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Our Critique deJour Port Antonio

The northeastern coast is said to be the most beautiful location in Jamaica and the most spectacular destination on the island. While other destinations continue to experience rapid development in the past twenty years, Port Antonio, which is located in the northeast Parish of Portland remains considerably untouched excluding a handful of resorts. The quiet and slowly paced town is ideal for relaxation and getting away from it all.

The Port is an attractive location for adventurers, explorers, naturists or guest who seek out quietude, which there is plenty. This is the best place to experience Jamaica's natural beauty outside of the artificial settings and confinements of the super resorts.

Activities available in the area include hiking Patterson Point, rafting on the Rio Grande, snorkeling at Blue Lagoon, relaxing on French Man's Cove beach, cycling, Blue Marlin Fishing, exploring Fox Cave and many waterfalls. At no additional cost, it takes little effort to bird watch in the morning, view the peak of blue-mountain at mid-day or go stargazing at night.

Day tours are affordable and can be easily arranged either by hotel guest services or directly with tour a company. Depending on your circumstances, opting for a less formal tour through a private guide in some cases, a hotel staff member who wears many hats including can be just as enjoyable. But be sure to checkout their credentials.

Port Antonio has character apart from other destinations in Jamaica. A superb setting for the America’s Sail, its scenic views could make a wonderful venue for hosting Jazz or art festival. Nonetheless, it remains as picturesque and serene as a scene from a1950's Postcard. Port Antonio is a place where you can discover romance.

Getting There
Whether you arrive in Montego Bay or Kingston, additional arrangements will be necessary. Unfortunately, there has been little progress or re-investment into the roadways, thereby travel by ground transportation to this area can be exhausting. Roads are often washed out from harsh rains, resulting in gaping potholes and large trenches. Of course, this can make a trip that would normally take a little over an hour become an two-hour or more drive.

There is express air service offered with limited flights, while there is also heliports service with private landing areas on some hotel properties, nonetheless it can be costly.

The best way to minimize inconvenience is to book overseas flights in conjunction with Air Jamaica express, which has an aerodrome in Portland. If traveling via ground from Montego Bay, book your package allowing 1-2 nights in Mobay or Ocho Rios.

Sonja Johnson-Brooks

Hotels
Restaurants

 


Hotels


Jamaica Palace Hotel www.jamaicapalace.com
The two most notable things about this property: art and gardens! This thirteen-year-old hotel has the feel of a stately manor, lined with tall white pillars and Romanesque columns; black and white checkered concrete walkways that curve and whine out to vast garden areas.

Situated in the foreground of a tropical rainforest, the hotel is home to a variety of plant species. A marvelously landscaped property, garden and pool area has the most breath-taking view of the sea and Trident Castle. The pool designed in the shape of the island and the area around the pool bar will provide perfect accommodation for any special occasion. This property is also famous for the cover of the best selling novel, "How Stella Got Her Grove Back." It makes a wonderful setting for tuxedos, satin and pearl-laced wedding gowns.

The palace contains over 500 original pieces of artwork most by local artists and a few three-dimension functional works and statutes courtesy of artist-owner.

There is visible wear on the property, nonetheless this is a lovely place and the stay will be worth your time. The management has reassured that work on refurbishing the property will begin soon.

Wedding packages offered. Most ideal for honeymooners, artists and couples .

Rates: Good

Our rating = 4

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Dragon Bay Villas
Dragon Bay Villas are situated on a sloped beachfront, and spread over 55 acres of perfectly manicured tropical gardens.

Open since the 1970's, the property has been recently refurbished. It houses a total of 30 villas, with a choice between standard or superior room and (2) deluxe villa suites with bay views. Kitchen facilities are offered in superior and deluxe room categories.

The exterior villas are white spacious bungalows set apart from the main hotel, with red ceramic tiled roofs, with French doors that open out to a patio facing the beach and bay.

There are two bars and restaurants; one casual and one for fine dining with a restriction on beach wear.

Several areas around the property beckon to exploration. Considered a family environment and child friendly, it is perhaps more ideal for young teens than small children, nonetheless, they are welcome here.

Best Feature: The atmosphere is very intimate yet, conservative. You are unlikely to find persons openly sunbathing in the nude. This is a good place to take someone special.

Rates: Good for family value
Our Rating = 4

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Trident Castle
Our Rating = 3

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Fern Hill Club Date http://www.fernhillclubhotel.com
Grab your trainers or hiking boots because you're going to need them. If you plan to venture more than a few yards from your room, come prepare for physical exertion.

