15 Unforgettable Things to Do With Kids and Toddlers in Jamaica
Planning a trip to Jamaica with kids can feel overwhelming. No mom wants to hear the dreaded words: "I'm bored" while on her tropical vacation. Rather, every mom wants to plan a vacation that her kids will find fun, educational, and filled with family memories.
Boredom will not be a problem for moms going to Jamaica with kids. Many of Jamaica's all-inclusive hotels include exciting things like mini-waterparks, kid clubs and kiddie pools on their grounds. But it is outside the four walls of your hotel where you will find the best of Jamaica. Take your older kids zip lining over the island's rainforests or give your toddler an educational experience on a toddler-friendly nature walk. And since Jamaica is a small island, arranging transportation from your hotel to these activities should be easy. Here is a compilation of the most unforgettable things to do with kids in Jamaica.
1. Swim With Dolphins at Dolphin Cove
Dolphins are arguably the most beloved ocean creatures. The gentle creatures just give so much love that they are exceptionally suited for intimate encounters with young kids. If your kids like dolphins, amaze them with a close up encounter with the creatures at Jamaica's Dolphin Cove in the coastal town of Ocho Rios.
Swimming with dolphins at Dolphin Cove is consistently ranked one of the most popular things to do with kids in Jamaica because of its appeal to every age group. Activities are specifically catered to different ages and abilities. Younger, non-swimmers take part in the fun with the help of an adult by petting or kissing the dolphins. Older kids participate in a dolphin care program where they help to feed and take care of the dolphins, while learning about the everyday life of the creatures. There is also a swim with stingrays program for good swimmers and glass bottom boats for toddlers to safely enjoy the dolphins.
For toddlers, there is an entertaining shark show and even a nature trail (see below) which is the perfect way for little ones to interact with a tropical ecology. To plan a visit, visit dolphincoveja.com, or plan an excursion through your hotel.
2. Take Toddlers on the Dolphin Cove Nature Trail Hike
The Dolphin Cove Nature Trail is an easy to moderate level nature trail with friendly snakes, birds, and other exotic animals. The trail can be done with any kid, but it is particularly suitable for toddlers. The easy hike makes it possible to carry your toddlers or infant, who will love the friendly animals they will encounter along the way. Point out the tropical plants everywhere while helping your toddler pronounce unusual animal names like iguana. If you have a really brave toddler, take her to pet the resident snakes for an experience she will remember long after she returns home.
3. Doctor's Cave Beach- Shallow Waters for Toddlers, Beach Trampolines for Older Kids
Doctor's Cave beach in the popular town of Montego Bay has many things going for it—a sparkling, beautiful beach; trampolines for the kids to jump away some of their unending energy; shallow waters with lots of little fishes for toddlers to play with; and a kid-friendly restaurant right on the beach. The cumulative effect of these elements is a beach that is consistently rated among the best Jamaican beach for kids, and certainly the best one for kids in Montego Bay. If you plan on staying in Montego Bay, a trip to this beach is a must
Once your older kids realize that there are actual trampolines out in the ocean, they will forget everything else. Getting to the trampolines does take some swimming or a float, but once they get there, they will never want to leave. Don't be surprised if you are tempted to join in on the fun. Doctor's Cave Beach trampolines are a hit with adults and kids alike.
Toddlers will especially enjoy the calm, shallow waters of this beach. Take your toddler out to see the tiny fishes that love to swim around the calm water, and order delicious chicken nuggets from the restaurant right on the beach. Head to the convenient changing area for diaper changes or a shower at the end of the day. Visits cost USD $3 or kids, $6 for adults and can easily be arranged through any of Jamaica's hotels.
4. Enjoy Kid Friendly Watersports at Aquasol Theme Park
Not far from Doctors Cave Beach is the fun Aquasol Theme Park with it's exhilarating watersports and party like vibe. Aquasol is particularly special because of its location on a stretch of white sand beach in Montego Bay. The park is a weekend haven for local families who want to enjoy the beach while their kids play. Wave runners, banana boat rides, waterslides, a bouncy house, go kart racing and the energetic locals make this Jamaican family attraction the best place for your kids to get an authentic look into Jamaican culture while having fun.
While you older kids enjoy motorized watersports, take your toddler to play on the swings in the playground or to play a round of mini golf. When its time for lunch, grab a delicious meal from the park's restaurant and have it on the beach.
Because Aquasol is a popular thing to do in Montego Bay, many hotels in the city offer complimentary or reduced entry. If you are staying in Montego Bay, check with your hotel before arranging a trip.
5. Take Older Kids to Climb a Waterfall at Dunn's River Falls
Dunn's River Falls is a picturesque, 180 feet high wonder of white waterfalls rushing down natural limestone to meet a turquoise ocean. The waterfall is really a sight to behold, and the only one of its kind in the Caribbean. The guided hikes offered are a great activity for the whole family to enjoy and can be enjoyed by kids as young as six years old. Join hands with your little ones and with the other families who are also embarking on the trip into the waterfall. Stop at the wading pools formed by the force of the waterfall or in front of the rapidly falling water for a family photo you will love displaying.
Although the hike cannot be done by really young kids, there is a way to enjoy Dunn's River Falls with a toddler. At the top of the waterfalls there are viewing areas that give a bird's eye view of the action. This area is perfect for toddlers. It is completely surrounded by safety rails, yet it is so close to the waterfalls that you and your little one will get sprayed by the cool water.
After you climb or see the waterfall, head to the beach at the bottom of the falls where toddlers and older kids will enjoy the gentle waters flowing from the waterfalls into the ocean!
For rates and more information visit www.dunnsriverfallsja.com. Your hotel can also easily arrange a trip to this popular attraction.
6. See a Tropical Paradise at Turtle River Gardens
Think your toddler won't be able to handle the disappointment of not being able to climb the grand Dunn's River Falls? Instead, take her to play in one of the smaller waterfalls at this forgotten paradise.
If upon entering Turtle River Falls and Gardens you imagine you have entered a lovingly restored secret garden, you would be partly right. The paradise like gardens through which a river flows is one of Jamaica's best kept secrets. Decades ago, the whole property was actually a resort. After the resort failed, people (including many locals) forgot it. Meanwhile, the gardens were lovingly restored and kept as an attraction for those who wanted quiet and solitude.
Though the gardens are breathtaking, a lack of promotion and its location in the same town as the bigger, more popular Dunns River Falls make the property almost tourist free on some days. Visit and you may be lucky enough to experience a private day in paradise with your kids in Jamaica.
Take your toddler to play in one of the 14 waterfalls and streams that meander through the lush grounds. Carry walking and non walking toddlers into the huge walk -in aviary to actually touch or feed the cobalt blue peacocks, rainbow macaws and other tropical birds. Take a break to have a pre-packed picnic (there is no restaurant) amidst the green plants and stunning flowers. After lunch, head out again to take a hike or look for koi and turtle in the pond or the river.
Other features like a pool, an ice cream stand and walks along the eerie abandoned structures of the old resort make the Turtle River Falls and Gardens a perfect way to spend a full day with kids in Ocho Rios. To plan a visit, www.turtleriverfallsandgardens.com
7. Zipline With Older Kids In a Jamaican Forest at Mystic Mountain
First time visitors to Jamaica are often surprised when they see that Jamaica is filled with dense, green rainforests that are almost as beautiful as the beaches. It is this diverse topography that accounts for the exciting range of activities available to people going to Jamaica with kids. For a change of scenery, leave the beach and take your older kids to explore the tropical greenery by zip line. Mystic Mountain in the beautiful town of Ocho Rios is the top rated place to zip line in Jamaica, and is on its way to becoming a top Jamaican family attraction, much like Dolphin Cove.
Zip lining at Mystic Mountain's Rainforest Adventure is a top rated thing to do with kids in Jamaica for good reason—the mountain has much more than zip lining. There is a splash pool for cooling down after zipping under the tropical sun. A small, colorful hummingbird garden gives delightful views of Jamaica's fascinating national bird, and a lift quite similar to a ski lift takes visitors on a picturesque ride up the mountain. There is also a restaurant for quick meals after all the fun.
The actual zip line course goes through rainforest, and offers glimpses of white waterfalls and the turquoise ocean. Be forewarned though—zip lining hundreds of feet from the ground is only for the brave! Kids have to be at least five years old to participate. For rates and more, visit www.rainforestadventure.com.
8. Take Toddlers and Older Kids to Columbus Park Museum
Also in Ocho Rios, Columbus Park Museum sits on the very spot where Christopher Columbus first set foot in Jamaica in the 16th century. In Jamaica, he found the indigenous Tainos people (also known as Arawaks) and a paradise filled with waterfalls, green mountains and pristine beaches.
The small, open air museum tells this history, and is a good way to give your kids a basic understanding of Jamaica's history. The museum is most suitable for age six and up. Teenagers will love the lesson on Jamaica's past, and the younger ones will love the ancient artifacts like the old Arawak (the indigenous Jamaican people) canoe, and earthen vessels.
The small museum is also a good thing to do with toddlers as its small size and wide aisles make it doable with an umbrella stroller.
9. Take the Whole Family to See Crocodiles at the Black River Safari
This is one wildly beautiful trip down one of Jamaica's largest rivers. Best for older children (though toddlers may enjoy the long trip too), the guided boat trip will take you down a beautiful river surrounded by lush, tropical forestry. Look out for exotic birds, iguanas and other strange creatures. As the Black River is the natural habitat for hundreds of crocodiles, don't be surprised if your kids gaze in awe at the open mouthed crocodiles they are bound to see.
To plan a wild rafting trip down the black river, or any of Jamaica's numerous rivers, check with your hotel for a reputable rafting company, or check out the folks at whitewaterraftingjamaica.com.
10. Take the Family to the Appleton Estate Rum Factory Tour
Don't be put off by the name of this tour. Although, you will want to keep your kids from the rum tasting portion, everything else is a well architectured lesson on the rum making process.
The tour is a good way to sneak a learning opportunity on your itinerary of things to do with the kids in Jamaica. Older kids will definitely leave this tour more knowledgeable of the fascinating origins and process of rum. Even the adults in your family will learn something new!
11. Learn About the Reggae Icon at the Bob Marley Museum
A tour of the Bob Marley Museum is a must for fans of the world renown (though now deceased) Bob Marley. Even if your older kids don't know who Bob Marley was, the tour is still a good thing to do with them if they like music. Music loving 'tweens' and teenaged kids will enjoy learning about a new music form and the icon most identified with it.
The Bob Marley Museum explores reggae music and the life of one of the most inspirational reggae singers that ever lived, Bob Marley .A visit to this gem, brings you intimately close to the life and inspirations of the icon. See how he lived, his guitar and much more.
There are three museums dedicated to Bob Marley in Jamaica. The best, and most informative is located in Kingston, at one of Bob Marley's former homes. A trip to this museum will take upwards of two hours from Ocho Rios, Montego Bay or Negril For more information, check bobmarleymuseum.com. However, as the museum is located in Kingston, (Jamaica's capital city and outside of where your hotel is likely to be), it is best to book a tour through your hotel.
12. Have Exotic Ice Cream at Devon House in Kingston
While you are still in Kingston, give your whole family a taste bud extravaganza with ice cream that has been voted among the top ten in the world by National Geographic.
Convince your kids to try new, exotic flavors they will never forget. Jamaican guava or mango are new tastes that a picky child may like. If you have a truly adventurous child, have her sample the flavor called soursop which is made from a creamy, slightly tart Jamaican fruit with hard, spiky green skin. While the kids are being adventurous, the adults in the family can join in the fun with the beer spiked devon stout flavor or the very alcoholic rum and raisin flavor.
Take your cones with you to the serene gardens that surround Devon House for some family time. If you visit Devon House on a weekend, look out for local families who come to enjoy the ice cream with their kids in one of Kingston's most relaxing spot.
13. Go Horseback Riding in the Ocean
When in Jamaica with kids, horseback riding in the ocean is one activity that should be experienced at least once. Take your whole family on an unforgettable ride through Jamaica's lush countryside, onto a pristine beach, then straight into the ocean. Watch them squeal as they first enter the warm water on horseback. Be sure to take a camera to preserve the priceless memory.
The horseback ride is guided and can be booked through several companies that offer horseback riding packages. Check with your hotel for their recommendations.
14. Spend a Day on Waterslides at Cool Runnings Water Park
As the only off resort waterpark in Jamaica, the Cool Runnings Waterpark in Negril is the place to be if you happen to have kids who love waterslides and are staying at a resort without many water features. The colorful high energy park seems to always have a DJ spinning tunes and setting the mood for a fun day. The fun comes in the form of a lazy river, many waterslides, go kart racing and a small water play area that is suitable for toddlers.
Lifeguards man the pools at the end of each slide and the wave pool and lazy river are also guarded. The small area dedicated to toddlers is done in a colorful tropical theme that includes water cascading from palm tree shaped sprinklers and toucan crested water features.
For the older kids, go kart racing and fun competitions on some weekend round out a full day of fun. When planning a visit, bear in mind that weekends see lots of crowd, so try to visit on the early morning of a weekday for the best experience.
15. See a Caribbean Sunset With the Kids in Negril or Montego Bay.
Spend the last evening of your Jamaican family vacation watching a gorgeous orange pink sunset on a white sand beach with the people you love most. Head to the famous Seven Mile Beach in Negril to see one of Jamaica's renowned sunsets. If you are staying in Montego Bay , head to the Doctor's Cave Beach which is also known for amazing sunsets.
While a sunset may not be the most exciting thing to with kids in Jamaica, it is a perfect way for them to appreciate the beauty of the amazing planet they call home, and the people they share their life with.
An Orange Sunset Over Negril Beach
These exciting things to with kids in Jamaica will ensure that your family will never forget their Jamaican vacation. Who knows, you may even join the countless families who have fallen in love with the island and keep going back year after year.
All photos the property of author, Rosheda Stephenson
© 2009 Rosheda Stephenson