Jamaica’s Blue Mountains

Explore, hike, cycle and sample delicious coffee

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Experience the Blue Mountains from a tall mountaintop where you  can survey distant peaks and look deep into Jamaican valleys. Blue Mountains National Park, encompassing 2662,130 acres of tropical rain forest in northeast Jamaica, includes numerous mountain peaks over 3,000 feet. It also is home to Jamaica’s tallest mountain, Blue Mountain Peak.

It also contains 800 species of endemic plants found nowhere else, 200 species of resident and migratory birds and the world’s second largest butterfly, the endangered Papilo Homerus, the Jamaican Giant Swallowtail.  Two of the best birding locations are the Ecclesdown Road and at Hardwar Gap near Holywell Recreation Park. For those wanting to spend real time in the Blue Mountains, Holywell (pronounced Hollywell) recreation area has rental cabins and nature trails. It is located off route B1. The national park’s other recreation area is at Portland Gap.

The Blue Mountains joined with the John Crow Mountains became part of the UNESCO World Heritage List in 2015. These mountain ranges are Jamaica’s first World Heritage Site. It also is the first mixed cultural and natural site for the Caribbean region and among only 32 in the world. The Moore Town Maroons, one of the Maroon communities in the Blue and John Crow Mountains, was added to the Intangible World Heritage List in 2009.

As a destination, the Blue Mountains beat out the John Crow Mountains, still largely impenetrable and the wettest place in Jamaica; the John Crows receive with up to 300 inches of rain annually.

Driving through the Blue Mountains is something of an adventure in itself, passing through small villages with friendly people.  But it is best left to those who are accustomed to driving on the left side of the road and don’t mind navigating narrow winding roads that are too often are poorly marked. Instead, join one of the tour groups that lead trips into the mountains from Ocho Rios.

Book with a cycle tour from Ocho Rios for a van to take you high into the mountains. Then you cycle down with gravity doing all the leg work. It is a good way to enjoy the scenery, if only briefly.

Jamaica’s Blue Mountains are internationally famous for its delicious but expensive Blue Mountain coffee. It often is cheaper to buy it directly from the coffee estates that grow it, a top reason why many tourists visit the high peaks. The best coffee comes from the higher altitudes, from place like Old Tavern Coffee Estate located 1.5 miles southwest of Section; (876) 924-2785. Call ahead to see when it offers a tour. Other locations are Craighton Coffee Estate and Clifton Mount-Blue Mountain Coffee Estate. Organized tours to them are available. If are driving yourself, get local directions in advance or while on the road to find the coffee plantations.

Dedicated hikers will be pleased to know that a new four-lane highway between Ocho Rios and the capital city of Kingston makes it much easier for those based in Ocho Rios to hike to the top of  7,402-foot high Blue Mountain PeakMany of the Blue Mountain Peak hiking tours start from Kingston. With drive time from Ocho Rios to Kingston reduced to only an hour, it is possible to join a Kingston area hiking group in the afternoon, make the climb to the peak starting at 2 a.m. (that is not a typo) and then drive back to your resort in Ocho Rios later that morning. Forres Park Guest House & Farm in Mavis Bank can provide transport and guides. Sunventure Tours based in Kingston also specializes in Blue Mountain Peak hikes.

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