Portland: Welcome to the Other Jamaica

Want to feel real island life? Portland is worth the four-hour drive
Portland, Jamaica
Portland, Jamaica
Roots, rum and reggae have been the Jamaican vacation mainstay, but if we’re honest, chances are your vacations have focused far more on the last two than the first one. No apologies needed. No one could fault you for ditching your briefcase to fall victim to their lure. But if you’re looking for a different Jamaica than the tourist-laden all-inclusives might provide – one that is slower, quieter, more like the pace of a Bob Marley song – might I suggest Portland.

> Getting there: The parish isn’t the easiest one to get to, which only adds to its appeal. Fly into MoBay airport. Reserve a ride with Jermaine Smith, the affable driver with Paradise Travel, and he’ll make sure you’re comfortable on the four-hour trip — with WiFi in the vehicle, a “no problem” attitude and pit stops and jerk chicken refuels along the way. www.paradisetravelsinja.com

> Staying there: With a range of accommodation options, you need only decide the type of vacation you’re after. Looking for a trendy getaway where luxury is only a phone call away from your balcony or deck chair? Trident hotel offers villa accommodations and the kind of personal attention that has wooed Katy Perry and Beyoncé to their gates. Rather more of a “home away from home” feel?  The lush gardens and comfortable rooms at Hotel Mockingbird Hill feel like you’re staying with a Jamaican aunt. Along with cooking classes to teach you how to make Jamaican staples, you’ll find a dinner menu each night with options fusing that Jamaican spice with favourites you’ll recognize. (The jerk-spiced short ribs were incredible.) www.hotelmockingbirdhill.com; www.tridentportantonio.com

> Exploring: Want to get a better idea of those herbs that are making it into your breakfast each morning? Visit the Restoration Village Farm. Created to provide healthy food for a school in an impoverished region of the country, the farm now offers informative tours including a walk-and-talk with locals and a visit to an on-site waterfall. Or head for the beach: Frenchman’s Cove offers a choice of swings from which to look out across the white sands to the blue sea. www.restorationvillagefarm.com

Heather Greenwood Davis is a lawyer and freelance columnist. Reach her at www.globetrottingmama.com.