Port Antonio and the East Coast

Attractions

The parishes of Portland and St. Thomas form Jamaica’s easternmost region and contain the island’s least exploited natural treasures. A quiet town in the center of Portland’s coast affectionately known as "Portie," Port Antonio boasts some of Jamaica’s most secluded beaches among a handful of other stunning natural wonders.

The world-famous Blue Hole, or Blue Lagoon, where ice-cold spring water mixes with the warm waves lapping in from the sea, is surreal beyond measure and reason in itself to visit the region.

Navy Island, an abandoned little paradise in the middle of Port Antonio's twin harbors, is surrounded by coral reefs and sand bars. Steep, lush hills rise from a coastline dotted with beaches, inlets, and mangroves. Reach Falls is a nature lover's paradise, where local guides take visitors by the hand along trails that only they can see through the middle of the river. In Bath, natural hot springs have a mineral composition that is said to cure almost any ailment. When one of these destinations occupies top priority on your daily agenda, life just seems to flow at the right speed. Perhaps the languid pace of this side of the island is just meant to be, and as a visitor you won't be sorry for the lack of crowds.

Located about 65 kilometers from Morant Bay around the eastern flank of the John Crow Mountains and about 95 kilometers east of Port Maria, Port Antonio is the largest town in Portland, and the parish capital. The fact that the area attracts only a minute fraction of the three million or so visitors Jamaica gets each year is either the way it should be, or a crying shame, depending on whom you ask. Those who depend on the tourist trade complain the area is not marketed to its potential, while it is said those who own the area's most extravagant private homes prefer it just the way it is.

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St. George Anglican Church

St. George was the official church for the parish of St. George before it became part of Portland in 1867. The present cut-stone structure dates from 1814, but the foundation is much older. Both the church and the courthouse, which is still in use, can be accessed during business hours, and service is held on Sundays.

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Reggae Falls

Reggae Falls, located near Seaforth, is a popular spot for locals to come splash around by an old dam on the Morant River and jump off the large rocks along the river. There is a hut nearby where drinks and food are served. A left across the bridge at the intersection in Seaforth leads to Mt. Lebanus, a picturesque district with fruit trees growing along the river, which has lots of pools suitable for swimming.

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Moore Town

The stronghold of Jamaica’s Windward Maroons, led by Colonel Wallace Sterling since 1995, Moore Town is a quiet community located along the banks of the Rio Grande, about an hour’s drive south of Port Antonio. Prior to the election of Colonel Sterling, the Moore Town Maroons were led by Colonel C. L. G. Harris (from 1964), and before him, it was Colonel Ernest Downer (from 1952).

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Upper Rio Grande Valley

Nestled between the Blue Mountains and the John Crow Mountains are the culturally rich communities of the Upper Rio Grande Valley. These include the farming communities of Millbank and Bowden Pen and the Maroon community of Moore Town. Trails, including Cunha Cunha Pass, lead into the lush rain forest of the park and provide an opportunity to see the endangered Giant Swallowtail, the largest butterfly in the Western Hemisphere. The best way to get to know this area is by contacting the Maroon Council to learn from the people who have staked out this land as their own for centuries.

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Boston Beach

Boston Beach (free) is located in a picturesque cove with turquoise waters that sees more local than foreign visitors, especially on weekends. Boston Bay can have a decent swell suitable for surfing and is the only place around where you can rent boogie-boards and surfboards.

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Long Bay Beach

One of the best swimming beaches if you like big surf. Care must be taken as there are reefs along some sections of the beach and the current is strong. The strip of beach near Chill Out Beach Bar has the best sand without reef. Not ideal for children and weak swimmers. 

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Reach Falls

Reach Falls (8:30 a.m.-4:30 p.m, Wed-Sun., US$10 adults, US$5 children under 12, US$4.25 residents), or Reich Falls, as it’s sometimes spelled, is located in a beautiful river valley among the lower northeast foothills of the John Crow Mountains. The river cascades down a long series of falls that can be climbed from the base far below the main pool where the attraction, which is managed by Jamaica’s Urban Development Corporation (UDC), is based. You will want to start at the bottom and continue far above the main pool to get the full exhilarating experience.

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San San Beach

This paradisiacal beach a few minutes east of Port Antonio is nestled between Alligator Head and the Blue Lagoon

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Folly Mansion

Just east of Port Antonio along Alan Avenue, a left onto a dirt road before the cricket pitch follows the edge of East Harbour out to Folly Point Lighthouse. A right turn after the cricket pitch along a grassy vehicle track through low-lying scrub forest leads to Folly Mansion, which is an unmanaged attraction (free and always accessible) on government-owned land. Folly was for a few years after its construction the most ostentatious building in Jamaica, before it started to crumble.

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Blue Hole

Blue Hole is also commonly known as the Blue Lagoon thanks to a 1980 Randal Kleiser adventure film of the same name starring a teenage Brooke Shields. This Blue Lagoon has no relation to the film, though locals will make the connection erroneously. Portland’s Blue Hole is Jamaica’s largest underground spring-fed lagoon, of which there are many smaller ones scattered across the island.

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