The south of Jamaica is the most unspoilt part of this lovely Caribbean island; here many say the true heart of the nation still beats, relatively untouched by the tourism boom evident on the rest of the island and the resort development which, for some, scars the Jamaican paradise.
The centre of the region is the breezy hill town of Mandeville, founded in 1816 and lying 2,000 feet (610m) above sea level. The British colonial influence is strong here, from the village green bordered by a church and courthouse to the Manchester Club, which is home to Jamaica's oldest golf course (founded in 1868). Negril is technically also in the south coast region, but as a booming resort town it has a different atmosphere to the rest of the south.
The surrounding area, and the south coast region, has numerous natural attractions and wildlife refuges. With its natural beauty and slow pace, Jamaica's south is sought after by more discerning visitors intent on secluded relaxation and an experience of Jamaican culture and nature rather than the glitz and glamour of a resort holiday on the Caribbean island. The south coast is the best region for travelling off the beaten track in Jamaica, and the sleepy fishing villages and pristine beaches still feel pleasantly undiscovered and uncommercialised.
Nestling in the sugar cane fields of St Elizabeth parish, the Appleton Rum Estate near the village of Magotty offers visitors the chance to find out all there is to know about the production of rum. There is a small museum with equipment and artifacts from days gone by, and a resident donkey to demonstrate how sugar cane used to be crushed by turning the teeth of the mill.
Visitors are shown how the sugar cane is harvested, processed to be distilled in handmade oak barrels, and finally blended and bottled. Thirsty tourists can end off their visit at the tavern to sample the estate's rums and liqueurs. Tours also usually include a complimentary bottle of rum. The guides are friendly and extremely proud of their product.
Note that the roads to the estate are rather hair-raising, although they wind through some lovely scenery. Photos are not allowed at certain stages of the tour because Appletons wants to preserve some of its secrets!
Black River town, once an influential producer of black textile dye, is now a stop off point for tourists looking to take a boat safari on the Black River itself. At 44 miles (71km), this is Jamaica's longest river, and gets its name from the peat moss on the river floor which makes the crystal clear waters appear black.
90-minute boat tours take in the 125-square-mile (324 sq km) area of wetland known as the Great Morass, which is home to crocodiles and diverse birdlife. The excursion allows visitors to explore the wetlands and mangrove swamps along the river banks.
The crocodiles are the main attraction for most visitors. Many tours include a visit to the crocodile rehabilitation centre. However, the clear waters mean visitors are likely to get a good view of the crocs in their natural habitat.
Trips to YS Falls are usually included in organised Black River tours, but the falls are an attraction in their own right and many happy hours can be spent enjoying the pools and lovely scenery. Located on a privately-owned farm, the waterfall is beautiful, with the water flowing over seven tiers to create a spectacular cascade surrounded by jungle and meadow scenery.
Visitors to the falls can go on a relaxing 20-minute tube ride down the river, or float in a lovely natural spring pool. For the more adventurous, there is a thrilling rope swing which propels visitors over one of the deep turquoise pools, and an exciting zip-line tour.
There are plenty of scenic picnic areas and it's ideal to bring some food and spend some time relaxing at the falls. Try to get there early, as the falls are more pleasant when they aren't crowded.
The south coast of Jamaica is more rustic, rural and unspoilt than the other top travel destinations on the island. It is less developed and commercial, and the region's natural attractions and sleepy villages have remained charmingly authentic. You will struggle to find glitzy resort attractions like spas, private beaches and glamorous restaurants, but the attractions of the south coast will delight those who prefer to explore off the beaten track.
The south of Jamaica boasts a trinity of best-known attractions. Tours of Appleton Rum Estate, considered by many to produce the best rum in the world, attract visitors from all over the island. Wildlife safaris on the Black River and into the Great Morass are very popular. Finally, the award-winning YS Falls attraction is a big draw for those who enjoy hiking, tubing, swimming or zip-line tours over pristine waterfalls and pools. These three top attractions are often combined in package tours of the region.
Exciting outdoor activities that draw visitors to the south include swimming with dolphins, 4x4 off-road safaris, bamboo river rafting tours, and catamaran cruises. Alligator Pond is an interesting fishing village where travellers can witness the daily routines of locals, enjoy great scuba diving and snorkelling, and indulge in some nude sunbathing. The south also boasts two Jamaican Great Houses: Marshall's Pen is an 18th-century Great House and wildlife sanctuary; and Invercauld Great House, built in 1894, is a popular attraction in Black River.
No direct flights from Heathrow to this Destination