Portland is not your resort parish or cultural capital and isn’t known for commercial attractions. Rather, in Portland, there are natural attractions for days and capitalize on a more rustic feel for those of us who enjoy eco-tourism or seek to escape urbanization for a day or two (or three).
This was hard to pinpoint because it’s along the border of Kingston/St Andrew and Portland and for some reason, there is no definitive map or information that can tell say which parish Holywell is in. So, while that is in dispute, I chose to include it on the Portland side, located near the base of the Blue Mountains. Part of the greater Blue and John Crow Mountains National Park and an eco-tourist’s dream, you’re beyond the city, thrown right in the middle of nature and have several nature-themed activities to enjoy, such as their five hiking trails that each give a different view of flora and fauna in the area, a coffee tour down at Twyman’s Old Tavern Coffee Estate and the magnificent view of the city of Kingston all the way to Port Royal. There are also gazebos and open spaces to enjoy picnics and birdwatching, however, due to the high altitude, it’s much colder and you should dress appropriately. And if you really love nature and getting away from urban life, you can rent a rustic cabin equipped with beds, a kitchenette and fireplace (a novelty in Jamaica), and is as close to camping as you’ll ever get here.
2. Lady G’Diver Diving Facility
If you’re on the adventurous side and love the water, Portland has something for you too with scuba diving with Lady G’Diver (get the name yet?). Lady G’Diver is a full-service dive shop with equipment rentals that will also teach you to dive with other people at your experience level by an instructor and master diver accompanying your dive. You’ll be open to more than ten different dive spots scattered across Portland. View Jamaica’s marine life in their natural habitat. This include deep dives and photography dives to see underwater canyons, fish and coral reefs in that area.
3. Moore Town
One of the major aspects of Jamaica’s history is that of the Maroons, runaway slaves who lived in the mountains and fought the British to keep their freedom. This history persists in the modern day with Maroon villages still in existence. You’ve heard of Accompong on the west coast, and here is Moore Town on the east coast. A tour through Moore Town gives you access to the village and Maroon history (facilitated by meeting with the Colonel of Moore Town). It is also a tribute to Nanny, having to hike to Bump Grave’ her shrine and burial site, as well as the fairly nearby Nanny Falls. The tour ends with a Jamaican/Maroon style lunch.
4. Rafting on the Rio Grande River
Rafting is a surprisingly popular yet non-mainstream activity. You’ve probably heard of rafting on the Martha Brae and it’s the same concept on the Rio Grande River in Portland, where rafting started in Jamaica. Bamboo rafts that sail a couple of hours (depending on where you start) past waterfalls, farmlands, rainforest and other aspects of Jamaica’s natural beauty. Your raft captain is experienced and can steer you towards different sights as well as stop and allow you to enjoy a swim in the river. Along the course of the river, there are vendors and your journey will end at Belinda’s Riverside Eatery for lunch.
5. Reach Falls
Also known as Reich Falls, it is located in the small town of Manchioneal and was featured in a Tom Cruise film called Cocktail, for it’s natural splendor. It’s a waterfall surrounded by rainforest like landscape, complete with hanging vines, natural caves and bamboo canes and birds worth watching. The waterfall empties into a large pool, which empties into smaller pools that require a short hike to get to. And it’s definitely off the beaten path, so you’re guaranteed some space and privacy to truly enjoy the falls
6. Somerset Falls
If you can’t get enough of waterfalls, you’re in luck because Jamaica is full of them, so much so that this list includes two of them. Recently reopened after years of construction, Somerset Falls is a far cry from your basic waterfall attraction. Located on an old plantation/botanical garden, they now include Delta Wellness Spa for rejuvenation in a more rural setting. However, you can still enjoy all of the Somerset Falls activities you fondly remember, such as the pool, boat rides, waterslide and waterfalls. Much smaller and less known than Dunn’s River and YS Falls, you can enjoy a day at the waterfalls in a serene setting while shrouded by nature.