Updated: May 19
I meant to visit Portland on a day trip. Honestly. I left my house at 8:00 am and figured I'd be back in Kingston by 7ish the same night to wash my hair and watch a little Netflix while it dried. But Portland + School Break = Impromptu Overnight Trip.
This part is easy. One bus from Half Way Tree to Port Antonio for $450.00 JMD. Buses are parked on North Odeon Ave right between the Burger King and Half Way Tree Transport Centre. In my head, I got there right before the rush and secured a window seat and had enough time to buy a snack before a rush of people needing to get to Portie filled the bus within five minutes and it drove off for the two hour (approximately) trip. In reality, I turned the corner to see the loaded bus driving off and an empty one take it's place. I know I said to pack patience when traveling the #localpathway but at that point all I could see was about an hour being cut out of my Portland time so I decided to travel the alternate route:
taxi from Half Way Tree to Annotto Bay, St. Mary for $400.00 JMD. Then, a mini bus from Annotto Bay to Port Antonio for $180.00 JMD.
The minibus to Port Antonio passed by some truly spectacular scenery. The kind that will stun you into silence and make you forget to take pictures for your blog. Fight for a window seat if you have to because the views along the way should not be missed.
What to pack
Since this is a water trip, the basic principle is to wear your bathing suit under your street clothes. Put your beach towel, dry underwear, an extra piece of clothing just in case you get the street clothes wet (this was a mini-dress for me) and a Ziploc bag for the wet swim gear.
I chose to pack food. The places on my "day trip" itinerary were your basic touristy type places which means I could reasonably expect jerked chicken, overpriced drinks (and twanging tour guides who assume you're American if you speak standard English *cringe*). I was not having it so I made Cranberry-Almond Chicken Salad sandwiches then bought fruit and bottled water in Half Way Tree (probably why I missed the bus tbh).
Things to do
First stop, the Blue Lagoon. On arrival in Port Antonio, get off the bus at Braham's Texaco and take a taxi passing Blue Lagoon (taxis travelling to different destinations pass it so just ask a driver). $150.00 JMD and about 15 minutes later, you get dropped off at the entrance. The entrance to the Blue Lagoon is one of the most underwhelming you will encounter and unless making a purchase of clothing, crafts or the ubiquitous jerked chicken, speak directly to one of the "Captains" as I call them and get out on the water as soon as you can.
I chose the boat ride because I wanted the space to move around. My Captain Greg grew up in the area and was a very informative guide. So let me pass on some of his information:
-People used to think it was bottomless but the deepest part of the lagoon is 180 feet (55 meters) deep.
-Monkey Island is called that because a Princess had a pet monkey who terrified her staff so she bought it an island where it could play without causing fear. Now, you can ask to be dropped off over there to swim at the little beach. I skipped it.
-The two most popular movies to be filmed there are The Blue Lagoon with Brooke Shields and Cocktail with Tom Cruise.
-Turtles frequent the area and depending on the time of year, it's possible to see them during your boating or rafting experience because the guides know where to find them, or at least mine did.
-The villas on the water start at $1,000.00 USD per night. So grab a few friends and split cost maybe?
Of course, the strong swimmers dove right in at the lagoon's deepest point but I was content to watch it all unfold from the bow of Captain Greg's boat. There is a little mineral spring to the right of the lagoon and I asked to be dropped off there. The water is COLD so it's best to just jump in all at once and try to keep moving because if you stay still for too long, curious little fish will bite you - found that out the hard way. I meant to swim around for a bit then head over to Frencman Cove, my second destination. 'A bit' turned into almost an hour later when I left the water with pruney fingers and no regrets for falling behind on my schedule.
I arrived at French Man's Cove, excited for my final stop before home. Final stop it would have been were it not for the security guard informing me that each access was free for hotel guests and $800.00 for day visitors. After happily paying $9,823.14 for a standard room at the Frenchman Cove Resort (which I found to be dated but sufficient for my needs) I bathed and took a nap before heading into Port Antonio for dinner.
After an unpleasant experience with the wait staff at the Marina, I came across Portland Jerk Center. The food pictured below - in the company of snapshots from the Errol Flynn Marina, was better than you can imagine. I was so pleased that on my way back to the marina for ice cream, I allowed a random drunken old man to persuade me to buy cash pot. I bought the number 13 for $100.00 JMD and won $2,600.00 JMD. Not bad for a first time gambler.
The next morning, I decided to do breakfast then spend some time in the cove before a late check out. Breakfast was so basic it didn't need a picture but French. Man's. Cove. one of my favourite places in Jamaica where my dearly beloved cool cool river water flows into the warm Caribbean sea needs more than pictures.
Less than $16,000.00 (about $108.00 USD) for the whole trip from my door right back to my door. This includes all transportation, meals, snacks, boat tour and accommodation. Too much of a stretch on your pocket? Turn it into a day trip (my original intention) and spend less than $40.00 USD. Here's how:
$450 from Half Way Tree to Portie
+ $150 to Blue Lagoon
+ $2000 Lagoon Boat Ride
+ $100 to Frenchman's Cove
+ $800 entry to Frenchman's Cove
+ $150 back to Portie
+ $1,200 on food* (this is how much I spent on my meal at Portland Jerk centre)
+ $450 to Half Way Tree
= $5,300 JMD