What better way to experience Jamaica than a drive along the coast and a taste of the local flavors? Drinking rum on the beach isn’t a bad way to end the day.
We debarked the cruise ship in Falmouth, Jamaica and hopped on a nice air conditioned van for our 5 hour tour of the island. It was about an hour drive along the coast before our first stop on the tour, so during this time our tour guide taught us all the Jamaican basics: how to talk like a Jamaican (“no problems” and “ya mon”), Jamaican lawnmowers (the sheep roaming the pastures and sides of the roads), and crazy Jamaican drivers (which our driver was not).
Our Lady of Perpetual Help Church
Our first stop on the tour was Our Lady of Perpetual Help, a Roman Catholic church that sits on the foundation of the oldest stone church in Jamaica. Construction on that first stone church, Peter Martyr Church, began in 1523 but was never completed. Between 1939 and 1948, construction on a new Spanish style church, Our Lady of Perpetual Help, took place using only local materials, including the stones from the original church, which were incorporated into the sanctuary.
The grounds are beautifully laid out, with a path lined by gorgeous red flowers leading up to the ivy covered church. Stray dogs roam about, but it’s best not to approach them as they might not be too friendly. The inside of the church is simple and serene. Stone carvings of the crucifixion line the upper walls beneath wide wooden rafters.
Down the hill from the church is a statue of Christopher Columbus decked out in bronze. Our tour guide said that they credit Columbus not for discovering Jamaica (because he didn’t), but for putting Jamaica on the map.
We departed the church and drove through the city center of St. Ann’s Bay, driving down a street that had once been one-way but that now accepts two-way traffic even though the road was never widened, and that was quite a feat. Then it was up the winding road through Fern Gully, a lush forest of tropical foliage and of course ferns, over 500 different species of ferns, that create a canopy over the road. This road goes on for 3 miles, but we turned around about a mile in and went on to our next stop.
On our “butt massage” portion of the tour, we traveled over unkempt and narrow roads, past what the tour guide said was Diana Ross’s house. We came to one point in the road where we met another van full of tourists but the road was too narrow to pass, so that was some tricky maneuvering our driver had to do. Then we stopped at a rest stop on the side of the mountain that offered a great view of the bay below. After that short break, it was time for our final stop – the rum!
Rum Tasting at Bamboo Beach Club
Our rum tasting was supposed to take place at Reggae Hill, a park-like getaway on the river. But thanks to the rainy season, the river had flooded and Reggae Hill brought the rum tasting to us at Bamboo Beach Club instead. We tasted 5 different local rums, and we were not allowed to sip at them because, as they told us, Jamaicans do shots. So we started with the highest proof rum and worked our way down, and as someone who does not like rum or doing shots, it definitely got better as the proof got lower. It almost made me wish I had opted for the juice tasting instead. Or asked for some juice with my rum.
Once the tasting was finished, we relaxed on the beach and slept off the rum.
What’s your favorite thing to do in Jamaica? Let me know in the comments!