By Rita Thompson
When attempting to describe Jamaica, it’s easiest to turn to the lyrics of the country’s most legendary king, “Let’s get together and feel alright.”
If you’re looking to relax and unwind on the beach, you look to the Caribbean. If you’re looking to do that with a cup of rum punch in one hand, and a joint in the other, you look to Jamaica.
While visiting Jamaica, I had the opportunity to climb Dunn’s River Falls. Located near Ocho Rios, these are the most famous waterfalls (and a major tourist site) in the country. Visitors climb the falls on foot, starting at the beach. While climbing, expect encouragement from not only your guide but the others in your group! All in all, Dunn’s River was seriously beautiful and one of my favorite parts of the trip.
If you’re on the southern coast of Jamaica, consider Y.S. Falls. After a tractor ride, you climb to the top of the falls, swim in the natural pools and have the chance to zipline in the nearby park.
If you’re not feeling too adventurous, though, enjoy the nature right at your toes. Of all the beaches I’ve dug mine into, nothing quite compares to the crystal clear, rushing water and white sand in Jamaica.
So lay back, and let the sunlight in. Doing so with a joint in hand doesn’t hurt either.
Pass the Dutchie
Imagine a world where everyone loves cannabis as much as you do. Surprise, you’re imagining Jamaica! This became clear within an hour of stepping foot on the island when my bus driver wanted to show me all the goodies in his bag. Thanks, Omar!
Though the plant remained illegal in Jamaica until 2015, there’s no place on Earth that associated more with cannabis. To Jamaicans, ganja is considered a gift from God. In fact, an amendment to Jamaica’s Dangerous Drug Act passed on Marley’s birthday (Feb. 6, 2015), allowing any Rastafarian-practicing adults to use ganja for religious, medical, and scientific purposes. Rastafarians may also grow cannabis on designated lands.
For the general public, possession of up to 56.6 grams of cannabis is treated as a petty offense, meaning that it does not result in a criminal record. Citizens may cultivate up to five plants.
Coming from North America, the laid back and positive attitude about cannabis in Jamaica will make you feel like you’re in another world. A great reminder that it really is just a plant.
What’s on the Menu, mon?
All I can say is… jerk chicken.
Famous for its pungent marinade, allspice, and Scotch bonnet peppers, jerk chicken is Jamaica’s biggest staple. To achieve the amazing “jerk” taste, the meat is dry-rubbed or wet marinated with a hot spice mixture called Jamaican jerk.
According to the Kitchen Project, the idea of smoking and drying meat in the sun or over a slow fire is said to have come from the Arawak Indians who settled in Jamaica over 2,500 years ago.
I got to try jerk chicken in the form of pizza, wraps, salad, and more. My personal favorite was the stand-alone version, though. If you want to take a stab at your own jerk meal at home, check out Emerald’s recipe for Vegan Jerk Veggies.
We also cannot ignore the island’s amazing rum. My personal go-to rum drunk was the classic pina colada. Make sure you ask for the Wray and Nephew, distilled right in Kingston!
World A’ Music
Reggae is Jamaica’s gift to the world.
This begins with, you guessed it, Bob Marley.
Born in Nine Mile, Marley brought Rastafarian culture and reggae music into mainstream culture with his lyrics about love, redemption, and beauty. Marley’s vibe and music are felt and heard throughout all of Jamaica.
From the moment you leave the airport, you’re serenaded nonstop with the sounds of drums, congas, and keyboards. And while one might typically be ready for a new genre new by the end of the week, reggae simply does not have that effect. You’re always ready for more. At least I was.
During my time in Ocho Rios, I was also lucky enough to see the Silver Birds, an extremely talented steel drum orchestra from whom I would 100% recommend checking out.
Another heavily played musician in Jamaica is Koffee, a 20-year-old reggae artist from Spanish Town. In America, she’s known only as the girl behind the 2019 summer jam, “Toast.” In Jamaica, she’s emerged as one of the genre’s leading ladies. I personally can’t get enough of her.
Jamaicans are without a doubt the most friendly, welcoming, and laid back people I’ve met during my travels.
To be fair, I was at a resort. But something about the employees here felt authentic, like they really wanted to be your friend and make sure you had a good time. Their carefree and laid back attitude about life is truly contagious. Every conservation I had, on and off the resort, left me with a smile on my face.
As my favorite bartender, Garnett would tell you, “Never be disappointed today for what is tomorrow.”
Overall, Jamaica proved to me that love at first sight really does exist. Don’t believe me? Make it your first post-quarantine celebratory trip and see for yourself!