Presentation of the destination
Kingston is a fascinating melting pot of Caribbean culture and at the same time has a deeply felt African identity. Famous for Rastafarianism, piracy and Bob Marley, Kingston’s violent reputation preceded it for many generations. But Kingston’s undergone something of a turnaround and the glorious sunshine, relaxed vibes and delicious food are enough to keep anyone happy. Located on the south-eastern coast of the island of Jamaica, Kingston’s easily accessible by air and makes a great base for exploring the rest of the island. The currency is the Jamaican dollar, and people speak lilting Jamaican English. It’s tropical and hot year-round with highs around 30°. April to October is the rainy season, and hurricanes are common between June and October.
Points of interests / things to see
If Jamaica is reggae heaven, Bob Marley is pretty much the undisputed god. If you’re a fan, and even if you’re not, a trip to the former house and studio of this luminary megastar is bound to be a rewarding experience. This old colonial building was his home from 1975 until his death in 1981. Take a 75 minute-long tour that charts Marley’s meteoritic rise from the poverty of crime-ridden Trenchtown to his glamorous uptown lifestyle, including the assassination attempt that left bullets in the wall. It’s a colourfully painted paradise for Marl ey fans, packed with many untouched details such as the guitar next to his bed, along with a detailed exhibition of photos, videos and other paraphernalia. Of particular note is the colourful Rasta murals depicting his seven sons, his gold and platinum discs and the range of Marley memorabilia, some designed by his children. Address: Bob Marley Museum, 56 Hope Road, Kingston. Website http://www.bobmarleymuseum.com. Tours available Mondays to Saturdays 9:30am 4:00pm (including public holidays). Entrance for non-residents/; Adults US$20.00 | Children 4 - 12 years - US$10.00.
The National Gallery sits on the seafront in the commercial and cultural hub of Kingston, the Kingston Mall. It houses an incredible selection of important Jamaican artwork. Vibrant and colourful hand-painted cars, African style carvings and moving photography are testament to the incredible diversity and volume of art this tiny island has contributed to the world. The sculpture of Edna Manley, the mother of Jamaican art, is amply represented, along with John Dunkley’s ominous oils and Albert Huie’s heartbreaking portraiture. Mallica ‘Kapo’ Reynolds’s riotous paintings, full of music and colour, are another highlight. Native Taíno carvings and colonial-era art are also exhibited, for a different angle on Jamaican art. There are some informative guided tours available, which shed light on the lives of the artists exhibited – it’s a good idea to book in advance. In even-numbered years there’s a National Biennial exhibition, which showcases Jamaica’s thriving contemporary arts scene. Address: 12 Ocean Blvd. Phone: +1-922-1561. Admission J$250, guided 45min tours J$1800. The museum opens 10am-4.30pm Tue-Thu, to 4pm Fri, to 3pm Sat.
Port Royal, dangling off Kingston at the end of a long sand spit, has a glory that far outstrips its small size. A swashbuckling pirate stronghold, 17th century merchant port packed with louche privateers, and the centre of the British Naval power in the Caribbean, Port Royal gained a legendary reputation for pure wickedness. Loose morals, hard drinking and massive wealth went hand in hand here, with predictable results. Drawing bloodthirsty pirates and their parrots from as far away as Madagascar, Port Royal has weathered earthquakes, tsunamis, fires and hurricanes as well as more political manoeuvring than you can shake a rum cocktail at. Many wacky development proposals have been put forward, including turning it into a theme park complete with fully costumed locals. But for the time being it’s a laid-back spot to grab a bite to eat, with the freshest fish in Kingston. Grab a Red Stripe and dream of conquering the seven seas while you watch the sun set. Hop on bus 98 at the Parade in downtown Kingston several times daily (US$1.25).
