The island of Jamaica is a nature lover’s paradise. Blessed with endless beaches, hidden coves, secluded waterfalls and forested hills, visitors are rightly impressed by the country’s coastline and interior. Here’s where you need to go if you’re keen to immerse yourself in Jamaica’s natural beauty.
Hike in the beautiful Blue Mountains
Jamaica’s longest mountain range is also home to its highest peak. The Blue Mountains take their name not from the vegetation which clings to their slopes but from the haze that lingers over them. Soil conditions on their lower flanks and just the right amount of precipitation make this an ideal spot for growing coffee. The beans are highly regarded for their mild, smooth flavour, producing a drink without a hint of bitterness.
The Blue and John Crow Mountains National Park made it onto the UNESCO World Heritage List in 2015 and it’s a fabulous place to explore on foot. Though keen hikers can summit Blue Mountain Peak in just a few hours, most prefer to adopt an unhurried pace to absorb the beauty of their surroundings. But those pushed for time can still enjoy the Blue Mountains from within Holywell National Park, where a plethora of short trails can be enjoyed, many taking less than an hour to complete.
Take a walk up Dunn’s River Falls
The Arawak people called the country we know as Jamaica “Xayamaca”, meaning the Land of Rivers and Springs. One of the country’s most famous beauty spots is undoubtedly Dunn’s River Falls. The iconic waterfalls have graced the pages of countless glossy magazines and tourist brochures. Their proximity to the resort of Ocho Rios ensures an enduring popularity.
Water rich in calcium carbonate cascades over the travertine terraces, smoothing and cutting back the rock. Today, they stand 180 feet tall, and some of the drops are interspersed with small lagoons. Surrounding this idyllic spot is lush vegetation, providing essential shade from the tropical sun and cooling those who wish to climb up the falls.
Hop on a boat to explore the Blue Lagoon
The Blue Lagoon was once thought to be so deep it was bottomless. Some even believed there could be a sea monster or mermaids lurking beneath the surface of this mysterious place. Modern science has changed all that – we now know it measures just short of a couple of hundred feet – but that doesn’t mean the magic has gone. This gorgeous spot, close to Port Antonio, remains popular with holidaymakers who come to explore by boat or raft. The water dazzles in glorious shades of turquoise and blue, making this a mecca for Instagrammers and nature fans alike.
Another famous lagoon isn’t just blue, it’s bio-luminescent. Tours depart at the end of the day for the Luminous Lagoon at Glistening Waters in Falmouth. Microscopic organisms known as dinoflagellates give off an eerie glow when disturbed. There are only a few such locations in the world – the others being Puerto Rico, the Bahamas and Indonesia.
Here in Jamaica, mangroves surround the shallow bay. The water’s between 3 and 8 feet deep so it’s perfect for swimming. Because of the tiny organisms, the fish that dart about in the shallows are picked out as streaks of light. Even in the wet it’s a magical sight: the raindrops sparkle on the surface as if someone had scattered a handful of tiny diamonds. We can guarantee you’ll never be more pleased to see rain during your vacation.
Chill out in Frenchman’s Cove
Along the coast, Frenchman’s Cove is one of the island’s most charming beaches. Tucked away in a nook protected from the sea, the waves gently caress the golden sand. Recline on a sun lounger and soak up the view: lush green cliffs beneath a cloudless azure sky. Though there’s a resort here, the beach is accessible to the public for a fee, and it’s certainly worth the money.
Of course, that’s not the only beach worth visiting. Locals head out to Lime Cay; it’s a small, low-lying island just a short boat ride from Port Royal. Time your visit carefully – it can be submerged on the highest tides – and remember this is where the party’s at on weekends. Pack a picnic and a snorkel to join in the fun.
Seven Mile Beach in Negril is also a big draw. White sand like powdered sugar extends for miles, backed by gently swaying coconut trees. It’s lapped lazily by a Tiffany-turquoise sea. If you can bear to tear yourself away, take a snorkel or dive excursion to explore the abundant marine life. Expect to spot angel fish, seahorses, puffer fish and stingrays. Colourful corals add to the allure of the clear water. And good news: it’s calm enough for novices.
Take a refreshing dip at the Blue Hole
The Blue Hole takes its name from the vivid colour of the water that collects high in the hills in St Mary. This place is fed by the waters of the White River and consists of several separate natural pools, waterfalls and even a few caves. The water is at its photogenic best early in the day. When the rains come, as they often do in the mountains, they wash down the silt and sediment, muddying the water for a while. As few people will enjoy the Brown Hole as much as the Blue, it’s worth making an early start.
One more thing: don’t confuse this idyllic spot with the Blue Hole Mineral Spring – that’s over in Negril. There, surrounded by karst scenery, is a naturally occurring spring. Some say that thanks to the limestone rock, its mineral rich water has health-enhancing properties, and certainly there’s therapeutic value in the mud massages and leisurely dips that characterise a visit here.
Jump off a cliff beside Rick’s Café, Negril
Rick’s Café has been an institution since it opened in 1974. Founder Richard Hershman knew he was onto a good thing when he clapped eyes on Negril, then a sleepy fishing village. He bought a one and a half acre plot west of the main resort. He set about opening a bar and restaurant which soon became a roaring success.
Over the years many visitors to this part of Jamaica have enjoyed magnificent sunsets and also the spectacle of watching people dive from the 35 foot high cliffs into the sea below. If you have the requisite head for heights, it’s exhilarating and invigorating in equal measure. And if you don’t, who says you can’t just toast the bravery of those who do with a colourful cocktail?