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. You can check out zip lining, bobsledding on a mountain coaster, taking a catamaran trip on Negril's beautiful coast, horseback riding, going on river adventures, and looking at Dunn's River waterfalls. 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.)
Families love the conveniences of the 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. Resort and Spa, each family has their own vacation nanny during their stay.
Mystic Mountain Day Outing With Bobsledding
Plan to spend several hours at Mystic Mountain Rainforest Adventures, located near Ocho Rios on the north coast of Jamaica. Kids will be eager to try the bobsled, which is a type of mountain coaster that is becoming popular at ski resorts in North America. Younger kids can hop in and enjoy the ride on their own "bobsled," which comes 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.
Dunn's River Falls
The best-known attraction in Jamaica is Dunn's River Falls. 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 with 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.
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 seven-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.
Catamaran Cruise in Negril
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 snorkeling opportunity, and a chance to play on a water trampoline.
Visit Rose Hall Great House
Rose Hall—on the north coast, near Montego Bay—is the best examples in Jamaica of a restored "Great House," which is 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 White Witch of Rose Hall.
Braco Stables, Adventure Tours: Hiking, Biking, and Horseback Riding
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 spreads out more over several 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 1700s.
Chukka Caribbean Adventures: Zip Lining and ATV Rides
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. 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.
Meet the People and Countrystyle Community Tours
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: 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 to interesting spots (such as waterfalls, underground caves, and heritage towns), accompanied by a guide. Outings typically include a delicious lunch and a chance to meet some local people.