Zion Country was our home for a week in March and we found it to be the perfect place to begin our first “real Jamaican” experience. Having stayed previously at all-inclusives in busy Montego Bay, we realized that if we wanted to know Jamaica’s culture and her people we would need to escape the confines of commercial tourism… and escape we did.
Zion’s host Free-I is a wonderful ambassador for his adopted homeland and was eager to help us connect with the best parts of beautiful Portland Parish. We loved sweet Tamar, and became fast friends with Chef Owen (oh, how I miss that ackee!).
Any concerns we had prior to our trip vanished immediately upon arrival at this gem of a place… Cold water showers? The bath house is a roofed building on the beach with 3 partitioned shower stalls affording views of Manchioneal Bay. The water isn’t ‘cold’, it’s tepid (and steam would distort the view!). Security? Long Road is so far removed from commercial tourism that we never felt anxious about our safety. No electricity? Constant bay breezes, the lovely shading foliage, and Zion’s cliffside perch offer relief from the heat in lieu of air conditioning. The cabins have generator-run indoor lighting, and there are outlets available to charge camera batteries, etc. in the main building. Mosquitos? Yup, we made friends with a few… bring bug spray, and take advantage of the supplied netting hung over your bed if they’re a bother (we found we didn’t need to use it; the breeze picks up in the evening and mostly keeps them away while sleeping). The ‘rocky’ beach? The multitude of sugar-sand beaches in nearby coves along the coast and the surf crashing directly outside our door lulling us to sleep at night made up for the fact that rocks are an issue in the bay. With swim shoes (also needed for Reach Falls) it’s easy to enjoy a refreshing dip if you can tear yourself away from rock-hounding on shore!
Free-I connected us with local guide Rasta Renny for a hike up the lower pools to Reach Falls, and also recommended that we snorkel at gorgeous Winnifred Beach, which is virtually tourist-free (a 40 minute ride via public transportaion for $5 US round trip). Both experiences were highlights of our visit, and should not be missed!
We chose Zion Country in part due to its mission of ‘sustainable tourism’: Free-I welcomed our offer to bring donated school supplies with us and arranged for the goods to be given to 2 local primary schools, going so far as to drive us and the supplies to Reach School and Manchioneal School so we could participate in the delivery.
We left at the end of the week knowing Jamaica in a way we could never have imagined prior to our visit to beautiful Zion Country, and have felt ‘homesick’ since our return!

Polly H