Scotchies Jerk Centre, Drax Hall, St. Ann, Jamaica

Scotchies: one of our favourite places to eat!  I don’t know what else to say, except that everything on the menu is DELICIOUS!!  Our friend Billy took us there on our first trip to Jamaica, and ever since we just can’t stay away.  Scotchies specializes in Jamaican food, and more specifically their jerk chicken and pork is just amazing.

For those of you who don’t know, Jamaica is famous for it’s style of cooking called jerk: its a mix of spices (that typically includes pimento, allspice, ginger, thyme and hot peppers) that they dry rub onto their chicken, pork, fish, vegetables, etc … and is normally slow cooked/smoked over certain types of wood to give it a special smoky taste.  (check out our video below to see how its cooked at Scotchies!)  You’ll find jerk centres all over the island where the food is prepared using this native style of cooking.

The Scotchies that we frequent is located in the Parish of St. Ann, more specifically in Drax Hall …. click on the link here to read our review of Scotchies, as well as a video of them cooking some delicious jerk chicken!!  Kate and Kayla go to Scotchies!

 

Turtle River Park, Ocho Rios, St. Ann, Jamaica

Turtle River Park is a green oasis in the middle of the hustle and bustle of Ocho Rios (more commonly referred to as Ochi by the locals).  Ocho Rios is one of the main ports in Jamaica for cruise ships to dock …. if you’ve ever been to Ochi on a cruise ship day, you’ll understand what I mean by hustle and bustle!  Some days 2-3 cruise ships can arrive … so the small city with a population of about 9500 can see its streets filled with anywhere between 2000-5000 tourists!!  It’s actually pretty neat to see the difference between the city when its not busy, and the craziness that ensues on cruise ship days …. all the tourists checking out the shops, stores and restaurants, along with all the vendors that come out in full force on these days!

click here to read more about Turtle River Park and some pictures of the beautiful park: Kate and Kayla visit Turtle River Park

 

Whistling Villa, Runaway Bay, St. Ann

www.whistlingvilla.com

pool and lounge area

Whistling Villa is located in Runaway Bay, a small town about 20 minutes from Ocho Rios, along the north coast of the island.  Kate and I stayed here for 8 days/7nights in September, 2011, and loved it!  Admittedly, we were the only guests at the time, so we had the entire villa to ourselves … perhaps that added a bit of extra charm to our visit.

We booked our trip through a website called dojamaicayourway.com, which helps you plan your trip to Jamaica … the local way.  Its a great website, if you’re planning your trip online be sure to check out the site!  All that to say, we never dealt with the owner of the villa, but dojamaicayourway was super speedy getting us the information regarding the villa and making our reservations.  We paid $75/night per room, so for two rooms for 7 nights it was $1050.  We were there during the low season so I’m sure the price differs depending on the time of year.  (September turned out to be an AMAZING time to visit.  No lines at the airport and we still had great weather!!)  This price included two rooms with ensuite bathrooms and full access to the villa – kitchen, pool, living area, dining room, outdoor patio, and housekeeping and maintenance.

Please click here to read the rest of the review of this wonderful villa: Whistling Villa, Kate and Kayla’s review

 

kate and kayla’s apartment in Jamaica

Many of you are probably wondering what our living accommodations are like here in Jamaica.  What comes to mind?  A luxurious villa with a private beach or maybe a condo with amazing sea views … HA HA HA!  I wish!  While we don’t live in a shack up in the hills, we definitely don’t live in luxury either ….

The great thing about coming to Jamaica long term is that your accommodations are much, much less expensive.  If you’re staying local on a short vacation, you can expect to pay anywhere between $60-100/night at a villa.  Staying long-term, we’ve found an apartment to rent in what the locals call “the scheme” (neighborhood), and known more formally here as Runaway Meadows … while we won’t go into exact details about our rental arrangement, we pay in a month much less than you’ll pay in a week for a villa!  Wondering how we found the place?  If you’re going to stay in a local rental, you need a Jamaican to do the looking for you … our friend found us the place about two weeks before we arrived (thanks Orlando!).

Our apartment is in a building that has three units.  Our landlady lives downstairs, a mother and her son live in half of the upstairs, we live in the other half.  The building is a forty minute walk from the beach (we need the exercise, we do nothing else haha) … and a twenty minute walk from the crossroad (which is what the locals refer to as the place where one of the only stop lights are found … near the bank, grocery store, taxi stand, etc).  As I mentioned, we live in one of the schemes, a very small neighborhood.  You may also be wondering about security – we have a lock on the front iron gate that you pass through to enter the yard, and a locked iron gate at the bottom of the stairs at the back of the building where we enter from.  We obviously also have a lock on the door going into our apartment.  I have never felt unsafe for a moment in our neighbourhood!

