There’s more to Jamaica than all-inclusive resorts. Sports and culinary tourism offer unique adventures and chances to mingle with locals.
NEGRIL, JAMAICA- Outside resort gates, this exciting and diverse island caters to a variety of tourist tastes. TORONTO STAR: Beyond Jamaica’s All-Inclusives
The varied terrain attracts a great deal of sports tourism. Steep hills, valleys and winding roads lined with luscious green jungle take cyclists on a challenging journey. Sports fans can also watch international cricket and soccer matches or a motorsport race.
The Reggae Marathon, Half Marathon and 10K, lines the stunning Seven Mile Beach in Negril, attracting runners from around the world. Participants can enjoy the sunrise and live reggae, and can dive into the ocean after running across the finish line.
Since the rise of famed Jamaican sprinters such as Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce and Usain Bolt, Jamaican coaches are creating bespoke programs for aspiring athletes.
While Jamaican high-school track and fielders perform for out-of-town recruiters, runners and coaches from around the world flock to the track with hopes of learning a thing or two from these elite athletes and their trainers.
Off the track, companies such as JamWest Motorsports and Adventure Park offer Taste of Jamaica tours.
Other tours offer walks through coffee plantations or sugar cane fields, but JamWest will take visitors on an ATV tour through the forest, pointing out ackee fruit and cotton trees.
The tour culminates with a traditional meal of ackee and fish, and a rum tasting.
Whether visitors come to Jamaica for a hilly bike ride or a run on the beach, a delicious meal or home-brewed rum cocktails, the Meet the People Program co-ordinates an experience between you and a local who shares your interest.
I met with aspiring teenage athletes who taught me the correct way to shot put, as well as a dive shop owner who shared great dive sites.
More than 500 Jamaicans have volunteered to be a part of this program to show visitors what life is like outside the resorts.
When you go:
Stay: The Westender Inn (westenderinn.com), Negril.
Eat: Pushcart Restaurant & Rum Bar in the Rockhouse hotel (rockhouse.com/eat ), Negril.
Drink: Rick’s Café (rickscafejamaica.com), Negril.
Relax: The Rockhouse hotel spa (rockhouse.com/spa ), Negril.
*TORONTO STAR: Beyond Jamaica’s All-Inclusives
TORONTO STAR: Beyond Jamaica’s All-Inclusives