Cool Runnings

Jamaica’s Mystic Mountain is a thrilling adventure

By: By Deanna Ting

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The Details

Rainforest Bobsled Jamaica at Mystic Mountain
Commission: 15 percent
Admission: Basic admission is $42 per person and includes access to the pool, pavilion, waterslide, restaurant, lookout tower and the gondola. For $62 per person, admission also includes a bobsled ride. For $124 per person, a bobsled ride and a zipline/canopy tour are included.

The park opens daily at 8 a.m. and closes at 5 p.m. in the winter and at 6 p.m. in the summer. Beginning in September, the park will be open from 6 p.m. to 10 p.m., Friday through Sunday, allowing guests to dine, bobsled and zipline under the stars.

Here’s the thing about surprises — they have a way of sneaking up on you when you least expect them. That was certainly the case when I reached the fourth leg of my zipline flight through the treetops of Rainforest Bobsled Jamaica at Mystic Mountain in Ocho Rios, Jamaica.


Mystic Mountain’s bobsled run is fast and fun. // © 2009 Rainforest Bobsled Jamaica at Mystic Mountain

While I had been warned of a “surprise” near the end of my journey, I didn’t have the faintest idea what it would be until I got there, and I heard my first blood-curdling scream.

That surprise was a 50-foot vertical drop.

Petrified at the very thought of my impending descent, I closed my eyes as our guide fastened me to the cable line. Maybe I even said a prayer or two; I can’t quite recall. I do remember, however, letting out a yelp in mid-air — not my proudest moment — and, once my feet hit the ground, breathing a huge sigh of relief.

Mystic Mountain is full of such exhilarating surprises. The adventure park opened in July 2008 and has since become a big hit with visitors and locals, including Jamaican Olympic medalists Usain Bolt and Asafa Powell.

Bolt and Powell, according to director and co-owner Michael N. Drakulich, are huge fans of Mystic Mountain’s bobsled run, which travels slightly more quickly than the Olympians do at a top speed of about 28 miles per hour. Like the zipline, it’s a thrilling ride with twists and turns that make you feel as though you were flying. Drakulich got the idea for the bobsled ride in 1993 after a visit to Park City, Utah, and, fittingly, it ties in well with Jamaica’s bobsledding past.

While the park is best known for its bobsled run and zipline ride, it also places great emphasis on preserving the environment and celebrating Jamaican history. An outdoor display center at the park educates visitors about Jamaican history, even housing one of the original suits worn by a member of Jamaica’s first Olympic bobsled team. In May, Jamaican Olympians from the 2008 Beijing Summer Olympics were on hand for a dedication ceremony commemorating new displays that detailed the country’s achievements in Beijing.

“We need to bring the people in to educate them,” Drakulich explained. “There are a lot of attractions that are really educational, but you have to have a hook.”

At Mystic Mountain, that “hook” consists of the aforementioned rides; a slick waterslide pool; a restaurant and bar serving up authentic, local flavors; a lookout tower with panoramic views of Ocho Rios; and a scenic, 1¼-mile-long Rainforest Sky Explorer gondola ride that climbs some 650 to 700 feet to the top of the mountain.

And what a climb it is — clients with a fear of heights should be prepared. As we glided toward the top, I could see the shoreline and one of Carnival Cruise Line’s mega-ships docked in the port. Below me, the trees were lush and verdant with beautiful blooms — a far cry from what the area was before it became Mystic Mountain.

The land upon which Mystic Mountain was built used to be an abandoned, virgin forest. The place upon which the restaurant, lookout tower and pool are built was the only part that had been cleared, and used to be an illegal garbage dump. It took nearly six years for Drakulich and his partners to negotiate the leases for the property. Once they did, they set about building Mystic Mountain by leaving as little a carbon footprint as possible in only 10 months. The gondola ride, for example, was constructed in such a way using F-tower shapes, in order to preserve the surrounding forest without having to remove too many trees.

Clients can see signs of eco-consciousness throughout the park, even when visiting the bathroom — the park features composting toilets. All of the water and electricity used by the park is pumped and generated by the park itself, and Drakulich hopes that by 2014, the park will be completely powered by wind generators and solar panels.

A steady flow of tourists and locals visits the privately owned park every day. A majority of visitors come from the cruise ships, especially Carnival, according to Drakulich. Cruisers often visit in the morning, while hotel guests from nearby Ocho Rios and Montego Bay (about an hour or so drive away) stop by in the afternoon.

Currently, only about 100 acres of Mystic Mountain’s 300 acres have been developed and park management has big plans for future expansion. Shortly after I visited the park in January, nature trails opened, giving clients a chance to see the park’s natural beauty, without ever having to leave the ground or fly (and drop) through the air. Clients can map their way through the forest themselves, or they can enlist the help of a guide. Either way, I’m sure there will be a surprise in store.