco-attractions in Jamaica, one of them being the Royal Palm Reserve. The best way to enjoy the eco-attractions of the island is by staying in Jamaica villas o cottages on the north coast of the island. These Jamaica rentals are located near the stunning coastline and some like Silver Sands Jamaica also encompass their own private beach. In fact, Silver Sands Jamaica also arranges tours and transfers to places of interest like the Royal Palm Reserve.

The reserve is one of those places where you can appreciate the beauty and tranquillity of nature. The Reserve bills itself as one of Jamaica’s best eco-attractions and not without reason. It is spread over 300 acres and is home to over 300 species of animals, reptiles, birds and butterflies and over 114 species of flowers.

It is also a great place to visit especially if you are interested in bird watching. There is a half mile beautiful walk that leads you to a 30 foot tower from where you can enjoy some of the best views of all of Negril.

You can see the rare West Indian Whistling Ducks floating around in the stocked fish pond. These endangered species of birds are scared of people so keep quiet while observing or they will fly off.

There is a pond stocked with a type of fish called Tilapia. During the peak months when the pond is overstocked, visitors are allowed to fish in the pond. Fishing equipment is available upon request but bring a loaf of bread for bait and to feed the Whistling Ducks with.

There is also an alligator that lives within the confines of a caged pond but you’ll have to be patient to catch a glimpse of him because he seems to be a bit shy. Or may be it is the hot sun that keeps him hiding in the waters of the swampy pond.

The Reserve is also a great place to picnic. The staff is well prepared to cook and feed large groups but you have to inform them in advance. Otherwise, you can bring your own food and enjoy with your family and friends.

You can spend the day watching the wildlife, exploring the numerous nature trails ad fishing the stocked ponds. There is also a museum which offers great educational opportunity to learn about the biodiversity and local fauna and wildlife.

After the fun-filled but hectic day exploring the reserve, you will be glad to return to the warm hospitality of your Jamaica villas and cottages.