Family reggae catamaran cruises with Island Routes is a great way to explore Jamaica beyond the shore. // © 2016 Island Routes
Feature image (above): Mountain biking at River Bumpkin Farm is another great option for visiting families. // © 2016 Island Routes
Rich in local culture and bursting with natural wonders, Jamaica offers a range of options for active families. A prime destination for family-focused adventure is Montego Bay on Jamaica’s north coast. Check out these new experiences guaranteed to please families looking to soak up all the excitement of this natural playground.
In the past, visitors needed a 4x4 vehicle to scale the bone-rattling mountain trail leading to Blue Hole, a jungle-draped mineral spring set in the middle of a tropical rainforest above St. Ann. Now, experienced tour provider Viator has launched a full-day tour that makes for an exciting (and safe) family adventure.
The journey begins as local guides lead intrepid adventurers on a route through the rainforest to the turquoise swimming hole, where clients can plunge into the cool water, swing from a Tarzan rope and peer into caves looking for bats. Later, they can hike a trail to Secret Falls, a cascading series of waterfalls similar to Dunn’s River Falls, minus the crowds. This still-wild tropical forest is draped with orchids, feathery ferns and bromeliads that root high on the trunks of towering trees. Once they’re tuckered out, kids can unplug with family-friendly chow such as fried cassava chips and jerk chicken at the beloved Scotchies restaurant. Be sure to get a side order of “festival,” a chewy cornmeal treat that merges the best of pancake and fritter to kid-pleasing perfection.
Island Reggae Cruise
Another way to explore the natural wonders of Montego Bay is onboard the Island Routes Reggae Family Catamaran Cruise. On this full-day adventure, the fun begins with a leisurely sail on a luxury catamaran to the calm waters above the main reef of Montego Bay Marine Park. Enroute, participants soak up the sunshine while a DJ plays a mix of classic and the latest reggae tunes. Tasty snacks, cocktails, juice and soda are included in the fare. All-ages tropical dance lessons and dancing competitions make this a cruise to remember for the whole family. The day wraps up at lively Jimmy Buffet’s Margaritaville, where kids (and the young at heart) can zoom down the 120-foot waterslide, bounce on inflatable water trampolines and splash around in the warm Caribbean waters.
Montego Bay Marine Park
Established in 1991 to preserve one of the Caribbean’s most valuable coral reefs, Montego Bay Marine Park serves as a nursery incubating a diverse range of marine life. The new Sunscape Cove and Sunscape Splash, an all-inclusive beachfront resort set on a secluded peninsula overlooking the marine park, is an ideal base for exploring the spot’s underwater wonders. The twin resorts recently reopened as a member of AMResorts. Now, snorkeling, kayaking and other nonmotorized watersports equipment are included in the all-inclusive plan, which means nature-loving families can spend their days floating above schools of brilliant damselfish, parrotfish and other reef life. For those looking for a guided experience, a family-friendly snorkeling tour departs from the main beach each morning.
River Rafting and Tubing
With its bountiful current, clear waters and rich ecosystem, the Martha Brae River is one of Jamaica’s best spots for a river safari. Float on a bamboo raft and watch for spectacular species; from Rasta birds to the largest butterfly in the Western Hemisphere, Jamaica is crammed with a planet’s worth of tropical wonders. For more river-themed adventure, the new River Bumpkin Farm offers plenty of adrenaline-pumping options. Families mountain bike past the atmospheric ruins of a limestone aqueduct, mill house and former distilling house of a historic sugarcane plantation, soaking up plenty of history along the way. Then, to wrap up, clients climb onto a river tube and splash their way through the gentle rapids of the river as it cascades through the rainforest.