With long sandy beaches, sparkling blue water and seemingly endless sunny days, Jamaica has all of the makings of fabulous family getaway. Though its coastline is what stands out for many, Jamaica is a mountainous country. Its varied geography and island flavor combine to make it a standout in the Caribbean, creating outdoor adventures for the entire family – parents included!
Climb a Waterfall
Waterfalls have magnetic qualities. Some offer places to swim, others are the inspiration for long hikes, but at Dunn’s River Falls you don’t trek to the water, you scramble your way up while in it. Located near the town of Ocho Rios, Dunn’s River Falls flows more than 600 feet. Starting along the beach, at the bottom of the falls, you can climb in a guided group or go it on your own. Tweens and teens will love the adventure. Climbers of all ages tend to stop and soak up the scenery in the lagoons and pools that appear on the way up.
Rocks can get slippery so water shoes are a must. If you don’t have them, you can buy them at the park. And you will get wet. Very wet, so bring a waterproof camera, but leave your other electronics at home or rent a locker. If the fast moving current seems a bit intimidating, take advantage of the few entry and exit points along the falls to test the water. Parents with younger kids can swim and play in the sand near the bottom of the falls where it flows directly into the Caribbean Sea.
Hitch a Beach Ride
One of the few things better than walking along the beach is riding on a horse along the beach. Half Moon Equestrian Center organizes adventures for beginners and experienced riders. Children age 6 and older can ride along the beach, while kids 10 and older can ride bareback and swim with their horses in the Caribbean Sea.
Swim with Dolphins & More
Set in a natural cove, surrounded by five acres of jungle-like rain forest, families might have trouble deciding what to do first at Dolphin Cove. Sting rays, sharks and dolphins are just a few of the animals you can see making a splash at this popular marine park. Children as young as three can swim with dolphins. Kids eight and up can take part in the shark encounter. All ages can pet, and if they are feeling brave, even hold, stingrays (barbs removed). Don’t forget to bring towels and plenty of sunscreen.
If you can get the family to dry off for even a few minutes, be sure to stretch your legs on the Jungle Trail. Not so cuddly snakes and iguanas get noticed without moving a muscle, while the Bird Aviary flutters with constant activity. The colorful and charismatic lovebirds that call it home consider folks young and old plush landing sites. Get some food from the attendant, and your popularity will soar to new heights.
Up Your Heart Rate
Fly through the air, float down a river or race through the plains at Chukka’s colonial-era Good Hope Estate Park. Whether you want to relax or enjoy an adrenaline rush, the 2000 acre nature adventure park is a sure hit for families with school age kids and older. The river is gentle, but guides like to sing and splash, so be prepared to get wet when you plop into your tube. It won’t take long to dry, and you’ll forget all about how soaked your hair was when you zip line across the river later in the day. Minimum age for both activities is six years old.
Tweens and teens will most likely be oblivious to the scenic mountain terrain – they’ll be having too much fun as they speed along rugged trails on dune buggies and ATVs. The minimum age for dune buggy passengers is 12 years old. ATV riders must be 16 and show a valid driver’s license.
Eating out with kids doesn’t mean giving up great food. If you’re after authentic Jamaican jerk, Scotchies is the place to go. There are three locations on the island: Montego Bay, Ocho Rios and Kingston. This open-air eatery is casual, delicious and a go-to spot for locals. Place your order then let the kids pick a palapa-shaded picnic table to enjoy. Neither the chicken or the pork is particularly spicy, but if you top it with the bonnet pepper hot sauce… beware!