Irie travel tips to explore the real Jamaica on a natural Rasta way
St. Mary at the north coast, in between Portland and St. Ann, is known as Jamaica’s banana and coconut parish. It is a beautiful parish with great history which goes back to the time of the Arawaks (Tainos).
I immediately fell in love with this undeveloped and remote parish that exudes a serene tranquility mixed with the liveliness of its residents.
Tainos sites, Spanish forts, English churches, 3 main rivers, waterfalls, great houses and beaches are invite adventurous and eco-travellers to explore St. Mary. Read more about these awesome tips right away!
1. Annotto Bay
Coming from Portland, Annotto Bay is the first village you pass. Once it was an active port and is named from the abundance of the Annatto trees in the area.
Train Station Annotto Bay
5 things to discover when in Annotto Bay
- the Annatto Tree, with her medicinal purposes
- get a glimpse of sea turtles at Annotto Bay Beach
- pay a visit to the First Baptist Church (1824) and admire the various decorative motives and architraves
- visit the ruín of the so called ‘banana boat’ train station, where sadly only concrete blocks are visible
- clamber on the unusually large boulders of the Wag Water River riverbed
2. Robins Bay
Wander through the small village of Robin’s Bay; it offers one of the last pieces of undeveloped coastline in all of Jamaica. Small bars and restaurants are dotted around the Robin’s Bay area, offering food and drink options. Enjoy the public beaches or the private one at Strawberry Fields Together. For the fit and adventourous there are real tough hikes to the most stunning and hidden waterfalls.
Strawberry Fields Together
You wouldn’t want to miss the private Jamaican oceanfront (villa) experience at Strawberry Fields Together! The property is named after the popular Beatles song ‘Strawberry Fields Forever’. Join in for a day at the beach, or rent a cottage of one of the well-designed villas and stay for a few days. Even low budget travellers are invited to pitch their tent. How great is this!
Green Castle Estate eco-experience
More than 1000 years ago indigenous Tainos inhabited the Green Castle Site. Around 1850 it was a prominent plantation of sugarcane and bananas. Nowadays it’s one of the largest orchid and organic farms in the Caribbean, with educational eco-experiences for visitors.
This will definitely an awesome experience for relaxation, overlooking the mountains from your balcony, having a dip in the ocean in front of you, and enjoying the farm tour.
Blue Hole Green Castle Estate, St. Mary
3. History and waterfalls
Nature lovers and waterfall hunters will visit Robins Bay for a hike to the undeveloped waterfalls. These are truly non-commercialized and back to nature as they are hidden deep in the jungle. Do you want to explore these beautiful waterfalls? Join us on our 12 day tour around Jamaica.
Once a Chief from Ghana an enslaved man, Takyi, gathered a group of enslaved people on Easter Monday 1760 and proceeded to murder their enslavers. The march led to Port Maria. Now it’s not clear what happend after. The British version is that the Maroons shot him, turned him in and beheaded him. The oral version though is that Takyi escaped behind what is now Tacky Falls. Which story is plausible to you?
Tacky falls is named after the Coromantee slave Takyi, who lead the slave rebellion in 1760.
An adventurous hike along a steep, narrow trail leads to the 60m tall Tacky Falls, therefor this hidden, unspoiled gem of mother nature can be discovered only for the brave and fit.
Solo travellers can ask around in the village or at Strawberry Field Together for a guide.
Not far from Tacky Falls, Kwame Falls is another off the beaten track nature attraction. The falls are named after Kwame, which is a masculine Akan name of Ghanaian origin meaning ‘Born on Saturday’.
Kwame fight besides Takyi in the rebellion, 71 years before the more famous rebellion of Samuel Sharpe at the south coast area.
The hike follows an unspoiled, scenic, coastal trail past empty beaches and old ruins to the hidden Kwame Waterfall.
When you’re not so much into the hiking, you can journey, by a 20-minute fishing boat ride, to the Black Sand Beach and walk only 15 minutes to the falls.
4. Riu Nuevo
The Rio Nuevo, a small river that trickles down from the hills of the parish of St Mary, lends its name to the small village on the coastline where the river enters the sea.
At Rio Nuevo in 1658, the most definitive battle between the English and the Spanish over the control of Jamaica took place.
Rio Nuevo diving
Dive at one of the best scuba-diving sites off the coast of Jamaica, just offshore from Jamaica Beach. The reef, called the Rio Nuevo Wall, is a 25-foot dive and supports barracudas, turtles, parrotfish and other tropical marine life in its mountainous coral formations.
