Port Antonio, Jamaica is today’s grown-up playground for mature free spirits. The old seaside town has long been a favourite resort for the rich and famous who, attracted to the seclusion, sophistication and serenity of the place, built elegant villas in the surrounding areas. A picture-perfect display of nature’s finest works with dazzling walls of green mountainside slipping into crystalline waters. Port Antonio’s quiet charm casts a romantic spell that’s sure to enchant you.
Port Antonio is one of the most accessible towns in Jamaica. Within the town itself, few places are out of walking or bicycling distance. From end-to-end, graceful old buildings with Jamaican gingerbread verandas and elabourate fretwork transoms evoke illusions of grandeur from a time when the banana trade was at its zenith, and movie stars mingled effortlessly with the local elite. This is where you’ll find the famed Rio Grande River. Fed by torrential rains rushing down from as high as approximately 1000 meters in the Blue Mountains the Rio Grande river valley is dominated by bamboo and banana groves and rafting on the Rio Grande is the ultimate vacation treat.
Rio Grande rafting provides some of the most beautiful views you will ever see and for about two to three hours you will be swallowed up by Jamaica’s natural beauty. Relax on a bamboo raft made for two, with pleasant surprises around each picturesque bend. The practice began in the early 20th century when flamboyant celebrity Errol Flynn noticed banana farmers from the interior highlands strapping the much valued fruits to bamboo rafts and floating them down the river to the wharf at Port Antonio. Since then, privileged tourists and eco-travelers have followed suit, becoming part of what is certainly one of the most magical experiences available anywhere in the world.
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Rafting down the Rio Grande is a common activity visitors to Jamaica embark upon to soak up some rays and culture in ease and style. The trip from the town of Berrydale in the hills to Rafter’s Rest on the coast at times takes two and a half hours, a slow idyllic meander through rain forests and farmland on a thirty-foot raft steered expertly by a local “captain”. Wide and shallow with rocky banks, the Rio Grande is an ideal location to spy the local wading birds. Snowy Egrets and Little Blue Herons appear around every bend, often intent on spearing a piscine snack.
Along the way, stop for a cool dip, enjoy a cold beverage or stop to chat with singing washerwomen and giggling children. There is often an enterprising fellow with a “Red Stripe” raft selling Red Stripe beer, soft drinks and even wine. There’s always a pleasant surprise along the way, so do indulge your senses in an afternoon of luxury, and soak up the natural tropical beauty. Some of the best vistas one will ever see is while rafting down this beautiful gorge. This valley is exceedingly fertile as one can tell by the exceedingly lush flora and fauna that decorate the surroundings. When in the Port Antonio area rafting down the Rio Grande should definitely be part of the visit.