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Rio Bueno, Trelawny

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Rio Bueno, a pretty quiet and peaceful small seaside village on the border between the parishes of St Ann and Trelawny. Rio Bueno located very close to Discovery Bay. about 45 minutes from Montego Bay, 15-20 minutes from Falmouth, and about 40-45 minutes from Ocho Rios.

This place is truly blessed with a stretch of golden & white sand, called Bengal Beach. There is a string of vacation villa rentals line the sandy shores on the Eastern side of the bay.

Rio Bueno is a actually a pretty sleepy little town but when cruise ships are in port, especially at either the Falmouth or Ocho Rios port, Bengal Beach at the Rio Bueno Harbour can get busy from all the cruise ship passengers doing on river activities. Otherwise, most guests on the beach are those staying at nearby villas.

The village was established during the early days of English Colonialism, and serve as a stop location for both maritime and overland visitors, and offered many guesthouses and inns. By the late 1800s the town was almost deserted, but then, in the mid-1900s construction of a bauxite (aluminum ore) shipping wharf started and brought the village to life again.

Through it all, the village maintain and remained the romantic, yet historical looks, with its old fort, warehouses and churches on the water’s edge, and behind it all the green hills of Trelawny.

Rio Bueno is one of two places which are believed to be Christopher Columbus's first landing point in Jamaica (the other is St. Ann's Bay) but also a place where a lot of strikes and rebellious acts of the slave to archive freedom & rights. Unfortunately, the town is a bit neglected resulting lots of historical Georgian buildings to look abandoned.

But still the place has really a unique feeling, I think it’s because of all of the great historical stories, the location right next to a bay and a river. And just a cozy and welcoming feeling. Oh and if by chance you area film lover, you might recognize Rio Bueno as the setting for the film "A High Wind in Jamaica"


The Rio Bueno was the home to one of the first groups of indigenous people in Jamaica, the Taino also called Wawak. There settlements established before the Spaniards arrived to Jamaica in the 15th centuries, but unfortunately was almost devastated with years of terrible explorations and abuse.

Rio beuno is one of the approximately 22 Taino settlements sites that has been found in Trelawny parish. These sites include a few coastal locations such as Braco and Stewart Castle but the evidence suggests that the Tainos preferred slightly elevated areas located not too far in-land from the coast and near to sources of fresh water, one of them is the Rio Bueno River.

Archaeologists have uncovered more than 1,000 kitchen tools at this site, including shell heaps, pottery remains, fishbones, hunting and fishing implements which all proof the importance of fishing and hunting to the a pretty large coastal Taino communities that lived in the area.

The Spanish description tells what archaeological foundings have suggested, that in Rio

Bueno ‘an enormous number of natives’ (Tainos) gathers on the beach by the harbor to prevented Columbus and his ship from landing. Some call this reaction ‘hostile’ but if you really think about it, their behavior makes a lot of sense assuming some unknown creatures trying to invade their home.

But not too late after, the Taino had changed their actions and allowed Colombo’s to land, providing the Spanish with food in exchange for valuable items from the Spanish. (Like: glass beads and hawks’ bells). A small settlement was established there by the Spanish and they later changed the name to Rio Bueno like the river name that is in the settlement and provide everyone.

Columbus stated, "They will give all that they do possess for anything that is given to them, exchanging things even for bits of broken crockery," he noted upon meeting them in the Bahamas in 1492. "They were very well built, with very handsome bodies and very good faces....They do not carry arms or know them....They should be good servants.”

The encomienda system is what brought the Spanish to the island, its as a Spanish labor system that rewarded Spanish people who conquered places around the world with the labor of the groups of native living in the captured area.

I do hope that saying it now in 2021 dose seem odd to you as it is to me. Its just that I don’t know how can as a nation you can take a group of native as you property and decided to labor them to promise thing they never need in the first place if didn’t invade to their land…

Any ways, lets continue, so part of the Spanish mission was to spread the religiousness Christian and catholic message, so wherever they reached-they preached… This missioner brainwash is a common pattern that has been practiced in Jamaica for years by the different groups and nations invading to the island.

The Spanish used to promise two things for the natives: 1. Protection 2. Practice Catholicism to promote their religion, mainly because they wanted to strip local from their religion behavior, they thought is primitive.

In return the Spanish expected from the native to do a lot of labor. within a short time the Spanish started threatening native instead of protecting, which often lead to extreme punishment or death…Their aim was to exploit the native population by occupation of their land and wealth.

This early start of slavery also described by Historian name David Stannard as a genocidal system which "Had driven many millions of native peoples in Central and South America to early and agonizing deaths."

During the period of English colonization, the former Taino site became part of the Braco sugar estate. Nowadays around the coastal many locations are focused on tourism-related activities like Melia Braco Village Resort, 876 Beah club and several other all inclusive hotels on the shoreline.

Rio Bueno seaside location near the border of Trelawny and St Ann and its deep harbor provided a commercially and strategically importance to the English. They established a small but thriving town with several cut stone Georgian style buildings, wharves and wharf houses.

The presence of taverns, guesthouses and inns in the town suggests that Rio Bueno was also important as a rest stop for travellers on their way to or from Falmouth or elsewhere on the north coast.

The buildings in Rio Bueno used to be owned and used by sugar planters from the surrounding areas. The English enslaved African decent and native to work in those sugar plantations and build their wealth by using and exploding other.

