Runaway Bay, Ocho Rios, Jamaica
Runaway Bay is certainly one of the most scenic areas in Jamaica, Since the early 1960s, when the old Cardiff Hall Estate was converted to a combination of luxury hotels, golf courses and private villas, the town has developed its own character and persona as an elegant yet lively getaway. Over the years, there has been much debate about the name of this small coastal town. Some believe it got the name as the fleeing point of the last batch of Spanish soldiers retreating from English troops under the directive of Governor Ysassi in the 1600s. Others argue that it once was the point of departure of African slaves from inland sugar plantations who ran away to Cuba. Whichever story is true, according to one resident, “nobody nah try (to) ’run way” from Runaway Bay today; in fact, in the hills outside the resort town, many foreigners have run away from their former selves and made Jamaica home!
Much of the beauty of Runaway Bay lies in the fact that while the town itself is not a vibrant bustling centre, it is conveniently located within easy reach of Ocho Rios in the east, Montego Bay in the west and Brown’s Town inland to the south. Also, as well as having some of the most spectacular beaches in the Caribbean, Runaway Bay is endowed with captivating natural features such as the Pear Tree River and the Green Grotto Caves.
Do stop by the Green Grotto Caves, the largest and most accessible caves on the island. The two caves open to the public are the Runaway Cave and the Green Grotto Cave, both estimated to be approximately a half-million years old. Along with stalagmites and stalactites, there is a small and fascinating underground lake in the innermost cavern. The caves belong to a series of interconnected passageways and chambers that spread far beneath the Dry Harbour Mountains to the south. In addition to the caves, some of the best beaches in the Caribbean can be found in Runaway Bay, protected by a large tropical coral reef.
Located on a hill overlooking the bay is the Runaway Bay HEART Hotel and Training Institute. HEART, the Human Employment and Resource Training Trust is a government-run programme that helps young Jamaicans to develop business skills. The Runaway Bay HEART Hotel employs predominantly hospitality industry trainees and, needless to say, since it began operating has maintained a reputation for excellence in service, since trainees are graded on guest satisfaction. Upon leaving the institute, apart from being pleasantly satisfied, guests often feel the warmth and wellbeing of knowing that their patronage has helped a young Jamaican to master essential skills for entry into the working world.