Jamaica may be the land of Bob Marley’s “One Love”, but I made the mistake of forgetting just how many miles there are in Jamaica! As a cruise ship passenger, after several visits to Ochos Rios and Falmouth Jamaica as a ports of call, we finally did what all the enthusiastic Jamaicans have asked us to do…”Come back and stay a week, Mon”
My first call was to Courtney Taylor Tours, who had arranged our March cruise ship tour from Falmouth to Irie Blue Hole and Dunn’s River Falls in March. (see our trip report here) We had a reservation for a resort on beautiful 7 Mile beach (it’s actually only 4, so don’t plan your half marathon run!) in Negril. Negril is known for relaxing white sand beaches, and water sports.
We wanted to spend at least one day leaving the all inclusive resort to explore the sights in Jamaica we hadn’t had time to visit. We had heard about Green Grotto Caves and river tubing to Runaway Bay on our last trip to Jamaica and while it seemed like they were “just down the road” from Negril, they were actually 2.5 hours away between Montego Bay and Ochos Rios!
My mistake was not realizing how many miles away these attractions were from our hotel. Courtney Taylor made a arrangements for his Ocho Rios based driver to fetch us in Negril, and then travel two and half hours to Green Grotto Caves and the tubing put in. He gave us a ridiculously reasonable price for all that driving, I think because he wanted to please repeat clients. Despite the epic distance, our driver gave us a full day of cheerful chatter and advice and safe driving! (note for ocean cruisers: these activities are closer to Falmouth and Ochos Rios, where most cruise ships call)
Green Grotto Caves
Our first stop, Green Grotto Caves was on our list because we wanted to see the bats in the cave. We arrived and paid our $20 per person admission and waited a few minutes for a guide to take us through the caves, about a 45 minute walk on paved paths, along the uneven cave floor and up and down stairs into the lower part of the cave. Hard hats are required, and it’s best to wear shoes with good tread.
The Green Grotto Guide assigned to us did a good job of explaining the history of the caves. More recently they were used as a night club. But the music was not only dangerous to the structure of the caves, but also to the wildlife living there, and the night club was closed down to create a park that better respects the ecological and historical nature of the caves.
Small openings, fresh water and tunnels that lead all the way to the beach, serve to provide a hiding spot for escaped slaves. (click on any photo to expand)
We went to the caves to see the bats residing there in the roof of the cave, but we were also intrigued by the sober history of the cave as a hideaway for both buccaneers stashing treasure and escaped slaves running from sugar plantations in Jamaica.
River Rapid Adventures
Our next stop was to go river tubing. We had the river to ourselves when we met our guide RoShane who works for a newer outfit, River Rapids. We played in the water falls for a while, watching small fish swimming upstream and posing for photos.
A small concession building at the put in, floating in the natural pools, and our guide captures a few tiny fish leaping up stream. (click on any photo to expand)
We rode the rapids, and enjoyed quiet pools with many birds and even a quick sighting of a mongoose. (The mongoose are weasel like mammals who are snake eaters, and the reason that Jamaica is largely snake free!)
As the river widened, we were met by a boat and transferred to raft which was towed out to the deserted beach.
Back to Negril
After our tour, we returned to Negril, where we could snorkel right from our resort. Popular areas to snorkel include the Booby Cay and Middle Shoal.
Click on any image to expand
So my mistake…It might have been better for me to learn that our plans were a bit unrealistic and ambitious, and have Courtney Taylor plan us a tour around Negril. We were already enjoying the white sand beaches and water sports in Negril, but we learned there is plenty more to see in the Negril area! Ricks Cafe is a fun bar serving jerk chicken where brave locals leap off the cliff to the amusement of guests. And there are local “Blue Hole” cenotes and falls to jump into! The one good thing about this mistake- it is gives us a good reason to go back!!
Tips for Touring in Jamaica
Rely on a good local guide to make a practical itinerary, and to smooth the way. Driving is on the left side in Jamaica, as a remnant of it’s British Colonial roots, and it’s a good idea to leave the driving to a pro!
Good water shoes are a must for both ocean and river excursions. The coral and urchins are sharp in the ocean and the rocks are slippery in the river.
A rash guard shirt with sun protection is a good option, not only for the sun, but also for warmth in cooler, shady, freshwater or cave excursions.
Sun protection is a must, as it’s sunny and hot nearly all year long in Jamaica.
For the occasional shower or rainy season, it’s good to have a pack-able rain jacket.
Bug repellent protects against mosquitoes, although we didn’t see any on our excursions, we were prepared.
Carry a water bottle with fresh water. Bottled water is available, but we found several plastic bottles washed up on the shore of Booby Key during a kayaking excursion (which we collected and disposed of properly), most tourist areas offer a safe option for tap water, so that plastic doesn’t end up in the ocean.
Bring small bills to tip guides on excursions, and to make purchases where credit cards might not be accepted. Most prices are listed in USD.