Cliff-Diving, Spelunking, and Fresh Mangoes in Jamaica
Luckily for those who get bored lying in the sun on a tropical beach, adventure tourism is alive and well in Jamaica. Jumping off a cliff is no longer my idea of fun, but my nephews and many others crave that adrenaline rush. Negril, on the island's western coast, is home not only to a gorgeous seven-mile-long beach, but also to fabulous cliffside diving. Go to Rick’s Café (newly built in 2004, after having been destroyed by a hurricane) to join in the fun.
The cliffs are a manageable 35 feet high, the water is spectacularly clear, and, for those of us who get a rush from watching others jump, a local will demonstrate (to generous tippers) by climbing a clifftop tree and vaulting up and out and down and in. If you’d rather be pampered at one of the Island Outpost group’s luxury boutique hotels, perch at nearby The Caves, which have been carved out of the cliffs themselves.
Pockmarked by hundreds of unexplored sinkholes and caves, the rough topography of Cockpit Country in the highlands of northwestern Jamaica has stayed wild and is a great place to hike, bird watch, and spelunk. Some caves plunge to over 600 feet deep; many have yet to be explored. Fiercely protective of their land, the area residents support eco-tourism, but not mining.
Because of the rough nature of the country, it’s highly recommended for your safety that you hire a guide to lead you into the verdant wilderness. But before venturing into the jungle, make sure you stop at a roadside stand to buy locally grown mango, custard apple, and pineapple to take on your hike. For more information on backcountry hikes and cave tours in Cockpit Country, contact the Southern Trelawny Environmental Agency. And after your exploring, stop by Miss Lilly's Bar and Shop in Coxheath, Trelawny; Miss Lilly herself can arrange rooms and dinners with advance notice.
And just off the coast on both the North and Eastern shores of the islands there are myriad waterfalls and streams to climb and explore, either on your own or with a guide. Also don’t miss floating on your back in a clear, clean, fresh jungle pool while the ripples from a nearby waterfall spin you slowly to paradise.