THINGS TO DO IN PORTLAND

JAMAICA
Portland Itinerary

Waterfalls, lush greenery, turquoise waters and charming villages

Duration: at least 10 days

Budget: $ 75 per day

Portland is my favorite Parish in Jamaica when it comes to scenery. I love coming here after getting wild in Kingston to unwind, relax, and take in the stunning nature. Compared to Negril and Montego Bay, Portland is a lot more authentic and rural.

Portland gets the most rainfall and is lush and green, offering many outdoor activities. Some of Jamaica’s most beautiful waterfalls, such as the Reach Falls, can be visited from Portland.

Portland’s beaches are some of my favorite in all of Jamaica. I love Portie because it is so laid back and still manages to maintain an authentic charm, even though development has increased.

  • Sight Seeing 40% 40%
  • Beaches 70% 70%
  • Day-Trips 95% 95%
  • Party 100% 100%

If you want to find the best beaches in Jamaica, head straight for Portland. Several stunning sandy stretches with unique vibes run along this Jamaica’s eastern coastline! In addition, I love discovering the vibes of the different villages along the coast.

Winnifred Beach - full of vibes

Winnifred Beach is a must if you want to mix with locals and experience the vibe. On weekends, the music is pumping, folks profiling, taking selfies, couples cuddling, families relaxing, and the food is cooked from the vendors who have food stands. In addition, you might find yourself doing a little shopping with the artisans showcasing their labor. To me, Winnifred beach had some of the best beach vibes in all of Jamaica.

You’ll be asked for a voluntary donation at the entrance to support keeping the facilities and beach clean. Winnifred beach has by far the best food options of all the beaches in Portland. 

Me at winnifred beach in Portland, Jamaica
Me at Frenchman's Cove Beach in Portland, Jamaica

Frenchman's Cove - breathtakingly beautiful

Frenchman’s Cove is a little paradise in Port Antonio, Jamaica. Frenchman’s Cove is a small beach with pristine sand and the bluest water breaks. The area mixes fresh and salt to make an enticing natural pool on one side with beautiful colors ranging from Blue to Green! Pay attention: as you walk from the entrance to the beach, you’ll notice that the trees have little signs. Frenchman’s Cove is the perfect place to relax and escape the hustle and bustle of daily life. The entrance fee is only $10, and a restaurant is on site. However, the food is only so-so.

San San Beach - snorkel & enjoy the tranquility

San San Beach is a beautiful, private beach near Frenchman’s Cove. You can enjoy this gorgeous stretch of white sand and turquoise water for a small entrance fee. If you’re ready for a challenge, you can swim to Pellew Island, about 200 meters from the shore. San San Beach is also one of the best beaches for snorkeling. Several reefs off the coast have legally enforceable fishing restrictions to swim and explore without worry.

San San Beach in Portland Jamaica
Long Bay beach im Portland, Jamaica

Long Bay - the Kingstonians' weekend getaway

Long Bay in Portland, Jamaica, is great for catching the vibes and relaxing. The town is small and chill, with plenty of restaurants and bars serving food by the beach. All accommodations in Long Bay are within walking distance of the beach. The stretch of beach is vast and offers plenty of space for sunbathing. Sadly, during my visit, the beach was rather polluted with plastics. However, I still enjoyed my time in Long Bay. Wild Ponies Beach Bar by the beach is always a vibe, and you’ll even have bonfires on Wednesdays. Acai Cafe across the street not only serves the BEST coffee in all of Jamaica but also hosts parties on the weekends!

Boston Bay

Boston Jerk Center  – Home to Jamaica’s best Jerk!

What’s certain is that the Boston Bay Jerk Center is one of the most popular and well-known places to get Jerk in all of Jamaica.

Jamaican Jerk is a culinary tradition that is centuries old. The term “jerk” refers to how meat is seasoned, smoked, and grilled. Jerk seasoning usually includes Jamaican bird peppers, pimento, and pepper elder. However, modern recipes may include Scotch bonnet peppers, scallions, garlic, ginger, pimento, thyme, and cinnamon. Jamaican Jerk is a remnant from the era of slavery when Maroons would transform tough cuts of meat into tender, delicious dishes. Today, Jamaican Jerk is enjoyed by people all over the world. It is a delightful and healthy way to season the meat. Jamaican Jerk is a culinary tradition that everyone should celebrate and enjoy.

The annual festival celebrating jerk brings together Reggae musicians with drinks tastings set against an exciting competition where participants showcase recipes. The festival takes place in July. Entry starts at $25.

