Blue & John Crow Mountains

Holywell

Located over 900 metres (3,000 feet) above sea-level in the cool, tropical mist forests of the Blue and John Crow Mountains National Park, Holywell (pronounced Hollywell) is the perfect escape from the heat and stress of city life. Just an hour's drive from New Kingston, it is the largest recreation area within the National Park, and the closest to the capital.

holywell-entrance
Entrance at Holywell

holywell-directions
Directions to Holywell

Facilities and services currently include:

Expansive Picnic Areas

There are 10 gazebos – each named after a plant or bird found in the National Park. Six gazebos are in the main picnic area and two are hidden away along trails; one is just across from the Visitors’ Centre and one is near the Car Park. There are barbecue pits and additional benches throughout the area. Bathrooms are available near to all the gazebos. Interpretive signs near the main picnic area entrance provide information about the site including a useful map.

Interpretive signs at Holywell
Interpretive signs at Holywell

Kids Discovery Zone

Located in the main picnic area, the KDZ provides educational fun for children. Educational packages for children ages 4 – 10 years old include activities at the KDZ.

Marie leads a school group
Marie leads a school group

Nature Trails

The main picnic area is connected to the Visitors Centre and Ranger Station by the Blue Mahoe Trail. This Trail is only 350 metres long and will take you about 10 – 15 minutes walking through secondary forest of Blue Mahoe, Caribbean Pine, Milkwood, other trees, ferns and lush Selaginella carpeting the ground.

There are four other nature trails on site,

  • Oatley Mountain Trail is 1.2 km long with a steep elevation gain – slightly difficult in sections

    This gravel-paved, loop trail ascends through modified forest to arrive at the Oatley Mountain Peak – 1,400 metres above sea-level. On the way up, there are panoramic views of St Andrew and Portland from three Look-out Points. This trail passes briefly through the parish of Portland. The trail descends through primary forest, rich in ferns and mosses, with over 50 species of trees and shrubs. This trail has interpretive signs and is used for educational tours (about 1 ½ hours).
  • Waterfall Trail is 1.3 km long, steep elevation gain – moderately difficult in sections.

    This rugged trail takes you on an adventure along the side of a mountain and down through a lush valley of ferns. Weary feet can be soothed in a cool mountain stream along the way and you will be rewarded at the end of the trail (across the road and around the corner), when you see this stream plunge over 5 metres (15 feet) on its way down the valley to join the Wag Water River. A bench offers a pleasant spot to relax and you have a choice of returning along the trail or via the Oatley Road to the Visitors' Centre.
  • Shelter Trail is just 600 metres long in one direction and with little elevation gain it is an easy and pleasant walk starting behind the Ranger Station near the Car Park. This trail is for the visitor, possibly with young children, who wants a short stroll through the tropical mist-forest. Bromeliads and vines trail from the large trees, and there is a beautiful view into Portland at the end. You may catch a glimpse of the colourful Jamaican Tody (also called Robin Red-breast).
  • Wag Water/Dick's Pond Trail is about 630 metres long but with moderate elevation gain making it slightly difficult. This trail is for the adventurous hiker. A steep one-way path takes you through primary and secondary forest, past the beginning of the Wag Water stream and into the Dick's Pond area.

    Unfortunately, a landslide after Hurricane Dean blocked the trail to Dick’s Pond and so currently, this Trail stops at a tributary of the Wag Water River. Interestingly, this is one of the streams used for monitoring the quality of the freshwater in the National Park.

Oatley Trail
Oatley Mountain Trail

Small Waterfall at Holywell
Small Waterfall at Holywell

Guided Tours

A variety of tours can be booked through the JCDT Office:

  • Educational Tours(presentations/activities are varied according to the age-group/level and special requests e.g. for particular aspects of school/university curricula)
  • Bird-watching Tours (6am)
  • Coffee Tours (2 options – Classic Tourincludes a short walk to a neighbouring coffee farm – 2.5 hrs or Nature and Coffee which includes a hike through the farm and up to the house to see and smell the roasting – 4 hrs).
  • Gordon Town to Redlight Trail OR Gordon Town to Greenwich via Redlight Trails

Visitors' Centre

Ensure you take a look at our Visitors' Centre to see exhibits on the Blue and John Crow Mountains National Park (BJCMNP) of which Holywell is a part. The Visitors' Centre is located next to the Ranger Station near the Car Park. It's an easy walk along the Blue Mahoe Trail from the Picnic Area. The Visitors' Centre is also available for small workshops, retreats etc. - we can accommodate approximately 20 persons seated theatre style.

