Guided Tours in Jamaica
Because most vacationers avoid renting cars for safety and cost reasons, guided tours are a popular option if you want to take a break from the beach and explore. Check with your hotel concierge or go online for information on half- and full-day tours that offer pickup at your resort. Jamaica's size and slow interior roads mean that you can't expect to see the entire island on any one trip; even a full-day tour will concentrate on just one part of the island. Most of the tours are similar in both content and price. If you're in Montego Bay, tours often include one of the plantation houses in the area. Several Negril-based companies offer tours to Y.S. Falls on the South Coast. Tours from Ocho Rios might include any of the area's top attractions, including Dunn's River Falls or Kingston. In almost all cases, you'll arrange your tour through the tour desk of your resort. However, a few tours stand out, including the following.
Most of the large Montego Bay resorts have tour desks where you can book a number of excursions and activities. Guided plantation and countryside visits are also popular. Almost all tour operators will pick you up if you are staying in one of the large resorts.
Croydon Plantation Tour. Take a tour of the birthplace of the Jamaican hero Sam Sharpe, who led the rebellion that helped put an end to slavery on the island. The tour, run on Tuesday, Thursday, and Friday, visits Croydon Plantation, an hour and a half from Montego Bay, where pineapples, sugarcane, and citrus fruits are grown in the foothills of the Catadupa mountains. Pick-up is available from hotels in and around Montego Bay and the Grand Palladium Resort in Hanover. 876/979–8267. www.croydonplantation.com. US$70 adults, $50 children. Infants are free.
Glamour Destination Management. One of the island's large tour operators, this company offers a wide selection of guided visits to Rose Hall and Greenwood Great House. 1225 Providence Dr., Montego Bay. 876/953–3810. www.glamourtoursdmc.com.
Island Routes Caribbean Adventures. Run by Sandals, Island Routes provides luxury tours of Jamaica to both guests and non-guests of Sandals resorts. The company offers group and private guided tours with certified partners to a host of attractions. Guests have a choice of booking via the website or on-island at one of the Island Routes tour desks at participating resorts. Montego Bay. 888/768–8370 (USA & Canada); 888/429–5478 Jamaica. www.islandroutes.com.
JUTA. The island's largest tour operator offers a great house tour and a rafting tour, as well as tours to other parts of the island like Black River, Negril, and Ocho Rios. 876/952–0813. www.jutatoursltd.com.
Half-day and full-day tours can be arranged with many taxi drivers. Be sure to agree on a price before heading out on the tour.
Chukka Caribbean Zion Bus Tour. This tour will appeal to anyone visiting the Ocho Rios area who wants to visit Bob Marley's boyhood home. Travelers ride a country-style bus painted in bright colors to the island's interior and the village of Nine Mile. The tour includes a look at the simple house where Marley was born and is now buried. The tour (US$100, including lunch at a local jerk stand) lasts for five hours and is limited to guests age 18 and older. Ocho Rios. 876/619–1441 Digicel in Jamaica; 876/656–8026 Lime in Jamaica; 877/424–8552 USA. www.chukkacaribbean.com.
Jamaica Tours Limited. This operator offers several Ocho Rios tours with stops that include gardens and Dunn's River Falls. 876/974–6447. www.jamaicatoursltd.com.
Along with hiking, birding, and river-rafting tours, guided sightseeing tours are a good way to get the lay of the land in Port Antonio, especially for first-time visitors.
Tours in Port Antonia. Joanna Hart leads an in-depth cultural and historical tour of the Port Antonio area, incorporating the history of the Maroons. Port Antonio. 876/859–3758. www.toursinportantonio.com.
Numerous operators offer tours of the Kingston area, as well as excursions into the Blue Mountains. Professional tour operators provide a valuable service, as neither destination is particularly suited to exploration without a guide. In Kingston, certain areas can be dangerous; an organized tour provides a measure of security compared with going it alone. Think twice before roaming too freely in the Blue Mountains, as roads are narrow or in poor condition, and signs are few and far between.
Typical city tours include a city overview with stops at Devon House, the Bob Marley Museum, and Port Royal. Other tour options cover the Blue Mountains. Niche operators such as Olde Jamaica Heritage Tours provide theme tours, including a tour of churches and museums and one that visits the athletic grounds where Usain Bolt and other world sprinting champions have trained.
Jessa Tours, Ltd.. Tours run by this company visit the Bob Marley Museum, the National Gallery, the craft market, and other heritage sites. 19 Herb McKenley Dr., Kingston. 876/978–2259. www.jessatours.com.
Olde Jamaica Tours. This company runs heritage, cultural, and sporting attraction tours. Island-wide trips are offered but the focus is on the Kingston area. As well as churches, great houses, and the like, Olde Jamaica Tours can also take visitors to the cricket field and to the athletics training ground where Usain Bolt and others have developed their sporting prowess. 5 Cowper Dr., Kingston. 876/371–3613 or 876/328–1385. www.oldejamaicatours.com.
Sun Island Executive Tours & Services Ltd.. This company offers tours to places of interest around Jamaica and can work with you to design your own itinerary. 8 Bower Bank Ave., Kingston. 876/931–8826.
Countrystyle Community Experiences Tours. This company designs community experience tours combining your choice of accommodation—whether a homestay or in a hotel—with your special interests. The tours and other parts of the package showcase community lifestyles, helping you enjoy Jamaican culture, heritage, cuisine and music with a personal touch. The Community Experience tours—Jamaica Roots Experience, Jamaica Taste Experience, and Jamaica Nature Experience—are offered in Kingston and Montego Bay, where you're matched up with residents based on your interests. 62 Ward Ave., Mandeville. 876/507–6326 or 876/488–7207. www.jamaica-no-problem.com/community-tours.html or www.villagesasbusinesses.com.
Jakes Biking Tour. Jakes can arrange for various tours throughout the area, whether biking or hiking. In this tour, a guide will take you around to places like the gorgeous stretch of sand at Fort Charles or Great Bay. Treasure Beach is quite flat, so almost all fitness levels can enjoy the tour. The three-hour tour is is $60 per person. Treasure Beach. 876/965–3000. www.jakeshotel.com.
In addition to tours from Montego Bay that give day-trippers a chance to experience Negril, there are several tours available to those who are staying here, including trips to the waterfalls.
The North Coast is known for Dunn's River Falls, and the South Coast for Y.S. Falls (both accessible from Negril on a day tour), but the Negril area is home to some impressive waterfalls of its own. A top activity for travelers tired of the beach, Mayfield Falls is tucked into the Dolphin Head Mountains near Glenbrook. These falls have been the stuff of legend since the 1700s, when locals swore a mermaid lived in these mineral-rich pools. Today the "mermaids" are tourists from Negril and Montego Bay who come to enjoy the waterfalls and underwater caves. Fifty-two varieties of fern are found here, as well as many types of tropical flowers. A visit here includes a guided hike up the river with a stop at a bar and grill along the way. Several operators offer tours, usually with transportation from nearby hotels and lunch included.
Tropical Tours. This company offers Negril visitors a highlights tour with a look at the Lighthouse and a stop for shopping, as well as Rick's Cafe. The tours leave at 2 from Club Riu for shopping and the Lighthouse, and at 4 for Rick's Cafe. Norman Manley Blvd., Negril. 876/957–4110 in Negril. www.tropicaltours-ja.com.
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