6 Must-See Sites to Experience Culture and Adventure in Jamaica

Courtesy of Visit Jamaica
Courtesy of Visit Jamaica

Sure, you could spend your entire trip to Jamaica relaxing by the pool and reading a good book — and you’d probably have a great time — but you’d miss out on so much of the adventure that the island has to offer. If you’re interested in exploring the history and ecology of Jamaica, we’ve got you covered. There are extensive beaches, mountains, waterfalls, and more to explore, so check the map below for six of the best sites for experiencing it all.

Dunn's River Falls
Courtesy of Visit Jamaica

One of the most incredible ways to experience Jamaica’s natural beauty is by visiting Dunn’s River Falls, which cascade in a natural “staircase” pattern due to sedimentary pools. “Tek-a-Hike” may just be the best way to enjoy it: the 90-minute guided hike starts out in the Tranquil Gardens area of the park, leading through the lush forests of the Dunn’s River area, past the historic Belmont Great House ruins, and up to the park’s nursery, where you can purchase a plant to take home with you. It’s a breathtaking way to learn about the ecology of the island while viewing the spectacle of the falls.

Seven Mile Beach, Negril
Courtesy of Visit Jamaica

Seven Mile Beach

Paynes Town
The white sand Seven Mile Beach is what most people picture when they imagine Jamaican beaches: long stretches of sand, palm trees, and beachside bars galore. Snorkeling, scuba diving, and rides on glass-bottomed boats or catamarans are easy to do from here, so you can get plenty of adventure out on the water if that’s what you’re looking for. For a more laid-back option, there are floating bars and resorts that will be happy to set you up with umbrellas and beach chairs to relax on.
Island Gully Falls
Courtesy of Visit Jamaica

The waterfalls of Island Gully are described as “hypnotic” by those who have visited, thanks to their deep blue waters and cascading swimming holes. Mazes of streams make up the Blue Hole section, allowing for a variety of hikes through the rivers and exhilarating zip lining and diving among the channeled rocks. The pathway through the falls culminates in a daunting 24-foot drop into the “Blue Hole” pool, but don’t worry — trained lifeguards are on staff to make sure everyone is safe. Afterwards, cool off in the more placid pools or just enjoy the scenery of the woods.

Blue and John Crow Mountains National Park
Courtesy of Visit Jamaica
More experienced hikers who think Jamaica is just beaches and swimming holes will be surprised when they set off on the Blue Mountain trails. Blue Mountain Peak and the surrounding areas make up a national park with plenty of trail options, ranging from leisurely to challenging. The Blue Mountain Peak itself is the most difficult, mostly due to the length of time you’ll be out there. However, guide services exist to help you navigate safely, especially useful when attempting the sunrise hike, a legendary pre-dawn hike that reaches the summit just in time for sunrise. It’s a breathtaking view from the top, where you’ll look out above the clouds just as the island wakes up. For those of us who prefer to hike in the daylight hours, however, the view is just as spectacular.
Chukka Caribbean Adventures
Courtesy of Chukka Eco Outpost

Chukka's “Eco-adventures” are exactly what they sound like: extreme sports in the midst of an incredible jungle resort. Take a cocktail on a bamboo raft down a river, hop on kayaks and head out to explore, or meander through the scenery of nearby ruins. The resort is full service, so you can toast to your full days in poolside lounges and sample a variety of local rums through its Appleton Rum tasting.

Bob Marley Mausoleum
Courtesy of Nine Miles Cultural Hangout

Jamaica’s most famous resident was born in Nine Mile, a small town outside Ochos Rios. Touring his hometown gives you a chance to experience the island beyond just the resorts and beaches, and the town welcomes visitors who come to pay tribute to the king of reggae. Tour the museum dedicated to Marley’s life and stop for some local jerk chicken and you’ll come away with a new appreciation for the peace and freedom embodied in his music.