Port Antonio is the most dramatically beautiful part of Jamaica and the most authentic. The soaring Blue Mountains descend to white sand beaches on tranquil bays with shimmering water in the tropical sun. There are blue lagoons, hidden waterfalls and flowing rivers. Lush tropical vegetation covers the hills and provides a home to exotic birds. This unspoiled eden is tucked away in a quiet, peaceful corner of the island away from the bustle of the main tourist centers.
Hotel Mockingbird Hill is the place to stay. Perched on a hill with commanding views of the Port Antonio coastline and nestled in over 6 acres of continuously blooming gardens, Hotel Mockingbird Hill exudes an elegant Caribbean vibe with airy rooms and plantation shutter doors opening to mesmerizing views. The classic white rattan furniture in the terrace lounge evokes images of Port Antonio’s golden era when Errol Flynn, Grace Kelly and Audrey Hepburn were Port Antonio regulars.
With the hotel’s insider knowledge they can arrange for guests to explore the genuine Jamaica, the vibrant culture of this friendly area.
Start by exploring the historic town of Port Antonio which came to prominence in the late 1800s when the Boston Fruit Company developed Port Antonio as a major component of the banana trade. They even built an elegant hotel bringing guests from New York and London to Jamaica’s first tourist destination. The banana trade faded by World War I but remnants remain such as the gothic style church from the 1880s and and a few turn of the century buildings on the Titchfield promontory which was once the site of the Boston Fruit Company’s Titchfield Hotel. Along the main street you will find colorful rum shacks and small local restaurants serving such Jamaican classics such as ackee and saltfish, curried goat and most of all jerk chicken which is said to have originated in this part of Jamaica. At night the sounds of the island, from mento to reggae to dub, emanate from the towns numerous bars and clubs.
An excursion to Moore Town near Port Antonio gives one a unique cultural experience which is recognize by Unesco for the importance of its Intangible Cultural Heritage. Founded hundreds of years ago by escaped slaves who fled to the mountains, this traditional town, which still has remnants of its own dialect, practices some of the ceremonies initiated by the Maroons in the 1700s which use drums as a form of communication. Guests can join with the locals who come out for this rare and engaging celebration.
Jamaica’s famous Blue Mountain coffee comes from coffee plantations that loom in the mountains high above Port Antonio. A visit and tour can be arranged at the Craighton House coffee plantation which offers insights into the production of coffee and of course a tasting of the world renown Blue Mountain coffee. There are also awe inspiring views on the way to and from the plantation as you wind through the lush mist shrouded mountains with the Caribbean Sea as a backdrop.
It is also possible to visit the studios of several artisans in the area and one of the most interesting is a visit to the group that recycles paper to create the stationery used at Hotel Mockingbird Hill. Here you have the opportunity to have a hands on experience and learn the paper making process while meeting the locals.
Further afield the hotel can arrange a day tour to Kingston where one can either take a music tour led by Backayard magazine’s editor which takes you to the Jamaican Music Museum, the Alpha Boys School to give you insights into the roots of popular Jamaican music and the influence it has had on the world. The tour includes the art landmark at 41 Fleet Street created by Paint Jamaica that captures some of Jamaica’s best known musicians in this impressive street mural. Another option is a cultural tour of Kingston which visits the National Art Gallery with its impressive collection, historical buildings and the sprawling Hope Royal Botanical Gardens.
Meanwhile back at the hotel their restaurant, Mille Fleurs, is not only the most highly regarded restaurant in Port Antonio but also one of the top restaurants in all of Jamaica. It combines Jamaican and International flavors to create a unique Slow Food cuisine, using extremely fresh locally sourced organic ingredients and seasonal offerings. Served on a veranda with panoramic sunset views, this alone would be worth the trip.
As you sit quietly in the hotel’s tropical garden, reflecting on your experiences in Port Antonio, you realize you have come to the genuine Jamaica, a place that celebrates nature as well as its people.
Hotel Mockingbird Hill, Port Antonio, Jamaica.