Explore beyond the gates of your all-inclusive resort with this guide to the sights, sounds and people of the Caribbean's “reggae nation.”
Christopher Columbus may never have met an island he didn’t like. He routinely declared each new island discovery as being more beautiful than the last one. But he does seem to have maintained a lifelong enthusiasm for Jamaica, which he termed the “fairest island ever beheld.” Visitors today might agree because this large island is widely known for its beaches and its outdoor activities that include all forms of water sports. But your family beach vacation would not be complete without exploring a bit more of the island and trying some local adventures. For more information on the sights listed below, call 800/233-4582 or log onto www.visitjamaica.com.
Great Fun for the Kids
(Toddler to Age 8)
Aquasol Theme Park
Montego Bay, Jamaica
Children as young as 3-years old are welcome to this park on Walter Fletcher Beach in Montego Bay. There’s playground equipment, go-cart racing, video games, pool tables and tennis courts. We hear they may be closing soon, so check with your hotel concierge before promising your toddlers a fun day’s outing.
Turtle River Road
Ocho Rios, St. Ann, Jamaica, W. I.
Island Village in Ocho Rios is an open-air shopping and entertainment attraction that features Reggae Xplosion, a museum offering the history of Jamaica’s indigenous music — from ska to dancehall to reggae. Special exhibits show off famous singers such as Bob Marley. There’s also an Internet cafe and duty-free shop, plus a Margaritaville for the night crowd.
Fun for Older Children
(Ages 8 to 18)
Calico Under Sea Tour
Montego Bay, Jamaica
The Calico Under Sea Tour in the Montego Bay Marine Park lets visitors explore unique coral formations and sea life from the safety of a semi-submarine appropriately named Coral See. The attraction is suitable for children 6-years and above.
Stingray City Jamaica
James Bond Beach
Oracabessa, St. Mary, Jamaica
Stingray City Jamaica just opened in 2006, but is already proving to be among the island’s most popular attractions. Guests wade into the Caribbean Sea to feed and pet live stingrays, who are generally tame (stingray attractions have proved popular at many Caribbean destinations). Experienced guides are on hand to show how to do it safely. Since snorkeling is involved, this might be better suited for older children.
The Wilderness Resort
Gayle, St. Mary, Jamaica
All ages can enjoy the Wilderness Resort, a 477-acre petting zoo in Goshen, Ocho Rios. A highlight is fishing for your lunch in one of 37 well-stocked pools. Guides are on hand to help. And if you catch something, which is likely, the guides will cook your catch for a family meal. Samples of various local foods such as fried, jerked or seasoned chicken are also offered.
Duncans, Trelawny, Jamaica
Braco Stables offers two-hour horseback riding tours with great views on the rugged hillside trails of the north coast. Riders can also swim with their horse in the ocean.
Red Dread Catamaran Tour
Montego Bay, Jamaica
A self-proclaimed ‘booze cruise’ takes place aboard the Red Dread, a large and comfortable catamaran, twice per day, as part of a snorkeling excursion to a nearby marine park. At night, the boat embarks on a romantic sunset cruise that’s more family-friendly but you’ll probably want to leave your children back at the resort’s kids club anyway.
Fun for the Whole Family
Dunn’s River Falls
Ocho Rios, Jamaica, W. I.
Dunn’s River Falls in Ocho Rios is one of Jamaica’s most famous attractions. Visitors can climb the dome-shaped cataract waterfalls or swim or take a ‘hydra-therapy” massage in one of the cool plunge pools. It’s easy to lose your footing as you clamber along the many levels on the worn-smooth rocks, so bring water shoes and wear a bathing suit.
Ocho Rios, Jamaica
The most popular attraction at this park is the Rainforest Bobsled, a themed rollercoaster that takes adventure to the extreme to explain the history behind the bobsled in Jamaica. In 1988, Jamaica’s four-man bobsled team debuted at the Winter Olympics in Calgary, Alberta. A warm-weather country participating in a cold-weather sport was rare, and it inspired the 1993 movie, “Cool Runnings” starring John Candy. Other attractions at this park include the Sky Lift Explorer, a chairlift rising 700 feet above sea level to a mountain peak, and the Tranopy, which provides the best views of the park along the popular Zip Line. The park is open daily from November through April, and extends its hours into evening from May to October. Note that restrictions apply to bobsled riders, requiring all riders be at least 46″ tall. The Zip Line has a minimum age of 12-years-old, but the Sky Explorer is open to all ages, providing seat belts for toddlers.
Kool Runnings Water Park
Norman Manley Boulevard, Negril
For any age, the Kool Runnings Water Park is a high point. So high, in fact, that the water slides let visitors roar down from 40 feet. For tamer tastes, there’s a lazy river that meanders under bridges and through cascading water falls. Captain Mike’s Coconut Island has a children’s play area, a go-cart track, a rock climbing wall and bungee trampoline. The park’s mission is to bring attention to the plight of Jamaica’s endangered species with many of its attractions named after these animals. There’s also a museum depicting rural life and conservation displays.
Chukka Caribbean Adventures
There’s something for all active families at Chukka Caribbean Adventures: biking through the countryside, horseback riding, river tubing, and various tours through rainforests and other adventure-oriented destinations. The highly regarded, locally owned company has two locations in Ocho Rios and Chukka Blue.
Belmont, Ocho Rios
Each of the three Dolphin Cove branches offers a 30-minute swim with dolphins under the supervision of a trained staff. For tamer stuff, there’s a Jungle Trail tour that meanders through four acres of tropical rainforest, and a fun pirate village with costumed pirates and small gift shops filled with their bootie. Open daily.
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