Jamaica: Ten excursions you have to do

Before you start to plan your trip to this beautiful Caribbean Island, you have to realize one important thing: you will never be able to see everything Jamaica has to offer in only one trip. To solve this, Cindy is sharing her top 10 excursions of Jamaica.

Even though it’s not a big island, due to the lack of highways and the roads between the mountains, it can take up to several hours to arrive at your excursions. Therefor it’s important to plan your stay carefully and to have it all sorted out before leaving. However, this shouldn’t stop you from taking the road as the scenery is way too beautiful to not be discovered.

But where do you start? Let’s start with the excursions that you can do in and around Montego Bay. And I recommend to start your journey in Montego Bay as it’s the airport where most flights arrive. At the same time it avoids you do drive back later on for just one excursion. After visiting the North, we went to the Southern part of the Island. Then we drove down Southward to St. Elizabeth and we ended our week in Negril. This is the most Western area of Jamaica.

You have no idea how easy it is to fall in love with Jamaica

1. Bamboo rafting on the Martha Brae River

When you just arrive in Jamaica for the first time, you might suffer from a Jetlag. Of course depending on where you travel from. As it’s a 7hours difference of Belgium during Summer time, you might end up waking up in the middle of the night and think it’s time to start your day. Once you’ve been traveling more often to the Caribbean, you will get used to the time difference.

However, you don’t want to loose too much time on your trip. Therefor I recommend you to start with the Bamboo Rafting excursion which is at the Martha Brae River. It’s approximately a thirty minutes drive from Montego Bay. If you plan to continue to travel towards Ocho Rios, you can plan this trip as well.

The Bamboo Rafting itself was a relaxing and very instructive trip for the first day in Jamaica. Rasta Danny, our private Rafter, told us a lot about Jamaica. We got to know the community and their lifestyle during touristic and non-touristic months. While rafting on the river we also tried to use the bamboo sticks and to float around, but I honestly didn’t have the power to do it. It’s a quite intensive activity so we decided to sit back and to listen to Danny’s stories. This while enjoying the beautiful nature of Jamaica.

Good to know: the bamboo floats are only lasting for a couple of months. They are hand made by the rafters working on the Martha Brae River. But next to Bamboo Rafting, they also make their own vases and pots from “Calabash” and sell them for little prices. They’re adorable and can fit into any interior. It is a nice souvenir and at the same time you support the locals.

2. Chukka Horseback riding and ATV

If you’re a little more adventurous and you like to get dirty, you can go for some Horseback riding and ATV at Chukka, which is near by Montego Bay as well. Chukka is located at 35 minutes from Montego Bay and towards Negril. Which means that you can combine it together with the Bamboo Rafting as it’s only a one hour drive. In between the two excursions you can stop at Scotchies. This is one of the best Jerk Chicken places I know!

But to be honest, I’m not a huge fan of Horseback riding and somehow I get very scared nearby horses. However my friend, who joined me on the trip, loved the excursion! She even went into the water with the horses and enjoyed a great time doing it. If I wasn’t so afraid, I’m sure I would’ve loved it as well. Next to the horseback riding you can also do an ATV tour between the mountains, cliffs and mangroves.

3. Visit the Greenwood Great House

The day after we went to the Greenwood Great house up in the hills of Falmouth. Greenwood isn’t only a museum where you can see and discover antique furniture and decorations from the 19th century, you can also learn about the slavery and the Barretts Family who had a local plantation and who build the house. At the Great house you can even find the oldest books and working musical instruments collection. Yes, it’s worth a visit if you want to learn more about the history of the country.

4. The Rastafari Indigenous Village

This excursions is definitely the one that touched me the most. After spending the morning at the Greenwood Greenhouse, we drove to the Rastafari Indigenous Village near to Sandy Bay. This is the same area as where you can to the ATV and Horseback riding with Chukka.

Why it was such a wonderful experience? Simply because at the village you can meet the Rastafari who explain you the culture and how they live. You start by learning the explanation of “IRIE!” and continue with the history of the Ethiopian Emperor “Haile Selassie”. It is also very educational to discover how they cultivate everything at the village and even how they spend their days.

At the village itself we started the visit with a bowl of hot chocolate with lemon grass and a fruit bowl. Then we had a tour at their own museum and we ended the visit with a musical moment.

During that ceremony we got a change to play on their hand made instruments and we sang together with the locals. But as soon as the music started to play, my heart filled itself up with a sort of “love” and I started crying. Tears from happiness, from finally finding home. It was so touching and actually indescribable what I felt at that moment. What I do know now is that I felt complete at that moment.

5. Jump into the Glistening Waters

The fifth and final excursions in the area around Montego Bay are the Glistening Waters. And I have to tell you that it was an unbelievable experience. Because if you don’t see it with your own eyes, you won’t believe it.

