Going Off Grid at Discovery Bay’s Green Grotto Caves

Going Off Grid at Discovery Bay’s Green Grotto Caves

Touring a fascinating Jamaican relic with local guide Dwayne McFarlane

Between Montego Bay and Ocho Rios on Jamaica’s north coast, there’s a place that travelers are flocking to; history buffs, adventure-types, and pop culture junkies all have a reason to explore Discovery Bay’s Green Grotto Caves.  

To visit the caves, you’ll have to join up with a guided tour that lasts just under an hour. While it has a storied past, there’s no time like the present to visit this world-class attraction—a can’t-miss tour that will have you wanting more.

A Part of Jamaican History

The cave is long and deep, and being inside would be eerie, even creepy, without a tour guide. Darkness here is total, the likes of which you may never have experienced before. But once you know their historical significance, you’ll see these caves in a whole new light. Part of what makes Green Grotto one of Discovery Bay’s top excursions is its important role in Jamaica’s history. Jamaica’s first inhabitants, the Taino Indians, arrived on the island between 650 and 900 AD and were the first to shelter up in the caves. They were used by local residents in the centuries that followed, until the 17th century, when Spaniards are thought to have hidden in the caves during the British invasion. As you continue, envision the fleeing slaves that gathered here during the 18th century, hence its one-time nickname, Runaway Bay Caves. More recently, smugglers transported arms through these caves on their way to Cuba between the two World Wars. And during the Second World War, the Jamaican government stored rum barrels here and the caves were aptly referred to as the Rum Caves. Finally, in the 1990s, parts of the caves were even used as a nightclub.

The caves, believe it or not, also have a place in Hollywood. In 1973, Green Grotto made a starring appearance in the James Bond film Live and Let Die. Villain Doctor Kananga had his underground base here, beneath a cemetery on the fictional island of San Monique. Most memorably, it was there that Bond (played by Roger Moore) killed Kananga by forcing a bullet of compressed air down his throat, which caused him to float up to the ceiling like a balloon and explode.

The current ‘Green’ moniker could easily refer to the attraction’s aforementioned commitment to environmentally-responsible practices. On the other hand, it may just as likely refer to the color of the algae that lines its walls.

The Green Grotto Caves play a role not only in Jamaica’s larger tourism efforts but in its budding ecotourism industry as well. While it likely refers to the color of the algae that lines its walls, its current ‘green’ moniker could easily refer to the attraction’s commitment to environmentally-responsible practices. To comply with EarthCheck’s guidelines for sustainability, Green Grotto’s operators use local products and services and minimize their use of energy, water, chemicals, raw materials, and waste. As an added bonus for eco-conscious visitors, guests are educated on the surrounding ecosystem and the creatures flying around their heads. With their history and environmental impact understood, keep reading for a sneak peek at what you can expect on a tour of Green Grotto Caves.

Read More: What Else to do in Jamaica

Touring Green Grotto Caves

When you enter the caves, you’re struck by the color of the limestone and numerous rock formations. One notable shape called the “limbo hole” is a round cut-out in the wall that you actually have to climb through to get to the next part of the tour. There are more secrets to be revealed: In one part of the cave, the rock walls form a detailed map of Jamaica. The best part? It’s not manmade, your guide will tell you, rather formed naturally. Or so they say. Finally, there’s a spot where the rock is thin and hollow, which when hit in the right place, evokes the sound of a drum. Ask your tour guide to indulge you with some of their local “rock music.”

Testing out my low light photography skills while caving in Jamaica 🇯🇲 #exploretheworld #explorejamaica #greengrottocaves

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The cave is 1,525 meters long and 12 meters deep. While walking through the caves, you’ll mingle with some of its friendly inhabitants. The caves are home to two types of bats: the larger ones are fruit-eating bats and the smaller ones are mosquito-eating. In the innermost cavern, you’ll find the crystal clear Grotto Lake. When your guide shines a flashlight on the roof of the cave the reflection will show you how deep the lake really is. In fact, the whole area around the Green Grotto was once underwater. Keep that in mind as you pass the Runaway Caves section, where the rocks by the exit are actually old coral.

Read More: Jamaica for Kids… and Kids at Heart

How to Get There & Where to Stay

The Green Grotto Caves are located in Discovery Bay, just under two miles from the spot where Columbus landed on Jamaica in 1494. To the east of his landing spot and to the west of Runaway Bay, Green Grotto is accessible via the A1 highway that runs along much of Jamaica’s northern coast, from Montego Bay to Ocho Rios.

A handful of sunny, opulent villas is available for booking right in Discovery Bay. These homes go beyond five stars and offer all the amenities you could ask for while you and your group get to enjoy relaxation, comfort, and privacy. Situated right on the water, you’ll never get tired of the views.

These luxury villas in Discovery Bay are just minutes from Green Grotto Caves