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, Ethiopian-American travel writer, photographer and author of several Caribbean guidebooks for Moon Travel Guides, including Moon Belize, Moon Belize Cayes, and Moon Dominican Republic (October 2016). Her work focuses on Caribbean culture and adventure, and has been published in AFAR, CNN Travel, BBC, Delta Sky, The Guardian, Sunday Times Travel Magazine, and Every Day With Rachael Ray, among many others. Lily is also the 2016 recipient of the Marcia Vickery Wallace Award for Excellence in Travel Journalism for her Caribbean coverage, from the Caribbean Tourism Organization.
Lily calls herself a “culture-holic”–she speaks four languages fluently and has lived in Cote d’Ivoire, England, Jamaica, Belize, the Dominican Republic and traveled to some 30+ countries around the world. Last but not least, she is a former corporate attorney who ditched her Washington DC office for the road in 2009 to pursue her dream of becoming a storyteller.
Lily holds a Bachelor of Arts in French and Spanish (summa cum laude) from the University of Maryland at College Park, and a Juris Doctor from the University of Virginia School of Law.