When it comes to scenery, Jamaica has rendered Photoshop irrelevant in every possible way – most notably when water is involved. White-sand and blue-water beaches…voluminous waterfalls nestled amidst lush, green foliage…rivers rippling calmly through mountains ranges…Not all islands were made equal, but Jamaica stands among the blessed.
The island’s tourism product comprises all the elements travel wet-dreams are made of (pun intended) and water babies don’t ever have to wander too far to indulge in a wide range of water activities.
I’ve been to Jamaica four times, for a total period of just over four weeks, and I still haven’t made a substantial dent in the water edition of my Jamaica travel bucket list, but as they say, the race isn’t for the swiftest but for the one who endures it to the end.
For now, until such time as I can check every item off my list, here are my five favorite water-based activities in Jamaica.
1. Bamboo Rafting along the Rio Grande River
I floated along the Rio Grande on a bamboo raft one afternoon and the experience was tranquility personified. The water was calm, the views were unbeatable, the raft was all-natural and the entire excursion was perfectly organic. The river has both incredibly shallow and slightly deep parts, so it’s ideal for those with an aversion to open water, as well as those who want to revel in its cool clarity. Tour options include a 1.5 hr version that takes you a few miles up river and returns you to the starting point, as well as a 3 hr version that starts in the mountains and takes you all the way down to the mouth of the river. For more information you can check out the blog post I dedicated to this experience
because it was so amazing.
Cost: $5,700 JA (1.5 hr tour) | $8,500 JA (3 hr tour)
2. Beach Bumming at Seven Mile Beach
Once I spent an entire day doing nothing but lounging on Seven Mile Beach staring at the brilliant blue water in awe. More recently, I switched things up and spent an afternoon a few miles off the coast, snorkeling at a reef in that same brilliant blue water. Both experiences were equally fulfilling. Whatever beach scene you’re in the mood for, Seven Mile has it. You can veg out on the sand, take a boat out to explore beneath its calm surface, parasail for a birds eye view of Negril, or rent a kayak to take in the coastline from the water. Hotels and restaurants of all sizes line the beach so it’s never completely empty, but if you’re an early bird you can enjoy a few hours of solitude before the masses emerge from their cozy accommodations.
Cost: Access to the beach is free, although most access points are through private hotels and restaurants.
3. Hiking up Dunn’s River Falls
Scaling the rocks of Dunn’s River Falls
is one of those mandatory items on any JA to do list. The falls paint a beautiful picture as it courses down the tall but gradual incline into the ocean. Walking down along a paved walkway is the easy part, with many vantage points offering uninterrupted views of the falls; and vendors selling hand carved pieces of art. Climbing back up, against the current of the falls, proves to be a little more tedious, but the cool water and many footholds among the rocks makes it absolutely doable for even the most unfit and the least sure footed people. Water shoes are necessary, but if you don’t have a pair you can rent them at the entrance to compound.
Location: Ocho Rios
Cost: $20 US (Adults) | $12 US (Children) – these prices apply to non-residents
4. Snorkeling at Doctor’s Cave Beach
My first snorkeling excursion in Jamaica was at Doctor’s Cave Beach
and it was perfect. Maybe that’s why I’m biased. The water was so clear and so calm that I felt no apprehension venturing so far away from the shoreline. Snorkeling could never trump scuba diving in my opinion, but it came pretty close that day. The marine life was abundant and the species were varied, the coral were vibrant and even though you can never avoid sea urchins, the water was deep enough that I wasn’t paranoid about coming into contact with them. Altogether, this beach and the reef just beyond it, provided the perfect conditions for a newbie to the snorkeling world.
Location: Montego Bay
Cost: Snorkeling is free but the admission fee to the beach club is $6 US (Adults) | $3 US (Children)
Add-ons: Chairs, umbrellas and floats are available for rent at $6 US each for the day
5. Cliff Jumping at Rick’s Cafe
is always crowded but don’t dismiss it even if you’re not a fan of high-traffic tourist spots. The bar ranks among the top 10 in the world for several reasons and if you’re in Jamaica you owe it to yourself to discover why. First:
cliff jumping – the main attraction. Every day scores, maybe even hundreds, of people climb up and down stairs along the cliff’s edge to leap into the water. Luckily, the platforms vary in height to satisfy the curiosity of the timid, as well as the adventurous nature of adrenaline junkies. (NB: I did not do it because I didn’t wear my suit, something I regret. Don’t make the same mistake.) Second:
the food. Even after the sun goes down, live music continues to play as the kitchen serves up delicious jerk and fresh homemade bread. Third:
the sunset. Rick’s offers unbeatable uninterrupted views of the horizon as it changes hues from blue, to orange, and then an inky, star-lit, black sky. It’s a great spot to wrap up the day.
Cost: Access to the compound is free and so is cliff jumping!
Jamaica is considered a paradise by any standard, but it is a tried and true mecca for those who love open water of any kind. If you’ve visited the island and your favorite water activity isn’t listed, share it in the comments so I can add it to my list when next I visit!
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