Skip The Tourists: Off-The-Beaten-Path Things To Do In Jamaica – TheTravel

Jamaica is known for classic island activities, but these less-touristy excursions are sure to bring a sense of adventure to any vacation.
Jamaica packs a rum punch despite being such a small Caribbean island. Its paradisiac tropical heaven of powdery white beaches, warm turquoise ocean, beautiful scenery, and lush forested mountain landscapes are all prime for activities, both relaxing and adventurous. While sublime shores and bright blue sea bring travelers to this island, there are plenty of things to do in Jamaica besides enjoying beaches.
Along with its vibrant culture and incredible food, what makes Jamaica stand out from many other idyllic Caribbean countries is its diversity of things to do and see – and many of these attractions and activities can draw in the crowds. Amidst the hustle and bustle of the tourist traps, however, there are indeed hidden Jamaican gems and lesser-known activities on offer to those who explore the nation of rum, coffee, and reggae's unbeaten path – and these are a mere few that are worthy of intrepid travelers' to-do lists.
Discover Even More Of Off The Beaten Path Jamaica
Jamaica off the beaten path truly is a wondrous place. While the masses head to see the top attractions in Jamaica and its top beaches, those who prefer the island's quieter, more secretive sites have a much different adventure. This article has been updated with even more of the best hidden gems Jamaica has to offer its visitors who are looking for less-touristy things to do in the country.
The Appleton Rum distillery is nestled in the heart of Jamaica, beautifully situated in the Nassau Valley in St. Elizabeth. Even just the journey to the place itself is stunning and takes visitors on a path that many don't often see. Located in the historic Appleton Estate – established in 1670 – the distillery's very first rum was made in 1749, and it has continued to produce fine rums for which Jamaica is famed.
Guests to the estate can take a guided rum tour, which is one of the best things to do in Jamaica for those interested in history and booze. The trip tells the story of the Appleton Estate and its fascinating rum-making process that begins with sugar cane harvesting, followed by fermentation and distillation, and then finally, the end product – the delicious rum ready to be sipped. The interesting tour also offers rum tasting at the end, which of course is the perfect way to end the visit.
When in Kingston, heading to Portmore to visit Waves Beach is an easy venture, and rewards people with wide-open sands, peace and quiet, and no hassle from beach vendors. This part of Jamaica is actually better known for the ever-popular Hellshire Beach, but just five minutes away are a number of serene private beaches away from the crowds – and Waves Beach is one of them. Entry to Waves Beach is around 200 Jamaican dollars, and the whole piece of peaceful paradise offers heaps of space, allowing one to enjoy a huge section of tropical beach all to oneself – which often isn't possible at more famous beaches, like Hellshire.
Related: 10 Adventures You Can Only Have In Jamaica
Jamaica's picturesque Blue Mountain area is a UNESCO Heritage Site in its own right and is the home and birthplace of the nation's famous Blue Mountain Coffee. What many aren't aware of though is that it also hosts Jamaica's highest point – Blue Mountain Peak – to which hiking is an incredible once-in-a-lifetime adventure.
For the best experience – and to skip bumping into any other soul on the trip – staying overnight at Whitfield Hall Lodge and starting the hike in the early hours of the morning is a fantastic choice; a must do in Jamaica, it allows one to arrive right at the top in time for the main spectacle – the glorious Jamaican sunrise all to oneself. Rumour has it that on a clear day, it's possible to see Cuba in the distance, which is just north of Jamaica.
As one of Jamaica's most stunning lookout points, Lovers' Leap – renowned for its uninterrupted panoramas of the sensational coastline – is a must for any visitor seeking the very best scenes worthy of a magazine front cover. It's also the location of the highest lighthouse in the western hemisphere, as well as a lovely bar restaurant boasting beautiful views – which is another reason to add this spot to the bucket list.
However, don't get too close to the cliff, for this is not one to jump; it falls 1,600 feet, and is breathtaking in both beauty and fear-of-heights factor. Visitors often say the horizon is in its most jaw-dropping form, with the sky blending into the sea that's nothing short of pure natural artwork.
But it's not just the vistas that are amazing, though; it's the story behind the place and its name; the legend of Lovers' Leap tells of two enslaved, star-crossed lovers, Mizzy and Tunkey, who were separated by a jealous, spiteful plantation owner. Rather than be apart, they tragically chose to end their lives by leaping off the cliff.
