Active Tourism Incredible hiking in Jamaica
There’s more to a Jamaican vacation than lying on sugar white sand beaches for seven days drinking unlimited rum and listening to reggae. Although that does sound amazing, the active traveler will love traversing the picturesque mountains that the island has to offer. Being one of the larger Caribbean islands, Jamaica is home to many mountainous hiking trails, each one as unique as the last. For both the experienced and novice hikers, Jamaica offers fantastic trails with gorgeous views. Whether you’re a true enthusiast or are a more casual hiker, you’re going to find a hiking trail you love in Jamaica.
With two waterfalls, natural pools, and plenty of tropical plants, birds and butterflies, Mayfield Falls is an off the beaten path waterfall nestled in the Dolphin Head Mountains near Glenbrook Westmoreland and offers one of the most refreshing hikes in Jamaica. Far away enough to not be an overly commercial destination, the climb through tropical forest between Negril and Montego Bay takes anywhere from 45 minutes to several hours, depending on how long you want to splash around in the 21 natural pools and the two incredible waterfalls that you’ll encounter along the way.
Discover the hundreds of different species of vegetation on an easy two-hour hike through Fern Gully. The winding road leading to Fern Gully is a unique rainforest that boasts hundreds of different varieties of ferns. Many writers have written about Gully Road and about their voyage to Ocho Rios. No one knows the origin of the Fern Gully but it is said that it was possibly started with an underground river flowing through caves and later the roofs collapsed revealing Fern Gully to the world. Others have suggested that it formed in the 1760s by a flash flood.
Dunn’s River Falls
Dunn's River Falls is a famous Jamaican waterfall and a popular tourist attraction. The falls are 180 feet high and 600 feet long with natural terraced steps for climbing. Once you get to Dunn's River Falls, climb to the top of the terraced cascade to get stunning views of the surrounding countryside. This is definitely the most climbed falls in the world! Just make sure when you visit, wear swimwear, water shoes or an old pair of sneakers that you don't mind getting wet. There is also a beach located at the base of Dunn's River Falls where the river meets the ocean. At the top of Dunn’s River, you can expect to find souvenirs and crafts, shoe rentals, changing facilities, and lockers.
Cockpit Country Trails
Located on the northwestern part of the island, Cockpit Country is a challenging hike as it features steeper hills. Make your way to Barbecue Bottom Road which runs north-south and from there you’ll find two old historic trails: The Troy Trail and The Quick Step Trail. These trails are not easy to find and are seldom used, so a knowledgeable local guide is absolutely essential on these routes.The Cockpits are best explored from Accompong, a small town just north of Maggotty that can only be reached by narrow, winding road full of holes.
While en route to the off the beaten trails up the Nassau Mountains (an elevation of 364 meters), stop by the nearby Appleton Estate and get an inside look at the rum-making process. You can take a tour of the Distillery & Aging House where the different methods of distillation are shown. You are also able to juice your own cane, sample white rum and learn how to boil "wet sugar."
Other attractions near the Nassau Mountains include YS Falls. Surrounded by lush gardens and magnificent trees, there are seven waterfalls, several which cascade into natural pools that are fed by subterranean and above-ground springs. These pools are swimmable but be aware that some areas are fairly rocky and river shoes are recommended.
Blue Mountain Peak Trail
The eastern side of Jamaica is dominated by the Blue and John Crow Mountains National Park, a designated UNESCO world heritage site due to its unique and diverse flora and fauna. Magnificently undeveloped, this mountain paradise is best explored by hiking. Regardless of your fitness level, there is a hiking path for everyone in the Blue Mountains. The most famous of these trails is the Blue Mountain Peak Trail. Ascending from the Portland Gap, it’s a 5.6 km (3.5 mile) scenic hike that takes approximately 2.5 hours through hidden waterfalls, tiny villages that seem lost in time, and rugged climbs among wild fruit trees that are ideal for the most athletic of us. Admire the beautiful, natural landscape on the way to the top, and once you get there (an elevation of more than 7000 ft), you’ll feel like you’re on top of the world. You’re literally on Jamaica’s highest peak and yes, on a clear day you can see Cuba off in the distance.
Roaring River Park
Tourists looking to get off the beaten path find Roaring River a fascinating destination of underground caves and bubbling mineral water, inviting both swimmers and cave explorers. In the park, the two sources of the Roaring River meet next to a 300-year-old Cottonwood tree, as turquoise-colored mineral water flows through fields of rich Jamaican flora like water lilies and hyacinths. Inside, over 20 meters underground, the stalactites and cavern walls are lit up by strategically placed lights, creating an intriguing ambience. Located near Petersfield in Westmoreland Parish, the lush park is just a quick drive from Negril, and many visitors take a swimming suit along to enjoy the waterfalls and mineral baths that make the park locally famous. Local guides take visitors through the nature trails and tell of the healing properties of the local waters and fascinating indigenous Taino history that pervades the park.
If you’re looking for a relaxing destination to kick back with a cold tropical drink under an umbrella, Cornwall Beach is a more tranquil sandy paradise than the popular Doctor’s Cave, but with the same sugar white sand and crystalline waters. For those looking for some adventure along with relaxation, excursions on horseback take riders along the beach and even enter the water. At the Rocklands Bird Sanctuary, nature lovers walk amongst the graceful, flying residents of Jamaica and enjoy the zen-like surroundings of the gardens full of hummingbirds, parrots and tropical flora. And don’t miss out on a romantic sailing excursion to take in one of Jamaica’s legendary sunsets over Montego Bay.