Castleton Bontanical Garden
January 1, 1970
by Christine Collins
Peaceful Botanical Garden
Imagine yourself in a peaceful garden. No noise of vehicles passing by or honking horns or a million people talking at once imitating the sound of a beehive. No crowds or feeling swept away by the current of people rushing on their busy lives. No sign of the rapidly spreading epidemic of the concrete jungle. Just the sounds of nature soothing all your worries away for the moment. Beautiful lush, exotic plants showing their beauty through various shades of vibrant green. All this in a warm climate, clear blue skies and the occasional singing of birds. Perfect Serenity. Nature in its rawest form, potent, and beautiful. Such is the scene at the Castleton Botanical Garden in St. Mary, Jamaica.
Perfect for Outdoor Activities
It was a sight to behold the last time I visited. I went in October which was a rather rainy month, so I suggest visiting in summer where there is a better chance of great weather. It had been raining quite often the week before so the stone pathway and grass were damp in some places. As a walked in I was awed that such a green haven could be found right outside the capital city of Kingston, Jamaica. The path leads into a circle with lots of shrubberies, including chairs and tables with ample shade at the right time of day. Leading off from the circle are several paths moving outward and deeper into the garden. There is also a gazebo, just in case you don’t feel like having a picnic in the grass. If you are up to hiking there is a small hill which I imagine offers a great view at the top, right next to the gazebo. The wonderful tall palm trees are a sight to see. I don’t think I’ve seen palms that tall anywhere else in Jamaica. If you are a plant fanatic, this is your place to be as the trees and shrubs are labeled. Some of them no longer exist on the island while others retain their place of birth and have spread all over the country. The group I went with had a picnic in the shade after we played some fun outdoor games. It’s perfect for any type of outdoor activity since it has lots of grass and shady spots.
Refreshing River Experience
This botanical garden is rather interesting as it is divided by the main road in the Castleton community. On one side there are the tall palms, the gazebo, lots of grassy shady spots and different plants to see and enjoy. On the other side of the road, there is more garden beauty along with the Wag Water River where you can take a dip too cool off after exploring the flora and fauna of the garden. As a matter of fact, I recommend being prepared to splash around a bit as Jamaica’s warm humid climate might leave you hot, sweaty and yearning for a swim after walking around the garden. That’s how I felt when I was done exploring. The river was personally my favorite part, absolutely refreshing. Even though the river’s bank was rather rocky, with careful navigation I made way into some cool, refreshing water.
There are many boulders of various sizes inside the river adding to its beauty. Some are large and tall, above the normal water level of the river. Those are perfect for photos or just soaking up the sun. Others are smaller in groups with the water powerfully gushing over them, creating the effect of several mini-rapids in an otherwise peaceful river. It was a natural back massage for me as I sat there with back against the mini-rapids feeling totally relaxed as looked up into the clear blue sky. Not to worry if you can’t swim, the river is about waist deep at its deepest point. Enjoy it while the sun is out because as the evening comes on it can get quite cold.
I didn’t see any tour guides, so I think you are pretty much on your own to roam botanical garden as you please. A few things to take into consideration is the lighting, especially in the changing rooms, and maybe finding a guide to help you not to get lost in your exploring efforts. So take a flashlight with you just in case, even though they close between 6:00 and 6:30 pm, depending on the time of year. Also, make sure to bring some insect repellant-lush gardens almost always have their insect friends close by to greet you as you enjoy their beauty.
I also recommend dressing appropriately to be able to really enjoy the botanical garden outdoor experience. Slippers or other flat shoes just won’t do-I struggled in my flats through the damp grass. Sneakers are best, along with cool comfortable clothing.
There is a snack bar close to the river, but if you want real Jamaican food, there are vendors a little way up the road on the outside selling sumptuous meals. I suppose that the food is delicious, I didn’t purchase food so take a chance if you feel so inclined.
Although it’s a well-known spot, not many people were there so it wasn’t crowded, and I really liked that. I am not sure what it would be like in the summer though. It’s also in a convenient location, a little over 1 hour’s drive outside of Kingston city. Another hour’s drive will take you to the Strawberry Hill Hotel if you are looking for somewhere to stay with the same natural feel.
Things to remember
Well, that’s it. I liked it, and I would go back anytime. Remember to go when the weather isn’t too wet and make sure to dress for the outdoors. Don’t forget some insect repellant and sunscreen just in case. Castleton Botanical Garden has a real natural, rustic feel to it, and it is not a fancy or groomed to perfection. Perfect for nature lovers and plant fanatics who are looking for a green haven on earth.