Jamaica is a popular tourist destination for anyone wanting to enjoy clear blue waters and white sands, and for the active traveler who likes to explore. Before the pandemic hit, Jamaica welcomed 4.2 million visitors in 2019, but Covid had a searing effect on tourism. In 2020, Jamaica saw just 1.33 million arrivals, and this deeply impacted one of the country’s major industries. However, the pandemic helped to drive up the popularity of many outdoor activities including kayaking. In some areas, sales of kayaks increased by 50% as people grew tired of lockdowns and sought to enjoy the outdoors more. Now that travel restrictions have been lifted, Jamaica is once again a destination for watersports lovers.
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- Why Kayaking is a Unique Way to Experience Jamaica
- Exploring the Best Kayaking Spots in Jamaica
Why Kayaking is a Unique Way to Experience Jamaica
Visitors come to Jamaica to try the local rum, ackee and saltfish, relax on stunning beaches such as Ocho Rios, and explore. There are cliff path walks, hiking trails, tropical rain forests, waterfalls, and of course, the Caribbean Sea. Many people enjoy exploring the island by jeep and on foot but this handy kayaking map can help you to see Jamaica from a unique perspective. Using an online kayaking map will help you to find operators and launch points, and plan your trips along the 1,022 km Jamaican coastline. But, what makes kayaking a unique way of seeing Jamaica?
1. Ability to access hard-to-reach areas
Kayaks can take you to places that would be impossible to reach by foot or car sometimes. With more than 1,000 km of coastline to explore, you can use a sea kayak to discover secluded beaches, coves, cliffs, and caves.
2. An intimate view of the island’s natural beauty
Jamaica is home to hundreds of species of flowering plants and wildlife that cannot be found anywhere else. Kayaking down the White River or exploring the Blue Lagoon will bring you into close contact with Jamaica’s natural beauty.
3. Opportunity to see diverse wildlife up close
Jamaica chose the red-billed streamertail as its national bird, but this hummingbird isn’t the only wildlife you’ll be able to see as you explore the island’s waters. The island has a few endangered species such as the blue iguana, yellow boa, and the American crocodile. However, visitors to Jamaica might get to see manatees, sea turtles, jellyfish, giant swallowtail butterflies, and even mongoose.
4. Experience local culture from a different perspective
The majority of Jamaica’s beaches are private, or at least access to them is, and only resort guests and paying customers can enjoy these areas. Yet, there are community-controlled free beaches such as Winnifred Beach in Portland that you can enjoy along with locals. Kayaking will let you see how varied the coastline is, and view the island from a unique perspective. One of the joys of kayaking is that you can stop wherever it is safe and suitable, and take a break at one of the many beaches.
Exploring the Best Kayaking Spots in Jamaica
There are numerous operators for rafting, scuba diving, kayaking, and fishing, and through these, you can safely explore and discover Jamaica’s true natural beauty. Here are the eight best spots to explore Jamaica by kayak.
1. Blue Lagoon in Port Antonio
From Port Antonio, you will have a journey of just 15 minutes to arrive at the Blue Lagoon. What kayakers can expect here is an adventure just to reach the lagoon itself. Be prepared to carry your sea kayak down a series of steps and walkways as it is not a full-on tourist attraction. However, once you are at the Blue Lagoon you will see why many holidaymakers seek it out for its turquoise water and beautiful scenery.
2. Montego Bay Marine Park
The Montego Bay Marine Park Trust helps to protect this beautiful area and its ecosystem. For anyone who wants to explore the waters of Jamaica, Montego Bay offers something for everyone. Fishing and snorkeling are popular, and divers can discover the coral reefs, while kayakers can paddle through mangroves looking for local wildlife above and under the surface.
When kayaking in Montego Bay, beware of the shallow reefs which can be easily damaged. Dropping anchor or standing on coral will harm it. Jamaica previously lost 85% of its coral reefs from boat damage and other events. Fortunately, steps are being taken to restore the beauty and health of Jamaica’s coral now.
3. Black River
The Black River is Jamaica’s longest navigable river and is home to spectacular mangroves and over 100 species of birds. You could take a kayak along the Black River for a truly unique expedition in Jamaica but this is only safe to do near the source of the river. The mouth of the river is home to crocodiles which you can safely view in pontoon boats at the Black River Safari. The Black River Safari has been operating since 1987 and is an interesting diversion from the Caribbean Sea. Despite its black colour, the water is actually crystal clear. The river get its colour and name from the dark river bed down below, coloured by logwood trees and decomposing vegetation.
4. Rio Grande
The Rio Grande offers a few options for anyone wanting to visit this river; rafting, boat tours, and of course kayaking. Rafting tours are the biggest attraction for the Rio Grande as there are no serious rapids to be spoken of. Kayaking here involves a leisurely paddle that will let you take in and enjoy the flora and fauna surrounding the river.
5. Negril’s West End Cliffs
Negril is popular with tourists because of its 7-mile beach, but the West End Cliffs are a great starting point for kayakers and other watersports. Kayaking here means getting to see the jagged cliffs rising above the Caribbean Sea, and you will be able to head into secluded caves for a special paddling experience.
If you wish to explore further, check out the Benta River Falls which is only 1 hour away and comprises just one of Jamaica’s many waterfall attractions.
6. Chukka Sandy Bay
Chukka Sandy Bay is a hub for ocean lovers. From Driftwood beach you can take your kayak out to discover more sea life in the clear blue waters.
7. River Rapids Jamaica
One of the most popular tours in Jamaica now is rafting on the Rio Bueno river. Tubing and rafting are the specialties of River Rapids Jamaica but kayaking is on the menu too. You can expect some mild but fun rapids on this kayak tour which ends at a private beach.
8. Kayak Nation in Kingston
Transparent and recreational kayak rentals await anyone visiting Kingston. The options for exploration are numerous along the southeastern coastline from the Kingston Harbour to the Port Royal Cays, Lime Cay, Maiden Cay and even at the Bob Marley Beach.
Jamaica’s biodiversity and culture are two reasons why millions of people choose to visit, and kayaking is one of the most environmentally friendly ways to explore the country. Kayaking along Jamaica’s coastline and rivers will allow you to see endemic wildlife without polluting the waters or damaging the ecosystem. Also, kayaks can take you to places that you cannot access easily on foot, and this can make your trip a bit more unique. With that said, have you kayaked in Jamaica before or now feel inspired to? Share your kayaking experiences in the comments below.
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25 thoughts on “Kayaking in Jamaica: A Unique Way to Experience the Island’s Beauty”
These places look fantastic! Kayaking with turtles sounds fun too!
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It truly is! I hope it doesn’t cause them any harm
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