This property is elevated high on a hillside robust with fruit trees, abundant with fauna, flowering plants and tropical gardens. There are several one and two bedroom suites and villas on various levels of elevation apart from the main hotel that houses fifteen standard rooms.

With plenty of natural sunlight, the standard rooms are pleasant and modernly decorated. The bedroom suites are not as pleasant for my taste. Although the rooms have plenty of space, the furnishings and fixtures appeared dated perhaps a result from the harsh rains and humidity rather than from usage.

Activities: Three pools, a tennis court, Ping-Pong, pool table, and even a shuffle board game.

Best feature: Fern Hill Club has one restaurant that offers a nice selection of Jamaican and international cuisine. The restaurant features open terrace dining by candlelight at night and a breathtaking panoramic view during the day.

Rates: Best value suggested for standard and superior accommodations. Wedding packages offered.
Our rating = 3



Hotel Mocking Bird Hill http://www.hotelmockingbirdhill.com
A very intimate hideaway, that sits in 6.5 acres of dense tropical forestry. Surrounded by lush gardens, amongst colorful flora and fauna, which are graced frequently by common and rare species of hummingbirds, this is the place to come for peaceful relaxation or exhilarating exploration.

The hotel is nestled high in a hillside. Entrance to the property is from the rear. The lobby is an open area located on the second floor surrounded by several plants, a top of trees overlooking an enclosed pool area.

It is feel a lot like being in a very large tree house. Everywhere there are plants, flowers, and sprawling shrubbery at arm’s reach. The atmosphere is casual and friendly, which elevates the senses close to nature.

Rooms are efficient and sensibly decorated with light wood furniture and soft colors canvassed on white walls, like a watercolor painting. All rooms are modern yet simple with spacious walk-in closets, multi-use shelving units, large showers, ceiling fans, a sun deck and hammock.

This is a very people and eco-friendly hotel, hosted by innkeepers Barbara and Shireen who has made their business their home, as well as a home away from home for hundreds of travelers. Great for outgoing couples or individuals who want to enjoy an outdoor surrounding while benefiting from a lifestyle of privacy, comfort and friendliness.
Our rating = 4


Goblin Hill Villas at San San
Need a long-term stay? Here it is. This is like a home away from home accommodation. There is nothing here that will make you feel like you are in a resort. There are 20 two-story, one and two-bedroom self-contained villas with a living room, dining room, fully equipped kitchen and terrace. Television, air conditioning and ceiling fans are standard.

A cook and housekeeper can be provided at your request. There is no restaurant on property. You can gather groceries from a local market or have the housekeeper shop for you at an additional cost. I was not impressed with the kitchen facilities, which could use a face-lift.

For activities on ground, there are two lighted tennis courts, a swimming pool, a community TV room and the Tree Bar open nightly.

Best Feature: Very comfortable appointments. Grounds are marvelously manicured with a view of San San beach.

Rates: Great value, priced per villa rather than by the number of persons.
Our Rating = 3.5

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Restaurants


Blue Lagoon
Sitting on the mouth of the great blue lagoon, this restaurant offers a selection of local seafood and common Jamaica dishes. I ordered the country jerk chicken served with tender boil carrots, fresh steamed okra, delicious fried plantain and festival (fried rolled dumpling). My partner had the fried fish. The meals were presented on broad greed banana leaves and absent of eating utensils.

Initially we were hesitant to consume the meal without a fork. However overcome by the sweet spicy smell of food and hunger pains, we quickly decided to go with the flow of the environment. We were pleasantly surprised. Very fresh, and very good.

Best Feature: Incredible atmosphere while sitting on the edge of the lagoon!

Cost: Averages $12 per person
Our Rating = 4.5

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Hanna Banana
Located amongst a row of small colorful shops on the beachside, adjacent to town. Serving fish, chicken and vegetarian dishes, it is a popular with locals. Service was slow and lacked a smile, however we did expect that the reason was that the food was prepared freshly. Unfortunately, the fish served on this visit was bony and drrrrrry.

Best Feature: Open patio eating on seaside

Cost: Average $7
Our Rating = 2

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2002 Critiques

Hotels
Jamaica Palace Hotel
Dragon Bay Villas
Trident Castle
Fern Hill Club
Hotel Mocking Bird Hill
Goblin Hill Villas

Restaurants
Blue Lagoon
Hanna Banana