As part of Jamaica's commitment to broadening its horizons and developing new destinations, travel agents should be prepared to hear more about Port Antonio over the next year.
"Jamaica is investing in its highway structure," said minister of tourism Edmund Bartlett at a press conference at JAPEX 2018, which was held in Montego Bay in September. In addition to the highway that already connects Kingston to Ocho Rios, a highway will be constructed from Kingston to Port Antonio. That highway is scheduled to be completed in 2020, Bartlett said.
Today a quiet resort town, Port Antonio sits between twin harbors on the island's northeast curve. It's rumored to be the birthplace of Jamaican jerk-style cooking. Currently the drive from Kingston to Port Antonio is roughly two-and-a-half hours, but the highway will cut that to under two.
The resort town has a variety of things to do. Outdoor travelers will love the Blue Mountain Bicycle Tour, which is an up-close way to see the famous mountain range that runs along the eastern side of Jamaica.
Another popular Port Antonio attraction is rafting on the Rio Grande. Originally this was meant as a way to transport banana crops from the local plantations to the harbor, but today the rafting tours are popular among tourists, who hop on back of a raft with a guide who explains all about the river and the ecosystem. A typical tour also includes a swim in the river.
Port Antonio is very much nature-focused by day and is sleepy at night. Evenings typically include after-dinner drinks and live music at local bars, but this is not the destination to turn to for the all-night party.
Beach life is laid back, as well. Frenchman's Cove is one of the most popular beach spots for lounging, while the waves at Boston Beach are often high enough for surfing. The waters around Port Antonio have some of Jamaica's best fishing, from marlin and tuna to kingfish.
Food-wise, the area is known for its jerk pork and chicken, especially in Boston Bay. There are plenty of restaurants that visitors should hit if looking to eat the local specialty. Dickie's Best-Kept Secret and Bryan's Bay are two of the most popular, as well as Restaurant Mille Fleurs at Hotel Mockingbird Hill.
Hotels to Know
The Trident Hotel is one of Port Antonio's best, with 13 oceanfront villas. Villas come in studios, one and two bedrooms, each with private, heated plunge pools and terraces overlooking the sea. The hotel has an 80-seat restaurant, Mike's Supper Club, which has a rotating schedule of live entertainment; vintage decor includes an original Ferrari and a 1917 Steinway piano.
A second hotel to know in Port Antonio is the Geejam Hotel, which boasts an in-house recording studio that has drawn the talents of famous musicians such as Snoop Dogg, Gwen Stefani, Beyonce, Amy Winehouse and Florence and the Machine. Another small property, Geejam has only five rooms: the three-bedroom Sanwood, the Drum & Bass Studio Suite and three Deluxe Cabins. Sanwood has a private pool and dining area, sun deck and outdoor lounge. Drum & Bass has one bedroom; a bath, shower, and steam room; 1,500 square feet of private deck space; and a home theater. The Deluxe Cabins -- Ska, Mento, and Rocksteady -- have home theaters, private outdoor veranda and lounge and ensuite shower. Ska and Mento have their own private hot tubs.
The restaurant, Bushbar, serves Jamaican, Asian-influenced and international cuisine, and is one of Port Antonio's most popular.
A third and eco-friendly option is Hotel Mockingbird Hill. The hotel encourages guests to disconnect completely (none of the 10 rooms has a television) and enjoy the sounds of nature. Each room does have WiFi, though, so it's easy to stay connected if need be. Each of the Garden View Rooms has its own balcony; next are the Superior Rooms, which are on the first floor and have views of the sea from the outdoor terraces. Deluxe Rooms have private, open balcones.
There is a big push at Hotel Mockingbird Hill toward sustainability, and as such 75% of its fresh produce comes from small, local producers all within 60 miles of the hotel. Fish is purchased from fishing communities on Jamaica's east coast.