24 Hours in Kingston, Jamaica

 

Strawberry Hill
The pool at Strawberry Hill affords panoramic views on Kingston.

 

Kingston, Jamaica, has its share of ills that befall any big, bustling, urban destination, but if you are simply painting the city with a negative brush and ignoring all of the opportunities to learn about Jamaican culture here, you are missing out on some excellent selling points that will give clients a more well-rounded Jamaican experience.

Sure, Kingston is probably not what clients have in mind when they dream of beaches and turquoise waters in the Caribbean simply because the island nation’s capital doesn’t have any beaches to speak of. What it does have, though, is a wealth of culture and knowledge, from the Bob Marley Museum to the historic Devon House Heritage Site, to help get clients into the Jamaican and Rastafarian frame of mind before they go off to sunbathe in the more tourist-intensive parts of the country.

We highly recommend spending two to three nights in Kingston, but if you have clients who are in a rush to get to Montego Bay, Ocho Rios, Negril or Port Antonio, we will show you how to have a great Kingston experience in just 24 hours. Travel Agent recently spent roughly 30 hours there, but it can easily be done in 24 if one doesn’t make too many stops for a Red Stripe beer.

How We Got There: We took the 6:30 a.m. direct JetBlue Airways flight out of JFK International Airport in New York City and arrived in Kingston at around 9:30 a.m. 

What To Do: The first attraction a client should see when they arrive is Emancipation Park. It’s a peaceful place that spans about seven acres and is really a haven for nature lovers. The highlight here, however, is the beautifully crafted 11-foot bronze sculpture, “Redemption Song,” by celebrated Jamaican artist, Laura Facey. It stands directly at the entrance of the park. The opening of Emancipation Park in July 2002 was a significant milestone in Jamaica. The park was created to be a symbol of Jamaica’s “Freedom to Hope, to Excel and to Be.” 

Where to Eat: After you’ve strolled the park, grab some lunch at the nearby Sweetwood Jerk Joint restaurant. This restaurant, like the more popular Scotchies, is a great spot to grab some jerk cuisine. However, unlike Scotchies, which uses pimento, this restaurant, as the name implies, uses sweetwood to cook the chicken and pork on—giving it a juicier aftertaste. We had both the chicken and the pork and while both were excellent, the jerk seasoning was a little more prevalent on the pork. The portions of the pork were better too as it was basically all meat as opposed to the chicken where you had to pull out some bones.

 

 

Bob Marley Museum in Kingston
Bob Marley Museum in Kingston. The former house of the reggae music legend has on display the clothes he wore on stage, old newspaper clippings and his actual bedroom.

 

While here, clients should also try the festival, a crunchy, flaky, pastry-like food. We could have eaten about a dozen of these. And don’t forget to wash just about everything you devour down with a cold bottle of Red Stripe. Always ask for it out of the bottle if you want to gain instant respect from the locals.

What to See and Do: Now that your clients’ bellies are full, we recommend taking tours of both the Devon House Heritage Site, followed by the Bob Marley Museum. The Devon House Heritage Site, one of Jamaica’s leading national monuments and a symbol of the cultural diversity, is 127 years old and is located in the heart of metropolis Kingston. The 11-acre site also offers so much more, from restaurants to art galleries and other shops. Of the shops, however, tell clients the Devon House I-Scream store is a must. They make some really good ice cream using a lot of funky flavors from stout to strawberry cheesecake. But when in doubt, get the rum raisin, always a popular flavor in the Caribbean. 

The best part of our day in Kingston, however, was the Bob Marley Museum, a must for anyone who has a general appreciation for the musical legend and Jamaican icon. Tickets are $20 for adults and $10 for children and includes a full tour of Marley’s former home in Kingston. Clients will see everything from the clothes he wore on stage to old newspaper clippings, to his bedroom, which was left completely intact aside from the changing of the sheets. One of the coolest portions of the tour was the part about the assassination attempt on the singer and his family by masked gunmen who opened fire on his home, wounding Marley, his wife and several other members of his entourage. The bullet holes, in fact, are still in the walls of the home and clients can even put their fingers in them. At the end of the tour, clients can watch a 20-minute documentary about Marley. 

Another excellent activity for clients to take part in is the UCC Craighton Estate Great House coffee plantation tour. This is where clients get to learn all about Jamaica’s world-renowned Blue Mountain Coffee, often considered some of the best coffee in the world. Tours of $20 include a lesson on Blue Mountain Coffee followed by a coffee tasting and a tour of the grounds to see how the coffee beans are harvested. To book tours, e-mail [email protected]

Where to Stay: Now, there are a ton of more-than-adequate business hotels that may make more sense for a one-night stay in Kingston, but if it’s the best your clients want, even for one night, we recommend the Strawberry Hill Hotel

Strawberry Hill, a signature mountaintop oasis, offers a mix of rich Jamaican heritage balanced by healthy conscious living. Perched in the Blue Mountains and located 3,100 feet above sea level, this boutique property houses The Living Spa, a Main House, and a dozen handcrafted 19th-century Georgian style cottages, including one-bedroom, two-bedrooms, studios and a deluxe villa. 

We stayed in Highgate, one of three cottages that offer full mountain views. The cottages are both rustic and luxurious. Our cottage had two bedrooms, both on the second floor and both offering separate balconies with mountain views. There is one TV on the first floor and the two bathrooms are pretty simple and rustic as well. The main selling point at this resort is the view from the rooms, the service and the main swimming pool and bar. 

The pool, in fact, has perhaps some of the best views of Kingston you will find anywhere and the bar usually has its fireplace going on any given night. It gets pretty cool up in the hills of Kingston, which is why a fireplace in the Caribbean isn’t as crazy as it sounds. We recommend this for affluent couples who enjoy being secluded and completely private. 

Agents should direct any queries to Executive Assistant Manager Gillian Wedderburn ([email protected]).

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