Easily my favorite activity while visiting Montego Bay, joining the organized horseback riding tour of the coastline and then ascending the steep hillside near our resort showed me a very different side of Jamaica. We made arrangements from the tour desk at our resort (unfortunately I don't know the name of the horseback riding outfit they used), then were whisked off by van to a horse stable about ten minutes from the hotel. There we met with our guide, who said very little but looked us up and down and tried to figure out which horse would best suit our personalities. I guess he saw potential in me since I got the frisky one.
We began the trip heading down to the road and then marching along the water's edge. We took our horses into the surf and then the guide said we could all go swimming. Everyone looked confused as we were ready to go on a horseback ride, not swim. So, after asking us another three or four times (we got the idea he wanted us to go swimming so he could just rest on the beach) we led the horses on and up the hill across the highway.
At first the sights were largely uninteresting. Dry fields and small trees gave way, though, to more lush green grass and leafy trees as we went higher and higher. Soon the town below seemed very small and we had great views of the ocean all around us.
Near the highest elevation of our trip we stopped at a shack where a local woman was serving drinks and selling Jamaican crafts. Apparently the woman and our guide had a system going that kept up business, as we were stuck at this shack for a long, long time. We were all badgered into looking at the fine souvenirs and to have another cold drink.
Despite the unwanted pestering, I'd highly recommend this trip. You see a number of locals living on the hillside as you descend, challenging my ideas of daily life in Jamaica for the locals. The natural beauty that surrounds and the amazing views of the water below were a dramatic change of pace from the sun and swimming that monopolize life back at the resort.