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Surfing in Boston Bay

The beach at Boston Bay is a popular spot for locals and tourists alike. The shoreline offers soft white sand, great waves to surf, and delicious Jamaican food you can enjoy while relaxing! The water was always super calm when I visited Boston Bay, making it perfect for swimming.

Skating in Boston Bay

Boston is maybe the coolest village nestled along Potland’s highway. The good surf has attracted surfers in Jamaica ever since. Now you’ll also find Boston BMX and SKATE Park attracting locals and visitors alike.

 

Portland's stunning Blue Lagoon

Blue Lagoon The gorgeous Blue Lagoon is one of the most beautiful sights to see in Jamaica. The water changes its color depending on where there’s light from. Once considered bottomless, the Blue Lagoon is an underwater sinkhole about 180 feet deep. You can get there by Route Taxi from Port Antonio in only 20 minutes. I loved visiting the Blue Lagoon early on a weekday. It was super quiet, and I truly enjoyed the serenity of the place. It’s popular and busy on the weekends. I went for a short boat ride to a nearby Pellew Island, which was a fantastic way to spend the afternoon as the waters were magical!

Ackee in Jamaica
Secret waterfalls in Portland, Jamaica

Cool down at the waterfalls in Portland

Portland is Jamaica’s wettest parish, resulting in lush greenery and making it a nature lover’s paradise, with four spectacular waterfalls to explore.

Reach Falls is the most popular, and for a good reason—it’s easily accessible. You can swim in the refreshing pools beneath the falls. However, the other waterfalls are well worth the effort to reach. If you plan on visiting Reach Falls, I can highly recommend you go in the morning during the low season. Reach Falls is one of Jamaica’s most popular sites and, therefore, super busy. 

Nanny Falls is where the Maroons (Jamaica’s runaway enslaved people) hid from their pursuers.

At Nonsuch Falls, you can swing out over the waterfall on a rope for an unforgettable experience.

Portland is truly a place where you can connect with nature and feel your cares melting away.

If you feel like visiting Jamaica’s secret and remote waterfalls, get in touch with my friend Birgitta from @streetsofjamaica. She knows the most beautiful spots to hang out.

Discover the Blue Mountains

From Port Antonio, you can easily explore Jamaica’s Blue Mountains. This massive mountain range covers over half of the island and is home to Jamaica’s most stunning scenery. You have plenty of hiking trails and several waterfalls, and natural pools to cool off in.

If you want a truly unique experience, check out the Maroons. These are descendants of enslaved Africans who escaped from their captors and established communities in the remote areas of the Blue Mountains. The Maroons still maintain many of their traditional customs and beliefs. You can learn about their culture by staying in one of their villages.

Rastafarians are also prevalent in the Blue Mountains. They, too, have created communities where they practice their religion and way of life. Suppose you’re interested in learning more about Rastafarianism. In that case, several tours and activities will allow you to do so. Just be respectful of these communities and make sure to comply with customs. To learn more about things to consider when staying at a Rastafarian village. School of vision is a fantastic place to stay and catch the vibe.

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Rafting Rio Grande River, Jamaica

Rafting Rio Grande River

Where there are waterfalls, naturally you’ll find plenty of rivers. Because river rafting seemed like one of the most touristy things to do, it took me 3 visits to Jamaica until I finally decided to raft down the Rio Grande River in Portland. Berrydale, located 30-40 minutes from Port Antonio, is the perfect starting point for your rafting adventure in Portland. I loved that, contrary to other rafting experiences in Jamaica, I was lucky to enjoy the stunning scenery away from the crowds. 

Rafting was originally a form of transporting bananas from the plantations. However, Errol Fylnn, who once lived in Portland, enjoyed taking in the beautiful scenery from the raft and started a tourist trend. Rafting Rio Grande will take you along the river for about 1.5 hours till you reach Belinda’s restaurant, a charming no-fuss authentic Jamaican restaurant by the river. After lunch, it will take about an hour to reach the finishing point. 

Fairy Hill - the best place to stay

Fairy Hill is, in my opinion, one of the best places to stay in Portland. The village has grown naturally, and while many guest houses are springing up, Fairy Hill keeps its distinct charm. To me, Fairy Hill offers everything for a perfect Jamaican getaway: It’s also ideally located right in the middle between Frenchman’s Cove and Boston Beach making it easy to get to both. The locals are some of the friendliest people you’ll ever meet. There are some great food options, such as Ital’ish and Aya Naturals. And: there is a tiny bit of nightlife going on!

By the way: Fairy Hill is also home to one of my favorite places to stay in Jamaica: Rass Rod’s charming home! You can find Rass Rod’s house on Airbnb.

