After drooling over our Negril, Jamaica,
travel feature, I took a trip to Kingston, the capital of the island, for the Kingston City Run in March. Unfortunately, due to an unexpected fire nearby, the health department deemed the air qualify unfit for running. I didn’t exactly travel across the country and down off Florida to sit around because the race was no longer happening—so along with the tour group and Galaxy Leisure and Tours, we turned the trip into a list of things to experience even when your half marathon is bumped. From the Blue Mountains overlooking Kingston, to the north shores of Ocho Rios, to the busy streets of the bustling city of Kingston, there’s plenty of reason to pack a bag and an open mind and travel to the land of juicy fruit, amazing food and music that quite literally seeps into your bones and makes it impossible to not tap along. Want more of the coastal Caribbean experience without the capital city crowds? Montego Bay, “MoBay,” hosts its run in May every year.
Of course you need to visit the house and
museum of the king of reggae—Bob Marley. A coffee shop sits outside, and the entire grounds are surrounded with murals, such as this one, and vibrant Rastafarian colors. (Did you know Time magazine voted him the second sexiest black man of our time behind Denzel Washington?) Although pictures were not allowed inside the building, our group took a mental note of the spot where the reggae king was shot just days before going on stage at the “Smile Jamaica” concert years ago.
Coconut water is all the rage and offers a handful of nutritional benefits—so obviously all of us had to try it out of an actual coconut. The Melting Pot restaurant at the
Knutsford Hotel offered a great, local twist to some traditional dishes (in addition to this giant tropical fruit). Every dish was excellent, but the guava sorbet with rum definitely had me buzzing the rest of the day.
The official kick-off to race weekend, the
Bacchanal party was definitely hyped up to meet and exceed expectations. It certainly did with its summer fair feel and electric energy, complete with dancing and a live performer on the main stage. Hosted near the start line of the race, the entire party was outside and only started getting over the top toward midnight. Most of us were split between the “real” Red Stripe lager and, well, rum.
Perhaps one of the best perks of this nine-bedroom
inn is the name: “Raf” short for “Rafael,” the owner, and “Jam” as a nod to the Jamaican culture that lives in and around this Blue Mountain majestic cottage. We dined on the rasta-colored deck, noshing on excellent native food and enjoys the frequent climate changes (jacket or no jacket?!). Standing on a gorgeous property hidden deep in the mountains, there’s only one tiny directional sign from the main road up down the crooked, narrow dirt road to the bridge entrance. If you visit even for just a day, the location is surrounded by beautiful gardens and lush greenery, complete with a nearby waterfall and access to great hiking trails around the area. Seclusion never felt so good!
Who wouldn’t want to enjoy traditional Jamaican dishes at this location inside Rafjam?
resort sits in the Blue Mountains, and it’s complete with this crazy view with a ground that seems to disappear over the edge. It’s a quiet location to wander or book a stay for a night. Strawberry Hill overlooks the Kingston vista in the distance, and on this day, we could spot the smoky air that caused the last-minute cancellation. Luckily, the views are breathtaking, regardless of any haze.
Yes, I do wish I lived here. One of the island’s top monuments and main tourist attractions,
Devon House was a work of George Stiebel, one of Jamaica’s first black millionaires, in the 19th century and remains as his legacy today. Not pictured: The adorable shops (and I Scream Ice Cream) behind the main mansion. Full tours are available inside the walls of the house.
It’s a rare occasion when a tour ends with the suggestion of eating the “best”—literally, top-four in the world—
ice cream. I tried it for myself, and the rumors are accurate: I Scream Ice Cream in Kingston is one of the best desserts I’ve ever tried. A challenge: Finish your cone before it melts in the Jamaican heat.
Never in my running years had I seen this type of “pre-race warm up.” A handful of runners followed the lead of a very enthusiastic dancer and tackled some fast moves to probably shake out the hips more than the legs. Very entertaining and impressive!
Yes, I did bring out the Puma Ignite shirt for this one day of touring. Perhaps I hoped to run into Usain Bolt at his bar in Kingston. Nonetheless, it felt appropriate to pause next to this giant information sign outside the expo hall for the
Kingston City Run.
Albeit a last-minute cancellation on the eve of the run, the race still rocked the host hotel in Kingston—Jamaican Pegasus. I was particularly fond of the race swag and branded water bottles. A useful tool for runners, as well as a great piece of branded race swag to bring home to your friends. Other items included those Livestrong-inspired rubber bracelets.
We departed Kingston and made the 90-minute drive across the island to Ocho Rios, a much more humid, coastal area of Jamaica. The Sandals
resort is a luxurious option for relaxing Caribbean Sea-side and enjoying the freakishly warm waters. (As a San Diegan transplant, the clear blue put our world-famous beaches to shame.)
The best grub was definitely saved for last inside the
Courtleigh Hotel and Suites. When Mark Dekrines the executive chef, came out for his around-the-table applause, I learned he was from Philly! If I can get the bananas praline cinnamon dessert on top of ice cream in phyllo dough somewhere in the states, just tell me where.