Jamaica might be best-known for its pristine beaches, reggae music and jerk chicken, but it’s also a treasure trove of natural wonders with a thriving collection of ecotourism attractions that range from natural springs and caves, to mountains and rivers. Nature lovers find an array of alluring attractions to explore in the island’s lush interior—think cascading waterfalls, turquoise lagoons and tropical rainforests, where you can hike, bike, swim and even bobsled. Don’t leave this Caribbean hotspot without indulging in a few of these favorite activities designed for nature lovers.
Visit Dunn’s River Falls
Dunn’s River Falls is a must-visit spot on any Jamaica itinerary. Located in Ochos Rios, it’s one of the country’s most beloved natural treasures and encompasses nearly 600 feet of terraced waterfalls. First discovered by the Spaniards who dubbed the area “La Chorrera”, the waterfall flows over rocks and limestone ledges, surrounded by a lush forest. Climb to the top tiers and soak up the area’s natural beauty as you cool off in the beautiful travertine pools. For a full day outing, take a Jamaican Catamaran Cruise to Dunn’s River Falls from Ocho Rios or Montego Bay. You can enjoy the scenic ocean cruise before making a splash at the falls and snorkeling atop colorful coral reefs.
Leap Into the Blue Lagoon
While Jamaica boasts several mineral springs, the Blue Lagoon is considered one of the most alluring. Located in Westmoreland just 30 minutes outside of Negril, this non-touristy natural attraction will have you feeling like Tarzan as you swing from the 27-foot high cliffs into the sparkling turquoise pool of water. The natural wonder itself is surrounded by other pools and waterfalls so you’ll find plenty to explore after you’ve hopped into the Blue Hole a few times—plus there are both lifeguards on watch and ladders to climb down for your safety. It’s also got a bonus feature: natural, healing and exfoliation factors in the sand, so rub some of it on your skin before you leave!
Hike Along Mayfield River
Sitting about 60 minutes southwest of Montego Bay, Mayfield River is for the truly adventurous. Sign up for a guided half-day hiking tour for the opportunity to trek across a clear, cool river as you marvel at the lush tropical landscapes surrounding you. Immerse yourself in a slice of local Jamaican culture as you hike through a Rasta village along the river and learn about the variety of plant and animal life in the forest on a guided tour. After the challenging hike, marvel at the spectacular views of waterfalls and various natural pools, then get your heart pumping with cave diving and cliff jumping into the swimming holes. If you prefer to take it easy, simply kick back and enjoy a massage from the jets of natural mineral water.
Soak Up the Sunshine at Frenchman’s Cove
Nature lovers can’t resist exploring a beautiful white-sand beach, and Frenchman’s Cove is one of Jamaica’s best. This tropical paradise is located in Port Antonio and was once a secluded beach retreat for Hollywood elite, where a gentle stream converges into the ocean. Dig your toes into soft sand and explore the bath-water-temperature lagoon as you revel in the quiet atmosphere that feels a world away from the other tourist-packed shorelines. One day’s not enough? Stay overnight at Frenchman’s Cove Resort, where you’ll find luxurious private villas just a short walk from the stunning beach. Geejam Hotel is another beachfront paradise with villas that offer sprawling waterfront vistas from spacious outdoor verandas.
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Go Bobsledding in the Rainforest at Mystic Mountain
If you grew up watching the movie “Cool Runnings”, you’ll understand why bobsledding in Jamaica is a bucket-list-worthy adventure. For those who haven’t seen the film, it’s about the unlikely tale of the Jamaica National Bobsled team that competed in the 1988 Winter Olympics. Located just 10 minutes west of downtown Ocho Rios, the bobsled track runs through Mystic Mountain, an outdoor adventure-themed park near Dunn’s River Falls. Hop into your sled and let the gravity take you on a speedy journey along the winding tracks through the forest—just make sure to pull on the break when you want to admire the gorgeous ocean views. For a real treat, ride the Sky Explorer, a chairlift that slowly carries you 700 feet above the canopy.
Reach the Summit of Blue Mountain Peak
A spectacular UNESCO World Heritage Site, Blue and John Crow Mountains National Park is a great place to experience Jamaica’s natural beauty. Located an hour north of Kingston, the park boasts a collection of waterfalls, rainforests, mountains and coffee plantations, while it’s also home to more than 200 species of birds and the world’s second-largest butterfly. Hike to the summit of Blue Mountain Peak, Jamaica’s highest peak at 7,402-feet-high, which offers impressive views of Cuba on a clear day. From here, join a downhill bicycle tour and stop by little-known waterfalls tucked into the mountains or stop by the Craighton House for a cup of famous Blue Mountain coffee. Catch sunset views with an overnight stay at Strawberry Hill, which is home to luxurious cottages perched above the park.
Go Rafting in the Martha Brae River
When you hear the word “rafting”, you might envision the adrenaline-pumping, white-knuckle river rafting activity found around the world. That’s not the case in Jamaica, where their idea of rafting entails coasting along the picturesque Martha Brae River on a bamboo raft for a calm, almost romantic, experience. Led by a licensed raft captain, guided tours take you from Montego Bay to Martha Brae Rafter’s Village and include an hour-long, three-mile trip along the river. Combine your trip with an overnight stay at Royalton White Sands Resort only three miles away, where you’ll enjoy ocean views from your luxurious room with a private terrace.
Explore the Green Grotto Caves
West of Ocho Rios on Jamaica’s north coast at Discovery Bay, the Green Grotto Caves boast both cultural and historical significance. Sign up for an hour-long guided tour for the chance to explore these stunning caverns. Both time and tide have played a part in carving the limestone caves, which are limed with green algae that gives them their name. Over the centuries, the caves were used as shelter by Jamaica’s first settlers and as a storehouse for the island’s beloved rum. Step inside to discover the crystal-clear Grotto Lake sitting in an inner cavern, where its overhead is filled with stalactites and stalagmites. At the end of the tour you’ll see a beautiful cave pool known as the “Wishing Well”, where you can toss in a coin and make a wish!
See Bioluminescent Plankton at Luminous Lagoon
Head to Luminous Lagoon to experience the mesmerizing natural phenomenon of bioluminescent plankton. A 45-minute guided tour at Glistening Waters takes you to this special spot in Trelawny, not far from Montego Bay, where you can witness a fascinating example of nature’s magic. Only seen at night, you can jump in the deep blue lagoon and get a first-hand look at the luminous green glow that surrounds you. It’s said to be the best places in the entire world where you can see bioluminescent plankton in action, a fact that attracts and awes visitors and scientists.
Catch a Sunset at Pelican Bar
While you may be thinking, “a bar on a list for nature enthusiasts?”, bear with us as you haven’t seen Floyd’s Pelican Bar. Located just 30 minutes off the coast of Treasure Beach, this bar is like no other, as its a wooden thatch hut perched in the middle of the sparkling Caribbean Sea. It’s the perfect spot to kick back and watch the sunset as you indulge in a fresh catch and a couple of Red Stripes. Not only is it the coolest bar in Jamaica, but its one of the coolest in the world, only accessible by boat departing from Black River, Treasure Beach, Parottee Point and other nearby resorts. If you’re staying at Sandals South Coast, take one of their luxury catamaran trips out to Pelican Bar and arrive in style. Afterward, enjoy the resort’s all-inclusive perks and beachfront accommodations.