Traveling to Jamaica is nothing short of life-changing. The food, the abundance of beaches, rivers, and falls, the vibes, the charismatic people full of personality…we could go on. We reached out to one local traveler who gets it. Meet Toni-Ann, a lover of the land of wood and water and a true traveler at heart. She’s seen every parish in Jamaica and writes about how to travel deeper, enjoy Jamaica like a local, and see the endless goodness of this special Caribbean island.
Toni-Ann, one of Jamaica’s most important travel storytellers, uses her platforms to show the unseen sides of Jamaica. In this new series, we share how to explore Jamaica like a local.
Tell us about yourself
Hi! I’m Toni-Ann Mckenzie, a Jamaican living on the island. I am a graphic designer and photographer. I love traveling, photography, and a good cup of coffee. I love meeting people from around the world and history.
How did you start traveling?
My love for photography and history led me to explore the world. The first country I visited was Cuba, which was supposed to be a five-day trip with a friend but ended up being a solo trip. I chose Cuba because of its close proximity to Jamaica and its history, of course taking photos of classic cars and nostalgic buildings.
From there I was hooked. I started visiting locations that had some historical significance, such as San Basilio de Palenque or Palenque in Cartagena, Colombia the first free town of the African slaves, and Machu Picchu, Peru built by the Incas.
As far as Jamaican travel goes, when I was in college, I picked up photography as a hobby. I enjoyed going around and taking pics of anything. This led me to travel all around Jamaica, capturing events, culture, and people. Family and friends would always ask to come with me on my adventures, so I made it a yearly event.
In 2020, I started TravelwithToniann, showcasing the best of Jamaica! From there I’ve adventured more with fellow travel bloggers.
Where was the last place you explored that surprised you?
I discovered a waterfall with a few travel bloggers in an area of St. Mary called Rio Sambre. I was not aware that St. Mary had so many hidden rivers. There are several beautiful rivers and waterfalls that only the locals can take you to as they are tucked far away and you have to do a 30-minute hike to get here.
Where do you usually recommend people visit when they travel to Jamaica?
I recommend that if you come to Jamaica, you visit our hidden gems and places that are not popular. I love places like Portland. You can go rafting on the Rio Grande River to visit Ms. Belinda for some nice authentic Jamaican food. Portland, though laid back, has a lot of hidden gems. For instance, Nanny Falls is a beautiful location to get wonderful shots and the water is refreshing. Frenchman’s Cove is another location I would recommend. It has a beach and also a small river. It’s a perfect location to spend the day. Finally, the Blue Lagoon. The turquoise water is beautiful, you can raft or take a boat to Monkey or Pellew island. There are a few high-end villas there as well.
People tend to shy away from Kingston but I highly recommend it. It is the melting pot of our culture, from the food, iconic places, and entertainment. There are iconic places to visit such as the Bob Marley Museum or Devon House. You can visit the famous Strawberry Hill, owned by the Island Records; Chris Blackwell. It is tucked away in the lush hills of the Blue Mountains of Irish Town, which is about 30 mins from Kingston. I love to go there to relax and get a nice massage and lunch. Kingston, being the capital of Jamaica, has an active night life. From Beer Mugs to the famous Dub Wise, it’s worth checking out. There are several restaurants to choose from. Try the famous Devon House curry goat patty or their ice cream, oxtail from Triple T’s, or traditional Jamaican breakfast, such as ackee and saltfish from Ms. Lorna’s.
Which parish would you say is the most underrated and why?
I’d say Portland because it’s one of those parishes that’s unique, laid back, and lush. It has an untouched beauty almost stuck in time, with lots of rivers and nice beaches. There are no all-inclusive hotels, just small boutique hotels, so it gives visitors a chance to come out of their comfort zones and eat where locals eat or even travel like them on public transportation.
How amazing! We're adding Portland to our list. Since you've traveled all of Jamaica, is there anywhere you want to discover more in-depth?
Negril – I have been a few times during A.T.I. weekend for parties but nothing else. There are a few places I would love to visit like the Peter Tosh Monument and the Roaring River and Cave.