Before being hosted by the amazing group at the Jamaican Tourism Board, I had the stereotypical idea of what Jamaica was all about: beautiful beaches, honeymooners, and locals who, ahem, “partook” in certain substances.
The only thing I had correct was the beautiful beaches.
And while, yes, it’s an obvious choice for a honeymoon destination, I learned of the many idyllic locations for tying the knot, adventure escapades, and animal encounters.
For the adventurer: If candlelit dinners on the beach or walks at sunset aren’t your thing, you’ve come to the right place. Along with all of the romantic rendezvous opportunities, couples (or individuals) can experience some pretty adventurous endeavors.
- Bobsledding: Jamaica is a proud country, and they bring their 1982 Calgary Olympics fame to the rainforest. At Mystic Mountain in Ocho Rios, we flashed through the mountain’s rainforest at top speeds in an exhilarating bobsled ride. Thankfully, for those with a lesser need for speed (like moi), we had the ability to slow the sled to our comfort level.
- Zip Lining: If you prefer to be more airborne, opt for the zip lining at Mystic Mountain. You’ll whisk your way through the rainforest, catching glimpses of waterfalls as you glide between platforms.
- Scuba Diving: Being a Caribbean island, there is no shortage of scuba diving and snorkeling opportunities. The hotel that we stayed at, Sandals Montego Bay, offered both for their guests as a complimentary activity. Dreamer Catamaran Cruises also offers snorkeling on their three-hour cruises – if you’re lucky, you’ll get the crew that offers foot massages to the ladies and starts dance parties on the bow.
- Cliff Diving: The jumping opportunities we experienced were in unusual places. The first being the romantic inn, Tensing Pen, and a bar, Rick’s Café, neither of which are expected spots for cliff diving. Needless to say, it’s much easier to face your fears at the more secluded cliffs of Tensing Pen.
For the animal aficionado: If you’re a fan of four-legged creatures, Jamaica has plenty of opportunities for you to be an eager beaver during your vacation.
- Swimming with Dolphins: This was something that I always dreamed of doing, so when the opportunity arose, I jumped (into the water). At Dolphin Cove in Negril, we swam, petted, did acrobatics with, and even got a kiss from some of the friendliest creatures on the planet.
- Black River Safari Cruise: We hopped on board the safari platoon boat and found ourselves viewing alligators and some of the Caribbean’s most beautiful tropical birds in their natural environment. By the way, did you know gators love marshmallows?
- Horseback Riding: Regardless of your equestrian expertise, you can tap into your inner jockey at Hooves. Nestled on a plantation in Ocho Rios, the company works with the J.S.P.C.A. (Jamaican Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals) to rescue and rehabilitate horses that have been abandoned or left in poor conditions. After a loving rehabilitation, they now take tourists on guided tours, chock full of historical information, with a grand finale of taking a dip in the ocean – while still riding the horse!
For the party animal: Contrary to popular belief (and my foresighted assumption), Jamaica is much more than a romantic mecca. If you want to tap back into your college Spring Break days, this has plenty of options, but with an of-age crowd. It’s like the grown-up version of Cancun.
- Rick’s Café: Nestled along the cliffs of Negril lies the infamous Rick’s Café, a bar/cliff diving zone. Great combo, huh? Locals sit atop the highest cliff, and encourage viewers to tip if they want to see them plunge into the ocean below, somersaulting along the way. If you can brave it, visitors are encouraged make the leap from a variety of heightened platforms.
- Margaritaville: It’s a sin to go to Jamaica and not visit one of the most iconic chains in nightlife history. With a variety of locations to choose from, they range from regular nightclubs to daytime drink fests, complete with waterslides.
For the nature lover:
- Coyoba Gardens: Walk through the stretch of botanical gardens, filled with vibrant flora and speckled with streams and tiny waterfalls. If you walk far enough, you can take in breathtaking views overlooking the area of Ocho Rios with the Mahoe Falls splashing behind you.
- The Ruins: Though it sells itself as a destination venue for weddings, nature lovers will appreciate the beautiful backdrop. Grab at bite of traditional Jamaican jerk chicken at their on-site restaurant and take in the lush tropical scenery and dramatic 40 ft. waterfalls.
- Glistening Waters: At twilight, we hopped aboard a boat that took us out into a lagoon, where the mountain river water flowed into the warm ocean water, creating an unusual feeling of water that was both distinctly warm and cold. As we moved through the dark depths, a green luminescent path suddenly began to take shape. This phenomenon, a result of millions of microscopic organisms known as Dinoflagellates that glow when they’re disrupted, is one of three in the entire world, and Jamaica’s is known for being the brightest. As we jumped into the water, our bodies were surrounded by a glistening gleam. Swimming along in the dark with nothing but the glow of the water and stars to guide you is an experience that should not be missed.
For the romantic: We get it, you came here for stereotypical reasons, and there isn’t a shortage of options.
- Sandals Montego Bay: This is the perfect place to stay if you’re looking for romance, as Sandals will go above and beyond to create the perfect atmosphere for you and your significant other. Surprise rose petals on the bed with a luxurious bubble bath waiting for you? Sure. Romantic candlelit dinner on the beach? No problem, mon. Just call your butler and they’ll arrange it for you. And if the romance gets the best of you, they offer beautiful wedding packages collaborated with the queen of craft herself, Martha Stewart.
- Tensing Pen: Remember that inn I mentioned had cliff diving? It was also one of the most charming resorts that I’ve ever experienced. Tensing Pen is made up of individual bungalows dotted throughout a lush tropical setting that offer couples a romantic seclusion that is hard to beat. And when you’re done cliff diving, take a moment to stand atop of them – Negril is known for its breathtaking sunsets, and Tensing Pen has front row seats.
Oh, and for the record, “partaking” is, in fact, illegal, regardless of what Bob Marley songs may imply.
– Brittny Drye