The apartment (which came furnished) consists of two spacious bedrooms, a bathroom, living room/dining area, kitchen (which is actually separate from the rest of the apartment), a HUGE balcony where we have spent countless hours chillin and a laundry area downstairs (ps – I thought I hated doing laundry in Canada with machines … lets just say my arm muscles are getting pretty strong from all this hand washing and wringing out of clothes … ugh!!).

click here for pictures and to read the rest of this blog post: www.kateandkayla.com

 

how kate and kayla got eaten by Black River crocodiles

Okay so no we didn’t. And even had we jumped in with the crocodiles, I doubt we would have been eaten. According to our tour guide at the Black River in St. Elizabeth, crocodiles feed at night and need the sun to digest in the daytime. Pretty cool if you ask me…..anyway, from the beginning… Our trip to Black River was unlike any road trip I have ever taken. Actually, traveling in Jamaica is always interesting. If you have ever travelled in Jamaica, you know what I’m talking about. The roads are wind-y, bumpy and narrow; hard to get comfortable and don’t even think about taking a nap. But why would you even want to? The scenery is by far the most beautiful I have ever seen. Jamaican countryside is much different than your typical drive from the airport to the resort type of view. It is absolutely amazing how you can start at the beach, then be incredibly high up in the hills, then suddenly (and by suddenly I mean a few hours later…but I swear it happens so fast some how) right back at the beach on the other side! Insane!! It’s like you’re driving through thinking, how is it possible to be so green?!? The flowers are also something you don’t see on the coastline, from my experience anyway. I also loved seeing all the people chillin’ in the streets of their towns. Always friendly when we wave of course. There is also a definite difference in how the people act towards us, as two “white girls”. We normally cause quite the stir (seriously, not being conceited, it just happens!! Come visit, you’ll see!) but not up there. They may be interested, but they do not show it like the men in the towns we’ve been living in! Kind of a nice break let me tell you.

click here to watch our videos, see pictures and read the rest of this blog post about our adventures on Black River with the crocodiles: www.kateandkayla.com

 

The Blue Hole … or at least that’s what Kate and Kayla call it!! Exchange, St. Mary, Jamaica

Our friend from high school came to visit us in early February and one of her requests was to go to the Blue Hole, which we have been to once before, because she had seen photos of it on our Facebook.   To give you a basic idea, the Blue Hole is a smaller, less touristy version of Dunn’s River Falls, which most tourists visit when they come to Jamaica.  We haven’t climbed Dunn’s River Falls because it just isn’t our thing to be surrounded by tourists…so can’t say for sure that the Blue Hole is better..but I’m gonna say it anyway…it’s better!!

Now, the Blue Hole isn’t exactly easy to find.  On our first visit to Jamaica (oh you know, the one that changed our lives! In case you forgot…) we went with our friend Billy, who as far as I can tell, knows everything and knows how to get everywhere.  So finding it without him the second time wasn’t exactly the easiest thing to do, but we made it!  We kind of just asked around (it’s located just outside of Ocho Rios in an area called Exchange).  Not everyone has heard of it and no one really knows it as “The Blue Hole” but this is the only name we’ve known it as.  Our tour guide also called it that soooo…not really sure what to do about that.  But as I said, we did find it and if you would like to go, we can definitely help you find it too!

You will definitely want to wear a bathing suit, bring a towel and a waterproof camera!

click here to see our video, pictures and the rest of our blog post about the blue hole!  www.kateandkayla.com

 

one love, one heart: Bob Marley Mausoleum, 9 Mile, Jamaica

On our second trip to Jamaica, our friend Billy took me and Kate up to 9 Mile, the boyhood home town of Bob Marley, and more specifically, we went to the Bob Marley Mausoleum.  It was quite the drive up to 9 Mile …. certainly not one of the better roads in Jamaica … and comparatively … there probably wouldn’t be a road like it in Canada!  Its very wind-y, narrow, bumpy and the drivers still go at top speeds and pass each other as if they are on a highway!  Sometimes I just prefer to close my eyes and go to my happy place when I’m a passenger in a car in Jamaica …. otherwise I think I might have a heart attack.  We went from Runaway Bay, through Brown’s Town (where we stopped for lunch at Juici Pattis … this is the day our soy Juici Patti addiction started …. I’m not sure whether I should say thanks Billy or not!!) and finally we arrived at 9 Mile.  I must say that although its a little stressful in a car at times, it is really fun to drive through all the small towns and rural villages found in the hills in Jamaica … its completely different from being down in the busier and more touristy beach areas.

