Go Off the Beaten Path in Jamaica with Hotel Mocking Bird Hill

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Hotel Mocking Bird Hill's 6.5 acres of organic tropical gardens attract more than 60 bird species.
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I-Cliff, a Rastafarian, sells his handmade crafts at Winnifred Beach.
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Visitors at Hotel Mocking Bird Hill can board a bamboo raft for a guided tour down nearby Rio Grande River.
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Reach Falls provide a picturesque hiking and swimming destination.
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Sherene's Place sells snacks in Charles Town.

Too many overdeveloped Caribbean destinations have lost their quirky charm, but eastern Jamaica’s lightly touristed Portland parish remains a place where colorful fruit stands line the roads, fishermen unload the day’s catch from rickety boats, and ladies parade to church in brilliant hats. 

Located amid the region’s pristine Blue Mountains and golden beaches is Hotel Mocking Bird Hill, a 10-room hideaway above the town of Port Antonio. Overlooking glorious aquamarine waters and just a quick shuttle ride to Frenchman’s Cove beach, this lush getaway lets you savor an authentic Jamaica that cruise-shippers might only glimpse.

Explore and Unwind

Every room at solar-powered Mocking Bird Hill opens onto 6.5 acres of organic tropical gardens (a bird watcher’s paradise) and is naturally cooled by sea breezes. You can watch the sun set behind the mountains from the rooftop observatory and fall asleep to tree frogs chirping their moonlight sonatas.

Hotel owners Shireen Aga and Barbara Walker pamper guests with natural spa treatments, Jamaican cooking classes, a chlorine-free pool and enticing hammocks. And they’re committed to using the island’s abundance of local resources. Nearly every meal–such as fresh mango scones or goat-cheese ravioli with callaloo (Jamaican greens)–is made of ingredients from family farms within 100 miles. 

Hotel Mocking Bird Hill encourages guests to engage in local tourism ventures that provide jobs in a region rich in natural and human resources, but poor in cash.  Here are some of the staff’s favorite spots:

Winnifred Beach: one of the island’s few publicly owned community beaches where visitors and locals swim without a fee. Lick ‘Em Finger outdoor restaurant serves excellent grilled meats and seafood; it’s run by Cynthia Miller, a Winnifred Beach preservation leader. 

Charles Town Maroons: At a thatched-hut museum and cultural center in the Blue Mountains, descendants of the Maroons–escaped slaves who organized guerilla rebellions against the British in the 1700s–preserve their Afro-Caribbean traditions. Don’t miss a drumming/dancing performance or an inspiring oral-history hike to coffee-plantation ruins, led by Maroon “colonel” Frank Lumsden.

Reach Falls: Natural cascading waterfalls and freshwater pools greet you at this jungle park. For an adventure, hike up the river to the falls with a guide.

Blue Mountain Coffee: Bike or hike along steep but scenic hills to this sustainable coffee estate.

Bamboo rafting: Float on Jamaica’s Rio Grande river aboard a bamboo raft captained by a local who poles guests downstream. 

Island Ease

Hotel Mocking Bird Hill offers luxury, not wastefulness. Its eco-attributes include:

? Solar hot water (100 percent) and solar electricity (65 percent) 
? Organic, locally sourced foods
? Insecticide- and pesticide-free gardens that attract more than 60 bird species
? Water-saving showers and faucets
? Rainwater harvesting 
? Anaerobic wastewater treatment (removes impurities so water can be reused in the gardens) 
? Support of a Jamaican reforestation program 
? Stationery, greeting cards and gifts from local women’s craft co-ops
? Chlorine- and phosphate-free laundry 
? All-local staff