Port Antonio is a two-hour drive from Kingston - drive along the coast or through the mountains (then swap on your way back). If you're planning on exploring, it makes sense to hire a 4x4 and a driver.
Fly from London to Kingston airport with BA (www.britishairways.com) or Virgin (www.virgin-atlantic.com). The main American carriers also run flights from the usual hubs, along with Air Jamaica (www.airjamaica.com). Air Canada connects Toronto and Kingston (www.aircanada.com). A private transfer flight from Kingston to your hotel costs from US$675 for a single trip in a four-seater plane. You'll get a bird's-eye view of the Blue Mountains on the way. If you want to make a grand entrance, hire a chopper from Kingston to your hotel for around US$995 each way (for four passengers).
+1 876 (only dial the seven digit number for local calls).
Ian Fleming wrote many of his Bond novels esconced in his beloved Jamaican retreat, Goldeneye, near Port Maria. Dr No, Live and Let Die and The Man with the Golden Gun are all partially set on the island. Reggae lovers may like Catch a Fire: The Life of Bob Marley, written by Timothy White and based on White's interviews with Marley and those closest to him. Jean Rhys' Jane Eyre-prequel, Wide Sargasso Sea, is partly set in Jamaica.
Do go / Don't Go
Port Antonio is a year-round affair. The rainy season (June and October) is actually a popular time to visit, with travellers revelling in the torrential tropical downpours (the rain's warm at least) that keep Portland so green and lush. Storms are generally short-lived, and there are plenty of dry and sunny days in between. High season is mid December-mid April, and hurricane season is from the beginning of June until the end of November. It's wise to avoid going during the American spring break (March-April), though Portland is less affected by this than Montego Bay and Negril.
A route taxi in Jamaica is essentially a high-speed minibus, offering an on-demand (stops anywhere) service for a random selection of people, travelling in vaguely the same direction. Ask your hotel to book your journeys with a trusted local cab driver (they will also give you an idea of journey costs). Keep your cabbie's number and be his best customer throughout your stay.
10-20 per cent is standard, depending on your appreciation.
Jamaican dollars (J$). Although American dollars are widely used, exchange rates vary and you'll always get your change in Jamaican currency. It's always easier to pay in cash rather than relying on plastic.
Light linens; mosquito spray; heel-free shoes for scaling the Blue Mountains and a stash of CDs for your 4x4: Bob Marley's Natty Dread, Black Uhuru's Grammy-winning Anthem, Jimmy Cliff's The Harder They Come and Sean Paul's Dutty Rock.
Musgrave Market on West Street, between Port Antonio Square and Main Square, has a rainbow-coloured array of fresh fruit and vegetables, along with crafts and clothes. To avoid other tourists, visit local artisans in their roadside studios and workshops and pick up hand-carved furniture, masks and wickerwork. Portland Art Gallery on West Street is 10-minutes west of Main Square (+1 876 882 7732). Here you can watch local artists passing on their skills and admire a rustic showcase of fine art. The Rastafari movement began here, so befriend a local and ask them to expand on their beliefs.
Jamaica is not the place for big-brand shopping. Instead, keep your eyes peeled for one-off finds from the roadside stalls and markets.
From the Blue Mountains, you can look out over Kingston and all across the coast.
Winnifred Beach is hard to find, meaning you'll share it with a minimum of tourists. Your hotel's drivers will take you there and back, but don't leave without demolishing a heaped plateful of seafood at Cynthia's Rum Shack (+1 876 347 7085).
6 February Each year, Bob Marley's birthday is celebrated with an explosion of parties and concerts. July J is for Jerk - in July, Boston Bay hosts the annual Portland Jerk Festival (www.portlandjerkfestival.com), a three-day celebration of all things spicy. October Later in the year, the attention switches to the sea - the International Marlin Tournament is a major calendar fixture for deep-sea anglers.