Mandeville and the South Coast


The parishes of Clarendon, Manchester, and St. Elizabeth make up the south-central part of Jamaica. It's the place to get away from the tourist hubs and see some of the country's farmland and less-frequented coastline. Locals in these parishes are less dependent on tourism and accordingly less pushy in soliciting business. While the region doesn't boast grandiose or glitzy resorts, the accommodations often make up for it with their rootsy charm, and there's still plenty of comfortable lodging options, especially in Treasure Beach, where villas and cottages range from rustic to unpretentious luxury. Languid fishing villages dot the St. Elizabeth coast, the most popular of which are found in Treasure Beach, and farther east in Alligator Pond, which straddles the St. Elizabeth\Manchester border. High above the plains, the cool air of Mandeville has been a draw in the heat of summer for centuries and is often referred to as the "retirement capital of Jamaica" for the number of repatriating Jamaicans who settle here. Over the past 50 years the bauxite industry gave Mandeville a strong economic base, while the 1970s saw the flight of many of the town's gentry during the Manley administration, when the prime minister's socialist lean drove fear into the wealthy class. The old moneyed families in Mandeville were somewhat replaced by an influx of nouveau riche, some allegedly owing to drug money, who have arrived over the past few decades to fill uptown neighborhoods with conspicuous concrete mansions. A lull in Jamaica's bauxite industry hit Mandeville especially hard after half the country's production ceased in early 2009. As the global economy recuperates and the world market price of aluminum rebounds, so too will Mandeville's economy. Independent of cash-flow considerations, the town's temperate climate and relatively well-developed infrastructure make it easy to forget you're in Jamaica. Mandeville boasts several noteworthy restaurants, making it a worthwhile place to stop for a bite on trips between Kingston and the South Coast. Other than that, it's not a place that keeps many tourists for any length of time, which makes it an attraction in itself for those seeking the "normal" Jamaican experience, not found so readily in Negril or Ochi where tourism dominates the economy.


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Guts River

Guts River is located about five kilometers west of the Canoe Valley Protected Area, or 16 km east along the coast into Manchester from Alligator Pond, the Guts River creates a small pool as it emerges from the rocks with cool, crystal-clear waters said to have medicinal qualities. The deserted beach nearby is great for a stroll. Getting to Guts River requires chartering a taxi if you don't have your own vehicle, or hiring a boat from Treasure Beach if that's where you're based.

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Salt River

Salt River, 10 minutes east of Lionel Town near the coast, has a public mineral spring that is a favorite cooling off spot among locals. Dances are held on weekends for what they call Early Sundays. Seldom visited by tourists, the upkeep is substandard as the locals don't seem to mind the rubbish that litters the grounds, including deceased refrigerators parked at the water's edge and large tires parked beneath the crystalline waters. Nevertheless, it's a great spot to soak up the local scene and eat some fried fish and festival.

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Treasure Beach

Jamaica's laid back heartland, where seasoned, world travelers come to get away and relish their savoir vivre

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Y.S Falls

Y.S. Falls (9:30 a.m.-3:30 p.m Tues.-Sun., US$17 adults, US$8.50 children 3-15 years) on the Y.S. Estate is by far the best conceived and organized waterfalls destination in Jamaica. It's been operated by Simon Browne since 1991. The Y.S. River changes with weather--crystal clear blue normally, and swelling after rain in the mountains to make the perfect venue for tubing (US$6). There is a bar and grill on the property, as well as gift shops with an excellent array of books, crafts, and Jamaica-inspired clothing. There is also a swimming pool just below the falls.

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Bamboo Avenue

One of the most beautiful four-kilometer stretches of road in Jamaica, running from Middle Quarters to West Lacovia, Bamboo Avenue is also known as Holland Bamboo. The stretch is lined with Jamaica's largest bamboo species, the common bamboo (Bambusa vulgaris), brought from Haiti by the owners of the neighboring 1,780-hectare Holland sugar estate, which once belonged to John Gladstone (1764\1851). Gladstone went on to father 19th-century British prime minister William Gladstone. Bamboo Avenue provides shade for several jelly coconut and peanut vendors.

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Appleton Estate

Appleton Estate offer one of the most popular tours (9 a.m.-3 p.m Mon.\Sat., US$22 admission includes a miniature bottle of rum) on the South Coast, well within reach for those staying anywhere from Montego Bay, to Negril and Treasure Beach. Located in Nassau Valley, it's well worth a visit, both to sample the several grades of rum and to experience the most lush corner of St. Elizabeth with its vast cane fields and rough hillscapes. The distillery at Appleton Estate is owned and operated by Wray and Nephew, which makes Jamaica's best-known rum.

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Lower Black River Morass

The Lower Black River Morass is one of Jamaica's largest wetlands, with 142 square kilometers of mangrove and swamp providing a rich habitat for a variety of animal and plantlife. Turtles and crocodiles are still abundant, while manatees, once relatively common around the mouth of the river, are gone today. It's the largest remaining undisturbed wetland in the English-speaking Caribbean at 7,285 hectares. The Black River Morass has 113 species of plants and 98 species of animals.

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Pelican Bar

One of the most exceptional attractions in all of Jamaica, Pelican Bar is a ramshackle structure less than 1.5 kilometers offshore on a sandbar off Parotee Point. Run by the charismatic Denever Forbes, known by everybody as Floyde, Pelican Bar serves drinks and cooks up excellent plates of fish (US$10) and lobster (US$15) accompanied by rice, bammy, or festival. The sandbar is an excellent spot to spend the day relaxing and snorkeling.

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Black River Safari

Charles Swaby's Black River Safari (US$25 adult, US$12 children 3-11), run by parent company South Coast Safari, has a pontoon boat tour up the Black River for 75 minutes with a commentary by the captain. Tours run daily at 9 a.m., 11 a.m., 12:30 p.m, 2 p.m, and 3:30 p.m Swaby started the tour in 1987. Lunch (not included) is served at the Bridge House Inn and at Riverside Dock.

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Irie Safari

Irie Safari (8:30 a.m.\5 p.m Mon.-Sat., 9 a.m.\4 p.m Sun.) offers a narrated tour on pontoon boats lasting 75 minutes (US$17 per person, minimum charge of US$40 per boat with two people). Proprietor Lloyd Linton is a wetland biologist who leads many of the tours himself. Irie is the smallest of the three tours, which can help avoid the long wait sometimes found at the competitors, which get more large groups. Irie Safari also offers sportfishing for tarpon and snook. The tour was established in 1993.

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