The mausoleum is the birthplace and final resting place of Bob Marley.  As you enter the site, there is a gift shop and restaurant where you can buy souvenirs, or grab food or drinks before your tour begins.  The cost of the tour itself is about $18US per person … plus your tour guide will most likely ask you for a small tip at the end of the tour.  All the guides are Rasta men … ours was a really great tour guide  (I believe he called himself Captain Crazy lol) – they give you so much information and detail on Bob’s entire life, his philosophy and music.  I don’t think there is a question out there that they couldn’t answer about the Marley family or Bob’s musical achievements!

click here for pictures and to read the rest of this blog post: www.kateandkayla.com

 

Green Grotto Caves – Discovery Bay, Jamaica

The Green Grotto Caves are a fun little attraction in Discovery Bay (a short drive from Runaway Bay where we live).  Apparently the name Discovery Bay comes from Christopher Colombus – as this is where he is said to have first landed when he arrived on the island in 1494.  The property is immaculate and has pretty gardens surrounding the caves.  Its about a 45 minute walk through the caves, which you go through with a tour guide … our guide was great – there were only four of us on the tour, and he was really funny!  The path is easily walkable (its man made) aside from a narrow, steep walk down about 70 stairs and a crawl through the “limbo hole”, with lights that come on as you approach …. but be sure to stay with your tour guide – if you get lost and try to walk back, the lights won’t come on for you going that direction!!  There is a set of step steeps to get you to the bottom, and if you’re tall, you’ll have to watch your head quite frequently!

click here to read the rest of this blog post: www.kateandkayla.com

 

Evita’s Restaurant, Ocho Rios, Jamaica

“the best little pasta house in Jamaica!”

Our first fine dining experience in Jamaica can be summed up using Kate and Kayla’s favourite word: AWESOME!  Everything was incredible – the view, the atmosphere, the service and most importantly the food.  Absolutely delicious!

Evita’s was established in the 1980’s and is located 200 yards up a steep hill that overlooks Ochi and has a delightful view of the Caribbean sea and the cruise ship piers.  (It’s not a long one, but definitely a steep climb – you’ll be thirsty for a drink from the bar when you get there!)  It is in a charming little building made of beautiful wood floors and a mahogany bar – you can eat either inside or outside.  The service is fast and friendly.  There is even a wall of fame which shows some of the well-known guests who have visited the restaurant, including Kate Moss, Naomi Campbell, Keith Richards and the Rolling Stones, Michael Bolton, Uma Thurman, Sir Anthony Hopkins, Brad Pitt, Rita Marley, Jimmy Buffet, Princess Margaret and sooo many more!  (If you’re there, be sure to take a moment and look at all the fun pictures hanging on the wall.)

Click here to read the rest of this blog and to check out our video of the view from Evita’s: www.kateandkayla.com

 

Firewater! St. Ann’s Bay, Jamaica

This was one of our first real “off the beaten track” adventures …. we had heard about a place called Firewater (from a few locals and a website called www.jamaicamyway.com ) – where you could literally light water on fire.  Kate and I were a little skeptical but very intrigued so we figured we should check it out for ourselves – and let me tell you how glad I am that we did, it’s one of the most amazing things I’ve ever seen!

The challenge in getting to the Firewater was figuring out where it was!  We read about it online, saw pictures and videos, but nowhere could we find directions on how to get there.  We were told to just drive to Saint Ann’s Bay (the capital of the Saint Ann Parish that we live in located between Runaway Bay and Ocho Rios) and simply ask someone where to go.  As luck would have it, we ran into our old friend Buffalo Bill and told him we were planning to check it out – and of course he knew where it was!!  And I’m sure glad he did …. it was quite the little drive Billy navigated through to get there on the windy dirt roads of St. Ann’s Bay and to be honest I don’t think I could even tell you how to get there now that I’ve been.  Billy told us it was best to go at night, so we headed over there just after dark (after a stop at Scotchies for some yummy jerk chicken and to get our festival fix .. yup, we’re both addicted).

I didn’t really know what to expect about this place, but what I saw was beyond my imagination….. click here to read the rest of this blog at www.kateandkayla.com