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Jamaica Outdoor Adventures

Sitting in the Caribbean Sea, just south of Cuba, Jamaica is the third largest island in the Caribbean with a length of 234 kilometres and a width of 80 kilometres. Jamaica has so much diversity that it can provide every type of outdoor adventure. Although there are six main tourist regions; Montego Bay, Negril, Mandeville and The South Coast, Kingston, Port Antonio and Ocho Rios, you are never far from exciting holiday recreation. Known as the land of Wood and Water, it is the water that first draws visitors.

Jamaica has beaches to suit every desire. From the busy sand of Montego Bay and Ocho Rios to the private tranquility of the beaches of Port Antonio, Jamaica offers beachgoers every type of fun in the sand. For some beach lovers Negril is the perfect place with long sandy stretches in a pristine environment. The blue of the sky with the green of the flora reflecting on the shimmering water gives the ocean at Negril vibrant colours. All the beach sports that an individual on vacation would want can be found on Jamaica’s beaches including kayaking, parasailing, windsurfing and jet skis.

One truly awe-inspiring beach activity is to visit the Luminous Lagoon that stretches along the marshlands of Trelawny from the small community of Rock to the town of Falmouth. At night, the lagoon sparkles and glistens when disturbed, as microscopic organisms produce an eerie glow, reflecting the outlines of fish and other objects in the water. Visitors can swim in the lagoon and there body is surrounded by the luminous green glow.

With deep and productive waters only 15 minutes from shore, well-equipped sport fishing boats and scenic views Jamaica offers world class game fishing. Visiting anglers have a chance at landing blue and white marlin, wahoo, tuna and dolphin (dorado) in deep water that drops to thousands of feet beyond the reefs.

Jamaica has excellent scuba diving and snorkeling sites: shallow and deep, reefs and walls, wrecks and caverns, home to all manner of sea life: spectacular coral, exotic sponges, spiny lobsters, moray eels, sea turtles and multitudes of colorful fish, big and small. One of the best scuba-diving sites off Jamaica’s coast appears just offshore from Jamaica Beach, to the west of Rio Nuevo, which is a suburb of Ocho Rios. The reef, called the Rio Nuevo Wall, is a 25-foot dive and supports barracudas, turtles, parrotfish and other tropical marine life in its mountainous coral formations. At Dolphin Cove at Treasure Reef near Dunns River Falls in Ocho Rios, you can swim with marine life in an aquatic park. This magnificent property has a natural cove which is surrounded by 5 acres of lush tropical rain forest. Visitors have the opportunity to interact, and swim with dolphins. Those in search of more holiday adventure can also interact with Caribbean Sharks and hold, feed, swim and learn about the evolutionary secrets of Caribbean Sharks. Another attraction for the adventure seeker is Stingray City at Treasure Reef, where you are shown how to handle stingrays and then allowed to snorkel where you can feed, pet or simply observe the rays.

The Blue Lagoon in Port Antonio is a must for the water lover. Formerly called the Blue Hole, the name was changed after the making of various Hollywood movies at this site. This sheltered cove is one of the most scenic spots in Jamaica. Surrounded by steep, green hillsides, the Blue Lagoon is a wonderful place to swim. The most striking feature about the Blue Lagoon is its mystical blue colour which changes throughout the day, depending on the angle of the sun. Throughout the day the water colour changes from jade to emerald to turquoise to sapphire to deep blue. Fed by underground mineral springs when you swim in its waters you are massaged by streams of warm water from the Caribbean Sea and refreshing jets of icy fresh water from the underground streams.

Outdoor water adventure in Jamaica does not stop at the sea. There are more than 100 rivers in Jamaica. The widest is the Black River which is just over 73 kilometres in length of which the first 28 kilometres are navigable. The longest river in Jamaica is the Rio Minho which starts near the Blue Mountains Peak and flows in a south-southwesterly direction to the sea and exits into Caribbean Sea by means of Carlisle Bay. The most popular rivers are the Great River, the Rio Grande and the Martha Brae River. A popular vacation activity is to go river rafting. On rafts made of bamboo with a rafts-man using a long bamboo pole to propel and guide the raft, you slowly drift downstream, listening to nature's gentle voice while viewing exotic Caribbean flora and fauna with endless photo opportunities.

Another relaxing river experience is the Black River Boat Safari. This is a great opportunity to explore remote mangrove swamps and to see native species such as crocodiles living in their natural habitats. You will also have the opportunity to some of the 100 species of birds that have been seen in the area. A good way to relieve the tensions that you have built up before visiting Jamaica is to swim in the Milk River Baths in Clarendon. The waters in the baths are warm and full of minerals of various types. The baths are open to the public and no reservation is necessary.

