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Call it love at first sight. Sometimes you visit a place and you know you’ll come back again and again. Bluefields, Jamaica is like that.

Although it is the oldest settled area of Jamaica, built by the Spanish in the 17th century, there’s a good chance you haven’t heard of it—it’s still one of Jamaica’s best kept secrets. Locals know though, and they love this jewel on the South Coast about 40 minutes from Negril.

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Photo courtesy of Dr. Linda Chidester

Photo courtesy of Dr. Linda Chidester

1. Idyllic beaches

Back in the day, pirates had their run of the bay. Today though, the glistening waters of Bluefields Beach are a respite for the weary, or those just looking for fun. On the weekends and holidays, you’re likely to find reggae music playing, food cooking and everyone having a good time.

pelican-bar-jamaica

2. Quirky-cool beach bars

Bluefields is just special. Hop on a boat at Treasure Beach and take a 20-minute ride to the Pelican Bar—a mishmash of pieces of wood and a makeshift hut over the water. It’s the coolest thing ever. You can have a drink and jump right in the water below. Check out the local arts and crafts in the hut, or have your name engraved in one of the wooden benches to let the world know you were there. It doesn’t get much better than this.

Photo courtesy of Dr. Linda Chidester

Photo courtesy of Dr. Linda Chidester

3. Lush rainforests

There’s plenty in the area to wow you. Deep in the rain forest with birds of paradise, orchids and much flora and fauna, you’ll discover the YS Falls, seven falls with elaborate walkways and resting points beside them. Swim at the ponds at the bottom of each. You can swing out on a rope and drop right into the water. Feeling adventurous? Try ziplining and take a treetop canopy tour.

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4. River caverns

For more adventure, explore the caverns that run through the Roaring River. Step inside and be amazed. Your eyes may trick you. You’ll swear you see engraved in the walls birds and other animals, even a mermaid. Ignore the bats flying above. Expect to be nervous and in awe at the same time. You can’t dismiss the feeling that you’re being watched. Still hankering for action? Seek out the Black River Safari. Get up close to crocodiles as you wind your way through part of one of Jamaica’s longest rivers. If kayaking, fishing, hiking, paddle boarding or birding is your forte, there’s plenty of that to be had.

5. Reggae history

One thing you don’t want to miss is reggae music legend and famed Rastafarian Peter Tosh’s memorial. The Bluefields native, who played in the Wailers with Bob Marley and Bunny Wailer, is honored with The Peter Tosh Memorial Gardens in Belmont, which is nearby.

Photo courtesy of Lunar Sea Inn

Photo courtesy of Lunar Sea Inn

6. Welcoming inns

While Negril has plenty of fancy digs, and in Whitehouse there’s the Sandal’s Whitehouse European Village & Spa, in Bluefields, you’ll find villa rentals and the lovely Luna Sea Inn. This 9-room, seaside boutique inn has an intimate, bohemian vibe. After a major renovation and new ownership, the Inn reopened this year. Mississippi transplant Dr. Linda Chidester’s southern hospitality and charm set the atmosphere. You’ll feel like you have a new BFF. Come ready to eat. Chef Vinton will win you over with his culinary skills—be it conch fritters or filet mignon. Locals hang out at the bar so you’ll get the cultural immersion you’re likely looking for.

Bluefields isn’t like any other place in Jamaica. The slow pace is comforting. Better get there soon. The secret won’t be a secret for much longer.

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Tagged: Caribbean

Sheryl Nance-Nash

Sheryl Nance-Nash

Sheryl is a writer and editor, specializing in travel, personal finance, business and career topics. Her work has appeared in The New York Times, Newsday, Money, DailyFinance.com, Forbes.com, ABCNews.com, Upscale Magazine, Essence, Black Enterprise and others.

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