Jamaica is like a second home to me. I spent three weeks there in the winters of 1995, 1996, and 1997. Unlike the typical inclusive tourist vacation most take to Jamaica, I spent my time in the small village of Woodside. Although, located in the mountains Woodside is not a far drive from Ochos Rios or other more private beach communities. In Woodside I lived with several Jamaican families. Living with a family is a true way to understand the everyday lives of Jamaicans. It is also the best way to get the best Jamaican food.
Woodside is a strongly knit community that in the last few years has been trying to improve itself and its members. The rebuilding of the community center has brought people together, and the formation of the men’s club has focused on the importance of the men in the work force and the family. Woodside is trying to start cultural tourism.
Stay with a family for about $15 a day per person (more if you have it to spend) and get three meals a day and a new family. Go see One Bubby Susan, an Arawak Indian rock carving guarding a cave the Indians used to travel through. There are also old steps most likely built by the Spaniards. Enjoy a Red Stripe at Gus’s and play some dominoes. If you want to spend a day or two at the beach there is always someone who will taxi you there. You will love the people of Woodside and they will love you. There is no better way to really see Jamaica and help a community trying to improve.