Jetset Report: 24 Hours in Kingston, Jamaica

Kingston, Jamaica has its share of crime and violence and all the other common side effects of being a 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 the full Jamaica experience. 

Sure, Kingston is probably not what clients have in mind when they dream of beaches and turquoise waters in the Caribbean, simply because Kingston doesn't’ have any beaches. 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 get Millennials into the Jamaican and Rastafarian mentality before they go off sunbathing in the more touristy parts of the country.

We highly recommend spending two to three nights in Kingston, but if Millennials 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.

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How to Get There

We took the 630 a.m. direct JetBlue Airways flight out of John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York City and arrived in Kingston at around 9:30 a.m.

What to Do

The first attraction a traveler to Kingston should see when they arrive is Emancipation Park. It’s a peaceful place, spans about seven acres and is really a haven for nature lovers. The highlight here, however, is the 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.” Visit www.emancipationpark.org.jm/about-us/index.php.

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. 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 amazing, the jerk seasoning was a little more prevalent on the pork. The portions of the pork were better too, as it way basically all meat, as opposed to the chicken where you had to pull out some bones. While here, clients should also try the festival, a crunchy, flaking, 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 Else to Do

Now that your 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 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 ice cream flavor in the Caribbean. Visit www.devonhousejamaica.com.

Kingston is where Jamaica's famous Blue Mountain Coffee is produced.

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 music legend and Jamaican icon. Tickets are $20 for adults and $10 for children and include 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 attempted assassination on Marley 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 get to watch a 20-minute documentary on Marley. Visit www.facebook.com/bobmarleymuseum.

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 are $20 and 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]

Author Joe Pike relaxes with a Red Stripe in the pool at Strawberry Hill.

Where to Stay

Now, there are a ton of very 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 Strawberry Hill. 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 a Living Spa, a Main House, and twelve handcrafted 19th century Georgian style cottages, including one-bedrooms, two-bedrooms, studios and a deluxe villa. We stayed in High Gate, one of three cottages that offer full mountain views. The cottages are both rustic and luxurious. Our cottage had two bedrooms, both located on the second floor and both offering separate balconies with mountain views. There is one television located on the first floor and the two bathrooms are pretty simple and rustic as well. The main selling point at this resort is the views 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. Visit www.islandoutpost.com/hotels-and-villas/strawberry-hill.

Keep visiting www.travelagentcentral.com and visit www.visitjamaica.com. Be sure to follow Travel Agent's Joe Pike on Twitter @TravelPike

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