Blue Mountains

Overview

Introduction

Famous for their namesake coffee, these mountains begin 12 mi/20 km northeast of Kingston, Jamaica, and rise above the city to form one of the highest continuous mountain ranges in the Caribbean. They have a fragile ecosystem: The range has suffered extensive damage from hurricanes, floods and landslides, as well as deforestation and development.

In an effort to spur preservation, about 200,000 acres/81,000 hectares of this rugged territory have become part of a preserve, the Blue and John Crow Mountains National Park (the John Crow Mountains are east of the Blue Mountain Range). It includes several mineral springs, old plantation houses and hundreds of flowering plants and ferns—more than half of which grow only in Jamaica. It is a treasure trove for botanists and bird-watchers (look for the doctor birds, which are hummingbirds with amazingly long tails, and large buzzards known as "John Crows"). Hiking trails abound. Many tour operators offer guided tours through the trails.

Other attractions in the mountain range include Hollywell Forest Park (picnic grounds, spartan cottages, hiking trails) and lots of waterfalls. The coffee plantations of Craighton Estate and Old Tavern Estate produce the tasty and expensive Blue Mountain coffee. The plantations can be toured, too. You can watch the beans being picked and processed September-February.

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