Right in the heart of busy downtown Kingston there’s a cream colonial style mansion set in 11 acres of lush lawns, palm trees and fountains. You’d be forgiven for thinking this 127-year-old building was home to a white plantation owner or slaver, but Devon House was actually built by Jamaica’s first black millionaire, George Stiebel. He made his money on gold mining projects in Venezuela, and his generosity was legendary. The opulent interior boasts a library, a gaming room and a ballroom, all decorated with Venetian crystal chandeliers and finely-worked silk tapestries. Take a tour of the house and the museum, and then drop by the courtyard, which now houses a number of shops, cafes and galleries. Order a scoop or two of rum and raisin ice cream at Devon House I-Scream – people say it’s the best on the island. There’s also authentic Jamaican handicrafts, wine and foodstuffs, homewares, clothing, and a unique bath range at Starfish Oils. Address: 6 Hope Road (Corner of Hope Road and Waterloo Road), Kingston. Phone: 1-876-929-7029. Check website for opening times and entrance prices http://www.devonhousejamaica.com/.
With its colourful and joyous music and a population so laid back they’re horizontal, it’s easy to forget that Jamaica has a deeply tragic history. The international slave trade delivered millions of Africans to a life of misery working on the plantations. It was from this history of violence and oppression that Marcus Garvey, Jamaican national hero, emerged. Here at Liberty Hall he ran his United Negro Improvement Movement between 1923 and 1935, offering worldwide hope for the exploited black race as the founder of Pan-Africanism. Liberty Hall was the first meeting hall in Jamaica with black owners and staff, spawning a worldwide network of similar halls. Nowadays it houses the Garvey Multimedia Museum and Library which contains information on the life of the great man himself, but also continues its focus as a community outreach centre, teaching life skills such as computer literacy. Address: 76 King Street. Phone: 1-876-948-8639. Liberty Hall general opening hours: Mondays to Thursdays – 9am to 5pm, Fridays: 9am to 4pm. Museum opening hours: Mondays to Fridays 10am to 4pm. Admission: Adults - $J100.00, children and senior citizens - $J40.00.
Best known for the coffee grown there, the Blue Mountains are a stunning overnight trip from Kingston. There's jungle trails, waterfalls and towering peaks to explore, and more than 500 species of unique flowering plants, along with tropical birds, snakes and insects. And with altitudes of around 2000 metres affording views as far as Cuba, the Blue Mountains are also much cooler than coastal Kingston. Book guided tours or mountain biking through agencies in Kingston.
Spanish Town was the capital of Jamaica until 1872. The British and Spanish rulers left their mark, with a mix of Spanish-style and Georgian buildings. Sitting just to the west of Kingston and easy to reach by road, Spanish Town boasts the oldest Anglican Cathedral outside of England, St. Jago de la Vega. Explore the folk museum and the iron bridge or sample exotic fruits at the colourful market. Some inner city areas are still troubled, so visit during the day with a local guide.
For a true West Indian beach experience, Lime Cay is an ideal destination. Just 15 minutes by boat from Port Royal or by jet ski from Morgans Harbour, you’ll discover a castaway island that comes to life on holiday weekends. With its coral reefs, white sand and palm trees, coupled with a lively social scene, Lime Cay is a favourite getaway for Kingston’s socialites. Expect reggae and rum but make sure you bring your own lunch and water.
Hellshire Beach is the spot for fresh fish, lobster, beer and hanging with the friendly locals. Know for its laid-back vibe, Hellshire Beach is just a short drive from Kingston. Relax on the white sand, swim in the crystal waters or watch the ‘dance-offs’ that break out periodically and quickly gather crowds. Check the prices before you commit to one of the thatched restaurants lining the beach – Prendy’s serves delicious fish at reasonable prices.
Vacation rentals in Kingston (St. Andrew Parish)
How to get there ?
Fly in to Norman Manley International Airport (Phone: 1-888-247-7678) and get a shuttle bus or taxi into town. You can rent a car at Island Rental Cars (http://www.islandcarrentals.com/), with branches both at the airport and in downtown Kingston. Remember to stay left British style, and be aware that driving and road conditions can vary. If you do decide to rent a car, always carry a map, and be aware it’s not safe to travel after dark. If you have an accident, try to make it to the nearest police station. Kingston has a great bus system, with Jamaica Urban Transit Company buses along with smaller minibuses and route taxis – always establish the price before you travel. Look out for the air conditioned yellow buses with the Jamaican flag in the window, and of course keep a close eye on your belongings. As well as route taxis there’s also charter taxis with fares ranging from J$400 to J$5000. All registered taxis have licence plates beginning with PPV.
Hotels in Kingston (St. Andrew Parish)