While this isn't one to leap off, cliff jumping in Jamaica is actually a popular activity for those with a sense of adventure!
Related: 10 Tips For Visiting Jamaica For The Very First Time
Most cultures put food high in the sky on a pedestal, and in Jamaican culture, this is especially true. But to those scoping out authentic flavors and food stories, a farm-to-table experience in Jamaica is the perfect treat. Notably, there are three that are well-spoken of, yet still considered off the touristic road.
The first is Jake's farm-to-table dinners, which is located on one of the first organic farms on the island's south side. Another is Zimbali, nestled in the Westmoreland hills in Jamaica's west. And finally, vegetarians will be very happy with this one: Stush in the Bush – the ultimate and unique Jamaican farm-to-table experience offering cuisine for veggies.
Another top food tour in Jamaica is the one in Falmouth (rather, there are a few to choose from). Most tourists stick to the Falmouth cruise port area, which is understandable; this historic Jamaican town's main hub is the port, but those who venture a little further will be rewarded with much more, especially in the form of food. To celebrate Jamaican cuisine (and the country's history), Falmouth food tours are one of the best tours in Jamaica for foodies and history lovers.
There are several options and operators available that offer this food and culture trip, including iTravel-Jamaica, Ocho Rios Tours, and Silver Sands Jamaica. Whichever option is selected, each one provides visitors with a unique experience as they discover local Jamaican cuisine and the country's history on a walking excursion of Falmouth.
Near Falmouth, Good Hope Plantation is a historic estate home and is the ultimate outdoors enthusiast's paradise in Jamaica. Visitors can enjoy lots of adventure activities, such as ATV tours, tubing, kayaking, and even ziplining. Chukka is a top-rated tour operator that offers trips to this plantation, and their tours include visits to the house itself and the aviary, as well as swimming, fishing, and Appleton Rum tasting.
A nature enthusiast's dream and among the non-touristy things to do in Montego Bay, Ahhh Ras Natango Gallery and Garden is one of the island's must-visits. It's situated in the hills above the beautiful Montego Bay and offers a unique experience exploring Jamaica's wild countryside. Explorers can enjoy an in-person educational journey learning about the island's indigenous fauna and flora, and can even come face-to-face with the Jamaican hummingbird – the national bird of Jamaica. There's also an art gallery and gift shop here, so there's no excuse not to purchase a present or two to commemorate the unique day out.
Tourists can enjoy spending the daytime at Ahhh Ras Natango and round out the day exploring the best nightlife spots in Montego Bay.
Related: 5 Reasons Why Jamaica Is A Tourist’s Paradise (& 5 Why It Isn’t)
There is no lack of great houses in Jamaica, many of which are among the non touristy things to do in Jamaica since most simply flock to the likes of Montego Bay and the island's stunning (but sometimes crowded) beaches. However, one historic house that's fairly unknown by tourists and off the beaten trail is Seville Great House, located on the site of Sevilla la Nueva, which was interestingly the first capital of Jamaica, and moreover, the third capital in the entire western hemisphere.
Historically, the lands around the great house were inhabited by the Tainos people before the Spaniards settled. The area is also one of Jamaica's most fascinating archeological sites and is overflowing with history and stories that visitors can learn all about. The museum on the grounds offers guests an eye-opening tour of the history of the place, including the tales of times when Taino Indians, Spanish, Africans, and the English resided in the area.
While the masses of tourists all flock to the best beaches in Jamaica, those seeking peace and quiet find themselves along the Black River soaking up scenery and sounds of wildlife. Wild, wet, and wonderful, the Black River is perhaps one of the best hidden gems Jamaica has to offer. It's one of the longest rivers in Jamaica and acquired its name due to the dark shade of the river bed – the result of decomposing vegetation that accumulates over many years. An ideal way to explore the river is by opting for a safari boat ride, during which it's possible to spot a wealth of wildlife in this untouched wetland, such as crocodiles thriving in their natural habitat, and over 100 species of birds. There are plenty of Black River tours in Jamaica to choose from, so travelers have myriad options. Bring a camera and plenty of spare SD cards, for this is one heck of a trip with so much to see.
