Top Things to Do in Jamaica on Family Trips

  • 01 of 11

    Introduction

    Boy and mother running on beach, Port Antonio, Portland, Jamaica
    ••• Roderick Chen/Getty Images

    Jamaica is a popular spot for family getaways, thanks to its many all-inclusive beach resorts. Be sure to expand your experiences beyond your resort! Mouse over the boxes below to check out zip-lining, bobsledding on a mountain coaster, a catamaran trip on Negril's beautiful coast, horse-riding, zip-lining, river adventures, Dunn's River waterfalls, dog-sledding..... Most activities are within a day-trip distance of any of the main resort areas: Jamaica is only about 146 miles wide and 51 miles north-south (though road conditions and traffic may add time to your trip.) But first, a word about those resorts families love so much...

    Families love the conveniences of all inclusive resorts, and Jamaica offers many choices. Beaches is the family resort brand of the Sandals all-inclusive resort company, which is based in Jamaica. Families will also find several value-priced all inclusive resorts with waterparks and other fun features for kids. Meanwhile, at the unique Franklyn D....MORE Resort, each family has their own vacation nanny during their stay. Read about these and more Jamaica all inclusive resorts for families.

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  • 02 of 11

    Mystic Mountain Day Outing With Bobsledding

    Mystic Mountain bobsled coaster in Jamaica. Photo courtesy of the Jamaica Tourist Board.
    ••• Photo courtesy of the Jamaica Tourist Board.

    Plan to spend several hours at Mystic Mountain Rain Forest Adventures, located near Ocho Rios on the north coast of Jamaica. Kids will be eager to try the "bobsled": this type of mountain coaster is becoming popular at ski resorts in North America, and even young kids can hop in and enjoy the ride on their own "bobsled" equipped with a brake. At Mystic Mountain, the ride goes through lush rainforest and guests can ride as often as they like.

    Other fun things to do include the SkyExplorer lift that takes guests up and down the mountain, a waterslide, a beautiful butterfly garden, and a small museum that spotlights Jamaica's famous athletes -- including the "Cool Runnings" bobsled team -- and gives a quick introduction to the country's history. Families can also add a zip-lining option to their day at Mystic Mountain. See photos and details about an outing at Mystic Mountain, and here's a video of the entire Jamaica bobsled mountain coaster run.

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  • 03 of 11

    Dunn's River Falls

    Dunns River Falls, Ocho Rios, Jamaica, West Indies, Caribbean, Central America
    ••• Douglas Pearson/robertharding/Getty Images

    The best-known attraction in Jamaica is Dunn's River Falls Park, near Ocho Rios, and it's a very fun outing, as visitors literally climb up the waterfalls. This is a popular and crowded spot, and people climb in groups in a human chain, each group led by a guide. Wear your swimsuits and water shoes! Most resorts offer day trips to Dunn's River Falls, which is near Ocho Rios on Jamaica's north coast, about an hour west of Montego Bay.

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  • 04 of 11

    Negril, Jamaica

    Jamaica, Westmoreland Parish, Negril beach
    ••• DU BOISBERRANGER Jean/hemis.fr/Getty Images

    Even if you're not staying in the area, consider taking a day trip to Negril, which is on the western tip of Jamaica. Negril has a famous 7-mile beach, which is lined by an eclectic assortment of restaurants and small (and often family-friendly) properties. Negril also has a very different cliffside area that's home to a number of resorts and -- most famously-- to Rick's Cafe where locals and tourists jump off cliffs into the beautiful blue waters.

    families who want to stay in Negril can choose from two Beaches all inclusive family resorts which have some outstanding features for kids. Negril also has the best opportunities for staying at smaller non-all inclusive properties.

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  • 05 of 11

    Catamaran Cruise in Negril, Jamaica

    Photo © Teresa Plowright.
    ••• Photo © Teresa Plowright.

    Here's a fun and convenient way to get a taste of Negril: simply get picked up at your resort by the Island Routes Catamaran Cruise tour company and transported to a relaxing half-day boat trip that includes lunch, a snorkelling opportunity, and a chance to play on a water trampoline -- see many photos and details about this Negril cruise outing. For another detailed write-up and photos of this excursion, including a knowledgeable take on the snorkeling, see Jamaica Fun in the Sun.