Not all of Jamaica’s river adventures are done at a serene and sedate pace. The holiday maker who wants fast paced outdoor recreation will enjoy a kayak trip on the White River in Ocho Rios. On this kayaking adventure you will paddle your way through the rapids and crystal clear pools under a canopy of lush tropical vegetation and huge bamboo groves. Another river adventure is the tubing ride down the Great River. This river ride is a combination of adrenaline, relaxation and water. You start your outdoor adventure with a relaxing float through some of the most picturesque areas of Jamaica and then it's on to the rapids which are just right for a fun-filled adventure.

If you just want to lie in the refreshing coolness of a river’s water then Gutts River in Saint Elizabeth is perfect. Gutts River which flows into the nearby ocean has a blue waterhole that will dazzle you.

Jamaica’s limestone topography means that many rivers often disappear underground. However far from being the end of the outdoor recreation activity, this disappearance opens new adventure opportunities, with cave exploration. One interesting cave system is the Nonsuch Caves in Port Antonio where visitors can descend into chambers to view stalactites, stalagmites and fossilized sponges. The Green Grotto Caves in St. Ann are another interesting cave system. The caves which were formed out of the limestone by the action of water over time are a kilometre and a half long and contain an underground lake, Grotto Lake. The Rock Spring Caves and the Quashie River Sink Caves, on the outskirts of Albert Town, offer two of the most captivating caving experiences in Jamaica, with mazes, secret chambers and waterfalls within the various limestone rock formations.

Part of Jamaica’s diversity is its mountains and the combination of mountains and rivers give rise to waterfalls. The most popular waterfall in Jamaica is Dunn’s River Falls in Ocho Rios and there are always large numbers of people at this waterfall. A popular activity for visitors is to climb the falls which is possible because this waterfall is more of a cascade that ascends gradually upward. The Falls end at the beach and you can swim at the beach or sit and let the river water cascade on you. If you intend to climb the Falls you should wear shoes to prevent stubbing your toes on the rocks.

One of the most dramatic waterfalls in inland Jamaica is YS Falls. The YS Falls comprise a steep staircase of waterfalls, seven in all, dropping from a height of 130 feet. Water pours out of the limestone rock into the Black River below. You can swim in the pools below the falls and enjoy the refreshing coolness of the water.

The strictly on land recreation activities offer no less adventure than the water based activities, with hiking, bicycle rides, horseback riding, ATV rides and numerous other outdoor activities.

For hikers, the pinnacle of Jamaica’s hiking is to ascend the 7,402 foot Blue Mountain Peak. The peak is a challenge to all serious trekkers. Another enjoyable trekking expedition can be had by hiking in the Bluefields Mountains which are just one hour from Montego Bay and Negril,. These hikes are for the more adventurous who want to get to the top of the mountain - around 2300 feet (701m). From here, you can enjoy looking down on the turkey vultures as they soar below. Climbing at a steady pace on mountain paths and donkey tracks you will enjoy magnificent panoramic views over deep wooded valleys and old plantations.

Another way to enjoy the Blue Mountains is on a Blue Mountain Bicycle Tour. You will be able to experience the dramatically beautiful landscape with its pristine streams and waterfalls, misty slopes, varied species of Jamaican birds, wildflowers and plants. There will also be the chance to meet some of the local coffee farmers and other growers. If the ride gets you hot and bothered you can always make a stop at a natural rock cove or stream and swim and snorkel in the refreshing water.

If bicycle rides or hiking are too much exertion but you still want to have an adventure in the Jamaican countryside then ATV rides are possible. On these rides you journey deep into the scenic country side through paths that meander along shadowed corridors, beneath the jungle canopy and across river beds and hillocks. You can also go horseback riding and visit castles and sugar factories dating back nearly 500 years. Some of the rides will take you through natural wetland, shaded by almond and coconut trees, while others will take you along secluded beaches.

If you are a bird watcher then Jamaica is a perfect place for a holiday that allows you to enjoy your passion. There are more than 200 native species in Jamaica with at least 25 endemic species. Albert Town in south eastern Trelawny is especially good for bird-watcher's, as dozens of species endemic to Jamaica and to the Cockpit Country pass overhead with startling regularity. On any given day, observers will notice wild yellow and black-billed parrots, yellow-billed amazons and flocks of "doctor birds", a species of hummingbird indigenous to Jamaica.

For the individual on vacation and in search of real heart-pumping outdoor adventure then a Zip-Line Canopy Tour will provide the excitement. These tours will have you soaring through and above the trees using an intricate system of harnesses, pulleys and carabiners on horizontal traverses. From your bird’s-eye view, you will be able to survey the flora and fauna of Jamaica’s magnificent landscape, all while listening to the gentle sounds of nature.


For more information on outdoor adventure activities in Jamaica, visit our other Jamaica Pages

bulletJamaica Game Fishing
bulletJamaica Diving and Snorkeling
bulletJamaica Attractions






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Last modified: September 10, 2017