With more cold months ahead, it would be wise to cheer up your winter doldrums with a trip to Jamaica, the land of reggae, fresh caught fish, Blue Mountain coffee, and postcard-perfect (and Bond-worthy) landscapes. This is, after all, where Ian Fleming wrote Goldeneye. The setting is unforgettable with a combo of all-inclusive hotels, ultra-luxe hideaways, and laidback hippie dens all well suited for a long weekend under the sun. Here's what to pack...
Channeling the island's bohemian vibe, go for color in your daytime threads, like these funky shorts in a playful scarf print ($136). From there, go with a simple cotton tank on top, perhaps in a vibrant yellow ($24.50). Wear a 007-worthy bikini underneath, like this dark green set by London-label Prism ($165 for bandeau top; $85 for bottom). Accessorize with beach-ready metallic gold flip-flops ($20) and a hippie-friendly wood bead bracelet ($8). Tote some essentials along with you in this coral beach tote ($48), though you won't need much to spend the day on white sand beaches (like Negril's must-see Seven Mile Beach). Grab your sunscreen and this chic floppy sun hat ($140 by Goorin Bros.) and you're set. If you need a little pre-vacay help, snap up these handy self-tanning towlettes by Kate Somerville ($48 for 8).
If you're itinerary includes Negril, make a stop at Floyd's Pelican Bar, which is literally smack dab in the ocean. Sip on a Red Stripe or a local rum cocktail while hanging in this simple hand-dyed cotton dress ($195) and nude t-bar sandals ($69) with gold and snakeskin detailing, which will bring out this unconventional gold ear cuff ($18), a style that has been popping up on celebrities for the red carpet awards season. If you're nights include fancier pursuits, like the gourmet Jamaican restaurant Blue Mahoe Restaurant at The SPA Retreat, bring along a couple accessories like this blue and red beaded clutch ($195) and beige and light blue watch—for keeping island time only ($285).
From Kingston to Montego Bay
Music lovers may want to make the pilgrimage to the Bob Marley Museum in Kingston, where for $20 entrance fee you'll be led on a 1-hour tour. There's solid info, but don't expect a full-day museum experience. That said, you can also brush up on reggae history in advance or by a stop at the Jamaica Music Museum that features tidbits on Marley and other important artists like Pete Tosh. In that spirit, wear this Bob Marley baseball cap with lion motif for the trip ($24.99) and bring along these airplane-friendly blue headphones ($129.99). For the balmy island temperatures, go with light natural materials like this linen tee in heather gray ($47.60), worn with these green Nike boardshorts ($42) and Quiksilver artist series flip-flops ($16). Round out the casual look with this Jansport heritage rucksack pack ($55), with room for your wayfarers ($142 by Raen Optics), smartphone, and this Every Man Jack lip balm with sunscreen ($2.49).
For the widest variety of nighttime options, make your way to Montego Bay. If you're hankering for a posh resort, take heed: there are some dress codes. For example, the Sugar Mill, with its stellar wine list, is a no-sneakers, shorts, denim, or flip flops kind of establishment. As such, pack some slim but still island-appropriate clothing, in these Rag & Bone canvas pants ($185). Wear rolled up to the ankle to pair with these camo-print slip ons by Seavees ($79.99). On top, a notch-neck t-shirt feels dressier than your classic crew cut ($29.99) and stow your dollars in this easy wallet with a handy zip for coins ($68 by Comune). See? Even dress codes are better in Jamaica.
What to Do
With paradise weather from December to April, Jamaica's high-season is popular for good reason. Festivals and activities abound including the Air Jamaica Jazz & Blues Festival running Jan. 24-26 this year with artists such as Mary J. Blige and John Legend scheduled to perform along with more local talent like the reggae musician Pluto Shervington. Of course there is also Carnival, the largest event of the year, which is called Bacchanal by locals and is celebrating its 25th year in Jamaica this 2013. With events from February through April, expect flashy costumes (this year's theme is Le Masquerade), dancing in the streets, and soca music interspersed with reggae.
Want off-peak options? The lively annual Reggae Sumfest takes place in July. Beware of crowds at the music extravaganza, but the hotels will likely offer reduced rates.
Aside from beaching and snorkeling, wander inland to the Mavis Bank Coffee Factory for an inside look at some of the top beans in the world. There are also hikes on Blue Mountain itself, but best to book a guide or touch base with locals in the area, like those at Lime Tree Farm. A working coffee plantation, it also offers sustainable tourism, namely eco-lodging, all run by husband and wife team, Charlie and Susie Burbury.
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