While most visitors to Jamaica usually explore the north coast and its spectacular beaches, I wanted to do something different this time. I was in Jamaica for my cousin’s wedding and I was determined to take a day trip before returning to the States. I had three important criteria – I wanted to visit attractions that I had never visited before, it needed to be something I could do in one day, and it needed to be easily accessible (i.e. it didn’t require me to take a bus, to another bus, and from there take a taxi to meet my tour guide).
After a couple of phone calls, Google searches, and recommendations, I decided on the south coast of the island – all roads led to St. Elizabeth, with my final destination being the Appleton Rum Estate.
I booked my travel with Showcase Jamaica Tours, and they were nothing short of perfect! The tour was customized for me and included door-to-door pickup and drop-off as well as entrance fees and guided tours for the attractions, and lunch before heading back to Kingston.
Leaving from Kingston, it takes anywhere from 2.5 – 3.5 hours to get to the estate depending on traffic, so we planned to leave early in the morning to beat the traffic and get on the road before the sun began to leash its fury. As I heard the roosters crowing in the background, all I could think of was “man, it’s early!” I walked out the house toward the tour vehicle and could see the sun peeking over the horizon, and the sky displaying hues of purple, red, blue, and yellow. It was 6 a.m. on the dot as we pulled out of the driveway and began our journey with Beres Hammond’s album “Never Ending” playing in the background and offering the perfect entertainment for the ride.
We made a quick pit stop for breakfast – cornmeal porridge (and no, I’m not talking about the instant one either). I’m talking about a heaping serving of the good old-fashioned cornmeal porridge that you cook in a pot on top of the stove with condensed milk, coconut milk, a bit of water, a touch of salt, vanilla extract, and some nutmeg. I was actually surprised at how good it was made, but then again, not really. From my experience, the traditional food served at the “fast food” establishments in Jamaica tastes like it is homemade, if you didn’t know any better you would think your grandmother was the one doing all the cooking.
As the morning went on, we drove through the parishes of St. Catherine, Clarendon, and Manchester before arriving in St. Elizabeth. Once in St. Elizabeth, we passed through Holland Bamboo, also known as Bamboo Avenue which is located in Lacovia. Holland Bamboo is a grove that was part of a sugar estate and was used to provide shade for plantation slaves and owners on the estate en route to the town of Lacovia and dates back to the 1700s. I had never seen anything like this before (at least not that I can recall); it was simple but very photo-worthy, with the bamboos growing so tall that they converged overhead from either side of the road to form an arch, covering us like a giant green umbrella.
After another 20 minutes drive, we arrived in Black River where we boarded a pontoon boat for J. Charles Swaby’s Black River Safari boat tour. Black River actually got its name from its dark, almost black hue, which was caused by decomposing vegetation on the bed of the river. The tour lasted about 1 hour and there was only one other boat on the water the entire time – a fisherman checking to see how many crabs had the misfortune of getting caught in his traps. One of the highlights of the tour was seeing the crocodiles up close as they usually swim up to the boat. It’s said that this particular species of crocodile is shy and less aggressive unless they’re intentionally bothered or needing to protect their young – basically, if you don’t bother them, they won’t bother you!
As we continued to cruise on, we spotted egrets, seahawks, and jacana which are commonly referred to as the “Jesus bird” or lily trotters just going about their business and living their best life. Before ending our boat tour, we passed by spectacular mangrove trees with aerial roots sent out like spiders’ legs offering the perfect camouflage for any crocodile that wanted to remain unnoticed.
Our next stop was the Appleton Rum Estate – where the iconic Appleton Rum is distilled! If you’re reading this and don’t know, let me put you on. The brand’s rum has been perfected by Master Blender, Joy Spence, who is the first woman to be appointed Master Blender in the world. Here you can follow your guide to learn about the estate’s history dating back to the 1700s, see how cane juice was extracted in the 18th century with donkey power, view contemporary rum-making methods at the modern distillery, sample some varieties of Appleton Rum, and receive a complimentary bottle (no, not a full-size bottle, more like 75 ml). I will write more about the Joy Spence Appleton Estate Rum Experience in a future post – so be on the lookout!
My day-long excursion to St. Elizabeth was coming to a close as we headed back to the bustling city of Kingston. On the way back home, we stopped off in Middle Quarters (also in St. Elizabeth) for some pepper shrimp (pictured below) from one of the shrimp stalls (usually massive Dutch pots boiling on open grills and plastic bowls full of shrimp). Pepper shrimp (really crayfish) is called pepper shrimp because when it’s cooked, it’s boiled in saltwater filled with crushed scotch bonnet peppers and other spices, all of which complement each other when absorbed into the shrimp. This tasty little snack is a must when passing through the area.Embed from Getty Images
If you’re staying in Kingston, only have time for a day trip, and want to do some sightseeing on the south coast of the island then Holland Bamboo, Black River Safari boat tour, and Appleton Rum Estate are the perfect solution. If you are able to spend two days in that part of St. Elizabeth, then you definitely should also visit YS Falls. Whatever you decide, before you leave the area and head back to Kingston, remember to stop and grab some pepper shrimp. If you think you’ll eat the shrimp before arriving at your lodging in Kingston, here’s a piece of advice – be sure you have some hard dough bread to help cool your mouth from the spices and grab a jelly coconut to quench your thirst.
9 thoughts on “The Perfect Itinerary For A One Day Excursion From Kingston To St. Elizabeth”
Jodi!! Love this post about my parish St.Bess! Very evocative and a great read!!!
Thanks Jaime! Glad you enjoyed it.
The beauty of Jamaica came alive in this post. It brought back such great memories of my trip to Jamaica . Makes me want to go back and experience even more of the food, culture and attractions.
Thanks Natasha! Happy to hear it brought back great memories and hope you’re able to create new memories there one day.
Love the sunrise view…soooo peaceful!
Hi Paula – Thanks for sharing. I agree, it is. Makes you want to wake up every morning to that view.
Okay, so let me get this straight. Here in the states, when you go to a Jamaican resturant and ask for pepper shrimp, it’s really shrimp. But in Jamaica, pepper shrimp is really crayfish!!! I absolutely neverrrr knew that. Holland Bamboo, looks so beautiful, I can tell there is so much history there. Lacovia looks like it is in the country and peaceful. Do people live out there? Im assuming the population is small.
Hi Jalyce – Thanks for sharing! Yep, it’s really crayfish and they’re huge and you’re right, there’s a lot of history in Holland Bamboo, much like the rest of the island. Great question…honestly I’m not quite sure about the population of Lacovia, but what I can tell you is that St. Elizabeth, the parish where it’s located is one of the oldest parishes in Jamaica and Lacovia was once home to one of the largest Jewish communities in Jamaica. I can also tell you that Lacovia is a cashew lover’s dream, with cashew nuts being the area’s largest crop.