After Negril’s glittering hedonism, southwest Jamaica, with its slow fishing villages, few organized attractions and less serviceable roads, can come as quite a surprise. Restaurants remain wholeheartedly traditional, with mannish water and eye-rollingly insouciant service replacing waffles and exhortations to “have a nice day”. Locals tend to be more genuinely friendly and, unfettered by high-rises, the countryside is magnificent.
Alluvial plains occupy the western half of Westmoreland parish, with the multi-tributaried Cabarita River meandering down from the Dolphin Head Mountains through vast cane fields, to arrive at the parish’s concrete capital, Savanna-la-Mar, where brisk trade and honking horns fight against the soupy humidity. A few kilometres inland from Sav-la-Mar, Roaring River marks its entrance above ground with a spectacular blue swimming hole, having carved out an inky cave on its way, and more fabulous swimming is available at Mayfield Falls.
Hills rise up once more to the east of the parish beyond Savanna-la-Mar, hiding lush stretches of coastline and beach with reef-fringed shallows below at the contiguous fishing communities of Bluefields, Belmont and Whitehouse; a series of low-key hotels and guesthouses are perfect to appreciate the area’s unhurried charm.