The name “Jamaica” evolved from the native Arawak word “xaymaca,” which means “land of wood and water.” It should come as no surprise that a lot of the most thrilling activities for tourists on the island involve water or the jungle in some form. From deep-sea fishing to mountain biking to waterfall climbing, we’ve put together a list of six ways to spend your time in this tropical paradise.
1. Horseback Ride & Swim
One truly unique thing you can do in Jamaica is ride atop a horse as it swims through the sea. After a ride through the Jamaican backcountry, through farmlands and 18th-century sugar plantations, the horses reach the beach and swim with you through the water for five to ten minutes.
Originally a method to exercise polo ponies, the technique was developed as a therapeutic way to help the horses stretch their muscles without risk of injury. Soon, it was offered to visitors as well, and it quickly gained popularity. No previous experience is required, and no need to worry about the horses—the experience is as refreshing for them as it is thrilling for the rider.
One truly unique thing you can do in Jamaica is ride atop a horse as it swims through the sea.
There are two types of diving to be done in Jamaica: cliff diving and scuba diving. Cliff diving is the less popular of the two, but there are still guides operating in all major resort areas. Near Negril, for example, divers can leap off 50-foot cliffs into the deep green of the Caribbean.
Scuba diving is much more common and a great way to explore the island’s diverse ecosystem. Montego Bay Marine Park is a prime scuba location and is famous for being Jamaica’s first protected recreational area in the sea. Montego Bay is especially known for its underwater cliff faces, offering scuba excursions known as wall dives. Head to Airport Reef for its coral caves, tunnels, and canyons, or explore the Wreck of the Katryn, a 50-foot dive to a deliberately sunken minesweeper reclaimed by wildlife.
3. Waterfall Climbing
As they flow from mountaintops to the sea, Jamaica’s rivers form beautiful waterfalls that are ripe for exploring. In fact, Spaniards once named the island “Las Chorreras,” meaning, “the waterfalls,” which was then mistranslated so many times it evolved into the Ocho Rios region today.
It is there you’ll find Dunn’s River Falls, the most popular and eye-catching waterfall on the island. Tours start at a beachside bar and grill with a great view of the cascading waters. From there, a guide will take your group, hand-in-hand, to climb up 600 feet of cold, clear water over stone steps above the Caribbean.
Another option is Somerset Falls near Port Antonio, where you’ll follow a concrete path past ruins of a Spanish aqueduct to arrive at Hidden Falls. There, you can board a boat and travel through the falling water to a grotto under the waterfall, where you can choose either to swim or bravely jump off the falls.
As they flow from mountaintops to the sea, Jamaica’s rivers form beautiful waterfalls that are ripe for exploring.
4. Mountain Biking
Jamaica’s hilly terrain makes it a challenge for mountain bikers, but you can still find easy rides near the beaches and in the western part of the island. Due to heavy traffic, the North Coast Highway is off-limits to bikers, but there are plenty of small country roads and trails to ride down instead.
Several tour operators offer guided rides, starting high in the Blue Mountains and gliding downhill on all-day treks that riders of all levels can enjoy. For a uniquely Jamaican experience, end your ride with a refreshing dip in a waterfall.
5. Reggae Tours
Jamaica’s most famous cultural export is reggae, a style of music made popular by island legend Bob Marley and his band, The Wailers. Marley’s legacy has brought tourists year after year to visit the places that shaped the man’s life.
There are two required destinations for reggae fans: The Bob Marley Centre and Mausoleum, and The Bob Marley Museum. At the Centre and Mausoleum, you can see his former home on a tour led by Rastafarians that ends in the mausoleum where he is interred beside his guitar. In the Museum, you can learn all about Marley’s life at the recording studio he built at the height of his career. Tours include a 20-minute biopic about his life and an entire reference library for digging deep into his past.
Marley’s legacy has brought tourists year after year to visit his historic home and recording studio.
6. Deep-Sea Fishing
Fishermen have long been telling stories of the big fish you can catch in the deeps of the Caribbean: sailfish, yellowfin tuna, wahoo, dolphinfish, and bonito, to name a few. You can feel just like Hemingway as you climb aboard a chartered vessel and sail into open waters to make the catch of a lifetime. No license is required, and many tours are offered, sending charters out in the dark of night when the iridescence of microscopic organisms light up the lagoon.
DDC20 is Just Around the Corner
We can’t wait to see which adventures you’ll choose when you get to the island in April. Finish the year strong, and Jamaica will be here before you know it!