To understand what I mean by that, you have to take a look at the picture in the water where Aurelie and I are surrounded by blue fluorescent water. And this is exactly what the Glistening waters are about. In only a few places on earth you can see this natural phenomenon. This is created as the waters have a mix of two types of sea water: salty and fresh. The mix of both, and the living bacteria in the bay, creates this glowing effect when moving around in the water. Not only when you swim in it, but even if the boat passes through it. It’s magical! However, if it’s not dark enough or when you start shining with the flashlight on your phones, you won’t see it.

The pictures are not edited and were taken with a special infrared camera. Without that camera you just have a black and dark shot. Therefor be prepared to ask the photographer to take pictures or invest in an infrared objective before going to the waters. By doing this you will be able to capture that magical moment!

6. Fall in love at Lovers Leap

Do you love endless views where the sky touches the sea? Great! Because at Lovers Leap, near by St. Elizabeth which is located at the South Coast of Jamaica, you can discover a 360° view.

The history of the place is that there’s a cliff, which you can climb if you want to, where two slaves jumped to stay together forever. This instead of being separated by working on different plantages. It’s kind of a sad story, but nowadays people get married at Lovers Leap due to the love story. At the same time the breathtaking view is so beautiful that there is no other place where you would feel more in love than at Lovers Leap itself.

If you go to the top, I recommend you to get some spyglasses or binoculars to see the boats arriving at the ports. And of course you need to enjoy a delicious Jamaican lunch or dinner at the local restaurant.

7. Dive into the YS Falls

Another nice and unmissable activity which you can organize while being around the St. Elizabeth parish, are the YS Falls. The are itself is kind of a park where they bring you by small busses to the Waterfalls, the relaxing area and there are even pools where you can enjoy an afternoon with your family or picknick. It’s very peaceful, quiet and it looks like a little resort in between the nature.

At the waterfalls itself there are three levels. The first one isn’t high enough to jump from but the others definitely are. To visit the falls, you will have a private safeguard that will guide you through the waterfalls. He will also help you to jump from a rope, think about Tarzan and Jane, but be careful with the flows. Especially if the day before it rained and the water is flowing fast. Next to that you just have enjoy the beautiful and romantic scenery. However to avoid being rushed at the area, I recommend to spend a whole afternoon and to relax for the rest of the day.

PS: For all the men out here: Lovers Leap and the YS falls are definitely two very romantic spots in Jamaica. If you want to surprise your girl with a nice afternoon or a proposal (why not?) these are your places to be!

8. Discover the Black River Safari

Together with the YS falls you can combine a visit to the Black River, which is the capital of the St. Elizabeth parish. At the safari you will discover mangroves, which some of them are older than 200 years, and crocodiles. This excursion is once again great to sit back, relax and enjoy the beautiful nature of Jamaica.

9. Relax at the Pelican Bar

If you like to discover a typical Jamaican chill spot, you need to visit the Pelican Bar. It will be without any doubt your new favorite place to hang out at.

The bar has been build by local fishers in the middle of the sea and you can only reach it by small boats. At the beginning it was only created for Floyd (the owner) and his friends. But after a while so many people came to visit it that it’s currently a must visit place to hang out at when you’re in Jamaica. At the Pelican bar you can eat fresh fish every day, play Domino’s with the locals and sip from a refreshing Red Stripe, the local Jamaican beer.

Fun fact about the Pelican bar: People are bringing souvenirs over from all around the world which are being collected around the bar. From car plates to shirts and caps. So bring your own souvenir if you plan a visit!

10. Connect with nature at Zimbali Retreats

The last recommendation is to attend a cooking workshop at the Zimbali Retreats. It’s close to the city center of Negril, the Western part of Jamaica and where you also have Rick’s Cafe.

If you want to fully enjoy your visit at Zimbali, you definitely need to book a room at the retreat. The whole environment has a family atmosphere and you immediately feel like you’re walking around in a luxury resort. In your room you have a hammock where you can lay in all day and this wile enjoying the beautiful greenery around the resort.

The cooking workshop itself is a farm-to-table concept and most of the ingredients which are used for the workshop, are cultivated on their own farm. They grow papaya, starfruit, tomatoes, lemongrass, pineapples and so much more. At the same time it’s not only great to discover the amazing taste of freshly cooked Jamaican food, but even walking around on the property is a great experience.

There are definitely many more most-do excursions which I haven’t talked about yet. However, this is a great start while visiting the island and we will be sharing many more Caribbean hotspots soon! In the meantime, feel free to share your experiences and favorite places through our Social Media channels.

This article has been written by @CINDY VAN DYCK in collaboration with the Jamaican Tourist Board

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