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  • 06 of 11

    Visit Rose Hall Great House

    Rose Hall Great House, Montego Bay, Jamaica
    ••• Holger Leue/Getty Images

    Rose Hall -- on the north coast, near Montego Bay -- is the best example in Jamaica of a restored "Great House", one of the mansions that presided over the plantations centuries ago; tours are offered and provide a glimpse into history. This great house is also famous for the legend of the "The White Witch of Rose Hall".

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  • 07 of 11

    Braco Stables, Adventure Tours: Hiking, Biking, and Horseriding

    Family riding horses in the ocean
    ••• Alison Wright/Getty Images

    The family-run Braco Stables adventure company offers several excursions at its Braco Estates property, including a "Horseback Ride'n'Swim Tour" and easy hike and bike tour. Braco Estates spread over thousands of acres in the Trelawny area on Jamaica's north coast and was originally part of a large sugar plantation that dates back to the 1700's. Read details about Braco's Hike'n'Bike Tour, with plenty of photos too. Says one blogger, writing about this Braco tour: "I have to say, the highlight of my stay in Jamaica was the Braco Hike & Bike Tour"; the vistas and the warm interactions with the staff and owner of this family-run business were memorable."

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  • 08 of 11

    Braco Adventure Tours: River Adventures

    River Boarding, photo courtesy of Braco Adventure Tours.
    ••• River Boarding, photo courtesy of Braco Adventure Tours.

    Braco Adventure Tours also offer several exciting river experiences, including river kayaking, white-water rafting, and river boarding. Picture a body-surfing-type board, and imagine fun on a river. Braco is the first company in Jamaica to offer this experience.

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  • 09 of 11

    Chukka Caribbean Adventures: Jamaica Dog Sledding

    Jamaica dog-sledding. Photo © Teresa Plowright.

    Chukka Caribbean Adventures is a major name in Jamaica adventure tours, and its unique dog-sledding activity has been the subject of at least one documentary, due to its back-story. This is a motley crew of rescue dogs, and whether visitors choose the actual dogsled "Experience" or the "Encounter", they should come ready to give some hands-on love to these affectionate animals. The dogs are eager for company, and they are also eager to pull their sleds. The "Encounter" includes the chance to watch the dogs do some laps around a large field. The "Experience" includes time in the buggy with a team going full-tilt, but be aware that -- unlike snow sled-dog excursions-- these dogs will only pull the buggy for short spurts. (Dog's can't sweat, so Jamaica's hot climate puts a limit on their exertions.)

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  • 10 of 11

    Chukka Caribbean Adventures: Zip Lining and ATV Rides

    Full length of young man on zip line
    ••• Jordane St-Hilaire Dupuis/EyeEm/Getty Images

    Chukka Caribbean Adventures offers several types of excursions, including zip-lining in the rainforest canopy, ATV safaris, dune buggies, river tubing, river kayaking, and more. Read details and see photos from a zip line outing: "It’s just sorta surreal gliding through the treeline of the rainforest, crossing rivers and what not at screaming speeds about 100 feet off the ground." Agreed! Kids as young as six can go zip-lining.

    Be sure to combine your zip line adventure with a river-tubing adventure: after zipping over the river, you will want to cool down in it!

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  • 11 of 11

    Meet the People and Countrystyle Community Tours

    Reggae musician 'Sugar B' at Tony's Fruit Stand in West End.
    ••• Anthony Pidgeon/Getty Images

    Most visitors to Jamaica see only their resorts or perhaps some of the fun attractions and tourist destinations suggested in these pages. For those who would like to see more of "the real Jamaica", and encounter some Jamaica friendliness, below you'll find two easy ways.

    Meet the People: a Free Program in Jamaica: This great program -- which is run by the Jamaica Tourist Board -- connects visitors with local Jamaicans to help them get to know the warm and wonderful "real Jamaica" outside their resort. Meet the People tries to match interests; families will probably meet other families and get together for an activity such as a hike or visit to a swimming spot... Kids can meet other kids, as well. This is a free program: just sign up online or contact the nearest Jamaica Tourist Board office.

    Countrystyle Community Tours: Countrystyle aims to take visitors out of their resort to experience the real Jamaica on an affordable and customized tour. Tours can take visitors...MORE to interesting spots (waterfalls, underground caves, heritage towns), accompanied by a guide; outings typically include a delicious lunch and chance to meet some local people.