THE GENIUS OF JAMAICA’S NATURAL BEAUTY
Spectacular land and seascapes set the scene for any visit to Jamaica, where
the capital city of Kingston is built around the seventh-largest natural harbor in
the world. A little exploration will unveil spots of extraordinary beauty that
serve as a magnet for nature lovers, hikers, divers and addicted vacationers,
who return repeatedly to this magnificent Caribbean island.
Images Courtesy of: The Jamaica Tourist Board
Exploring the Reefs
Divers find plenty to explore among Jamaica’s reefs:
- Port Royal at Kingston airport is steeped in tales of pirates and
sunken ships that now provide a haven for a dense array of tropical
fish. Some of the best reef development is found in this area, with
small cays separated by clear blue water no deeper than 50 feet (15
meters), and an outer reef with a challenging drop-off point of 80
feet (24 meters).
- Airport Reef, at the southwestern edge of the airport area in
Montego Bay, is defined by coral caves, tunnels and steep canyons.
- The Throne Room is a popular dive site in Negril, where coral,
sponge, nurse shark and cubera snapper are visible through a crack
in the reef.
- Treasure Reef is a great place to spot eel, basslets and large star
- Devil’s Reef, east of Ocho Rios, drops from 60 feet (18 meters) to over
200 feet (61 meters), with a sand shelf at 130 feet (40 meters).
- Caverns is a shallow reef about a quarter-mile (402 meters) long, with
endless small tunnels that have become home to silversides and nurse
- Runaway Bay is alive with brightly colored schools of tropical fish,
grouper, snapper and stingrays. Large green morays, barracuda, sharks
and turtles also hang out. An outstanding site here is the Canyon, where
the bottom slopes down to beyond 130 (40 meters) feet.
- At Cayman Trench, between Runaway Bay and Ocho Rios, a popular dive
explores the wreck of the Kathryn, a World War II Canadian minesweeper
that is now home to a magnificent array of fish that are fed by hand.
White-sand beaches edged with the ocean’s deep aqua tones are always
inviting, and every Jamaican has a favorite spot for bathing or just liming
- Seven Mile Beach in Negril runs north from George Town, curling around
the west coast of the island, protected by a reef that ensures calm water
and ideal conditions for swimming and snorkeling.
- In Ocho Rios, at the base of the world-famous Dunn’s River Falls, lies a
long golden stretch of beach, starting at the spot where the waterfall
meets the sea and following the gentle curve of the bay. A steep slope
brimming with verdant tropical plants creates a stunning backdrop.
- A few minutes to the east of Ocho Rios is Reggae Vibes Beach, described
by locals as a “tall” beach, meaning it’s a long stretch of land. In the far
corners are quiet, secluded spots that are favorite nesting grounds for
- Located just 20 minutes from Ocho Rios, James Bond Beach is
surrounded by crystal clear water on three sides, with the lush mountains
of St. Mary forming a dramatic backdrop.
- Shanshy Beach Complex lies to the west of Port Antonio, just outside the
entrance to the town. A fence divides the beach into two areas.
The small patch to the west of the fence belongs to fishermen, whose little
huts rest on the land while their brightly painted canoes float in the water.
On the other side, clean white sand extends toward Port Antonio. The
water off the beach is excellent for swimming, with a shallow and clear
area that leads to a deep, dark blue bay. A walk along the beach reveals
views of Navy Island and Port Antonio’s harbor.
- Ras Johnson’s Ranch is located between Long Bay and Manchioneal. A
shallow stream, called the Christmas River, runs behind the huts. It is
bordered by a steep hillside covered with lush tropical vines. There is a
small but wide coarse sand beach, which looks out across the coast. To
one side, the town of Manchioneal scrambles along the shore.
Climbing rock surfaces through cascading water is a challenging and rewarding
way to explore some of Jamaica’s most dramatic scenery. There are several
- Dunns River Falls in Ocho Rios is the most famous. Here, visitors climb a
600-foot (183-meter) series of plummeting waters, supervised by
- Y.S. Falls, located on Jamaica's undeveloped south coast, are quite
spectacular with a series of 10 cascades. These have appeared in
several feature films and are winners of the Jamaica Hotel & Tourist
Association's inaugural ecotourism award.
- Mayfield Falls feature 22 mini-cascades and numerous swimming holes in
the low-lying Dolphin Head Mountains. There is an underwater cave to
swim through, smooth rockslide areas and mini-cliffs for high diving. This
natural water park is edged and overhung with bamboo, flowers, vines,
trees and shrubbery.
Over 120 rivers flow through the land from Jamaica’s central mountain region to
the coasts. The rivers on the north side tend to be shorter and swifter than those
on the south side. The fast-flowing rivers are used for transport and the
production of electricity, and provide irrigation for agricultural purposes.
- Black River, at 44 miles (71 kilometers) is Jamaica’s longest navigable
river, running along the south coast, and navigable for about 25 miles (40
kilometers). Peat moss at the river bottom makes the crystal-clear water
- Rio Minho, in Clarendon, is the longest river.
- Rio Cobre is said to be inhabited by a mermaid, who lives at the bottom of
the river and on moonlight nights comes up to sit on a huge stone, running
a silver comb through her long black hair.
- Milk River originates near Round Hill and is a main source for the water
that irrigates the vast agricultural regions of the Clarendon plains. The
mineral waters flow directly from a source in a rock and are especially
recommended for use by those suffering from rheumatism, arthritis,
sciatica and nerve complaints.
- Rio Grande in Port Antonio is popular for rafting. The trip from the town of
Berrydale in the hills to Rafter’s Rest on the coast at times takes two-anda-
half hours, a slow idyllic meander through rainforests and farmland on a
30-foot (nine-meter) raft steered expertly by a local captain.
- Martha Brae is also a favorite river for rafting.
- White River Valley is populated by many breeds of exotic birds.
Therapeutic Mineral Springs
Several mineral springs in Jamaica are recognized for their therapeutic value.
Some have been developed with facilities for bathing and/or accommodations,
including Milk River Bath, Bath Fountain, the Spa at Grand Lido Sans Souci and
the Rockfort Mineral Bath. On the south coast is Milk River Spa, a naturally
radioactive mineral bath with waters at a temperature of 33ºC (91ºF).
Analysis of the mineral waters that flow from the nearby hills apparently shows
that they are as rich as the waters of any of the leading European spas, and are
reputed to cure numerous ailments like rheumatism, gout, neuralgia and liver
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