Stepping Stones is an airy retreat in Greenwich, the mountain hideaway enclave of Kingston's most fortunate, located just above Newcastle and a short hike from Holywell National Park and Catherine's Peak. The home sits at the center of expansive gardens boasting spectacular views of Kingston and the surrounding plains. An attentive staff and flexible rates (USD 500 for up to six guests in three bedrooms, USD 700 for up to 10 in five) make Stepping Stones one of the best options for comfort and relaxation on this side of the Blue Mountains.
The Blue Mountains
The highest mountain range in Jamaica, the Blue Mountains harbor a rich history, having provided refuge for runaway slaves, transplanted French-Haitian coffee farmers, and even Bob Marley, when he sought safety and seclusion at Strawberry Hill following the attempt on his life in 1976. Today the area attracts visitors principally for its lush nature, colorful birdlife, delicious coffee, and fresh air.
Blue Mountain Peak, the highest point in Jamaica at 2,256 meters, offers a stunning view of five parishes: Kingston, St. Andrew, St. Thomas, Portland, and St. Mary. The Blue Mountain range forms a physical barrier to the northeasterly weather fronts that frequently descend on the island, giving Portland and St. Thomas especially copious amounts of rainfall compared to the southern coastal plains of Jamaica, where drought is common.
During the rainy season (October and November), the mountain peaks often cloud over by mid-morning. Skies are clearest June–August and December–March.
Within an hour's drive from Kingston, Irish Town, Hardwar Gap, and Mavis Bank are great destinations for a quick escape from the urban jungle. This is where rural Jamaica is at its coolest. The elevation and lush greenery are a welcome retreat from the heat on the plains and foothills around Town. The road up and the rugged terrain are not for the faint of heart, but the prized Blue Mountain coffee, breathtaking views, diverse vegetation, and abundance of native birds are more than adequate rewards, and few are sorry for making the effort.
Colonel's Cottage (US$150) at Belcour Lodge is the perfect getaway located in the cool Blue Mountain foothills just 10 minutes' drive from the Kingston city limits. The cottage sleeps two in a queen bed and is surrounded by lush, verdant splendor with two verandas fit for breathing deeply and relaxing to the sound of the gurgling Mammee River below. It's located a stone's throw from the old great house of Belcour Lodge, home of Belcour Preserves, a cottage industry producer of jams, pepper sauces and honey.
Blue Ridge Restaurant & Cottages offers three cottages on a bed & breakfast basis. Dragonfly Cottage (USD 110) sleeps two on a full size bed, with private bathroom and balcony. Peacock Cottage (US$145) sleeps two with a king bed and private bath with hot water and a private balcony.Butterfly Cottage (US$160) sleeps four with a king bed and a pull-out sofa bed in the living room. It too has a private bathroom with hot water and a balcony. Soap, shampoo and moisturizer are provided.
Prince Valley Guesthouse (US$35-40 per person night) is located on a small coffee farm in Middleton Settlement in the Blue Mountains. The property is managed by Bobby Williams and has five guest rooms, each with its own bathroom. Linens and towels are provided. A basic breakfast of coffee and toast is included. Dinner is available at US$12 per person. A common room has a refrigerator, books, couch, work table and Wi-Fi. The lodging is ideal for backpackers.
Cool Shade (USD 400 for up to eight guests in four bedrooms) is a charming, quaint English countryside-style cottage in the misty cloud forest just up the road from the Twyman's Old Tavern Coffee Estate and a short walk from Holywell National Park. This is an ideal spot for a romantic getaway or for groups of family and friends.
Serendipity Holistic Resort (US$150-250) is a collection of six one-bedroom cabins, three with king-size beds (US$250), three with queen-size beds (US$150). The cabins all have private bathrooms with showers. Each room has cable TV. Wi-Fi covers the entire property. One cabin has a kitchenette. The cabins overlook the banks of the Hopewell River, which feeds the Hope River that ultimately ends up in the Mona Reservoir. The spa offers Swedish, deep tissue and full body massage, as well as manis and pedis, by reservation. The resort opened in March, 2014.
Experience the Blue Mountains in style with direct views of the tallest peaks
Forres Park Guest House and Spa (US$75-220) is the best option for bird-watchers and hikers, especially for groups looking to stay in the immediate vicinity of Mavis Bank. A two-story main house and four cabins are surrounded by a small coffee farm that attracts many endemic and migratory bird species. The large veranda is a great vantage point, as all three of Jamaica’s hummingbirds--vervain, Jamaica mango, and streamertail--frequent the bushes all around the chalet-style main house.
Portland Gap has six wooden cabins, lead-tos and camp sites. One cabin one has six bunks sleeping 12, at US$27/night; the second cabin has nine bunks, sleeping 18, for US$40/night; Cabins 3-6 are unenclosed with no beds but space for up to 15 people to on the floor. Foam sleeping mats can be rented for US$1 per night, but hikers should carry their own sleeping bags. Pit toilets and fire pits are available. A US$1 user fee is assessed at the ranger station or when booking the cabins.
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