Blue and John Crow Mountains

Blue and John Crow Mountains
Photo by Els Slots.

The Blue and John Crow Mountains are a remote mountainous region known for its biodiversity and relevance to the history of Jamaican Maroons.

The region provided refuge to escaped indigenous slaves, the traces of which can be seen at Maroon archaeological sites such as hiding places and a network of trails. They lived in and around the settlement of Nanny Town. The area is limited to the Preservation Zone of the Blue Mountains and John Crow Mountains NP. These mountain ranges are covered with dense tropical, montane rainforest. A wide variety of endangered and/or endemic plant, frog and bird species is found here.

Community Perspective: the Blue Mountains and its coffee history are well on the Jamaican tourist trail, but visiting the rather limited core zone of old forest is another cup of tea. Els has described the options for a rewarding visit.

Map of Blue and John Crow Mountains

Load map

Community Reviews

Write a review

Els Slots

The Netherlands - 16-Feb-24 -

Blue and John Crow Mountains by Els Slots

68 people so far claim to have visited this WHS, but this has resulted in only one generic review and a (since replaced) funny main site photo of a marker essentially saying “You’re in the National Park but not in the WHS core zone”.

It’s hard to visit Jamaica and not ‘see’ the Blue Mountains in some way, but is that enough to ‘tick’ this site? Let me share what is possible to visit and what you should look out for.


The OUV of both the cultural and natural side of this mixed WHS lies in the rugged, inaccessible terrain. The maroons used it to hide away from colonial oppression, while the island’s native flora managed to survive here while much of the rest of the island was cultivated. These two features don’t mix well, which becomes clear on the official map (best seen in map #4 of the nomination dossier): the descendants of the maroons live in villages that are clearly not in pristine nature and so they’re mostly outside of the National Park (they're considered ‘satellite sites’ by ICOMOS). And what Jamaica deems worthy enough of National Park status wasn't good enough for IUCN, who managed to scope the core zone of the WHS down to primary forest only.

Oh – and when you think this WHS is about coffee you just lost your ‘tick’ as IUCN strongly condemned “encroachment from coffee farming”.

Places to visit

Moore Town would be the place to start for a taste of the cultural heritage of the Windward Maroons. You can only reach this village from the north coast (via Port Antonio), so a trip from Kingston realistically is out of the question as you have to drive all around the mountain ridge that is the backbone of Jamaica. I found three parties advertising tours to Moore Town, of which two did not reply to my inquiries. The third, Nanny Falls Tours, does offer an interesting walk for 30 USD to the Falls and the place where Queen Nanny is buried, but you need your own transport to reach Moore Town first.

For the natural values, the only way to see them in the core zone is to hike to Blue Mountain Peak, a challenging 7-hour endeavour. You’ll pass through parts of the preserved area, although the Peak itself lies outside. The second best option is to go to Holywell Park – this lies in the buffer zone but acts as the main site of interpretation of the Blue and John Crow Mountains National Park. It has been excluded from the later incarnation of the WHS because its montane forest is of mixed origin (it has non-native trees as well).

And then there is the much-discussed issue of No Road Access. There’s a very large and clear map on the wall of the visitor center at Holywell which shows the core and buffer zones of the WHS and the outline of the National Park. I’d say that 99.9% of the core zone isn’t accessible by road, but there is one spot that theoretically is: there’s a winding road (marked as the lowest class of road on the map) that goes south from Bowden Pen towards the Corn Puss Gap where it ends (and you’ll have to continue on foot). Whether it is navigeable at all I could not verify, so I’ll leave the connection up with this caveat.

My experience

I went for Holywell Park and arranged a car with a driver for half a day through my B&B in New Kingston. We soon left the hustle and bustle of the capital and were on the steep mountain road to the park. The driver was very chatty, and he seemed to know everyone we met as he lived in the area. He warned for approaching water tanker trucks - spring water is brought down all day from the Blue Mountains by trucks and then bottled in the city. The road is very narrow and winding, so you have to pay close attention if you hear a honking tanker truck approaching to let it pass. The road up is driveable in a rental car, but (according to my driver) especially weekends should be avoided as then many inexperienced Jamaican day-tripping drivers are on the road. The area is also very prone to landslides during heavy rains.

At Holywell, you pay the park entrance fee of 10 USD and then you can do several walks from the reception area. They are all quite short (the longest is an hour), so the park ranger recommended combining two of them. I started with the Oatley Mountain Trail, which I had already selected in advance because it passes through primary forest and thus best approximates the ecosystem of the core zone of the WHS. It was a pleasant walk on a clear and well-maintained path through the shaded forest. The main vegetation consists of ferns, lichen, mosses and bromeliads. Some of the trees helpfully have signs with their species name and whether they are native to the island or not. And there are beautiful views of the steep, forested mountains all around you. The highest point of this trail lies at 1,345 meters.

Another hike to consider is the Waterfall Trail (also one hour). This is approached via the short Blue Mahoe Trail. Here I saw so many birds, mostly very small ones including hummingbirds. In addition to its plants, the park is also valued for its endemic bird species. They were difficult to capture with my phone camera, but at least I managed to 'score' a native bird, the Sad Flycatcher (probably the most common bird on the island as it isn't as picky about its trees as IUCN).

Read more from Els Slots here.

Kelly Rogers

USA - 31-Jan-19 -

We visited Blue and Crow Mountains in November 2017.  We hired a driver to take us from Port Antonio and we are very glad that we did.  Some of the roads were not in great shape and we got to gape at the stunning scenery.  We were told that the "good road"  will be completed all the way to the northern part of the island eventually.  It was complete from Kingston to the National Park when we went.  This would be the only part I would be willing to drive if I had a rental.  

We stayed in a guest house for a few days.  We hiked on marked trails and on one day we went on one of the ubiquitous and obligatory "hidden waterfall"  hikes.   Our guide made the history of the site come alive for us by pointing out the uses of all of the plants we encountered.  We could understand how the Maroons could live in the jungle and have everything they needed.  We did not hike to the summit of Blue Mountain, which requires getting up before sunrise to avoid the characteristic mists, because everyone we met that tried, climbed into a cloud (so no views).  

We visited a small coffee plantation and it was delicious!  Believe the hype!  The coffee is good. 

The people that live in Blue Mountains are friendly, opinionated and hospitable.  My favorite combination.  We enjoyed our visit very much and would recommend that anyone visiting Jamaica spend some time in the Blue Mountains.   

Site Info

Full Name
Blue and John Crow Mountains
Unesco ID
3 6 10
Archaeological site - Caribbean Natural landscape - Forest

Site History

2015 Name change

TWHS was called "Blue and John Crow Mountains National Park", but large parts of national park were moved to buffer zone during final nomination stages

2015 Inscribed

2011 Deferred


The site has 1 locations

Blue and John Crow Mountains


The site has

Human Activity
Religion and Belief
Visiting conditions
WHS on Other Lists
World Heritage Process