Port Royal in Jamaica is situated at the mouth of Kingston Harbor. It's one of the lesser-known historic attractions in Jamaica, but its story is no less fascinating. This site was once the domain of pirates in the 17th century, particularly the notorious Blackbeard and Sir Henry Morgan. Before an earthquake in 1692 destroyed it, they announced it as their capital and branded it the "wickedest city on Earth". The infamous Calico Jack was also among the most famous pirates to be associated with this town. Those who are interested in learning about their escapades, the town of Port Royal, and the pirate history of Jamaica can do so at Fort Charles and the Maritime Museum – both of which are considered two of the best hidden gems in Jamaica for those hoping to learn about the country's pirating past.
While Negril is one of the best places for cliff jumping in Jamaica, Blue Hole Mineral Spring is one that many visitors don't know about. Located just 20 minutes from town, adventurers can leap from a 22-feet-tall cliff into crystal-clear, (but chilly) waters. For the less adventurous guests (and those with a fear of heights), the site offers a mineral swimming pool that's ideal for relaxing in. Furthermore, there's mud at the edge of the spring, which is believed to have healing powers. This spot is one of those Jamaica hidden gems that not many people seem to know about – much to their loss if they happen to skip it.
What to do in Jamaica if one is a horse fanatic? The answer is Rhodes Hall, a 550-acre estate that boasts various terrains perfectly suited to a diverse equestrian experience. Ideal for riders of all abilities, the property's horses roam free, and visitors can enjoy riding them as part of the site's offerings. Plus, horses aren't the only creatures thriving within the site's boundaries; those visiting the estate can check out its swamp, which is one of the largest crocodile preserves in Jamaica. What's more, the Rhodes Hall is also home to many other animals, including parrots, geese, guinea hens, ducks, mongoose, hummingbirds, sandpipers, hummingbirds, herons, pelicans, peacocks, and goats.
As of April 2023, Rhodes Hall is temporarily closed. However, travelers heading to Jamaica should check if it's reopened by the time their trip comes around. It would be a crime to miss this off-the-beaten-path Jamaican attraction! Also, equestrian-loving visitors can enjoy swimming with horses in Jamaica.
All the tourists visit Dunns River Falls and YS Falls when exploring Jamaica's best waterfalls, and these spectacular two can often get crowded. However, many folks don't ever consider the equally beautiful Reach Falls and Mayfield Falls. Reach Falls is located on the eastern end of Jamaica in Portland and features the main waterfall that flows into a stunning emerald Jacuzzi pool. Couple this with the luscious tropical greenery surrounding the waterfalls and its natural pool, and it's truly a picture of paradise. It's also home to a diverse variety of flora and fauna, including 23 species of fern, as well as lots of interesting bird species and even the occasional wild pig.
On the other hand, Mayfield Falls on the island's western end in the Hanover Hills is perhaps one of the best examples of Jamaica off the beaten path. It offers a different experience and undoubtedly some of the best waterfalls in Jamaica away from the hordes of tourists. Reached via a scenic drive, Mayfield is a collection of small waterfalls that cascade from one area of the river to the other. Whilst they're not as dramatic as other waterfalls, what they lack in power they make up for with tranquility, a laid-back atmosphere away from civilization, and a charming natural environment that's remained untouched and uncommercialized.
Lastly, there's also Blue Hole, which is also an ideal attraction for any traveler seeking Jamaica's hidden waterfall gems. This is a delightful series of waterfalls and pools located near Ocho Rios on the White River, creating a border between the parishes of St. Ann and St. Mary’s. There are two holes here to enjoy – an upper and a lower – both being independently managed by local Jamaicans. At both, there are rope swings, rocks from which to jump off into the water, and plenty of helpful local guides who, for a tip, gladly take guests to explore further up the river.
Visitors who'd enjoy a combination of Caribbean history and natural attractions will relish taking a tour of the Green Grotto Caves in Jamaica.
Lauren is a scuba diving instructor and award-winning underwater photographer originally from the United Kingdom. Having spent the last decade traveling and working around the world managing dive centers in Japan, the Philippines, Thailand, and France, she enjoys sharing her passion for the underwater world with others. Whilst her day job involves training people to scuba dive, by night, she indulges in various shenanigans such as marine conservation, writing, translating French and Japanese-language projects, and working as a volunteer for an international dog rescue organization. When she’s not busy with any of these things, she’s walking her dogs, sipping coconut water on the beach, or rocking out to her hefty heavy metal collection.

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