Rio Nuevo Battle Site Historical Park
On the actual battlefield site, part of the Jamaican National Heritage Trust, there is a monument to all the Jamaicans, both of African and Spanish descent, who fought the invading British valiantly albeit unsuccessfully. The battle was fought in 1658 after a mere 150 years of Spanish rule.
You’re lucky when the museum is open. But then it provides information about the battle and history of the Rio Nuevo area from the time the Tainos settled there. Otherwise it’s just the monument sign to admire.
Rio Nuevo Village – Heritage Treasure Tour in Paradise
Rio Nuevo Village was once part of the biggest Taino settlements in St Mary and is currently one of the most significant historical sites on the island. It houses the great house and a museum that has one of the most comprehensive collections of authentic Taino artefacts in Jamaica, which are dating back more than 1,000 years.
In the 1600s it operated as a sugar plantation and was a vital spot in terms of the trade in slaves and goods. Unfortunately much of the history found here (around 1700-1800) isn’t really listed, as the site appears to have been a military base.
5. Tainos sites
Taino Heritage Camp, Oracabessa
Live as a Taino! This is a unique way to enjoy the traditional lifestyle of Jamaican first inhabitants. The yukayeke, village, is a working farm and heritage centre that acts as an educational platform to highlight Taino culture. Take one of their walks, attend workshops or have an under-the-stars-experience.
More Taino sites
Situated along the Rio Nuevo Valley Basin, St. Mary and into the hills as far south as Bellevue, some ten miles away, is a complex of Taino sites. The largest Taino site in this area covers an area of some 21,000 square meters, to mention:
- Camp Don, Robbins Bay
- Camp site Newry
- Wentworth site, near Port Maria, west of Annotto Bay.
6. Port Maria
The capital Port Maria, a beautiful coastal town with a rich history, has the greatest number of monuments, historical sites and ruins. It was one of the earliest areas to be settled by the Spanish. In 1658 the English decisively beat off the Spanish in their bid to recapture Jamaica. But Port Maria was also the biggest port from the 1800s to the 1940s for the export of sugar and bananas, before it was destroyed by a series of hurricanes.
Jungle Experience Guesthouse_St. Mary
Are you brave enough for e real jungle experience? Stay a few days at Anna’s & Winston’s guesthouse, admire their arts & crafts and explore the area. Winston is an excellent chef and the dogs will make you feel right at home, not to mention Anna’s care, the lovely cabin and huge yard.
The place always has been famous for Ian Flemings books and the James Bond movies and has once again become known as an artist community with studios operated by musicians, painters, and carvers.
Ian Fleming’s Golden Eye, now the most luxurious hotel on the island lays next to the even older, spectacular villa Golden Clouds. In 1976 Bob Marley bought Golden Eye and sold it to Chris Blackwell shortly before his death. Both are 5-star villas rented by famous movie stars and artists. It seems to be the most pretty, bounty place with private beach on earth.
View from Fire Fly
The Oracabessa Bay Fish Sanctuary was established in 2010 to protect Oracabessa’s marine ecosystem. There are several reefs, mangroves and beaches.
James Bond Beach, the venue for many of Jamaica’s big outdoor concerts and parties, and the beautiful Reggae Beach are open for public.
- Sugar Pot Beach and Restaurant: The rich history of the land includes the ruins which they found in its natural form and decided to keep, as well as the two almost 300-year-old sugar pots, one of which is seen at the entrance. No wonder they named the dream destination ‘Sugar Pot Ruins’
Rio Nuevo Beach
Golden Eye Beach, private
- Reggae Beach
- James Bond Beach
- Pagee Beach, Port Maria
- White River: excitement and adrenaline seekers are going for the famous White River Rafting / tubing experience
- Rio Nuevo: a small river that trickles down from the hills of the parish of St. Mary
- Wag Water: from St. Andrew to the sea at Annatto Bay, this riverbed is covered with amazing, large boulders
Where to stay
- Green Castle Estate, Robbins Bay
- Strawbery Fields Together, Robbins Bay
- Tina’s guesthouse, Boscobel – Michael Fabulous artist and Beverly arts & crafts
- Green Palace Jamaica, Oracabessa
- Jungle Experience, guesthouse in the hills of Port Maria – arts & crafts at Sugar Pot Beach