Lit in the afternoons by an apricot light that must have prompted its Spanish name, Orocabeza (“Golden Head”), ORACABESSA is a delightfully sleepy little town, with friendly citizens and a mere handful of tourists visiting at any one time. Some 25 kilometres east of Ocho Rios, it is centred around a covered fruit and vegetable market (main days Thursday and Friday), a police station and a few shops and bars. A centre for the export of bananas until the early 1900s, the wharves around the small natural harbour closed in 1969, taking with them the rum bars, gambling houses and most of the workers. It took until the mid-1990s for Oracabessa to begin to develop as a low-key resort, when the Island Outpost corporation (whose owner, Chris Blackwell, has family connections with the area) bought up seventy acres of prime land – from Jack’s River to the Goldeneye estate at the town’s eastern outskirts. British reggae group UB40 also set up Oracabessa Records here, and artists frequently record in their studios above the town (not open to the public).
East of the petrol station, Oracabessa merges into the residential community of Racecourse (named after a long-gone donkey-racing track), and where gates, walls and trees mask Goldeneye, the resort surrounding the unassuming white-walled bungalow designed and purpose-built by Ian Fleming, sometime military man and creator of James Bond.
James Bond Beach Club
The James Bond Beach Club comprises a stylish strip of sand with a collection of brightly painted changing rooms, a bar and a restaurant, yet it receives a mere handful of visitors during the week. Locals do venture down at weekends, however, and the expansive oceanfront lawns, often used to stage large-scale concerts like Fully Loaded at the end of August and Boxing Day’s Teen-Splash, make a wonderfully breezy outdoor venue. For most people though, snorkelling to see the stingrays that live in the waters surrounding the beach, or a glass-bottom-boat tour around the reef (revitalized as a result of the Oracabessa Foundation’s fish sanctuary, see oracabessafoundation.org) are the order of the day. The small adjacent Fisherman’s Beach is an equally appealing place to swim, and the Rasta carvers who’ve built a shack on the sand sell seafood meals and drinks.
Sun Valley Plantation
One of the north coast’s most attractive plantations, Sun Valley Plantation offers the best tour of its kind in Jamaica, with plenty of insight into the development of crops on the island, linking ecology to plantation politics and agricultural exports and providing plenty of room for questions and personal attention. The fascinating growth processes of bananas, coconuts, and sugar are explained, and the tour, which takes in trees and flowers, as well as the crops themselves, finishes with drinks, a light meal and fruit tasting.