Monday 22 October, 2018

Six great hikes to tackle in Jamaica

(Image: Blue Mountains, Jamaica)

(Image: Blue Mountains, Jamaica)

We all know Jamaica has a beautiful coastline but there’s so much more to explore inland too. The island is home to fantastic bird and wildlife, lush jungle, mountain forest and even limestone karst. So why not find some hiking boots, pack a picnic and try out one of these trails.

Blue Mountain Peak

This 9.3km trail takes you to Jamaica’s highest point at 2,256m (7,401ft). It takes about four hours and is steep in several places.  Some people stay overnight close by so they can start hiking in the middle of the night in order to catch sunrise from the peak, while others set out just after dawn. The trail, which starts at Whitfield Hall, is well-marked and guides are not compulsory, although many people tackling the trail for the first time choose to use one. There are good views on the way up and lots of different vegetation. Bring a warm, waterproof jacket, and make sure you have drinks and snacks. 

Kwame Falls

(Image: Kwame Falls by glengarden1 via Istagram)

This is a north coast hike to a lovely waterfall that begins in the village of Robin’s Bay in St Mary. You can start from two local accommodation options – Robins Bay Village and Beach Resort or Strawberry Fields Together – or shorten the distance by taking a boat to a black-sand beach further up the trail. Either way, you’ll need a guide and if you choose to walk the whole way, it’s about 90 minutes each way. There are good views along the way and walkers report it’s mostly shady, though still hot. You’ll get your feet wet crossing rivers for sure. But once you reach the falls, you can take a refreshing dip and cool off.  

Troy-Windsor Trail, Cockpit Country

Cockpit Country, an inland area in the west, is known for its unique landscape of limestone hills, caves and sinkholes. The bumpy landscape makes it hard to traverse, so the British carved out the Troy-Windsor Trail during the Maroon Wars in the 18th Century. You’ll certainly need a guide for this – the trail is not walked very frequently and may be overgrown in parts. Reports suggest the trail can be completed in seven hours but depending on your levels of fitness it might take much more. The trail start and end points (at Windsor in Trelawny, and Troy close to the intersection of Trelawny, Manchester and St Elizabeth) are at least a couple of hours apart by road, so you’ll also need to arrange transport.

Catherine’s Peak, Blue Mountains

(Image: Catherine's Peak seen with antenna on top, with Newcastle below it and left)

This is another Blue Mountains hike, but not as strenuous as climbing Blue Mountain Peak. It starts at the military camp in Newcastle, about 45 minutes’ drive from Kingston. You need to get a permit from the guard at the gate to enter, then the hike takes about 40 minutes on an old concrete path up to the peak at 1,350m. Reports suggest the trail can be slippery because of the moss, and you’ll need a jacket – it’s colder and wetter than on the coast. You’ll know you’re at the peak because there are several communications antennae up there.

Cunha Cunha Pass Trail

This 8km mountain trail links Bowden Pen in Portland with Hayfield in St Thomas. Established by Maroons fighting the British in the 18th Century, it’s a lush green jungle that is home to the giant swallowtail butterfly. Hiking this trail is a great opportunity to find out about Maroon history from knowledgeable local guides.   

Holywell Park

 

Finally, here’s an easy option if you want some fresh air without the challenge of a long hike. Holywell Park offers a variety of easy circular trails. It’s about 15 minutes’ drive beyond Newcastle in the Blue Mountains, and has parking and picnicking spots as well as fabulous views down over Kingston. It’s a good option if you have kids.

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