Bathed by the gentle sounds of steel bands and lapped by the warm waters of the Caribbean Sea, Port Antonio is Jamaica’s most authentic coastal town. You won’t find any high-rise resorts here, more a laid back town with jumble of streets and charming Georgian buildings, surrounded by lush tropical foliage.
Ironic then, that Jamaica’s tourism bubble began here. The dense forests, above average rainfall and maroons (escaped and freed slaves) discouraged the British from settling here in the 18th century. However, American businessman Lorenzo Dow Baker saw an opportunity and in 1880 began banana trading in Jamaica as well as promoting Port Antonio – Portie to the locals – as a holiday destination for wealthy Americans. The sleepy port welcomed the newly-minted jet set and became a boom town (even Errol Flynn was a fan), spurred on by Port Antonio’s mystery, authenticity and promises of getting away from it all. When tourism turned further west, Port Antonio was left to locals. Today, little has changed.
Misty mountains and winding rivers make up much of the landscape, and offer adrenalin junkies adventure in paradise (it is said that rafting the Rio Grande is one of life’s greatest bucket list experiences). If, however you prefer to keep your feet on terra firma, Portie’s market is a true representation of the island’s unique culture. Port Antonio is Jamaica’s artistic hub, so exploring the unbridled local talent and rich heritage during a visit to the town promises excitement for culture vultures.