We’ve been back from Jamaica for more than a week now and I promised that I was going to share more about our trip on the blog. So, here we go!
I wished, I could say better things about eating good vegan food but the truth is that we had a hard time at first. And I don’t think it was because of the lack of ingredients (Jamaica has various fruits, vegetables, grains and legumes to offer) but I think it was more a lack of knowledge from the restaurants and service which gave us a hard time. So, if you’re planning to go to Jamaica and are vegan I highly recommend downloading the app “HappyCow” which will direct you to different vegan restaurants in the area. Or if you’re eating in a non-vegan restaurant then you have to explicity tell them what you want, meaning ask them if you can have let’s say rice with beans and a salad on the side or something like that. You can also order smaller vegan dishes from the appetizers and from the side dishes and then combine them into a main dish. But my point is that you have to do the work and be creative. Most people there won’t be able to help you, at least that was our experience. The second thing that was also making it difficult is that most of the vegan restaurants there serve “ital” food, which is Rastafarian food. It’s the same as vegan, but they always serve the same 4-5 dishes in each restaurant, which is ackee (Jamaican’s national dish), callaloo (a Jamaican green), plantains, rice and peas, rasta pasta (a famous Rastafarian pasta dish) and that’s it. They will usually combine these dishes in one big plate and then serve this as your meal. It is really good, don’t get me wrong but after a while Ali and I had enough of it, we were craving something simple like a curry, a stew or a fried rice. Another tip that I have, if you’re planning to rent a car and drive around the island is to buy snacks at the supermarket before you head out. Snacks like peanuts, cashews, bananas, toast whatever you can find. We actually didn’t do that, that’s why as soon as we arrived at a hotel all we wanted was to eat food and at this point we really didn’t have the nerves to explain to someone what vegan food is. Of course, we did end up explaining it and we ALWAYS ate vegan, but I’m just saying it gets on your nerves. There are also lots of fruit stands on the side road, where you can buy fresh fruit like pineapple, Jamaican apple, mango, jackfruit, banana etc. Oh and if you come across a Jamaican patty stand (patty is like an empanada dish) ask if they have a soy or a veggie one. I found that a lot of them offered a “vegan” version for patties, which was pretty cool to see.
Fruit stand on the road to Negril
Local pineapple, they were so small & cute!
Kingston was our first stop, mostly because that’s where Ali was born and so I really wanted to see the city he grew up in. It was also very convenient for us because you can fly directly from Miami to Kingston. Luckily, Ali’s best friend was in Kingston at the same time as us, so we could stay at his place and he would also drive us around for the first 2 days. Before coming to Jamaica, I did some research about Kingston, after I heard how dangerous the city was and so I watched some documentaries about it and I was shocked! Kingston is at rank 16 of the most dangerous cities in the world and that rank is based on murder rates. Can you believe that? The city where Bob Marley is from and some of the most peaceful people in the world, is also one of the most dangerous cities?! So, it is fair to say that I was a little scarred before we arrived there. But, to be honest as soon as we got there, that fear went away. Unlike Lima, (the capital of Peru) which is not even on the dangerous cities list but to me it seemed way more dangerous than Kingston. Anyways, it wasn’t that bad and I think the reason for that is because we weren’t putting ourselves in bad situations. We stayed in a safe place and whenever we had to drive through the “bad areas” we stayed on the main street and didn’t take any side roads. And if you’re staying in a hotel, they will offer you guided city tours, where you’ll have someone local driving and showing you around the safe places.
The first day, we went to the Blue Mountains, where Jamaican coffee is from. Kingston is surrounded by the Blue Mountains so it is a very cool and short trip to take if you’re planning to stay there. You will get to see a total different side of Jamaica. It reminded me a little bit of Switzerland but as a “tropical version” lol. There are also lots of cafes on the road to the top of the mountain, where you can have stunning views of the mountains and landscape. My personal favorite cafe we stopped at was called EITS cafe. Definitely recommend to check it out! On the way back to Kingston you can also make a stop at the famous Strawberry Hill Hotel. It’s a famous, luxurious hotel on top of the mountain with view of the city Kingston. It also has a restaurant where you supposedly can eat very good food. We didn’t have time to go there, but next time I definitely would.
EITS cafe with view of the landscape
The second day we were supposed to go to Portland / Port Antonio which is like 2 hours from Kingston, where they say the prettiest beaches of Jamaica are but unfortunately we got delayed with the car rental and at that point it was already too late. No biggie, instead we just explored a little more of Kingston, or better said I explored more of Kingston since Ali grew up there.
The next day, we woke up early to get a head start on our 4hrs road trip to Negril, the most western point of Jamaica (Kingston is on the east). I thought that this was probably going to be a boring road trip and that I would end up falling asleep in the car. But it was the opposite of that! After we got off the highway, it was one of the most interesting and beautiful road trips I’ve ever had. We got to see so many different landscapes of Jamaica, including mountains, bushes, bamboo roads, the ocean and small villages. And there were so many photo worthy places to stop at, which we did stop at haha and took tons of pictures. Some of my personal highlights was a street called Bamboo Avenue, I can’t really explain it, but it was a long street that was covered by bamboo and it looked like it was from a movie. Another highlight was this seemed to be abandoned beach in Bluefield’s and of course all the fruit stands on the side road were so pretty to look at.