Samuel Sharpe was the revolutionary leader of the 1831 Slave Rebellion, which began on the Kensington Estate in St. James and which was very important in the movement of abolition of slavery.

In the evening of Christmas of 1831 a group of enslaved mainly from St James parish and Trelawny planned a strike to not return to work after the holiday, the news passed on to slaves from nearby Trelawny estates through secret meetings held at Baptist chapels.

On 27 December 1831, the strike escalated into lilting places in Montego Bay, The slaves moved by small groups through the plantations nearest to the border between St James and Trelawny, setting fire to trash houses and sugar houses.

The Georgia Great House Estate located on top of a hill between Clarks Town and Duncan’s, owned by Thomas Gordon was also affected. The enslaved there had strike as well and in dawn militia responded with brutal violence attack. Their resistance resulted the death one enslaved man that was shot.

The damage done to the plantation property was huge, and the rebellion has also escalated the suppression by the government that had took its toll on some of the Trelawny slaves as well.

70 slaves from the parish where persecuted in the Court, 24 were executed.

Baptist and Methodist Chapels in Falmouth, Stewart Town and Rio Bueno were destroyed by fire or in some other way damaged because of their work among the enslaved and their close ties with black congregations and other rebellious movements.

Shortly after initial suppression The Colonial Church Union was formed including members and supporters being militia men that where intimidated by the enslaved rebellious and their supporters from the baptism churches that showed “dangerous” thoughts of equality, among the enslaved, based upon the teachings of Christianity.

Rio Bueno also had two of the oldest churches in Trelawny after St Peter’s Anglican

Parish Church in Falmouth. The first of these was the Rio Bueno Baptist Church,

originally built in 1829 but which was burnt to the ground in 1832 during anti-missionary

riots led by the Colonial Church Union, a group of planters and others who were

opposed to the influence which the Baptists and other missionaries had among the

enslaved people. The church was rebuilt in 1834 and the existing church was rebuilt

on the site of this church in 1901.

The second church was St Mark’s Anglican Church which was built in 1833 in response to an

appeal by the residents to the House of Assembly for an Anglican church (the shingle roof of

this beautiful, historic church was destroyed by fire in 2005).

This distinctive pale blue seaside church was founded in 1833.

The church was frequently visited by Her Royal Highness Princess Alice, aunt of King George VI


Rio Bueno Baptist Church has a distinctive stone exterior and a red roof. The original church was built in 1829 by the Baptist missionaries who were largely abolitionists and fight to free enslaved people.

They faced opposition from slave owners and zealous Anglicans who burnt it to the ground. The church was rebuilt in 1833-34 and The current structure was built in 1901.

In 1843 the baptist church community established Calabar Theological College in Rio Bueno. The school’s mission was to train local men for service to the Baptist Missionary Society in the West Indies and Africa.

The first voyage of missionaries from Jamaica to Africa sailed out of Rio Bueno Harbour. The school later moved to Kingston and became Calabar High School. The hills above Rio Bueno still maintain the name of Calabar.

The Rio Bueno Baptist church was, for a short while, the major place of worship and education for converted blacks living in the area.

In its great days, Rio Bueno was almost competing to Falmouth as a shipping port. The town had a booming tourist business with inns and taverns and was the stopover point for travelers.

The Hotel Wellington is believed to be one of the oldest hotels in Jamaica considered as top-notch place. The building is in ruins and is literally at the side of the road just across from Joe James’ Gallery.

The entire north coast of Jamaica was vulnerable to attacks from pirates and French and Dutch privateers, especially during the 18th century when their mother countries were often at war with England.

To protect the sugar trade from the area, planters built a fortification (that would later become Fort Dundas) at Rio Bueno.

The year 1778 is carved into one of the stones used to build the original doorway of the structure and this most likely was the year in which the early fortification was built. Today, the remains of Fort Dundas are still seen behind the Rio Bueno Primary School.

The fort was named after Henry Dundas, the British Secretary of War.

Rio Bueno has long been a center for the arts on the North Coast, and the village has been graced with the presence of many renowned painters, poets and musicians such as Joseph Kidd in the 1800s, and more recently, Alex Haley and James Morrison.

Today the artistic tradition in Rio Bueno is supported mainly by Joe James, a world acclaimed visual artist and sculptor who operates Gallery Joe James and the adjoining Rio Bueno Hotel.

Most of the gallery is housed in the former Harbour Master's Quarters, creating a historic atmosphere amidst contemporary art.

An art lover’s paradise! Imagine walking through a rustic art gallery with wall to wall paintings and sculptures to get to a seafront restaurant all set in a historic building, the former Harbour Master’s Quarters.

Joe James is an internationally acclaimed painter and sculptor. Together with his family, he runs the art gallery and restaurant, Lobster Bowl.

The area is ideal for families and or groups looking for peace and quiet. This is not the place for singles or people looking for nightlife or bars.

Transportation is necessary as, other than Bengal Beach, you will need to drive the few minutes to the described locations.

You wouldn’t really stay in Rio Bueno itself. Instead, you would want to stay in the area just beside Rio Bueno called Bengal, which is on the eastern section of the harbour towards Discovery Bay.

Accommodations here are largely in the form of villa vacation rentals. If you want a hotel, Melia Braco Village is a luxury all-inclusive hotel located in Braco, just on the outskirts of Rio Bueno, going west.

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