Visitors' Centre
Visitors' Centre

Cabins

We have three furnished log cabins at Holywell each with their own living and dining area, fireplace, a kitchen with small refrigerator and stove with oven. Each cabin has an inside bathroom with instant water heater in the shower. Bed linen, towels and all cookware and utensils are provided. You will need to take your food and toiletries. There are BBQ pits on site - the staff on duty can assist you to locate these. We can provide charcoal (at a cost) if it is requested in advance.

Each of the cabins is named after a plant found in the Blue Mountains – Cupressus (the Christmas Tree) is suitable for families and groups, Hotlips (an attractive flowering plant) is great for couples and Mountain Yacca (a tall strong, forest tree) is a studio with a great camping area just beside it for the more rugged, hiking groups.

Since September, 2014 all the Cabins at Holywell and the Visitors’ Centre and Ranger Station are powered by electricity from photo-voltaic panels and have hot water from solar water heaters installed on each building. The system was funded by the US Department of Interior Technical Assistance under the National Parks Service – Climate Friendly Parks Programme.

Cupressus Cabin
This is a two bedroom cabin – one room has a double bed and the other room has a pair of single beds.

On the verandah at CupressusDining area and fireplace
On the verandah at CupressusDining area and fireplace
Spacious living roomBedroom Twin-beds
Spacious living roomBedroom with twin beds

Hotlips Cabin
This is a one bedroom cabin (with two single beds). It accommodates up to two persons.

Mountain Yacca Cabin
This is a studio with two single beds. It accommodates up to two persons. There is a large campsite adjacent to this Cabin, making it a great choice for small camping groups who would like a little comfort e.g. for cooking and a convenient bathroom facility.

Hotlips and Mountain Yacca
Hotlips and Mountain Yacca

Camping

Holywell also offers camp site rental. There are usually tents available for rent (currently, no tents are available).

Fees

– Please note that the User Fee is stipulated under the NRCA Act, Blue and John Crow Mountains National Park Regulations and therefore a payment required by Law. Further, these are the funds the JCDT uses to help maintain the site.

  • Where fees are quoted in US$, they may be paid in the JA$ equivalent
  • Please note that there are separate fees for commercial use of the Holywell site – permission is required for such use and JCDT should be contacted with details of any proposed use of the site not covered below.
  • Please note also, all fees are subject to change without notice and conditions apply.
Type of FeeCostNotes

User Fee (Holywell)

Residents
Adults - JA$100
Children - JA$50

Non-Residents
Adults - US$10
Children - US$5

(N.B.: the National Park's regulations stipulate these fees and as government funds provide only 30% of the National Park's budget, we will have to continue with these rates. The Residents' fees are likely to be increased soon. All fees are collected and retained by the Jamaica Conservation and Development Trust, a registered charity which manages the National Park and World Heritage Site on behalf of the Government of Jamaica.)

Can be paid at Holywell.

If you have a large group, you may wish to pay at the JCDT office

Oatley Mountain Trail guided tour

Residents - $200

Non-Residents - US$5

Groups over 12 require an additional tour guide - $1,500

It is best to make arrangements for tours prior to your visit, to ensure a tour guide is available

Other tours and packages vary in price.

Cupressus – 2 bedroom cabin (sleeps up to 5 persons)

Residents - $6,000

Non-Residents - US$70

Bookings must be made at least a month in advance at the JCDT office

Hot Lips – 1 bedroom cabin

Residents - $5,000

Non-Residents - US$50

Bookings must be made at least a month in advance at the JCDT office

Mountain Yacca - Studio

Residents - $5,000

Non-Residents - US$50

Bookings must be made at least a month in advance at the JCDT office

Camping Sites

Residents - $200 per person/night

Non-Residents - US$5 per person/night

Currently you must have your own tent

Bookings must be made in advance at the JCDT office

Plant Nursery

We have a plant nursery on site that provides primarily native, non-lumber plants for reforestation in the BJCMNP. However, we also produce plants for sale such as Impatiens, Lilies, Christmas tree seedlings, herbs etc. We encourage our visitors to support the Park by purchasing these plants as proceeds from sale assist in our Conservation Programme.

We recommend that you:

  • wear comfortable walking shoes (sneakers or hiking shoes),
  • bring a sweater because it can get very cool/cold at times.
  • take an umbrella in case of rain.
  • take your drinking water or you may purchase on site.
  • bring along your snacks/food or stop in Irish Town on your way up or down (there are usually community members selling fruit and sometimes Blue Mountain coffee).

BJCMNP | The Blue Mountains Experience

The JCDT appreciates the involvement and support of our Partners, Donors and Sponsors

  • National Environment & Planning Agency
  • Forestry Department
  • Jamaica National Heritage Trust
  • Environmental Foundation of Jamaica
  • Forest Conservation Fund
  • Pear Tree Press
  • JEP Logo Tagline small