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Culture

How to spend a day in Port Antonio, Jamaica

A beach-and-jungle paradise favored by movie stars in the ’50s and ’60s, Port Antonio is having a renaissance thanks to a number of new boutique hotels that want to show off the ‘real’ Jamaica. VICTORIA HASWELL reveals where to eat, see and stay on the island’s emerald-colored coast

Lifestyle

7am

Wake up at Cocosan Villa, a modern marvel surrounded by a jungle of fragrant ginger lilies, banyan trees and soaring bamboo. Part of the luxe Geejam Hotel Collection (owned by music industry veterans Jon Baker and Steve Beaver), this six-bedroom villa feels more like a rock star’s private home than a vacation rental – there’s an outdoor pool, Jacuzzi, gym and sauna, while the stylish open-plan living area is filled with records, weighty coffee-table tomes and an impressive back-catalogue of music and fashion magazines. Ask your in-villa chef to rustle up a traditional Jamaican breakfast of ackee and saltfish, then settle into an Eames chair and get acquainted with the vinyl collection as you admire the contemporary art on the walls – if you can tear your eyes away from the jungle views.

Hilltop haven
Design aficionados and nature lovers will feel at home in Cocosan Villa, which looks over a dense forest canopy and down towards the Caribbean Sea
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9am

Head south along the winding ocean road to Reach Falls, an enchanting series of jade-green cascades in the John Crow Mountains. As you follow the footpath through trailing vines and thickets of hibiscus, the sound of rushing water growing closer is a greeting like no other in the heat of the mid-morning sun. Paddle in the refreshing rock pool below the main falls (the background of which featured in the Tom Cruise classic, Cocktail), before exploring upstream. Don’t miss the natural, heart-shaped ‘Lover’s Jacuzzi’ or the secret cave hidden behind the water curtain.

Hidden oasis
Look out for black- and yellow-billed parrots in the trees that surround the falls

1pm

Head back towards Port Antonio for lunch at the ultra-sleek Trident Hotel, a small all-villa resort set on its own private beach. The open-air Veranda restaurant serves classic American fare with a local twist (try the Island ‘Chop Chop’ Salad) against a gorgeous backdrop of cerulean sea views.

jet-set escape
The mid-century modern Trident Hotel first opened its doors in the ’50s and has lost none of its old-world elegance

3pm

A boat ride on the magnificent Blue Lagoon with local fisherman and guide Boxer is a must. Take in the sights of Monkey Island and the Fountain of Youth – a cold-water spring said to have healing properties that keep you young – before cooling off in the fabled turquoise waters.

5pm

Frenchman’s Cove beach is an idyllic spot for a late-afternoon swim (or snooze) and a sundown rum punch. It’s often listed as one of the prettiest beaches in the Caribbean thanks to the gentle river that runs between the sand and jungle, forming a peaceful pool before it meets the sea.

Caribbean idyll
Frenchman’s Cove beach is nestled between by two verdant green headlands, making its waters calm and perfect for swimming

8pm

Like a tree house suspended in the canopy, Geejam’s low-key yet cool Bushbar is the place to be come night fall. Dine on Jamaican favorites such as steamed snapper fillet, coconut curry shrimp or mento stew, all washed down with the house signature Ting-a-ling cocktail. Famed local band The Jolly Boys perform weekly – be sure to find out which night they’re playing.

SUNDOWN STYLE
Geejam’s Bushbar offers authentic Jamaican cuisine and fresh-fruit cocktails in chic tree-house-style environs