Covered with lush rainforests, hidden valleys, secret caves, and beautiful waterfalls and rivers, Jamaica offers plenty to do and see beyond its amenity-packed hotels. So, should you leave behind your resort’s buffets, infinity pools, swim-up bars, and dazzling white-sand beaches (and you should), here are six of the best excursions to add to your itinerary.
1. Dunn’s River Falls
Dunn’s River Falls is -- not surprisingly -- one of Jamaica’s most popular attractions. Located near Ocho Rios, the falls are around 180 feet high and 600 feet long, and the cascading water that flows from terrace to terrace collects in picturesque lagoons below. Guided tours are available for those who want help traversing the rocky terrain, but groups can also explore the area alone. (Some folks form human chains with fellow visitors to make the steep climb in humid conditions a little more bearable.) Fun fact: Dunn’s River Falls was also a filming location for the 1988 Tom Cruise classic, “Cocktail.”
Spend the night at the Jamaica Inn, located a short drive from Dunn’s River Falls. In stark contrast to the neighboring mega-resorts, this upscale all-inclusive beachfront property is quiet, intimate, and relaxed. The list of amenities is typical of a four-pearl property, including a small, but immaculate pool; a wide, soft sand beach; an alfresco dining terrace; and a stunning, sea-view spa. Plus, rooms are polished and come with sea-view balconies.
2. The Blue Hole
The Blue Hole, a beautiful swimming hole surrounded by lush greenery, is another can’t-miss attraction located in Ocho Rios. It’s a little more difficult to reach than Dunn’s River Falls, but the journey will be worth it. The entrance fee is $10 (paid to a local guide), which is a bargain price to pay for the chance to swing from a hanging rope into the awesome tropical plunge pool. Take a dip, then explore the impressive surrounding flowers and plants.
When you’ve had your fill, head to Hermosa Cove, Villa Resort & Suites. Located in Ocho Rios, the boutique-size hotel comes with its own private beach and individual villas -- not to mention, personalized yoga, art, and cooking classes on-site.
3. Jamaica Zipline Adventure Tours
Those with a fear of heights or flying through the air at great speeds should look away now. Boasting the longest zip line in the Caribbean, Jamaica Zipline Adventure Tours offers the chance to sail down a 1,600-foot cable and see Jamaica from a completely different perspective. Suspended above the forest, you’ll see the Jamaican hills in the distance plus farmland, flowers, and the Great River rush beneath you as you reach speeds of up to 40 miles per hour. Located in Lethe, the tour costs around $89 per person and includes pick-up in Montego Bay.
After a day of adventure, make your way to Half Moon in Montego Bay. Having hosted famous faces like Queen Elizabeth and 50 Cent in the past, the hotel serves up a two-mile beach, swim-up bar, huge marble bathrooms, and an on-site golf course.
4. Bob Marley Nine Mile Tour
Reggae fan or not, the Bob Marley Nine Mile Tour is a must for those who want a little culture to go along with the island’s abundant natural beauty. Located in a small enclave of Nine Mile (the town of Bob Marley’s birth and death), the guided tour highlights the community in which the musician grew up and wrote some of his most famous songs. It also includes a small museum dedicated to his accomplishments and features a visit to the mausoleum at the Ethiopian church in which he was laid to rest.
About an hour drive from Nine Mile lies the Grand Bahia Principe Jamaica. The massive, beautifully landscaped mega-resort features one of Jamaica’s best hotel pools as well as a sprawling beachfront, all-night dining options, and an all-night karaoke bar.
5. Catamaran Cruise
Two things you must do before leaving Jamaica: snorkeling the reef and watching the sunset from Rick’s Cafe. Fortunately, the Negril Catamaran Cruise offers the chance to do both. Passengers will hop aboard a handsome catamaran for a three-hour cruise that stops at first-rate snorkeling spots like the Negril Marine Park, which is home to beautiful coral and tropical fish. The vessel will then makes its way to the famous Rick’s Cafe, where an incredible sunset awaits. Those who are brave enough can indulge in cliff jumping (from 11 meters high) into the plunge pool below. Alternatively, enjoy a rum punch and watch the sun go down before its time to sail back to your hotel.
Located on a beautiful stretch of the famous Seven Mile Beach, Sandy Haven Resort is a stylish, upscale option in Negril. Best suited to couples or individuals (rooms are priced per person), the hotel features an outdoor spa, decent-sized gym, elegant pool area with a hot tub, and either casual beachside dining and drinks or a more formal dinner experience with premium spirits and wine list.
6. Jeep Safari Tour
If you want to see the island’s stunning landscape, but don’t want to exert yourself (you’re on vacation after all), the Jeep Safari Tour is the best way to do just that. Departing from either Negril or Montego Bay, the four-hour ride takes you through some of the island’s most diverse terrain, as a tour guide regales you with knowledge of Jamaica’s natural and cultural history. Including short excursions on foot, the tour takes in hidden waterfalls, natural pools, river walks, and historical monuments.
As for where to stay, the three-and-a-half pearl SeaGarden Beach Resort is a solid all-inclusive pick in Montego Bay. Rates include all meals, drinks, and snacks, and the hotel can also assist in booking excursions.
Now, watch our video of The Blue Hole in Jamaica.
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