If you follow my Facebook or Instagram pages, you already know that I’m co-authoring and updating the next edition of Rough Guide to Jamaica (Rough Guides UK, releasing in 2018). My portion of the book starts at Hanover parish and extends along the western and southern coasts onto Negril, Bluefields, Belmont, Whitehouse, Treasure Beach, Mandeville and all the way to Kingston.
My update trip to Jamaica this Fall led to inspiring new finds and experiences. It took me deeper into Jamaica, with more
local experiences and stays. It’s my near 11th year since I’ve been exploring, writing about and photographing Jamaica, and it continues to surprise me.
There’s an encouraging growing stimulus and interest in community tours, more organic farm to table experiences including actual farm tours, as well as a growing number of AirBnB and villa options. Ganja was decriminalized in 2015 (up to two ounces on your person), and it’s amusing to see business signs on the beach and on the West End in Negril inviting tourists to “come and get baked!” Times sure have changed. Nearby, Little Bay and Bluefields are as wonderful an escape from the crowds as ever.
Treasure Beach was the most pleasant stay of all – the area is booming with a new wave of upscale villas, a combination or local and international restaurants, yet the same signature laid back and hassle-free vibe that makes this tourism area unique in Jamaica. I also experienced my first turtle nesting sighting ever in Billy’s Bay!
Kingston’s streets are ever choked with traffic – but the mountainous outskirts remain scenic, and the capital is as food-centric as I remember. The Kingston waterfront is also finally undergoing renovations – slowly but surely.
The second most memorable moment after the turtle-nesting experience in Treasure Beach, was driving through the deep rural and hilly parish of Manchesterto learn how to make bammy – with Countrystyle Community Tours – and where nearby views of the Canoe Valley simply blew me away.
Canoe Valley, Manchester – with Countrystyle Community Tours, Jamaica.
In the meantime, I’ve put together a two-minute video with favorite moments from my recent trip to the beautiful land of wood and wata. Turn up the volume, sit back, and journey with me along Jamaica’s gorgeous southern half.
Lebawit Lily Girma is an award-winning writer, photographer, guidebook author, and blogger specializing in the Caribbean region. Her work has been published in major travel publications, including CNN, AFAR, Delta Sky, Lonely Planet, Shermans Travel, and BBC, among others. A self-professed "culture-holic," Lily left her native Ethiopia at age one, fast developing a passion for the expat life. In 2008, she ditched her US corporate law career for the road and created Sunshine and Stilettos— a travel photography blog showcasing authentic ways to experience the Caribbean, through culture and nature. Lily has since partnered with multiple travel brands and Caribbean tourism boards, and also authors major print guidebooks on three Caribbean destinations, including Belize, the Dominican Republic, and Jamaica. She is the 2016 recipient of the Marcia Vickery Wallace Award for Excellence in Travel Journalism from the Caribbean Tourism Organization and Jamaica Tourist Board.