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By Venesha Johnson | Associate Writer
One of the easiest, cheapest, most simple yet versatile pastimes is a visit to the park. From picnics with friends and family to just cosying up under a shady tree to indulge in a good book, a day at the park is whatever you deem it to be.
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While Jamaica certainly has many enjoyable parks, there are not many Jamaican National Parks; as a matter of fact, presently there is only one.
The 194,000-acre Blue Mountain and John Crow Mountain National Park, created in 1992, is located in the Blue Mountains. It was created with the intention to safeguard the majority of the island's watershed as well as some of the last surviving forested areas.
As one of the biggest migratory bird habitats in the Caribbean, this diverse mountain forest is home to 200 species of resident and migrating birds, more than 800 species of endemic plants, and the second-largest butterfly in the world, Papilo Homerus more commonly known as the Jamaican Swallowtail.
Numerous flowering plants and lush flora, some of which are unique to this area, are present there. The Jamaican bamboo, Chusquea abietifolia, which only blooms once every 33 years, maybe the most fascinating. In addition to a Visitor Center with a variety of displays about the region's natural and cultural heritage, there are also a number of trails, picnic areas, and cabins.
Now that we have spoken about the one and only national park in Jamaica, let's look at what I consider to be the 3 must-visit parks in Jamaica. And guess what? They are free!
While there are other beach parks in Jamaica, there is no other, quite like Harmony Beach Park. This is because it is the newest (opened in 2021), most modern and most aesthetically pleasing public beach park in Jamaica. It is a 16-acre property with all the amenities you can imagine. These include:
Read more about Harmony Beach Park here.
One thing I admire about Turtle River Park is just how beautiful the landscape is and with each visit, the property remains immaculate. It is located right in the middle of Ocho Rios so it can’t be missed. It was opened back in 2004, so it has definitely been around for a while even though you may not be able to tell because it is so beautifully maintained. The star of the park however is really the pond where you can see turtles and fishes swimming around. Some of the amenities to be found at Turtle River Park include:
Of all the gardens mentioned above, the Hope Royal Botanical Garden has the longest history. Hope Gardens was formerly part of "Hope Estate," which Richard Hope held and managed. He was a British army commander who received the estates as payment for assisting Britain in regaining control of Jamaica from the Spanish.
The land was initially a sugar estate, but in late 1881, the government bought 200 acres of it to create an experimental garden for cultivating exotic species. Several exotic species, including coffee and pineapple, were brought to Jamaica through the botanical gardens. What is now known as Hope Gardens originated from this experimental landscape.
On the property you will find:
These parks are great, especially if you want to be wrapped up in the arms of nature. If you are looking for a park to provide more of a cultural experience and a history lesson, the Emancipation park should be your go-to. You can of course read all about it here.
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