Abandoned beach in Bluefield’s
The first night in Negril we stayed at the Rockhouse hotel, which is located (like the name says) on top of rocks. It is probably one of the most photogenic hotels in Jamaica and I have to say the pictures don’t even make this place justice. The hotel in real life is even prettier. We did get a collaboration with them, so we didn’t have to pay for our stay. But unfortunately they booked the wrong dates, so we didn’t end up getting the villa like they originally planned and instead went into the only room they had left which was in a small building behind the villas. At first, I was a little bummed because the villas looked really really cool and were right on the water, meaning you could basically jump from your villa right into the crystal blue water if you wanted to. But, ultimately I was just grateful that we ended up getting a room at all. And the room was actually pretty nice too.
What I liked the most about this hotel was the tranquility, even though they are a bigger hotel it didn’t feel crowded at all. I could have easily spent 3-4 nights there, since there are so many things to do just in the hotel. You could for example rent snorkeling gear from the hotel and spend your day snorkeling right there in front of the hotel or you could take a boat with a guide out to the sea and go snorkeling. We decided against that snorkeling trip because it seemed like there were already a lot of tourists going there and we know how endangered the coral reefs are, so we just didn’t wanted to support that. But there were enough other things to do. Another highlight in the hotel were these caves, which you could only access if you were staying in the hotel so, it’s not touristy like other caves at all. You could go into these caves and swim out of them right into the ocean or you could jump from the top and them swim into the cave and come out like that. And the last thing, that blew me away was the restaurant. I only noticed it after we left the hotel but this restaurant is probably the best and most romantic one you will find in Negril. It was also one of the only places where they offered vegan meals that were different than just ital food. One of the reasons for that is probably, because they get all their produce from their organic local garden, which I personally found amazing to hear!
Rockhouse, massage spot where you can jump into the water
Rokchouse at sunset
Our second night we spent at the Skylark hotel, a newly built hotel on Negril’s famous beach. Even though this hotel was only like 5-10 minutes away from the Rockhouse hotel it seemed like you were in a total different place. Because instead of rocks you had white sand, palm trees and crystal blue water. And that’s probably also why this beach is known by tourists and filled with hotels. You definitely don’t have the same privacy that you have at the Rockhouse hotel but this beach has other things to offer. Our room was only a few steps away from the beach and the restaurant, which was perfect because I love to eat. Lol. That’s where we actually got one of our best vegan breakfasts during our entire stay in Jamaica. It was just a muesli with soy milk, fresh fruit, freshly pressed orange juice, whole wheat toast, jam and baked breakfast potatoes. But damn it was really good and I loved that they were making all their juices fresh in the kitchen!
Skylark hotel garden
The next day we packed our bags once again and head the road towards Treasure Beach. This was probably the place I was most excited about on this trip. From all the pictures I saw and the things I read on the internet, Treasure Beach seemed like an undiscovered paradise, so I just knew that I was going to love it there. They also only allow sustainable tourism there, meaning they don’t allow big hotels with lots of hotel rooms, which makes this place even more attractive! It only took us about 2 hours to get there, and even though I wasn’t able to book the hotel I originally wanted to stay at “The Jakes Hotel”, I found another pretty amazing hotel called “77 West Boutique Hotel” which was also right on the beach. The hotel had in total 5 cottages, which means you basically have the beach for yourself. I mean how freaking amazing! Since Treasure Beach isn’t filled with tourists, you really depend on your hotels restaurant if you want to eat something. And luckily our restaurant had some pretty amazing vegan meals, which I unfortunately found out about way too late. But we did were able to get a vegan chickpeas burger, potatoes, I once had a vegetable curry and some spring rolls. The cottages, were super clean and minimalistic, and everything was painted in white, which I really liked. And actually from all the rooms we stayed at this was probably my favorite one, even though it was the least expensive one. That just shows you, the most expensive hotel isn’t always the best one.
Treasure beach at sunset
Cottage in Treasure beach
Treasure beach, stair from hotel down to the beach
For my birthday, which was on the following day, we originally planned a chill day but it ended up being one of the most experience filled days on this trip. First we drove to the YS Falls, which is one of Jamaica’s most famous waterfalls. It is very well organized and in my opinion almost too organized because it makes the waterfall more like a tourist attraction rather just a nature wonder. But, it was still very beautiful and fun, especially jumping into the water from a hanging rope. After that, we headed back to Treasure Beach where we were planning to go to this bar that you can only reach by boat and is surrounded by water. We were super hungry at this point and just hoped that they were serving some kind of vegan food at this bar and they did! The chef was super nice and he offered to make us a special vegan meal just for Ali and me. After the meal we were definitely in a better mood since we had some energy again and so we went into the water which was crystal blue by the way. We got back to our hotel just in time to see the sunset and have our last dinner at the restaurant there. It was truly one of the best birthdays I’ve had.
Pelican bar, bar in the middle of the ocean
Pelican bar view
Unfortunately the next day, we had to leave this beautiful place and head back to Kingston to fly back home. So, I made sure that I ate a lot of breakfast this time so that I wouldn’t starve on the road. In Kingston we decided to have our last dinner in a vegan restaurant we found on the HappyCow app. I had some stuffed pepper with pistachio cheese and a mushroom paella and Ali had a beetroot soup and a vegan Jamaican dish. We spent our last night in Jamaica at Ali’s friends place before heading to the airport the next morning.
If I would do the same trip again, I would definitely only spend 1 night in Kingston, to explore the Blue Mountains, spend 2 nights at the Rockhouse Hotel in Negril and then spend 3-4 nights in Treasure Beach. I would also make sure I bought enough snacks in the supermarket for on the road and I would be more straight forward at the restaurants when explaining what I want to eat. Those are the only things I would change. Everything else was perfect and I’m definitely planning to go back to Jamaica to explore the North Coast. 🙂 Hope this was helpful! Love, Val xx