Jamaica: Top Attractions
|Dunn's River Falls, Jamaica (Corel)|
With its beautiful beaches, lush rain forests, spectacular waterfalls, and green mountains, Jamaica is one of the Caribbean's most beautiful islands.
Dunn's River Falls (Ocho Rios)
Despite the crowds, climbing Dunn's River Falls is a must-do. Cascading 600 feet to the sea, this waterfall tumbles over a series of protruding rock ledges that act like natural stair steps. Follow your guide, join hands with your fellow visitors, and ascend the slippery rocks or stay at the base and swim in the pools. To miss the busloads of people, avoid the falls on cruise ship days, and at the summit, be prepared for the onslaught of vendors.
Dunn's River Falls: 876. 974.2857, www.dunnsriverja.com
Dolphin Cove (Ocho Rios)
At Dolphin Cove, you pick your level of playfulness. Highlights of the Dolphin Swim, for adults and ages eight and older, are the foot pushÂ—you float face down and the animals propel you by pushing the soles of your feet with their nosesÂ—and the dorsal pullÂ—positioned between two dolphins, you grab onto their fins and hang on for a wild ride. Shallow-water encounters and touch sessions let young kids get close to these friendly critters.
Dolphin Cove: 876.974.5335, www.dolphincovejamaica.com
Doctor's Cave Beach Club (Montego Bay)
A day at Doctor's Cave lets you sample Jamaica's specialtiesÂ—beautiful beaches, good snorkeling, and native cuisine. A mix of international tourists and locals frequent the broad sweep of sand. Concessionaires rent chairs and umbrellas, and vendors sell meat patties, goat curry, and other native dishes. Here kids can find enough new friends for a pick up game of surfside touch football.
Doctor's Cave Beach Club: 876.952.2566, www.doctorscavebathingclub.com
Reggae Explosion, Island Village (Ocho Rios)
Learn about island rhythms at Reggae Xplosion. This interactive museum chronicles Reggae's roots in mento, ska, and rock steady, and pays homage to Bob Marley and other stars. Plug in your headphones at various spots and hear songs by and interviews with the island's music greats of the past 50 years. You can even sway to such Jamaican dance hall songs by Buju Banton, Beenie Man, and other stars. Rhythm-loving teens will be impressed.
Reggae Explosion, Island Village: 876.675.8893, www.islandjamaica.com
Seven Mile Beach, (Negril)
On the west end of Jamaica, NegrilÂ—more laid back that bustling Montego Bay or Ocho Rios-lures visitors with seven miles of golden sand beaches and calm water. Concessionaires offer a wide variety of watersports, from jet skiing to parasailing and snorkeling. Strolling along the water's edge is fun, but be aware that family resorts are interspersed with clothing-optional beaches, so your kids may get to see more than you'd like them to.
Additional Info: 800.233.4JTB, www.visitjamaica.com
Rafting the Martha Brae
The major theme parks of the world recreate lazy river rides, lush landscapes, and relaxed settings, but nothing manufactured by man can contend with the real thingÂ—a rafting trip on the Martha Brae. On this tranquil float, a boatman poles a 30-foot bamboo raft for three miles, passing overhanging tree branches and wild banana plants, all the while recounting local tales. Your family just sits back and enjoys the remarkable scenery. Kids thrill at the chance to swing Tarzan-style from a rope vine.
Rafting the Martha Brae: 876.952.0889, www.jamaicarafting.com
Blue Mountain Bicycle Tours
The day begins when a van picks you up at your hotel and drives you to the adventure's starting point, high in Jamaica's lush Blue Mountains. The sights are amazing enough. But then hop aboard your mountain bike and pedal downhill while the oxygen-rich Jamaican winds pour into your face as you dart through the rain forest thick with towering trees, blossoms, and ferns, and alongside a coffee plantation. Cool off at the trip's end by splashing in a waterfall... just leave your bike onshore.
Blue Mountain Bicycle Tours: 876.974.7075, www.visitjamaica.com
Chukka Blue's Horseback Ride N'Swim
The outfitter Chukka Blue offers many outings, but their best tour has to be the Horseback Ride 'n' SwimÂ—especially if your family's adventure wish list combines beaches and horses. Hop aboard your steed (who knows the trail well) and let your horse lead the family through a farming village, across a river, along the beach, andÂ—yesÂ—into the Caribbean, where the horses employ their best strokes in the shallow shore waters. Laugh as the waves break across their backs and engulf you in warm salt water. 'Tweens and teens will love the experience.
Additional Informaiton: 876.953.5619, www.visitjamaica.com
Royal Palm Preserve
The Royal Palm Preserve, a ten-minute drive from Negril, affords an experience deep in the heart of Jamaica. Established to protect the Morass Royal Palm (from which the preserve obtains its name and which grows in wetlands in western Jamaica), the preserve encompasses 300 acres of lush tropical environs unspoiled by development. On this quiet outing, follow a boardwalk to a lookout tower, fish for perch and tarpon in a lake, unveil that checkered blanket for a family picnic, or simply rent horses for a leisurely equine-enabled trek through the countryside.
Royal Palm Preserve: 876.364.7404, www.royalpalmpreserve.com
Meet the People
Every travel destination offers visitors the chance to interact with the locals, picking up on cultural distinctions or the subtleties of the language or accent, and earning a chance to better understand what makes the place unique. For over 20 years, Jamaica's Meet the People program has taken the chance out of the equation and allows visitors to get their questions answered. Would your teens like to listen to Reggae with an island fan? Do you want to watch a cricket game with someone who can explain the action? Are you interested in attending a parish church service? At no charge, the Tourist Board pairs you with like-minded local volunteers.
Meet the People: 800.233.4JTB, www.meetthepeople.com
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication