In Jamaica, there’s no shortage of enchantingly cool waters to dip into — Dunn’s River Falls, Island Gully Falls and the endless stretches of pristine coastline all come to mind. But, the Blue Hole Mineral Spring makes for a refreshing dip that you may not have heard of.
This swimming hole oasis in Negril is hidden away 25 feet below ground level. The entirety of the cave is karst limestone, which gifts its minerals into the pool. Thrill-seekers will delight in plunging into the sinkhole from the opening’s edge, while those just looking for a relaxing dip will be equally delighted to know a ladder is available. Either way, peace of mind is provided by the lifeguards circling the perimeter up top. There is no wrong time to visit; the mineral spring stays open until the early-bird hours of the morning — something to consider if your Jamaican vacation consists of any late nights.
Whether you’re a history buff or you’re with your family and looking to make learning fun for the kids, Jamaica has a storied history with pirates. Jamaica was once home to the “Wickedest City in the World” — Port Royal. From the moment the English took the city from the Spanish in 1655, it flourished for all the wrong reasons. Nefarious characters, eye-popping debauchery (your discretion on how much history to share with the kids) and a small ocean’s worth of rum were the city’s mainstays: It’s been reported that a pirate would spend more plundered gold in one night here than a plantation worker would earn in a year. At one point, the notorious Captain Morgan had actually been elected governor and served for roughly 13 years. Port Royal was somewhere between Las Vegas and Sodom and Gomorrah.
Then, in 1692, a massive earthquake hit the island. Between Port Royal being built almost entirely on sand and the subsequent tsunamis arriving, two-thirds of the city was swallowed by the sea in the blink of an eye. Much of the sinner’s den sits on the seabed to date, just under 40 feet of water. While scuba diving these ruins is possible with special government permission, there is a more straightforward way. Multiple museums on dry land delve into this fascinating history: The National Museum of Historical Archaeology as well as the Fort Charles Maritime Museum can be found in modern-day (above-water) Port Royal, while the Museums of History and Ethnography at the Institute of Jamaica in Kingston can be found at — you guessed it — Kingston. An afternoon spent at any feels like unearthing buried treasure.
There are bars, there are beach bars and then there are legendary watering holes — venues so unique they feel like a world unto themselves, removed from the hubbub of everything outside their walls. Pelican Bar represents the latter of the options.
Your first impression of the Pelican Bar, built atop stilts on a sandbar a mile offshore in Parottee Bay, may have you thinking “long-lost pirate lookout.” The truth is far less sinister. Local fisherman Floyd Forbes had a dream of a bar rising out of the sea, and promptly acted on it. The dream became a reality in 2001 — the bar had taken shape piece by piece, of driftwood, scrap wood or palm frond, ferried out in his fishing boat. New additions to the bar’s architecture come daily as visitors are encouraged to bring trinkets (think: license plates and flags) to leave their mark on the spirit of the place, infusing the sea shack with an air of global community.
Originally designed as a hideaway hangout for his fisherman friends, Floyd’s Pelican Bar thrives on maintaining that simplicity. It’s important to understand: This is not a five-star resort bar. The bar’s staff is often busy playing dominoes; there’s a decent chance you’ll be invited to play with them. The drinks menu is what can fit in the cooler: Red Stripe beer, rum punch and rum and coke. The food menu is simply fresh lobster and fish — emphasis on fresh — but it’d still be wise to have your boat shuttle call ahead and order the food for you. You must pay cash, and there are no restrooms — just the ocean. This isn’t a modern venue in any sense; this is an opportunity to enjoy a drink or meal on a tropical sandbar a world away from the rest of the world. It’s a unique definition of paradise, but life experiences as authentic as this are few and far between.
… Should be fit for royalty. That’s why we recommend any of the many Sandals properties located around Ocho Rios. Each brings their unique flavor to paradise; Sandals Ochi is a foodie’s dream with 16 on-trend restaurants, 11 bespoke bars as well as the Caribbean’s first speakeasy. Alternatively, Sandals Royal Plantation and Beaches Ocho Rios offers the apex of private elegance — only 74 suites are tucked into this scenic coral bluff, and all of them come fully staffed with a personal butler. Finally, opening in May 2023, Sandals Dunn’s River promises to be opulence perfectly melded with the natural beauty of the land for an enchanting getaway from your everyday. Whichever you pick, it’ll be the perfect place to relax and unwind after adventuring out to explore the island.