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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Thank you so much!
We absolutely loved Jamaica when we visited! You gave us some awesome insight for our next trip there. Especially rafting down the Rio Grande. That looks incredible. When you go back I suggest checking out The Blue Hole! It’s gorgeous and less touristy than Dunn’s River Falls. 🙂
Thanks for the tip! The Blue Hole is actually on my list for when I next visit, just didn’t have time to check it out on my last trip.
That water looks so cool and inviting. I wish I could dive right in! I’ll definitely have to add Jamaica to my travel list!
I really hope you can make it to Jamaica Carmen, it’s a beautiful island with so many great things to experience!
Wow.Looks like my kinda vacation spot.
It’s epic! You should definitely check it out 🙂
These are amazing photos, Aisha! I have always, always wanted to go to Jamaica. A little too far but I have to plan a trip there now.
Thank you so much! I do hope you make it to Jamaica soon. The island is so beautiful it’s easy to capture beautiful photos!
Oh wow these all look incredible!!! Jamaica has always been THE place “on my list” (diehard Bob Marley fan over here) since as long as I can remember. Your post and your pictures are just making me want to hop on a plane right now!
Rhiannon | http://www.walestowherever.com
You definitely need to bump it up on your destinations list! Especially if you’re a Bob Marley fan 🙂 So many amazing things to see and do, not just in the water! Hope you make it there soon!
I haven’t made it to Jamaica yet, and it is definitely on my list! I am definitely a water baby and could waste several hours/days away looking at that ocean! Thanks for providing some non-beach options as well – I do enjoy waterfalls! Gorgeous pics – can’t wait to see it in-person 🙂
So glad you appreciated the non-beach options Lindsay, I love waterfalls as well! I hope you make it to Jamaica soon to take in these experiences yourself!
I have only done 7 mile beach when I was in Jamaica as I didn’t have time to do anything over a 4-5 day long weekend as a solo traveler. I like the thorough list of things you have here. The photos make me miss the beach (even though I’m a mountain girl by heart). Thanks for the post.
So glad my photos can make a mountain girl miss the beach 🙂 I LOVE 7 Mile Beach so I’m sure you enjoyed it thoroughly. Hopefully on your next visit you can take in some of the other experiences 🙂
Absolutely loved the post. Two questions I’d like to ask before going there. What is an apt weather to be there and what all food can you find there?
Glad you enjoyed this post! Jamaica’s rainy season runs from May to October/November so the best time weather wise is December to April, however it’s also more pricey in terms of accommodation. I should note though that I was there in July/August and we barely had any days of rain – one of the advantages of Caribbean travel 🙂 In terms of food, Jamaica’s most popular dishes are jerk chicken, festival, ackee and saltfish…and so much more! If you’re into seafood you should visit Hellshire where there are sooooo many small restaurants serving up fresh fish and lobster right on the beach!
Paradise! You don’t really need much when being there. Just staring at the blue water and doing nothing can already make you happy. I would really like to try the cliff jumping too, but I am a little afraid of heights. It is good to know that there are different platforms. Great post and thanks for the beautiful pictures.
Thank you! And the lowest platform should be great for you! It’s just a few feet above the water!