Many people harbor the dream of running away to a tropical island, but few actually act on it. Kalisa Martin and Jeff Belizaire are the exception. Earlier this year Martin, a French Culinary Institute-trained chef and former Tasting Table editor, and her partner Belizaire, a digital marketing expert, moved from New York City to Jamaica and successfully funded a new bed and breakfast via Kickstarter. Called The Runaway, the property is designed for people who want a more authentic experience than what's offered at the island's many mega-resorts, but who still need to stay connected with high-speed Wifi (which can be surprisingly rare). The Runaway just started taking reservations for their launch in September, but Belizaire and Martin took a break from the preparations to share their tips for having the best, most insider-y experience possible on the island. See their advice, below. therunawayjamaica.com.
Go Produce Shopping
Seek out the rarities that have not yet crossed the ocean. Some of our favorites: jackfruit, june plum, sweetsop, guinep, otaheite apple, roast breadfruit (savory or sweet). And while you probably think you’ve had avocados in your lifetime, we promise you haven’t experienced them fully until you’ve had a “pear”—a Jamaican avocado. They're in season just six months of the year—from summer to winter—and are worth planning your vacation around! You won’t get these fruits at your typical resort, or even at the local supermarket. You’ve got to hit up a roadside stand. The available produce will be displayed in all its glory, so you won’t have to guess what’s for sale or if it’s fresh. And don’t be afraid to haggle. If you want a real farmers market experience, find the nearest open-air market where several vendors represent the various neighboring farms.
Get Great Jerk
You undoubtedly have “eat authentic jerk” on your Jamaican bucket list. Well, get ready, because each town has more jerk centers than gas stations. The opportunities will be plentiful. But just like the abundance of pizza joints in NYC, not all jerk centers are created equal. We’ve had our fair share, and the most consistently awesome, smoky-spicy-juicy meat is jerked at Scotchies. The chicken and pork (classics) are the most popular, with sausage and whole roasted fish also on offer. Sides are sold separately and best paired with Red Stripe. Scotchies has locations in Kingston, Montego Bay and near Ocho Rios. Forget any concern you may have that it’s a “chain”; they serve up the real deal. Scotchies Kingston, 2 Chelsea Ave.; Scotchies Ocho Rios, Drax Hall; Scotchies Montego Bay, off Falmouth Rd.