Rass Rod's home: the best place to stay in Fairy Hill Jamaica
church in Port Antonio, Jamaica

Port Antonio

Port Antonio is the place to be for backpackers coming to Portland. The midsized no-fuzz town is a lively vibe and is the perfect point to base yourself on and start exploring Portland.

Nestled along the marinara, you’ll find plenty of authentic restaurants, shopping, a decent weekend market, and cool parties! Charming old churches and buildings are sprinkled between colorful Caribbean houses.

The Errol Flynn Marina almost makes it seem like you are in Europe. It’s a nice spot to come and hang out. You’ll also find a Devon House there if you feel like ice cream. There is plenty of route taxis to keep you moving around Portland Parish.

Many of Portland’s most stunning waterfalls, such as Reach Falls and Nanny Falls, are best visited from Port Antonio.

Port Antonio Party schedule:

Sundays: Celebrations Sundays

Mondays: Iconic Mondays

Tuesdays: Quarts Tuesdays

Thursdays: Road Block

Fridays: Intense Fridays; Jungle party @livingdaylightsja

Practical travel tips for Portland & Jamaica

Which language is spoken in Jamaica?

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The official language is English, but you'll also hear Jamaican Patois spoken throughout the country. It's a colorful and vibrant mix of English, West African languages, and Spanish influences. Don't be afraid to interact with locals and try out some basic phrases in Patois - they'll appreciate the effort and you may even learn a thing or two.

What is the offical currency in Jamaica?

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The Jamaican dollar is the official currency and is accepted everywhere on the island. However, US dollars are widely accepted as well, so it's always a good idea to have some cash in both currencies. You can easily exchange your money at banks or ATMs throughout the city. Just be aware that the exchange rate may vary, so it's best to check before making a transaction. Also, don't forget to tip - it's customary in Jamaica and greatly appreciated by service industry workers. So make sure you have some small bills on hand for tipping at restaurants, bars, and hotels.

What is the best time to visit Kingston?

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The climate stays pleasant all year round. It might rain a bit more during hurricane season from June to September, but you still won't get bored on rainy days!

Kingston is home to many festival and events, so if you want to check them out, plan your dates accordingly.

Is Portland safe for travelers?

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As a female traveler, I felt safe. Portland is very quiet at night and there is not so much going on. Downtown Port Antonio gets somewhat sketchy in the late hours.

Is there an ATM in Portland?

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In Portland, getting Jamaican dollars from ATMs or exchanges is not always possible, especially in the villages. Get money in Port Antonio.

Public Transport in Portland, Jamaica

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Route Taxis go around the Port Antonio area and even down to Fairy Hill and Boston Bay. The further South you go, the fewer Route Taxis on the roads.

Public Bus: The bus stop is downtown Port Antonio and Anotto Bay. I couldn't find a schedule. They seem to go more frequently than the Knutsford.

Be aware that the time stated refers to calculated driving time, not the actual time to reach a destination. Adding to the driving time are stops and bus switches which are not apparent when buying the ticket. Due to Covid, there are fewer buses than usual, and it is better to buy the ticket online.

Can I drink tap water in Jamaica?

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Even though Jamaica is considered a third-world country, it provides the best water quality in the region. You are, therefore, safe to drink tap water. This is especially true in the cities. However, if it makes you feel uneasy, bring a water purifier.

What's the biggest challenge for the conscious traveler?

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Tourism leakage: Jamaica is a tropical paradise that's adored by tourists worldwide, but it has a problem that's hidden from sight - tourism leakage. This phenomenon refers to the loss of revenue that occurs when international hotel chains capture a large chunk of tourist dollars, leaving very little money behind to benefit the local economy. If you're among the millions of visitors who flock to Jamaica every year, there's a simple way to help mitigate the effects of tourism leakage: support Jamaican-owned hotels, shops, and restaurants. By doing so, you can put your money where your heart is - and give the people of Jamaica a chance to thrive. So don't be shy about seeking out local businesses on your next vacation. Your decision to keep tourism dollars within Jamaica could make a world of difference.

Beach access

While Jamaica is known for its beautiful beaches, there have been some issues with access to these public spaces. In recent years, many resorts and private properties have restricted access to certain parts of the beach, making it incredibly difficult for locals to maintain their life and right to the sea. Support public beaches and say no to all-inclusive tourism!

Trash

Make sure to bring a foldable food container and cutlery with you! The amount of waste caused by food sold on the street is incredible.

Sunscreen

Make sure to protect Jamaica's marine life and bring reef-friendly sunscreen!

tanzania travel Zanzibar beaches

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