Jamaica, West Indies

I’ll be attending a wedding in Kingston, Ja. in June (wew! HOT!). Preliminary web searches are not returning much info on whitewater or sea kayaking there. This seems odd to me.

They get a ton of rain and they have mountains. There’s got to be whitewater there.

A few places rent sea kayaks, notably in Treasure Beach. I was hoping to put together a multi-day, point-to-point trip, but the challenges of organizing, from afar, such a trip seem daunting.

I’d appreciate hearing about paddling resources in Jamaica if you know of any. I’ll be flying there, so I’ll be boatless.

~~Chip Walsh

I was in Jamaica about one year ago; we stayed at a resort in Ocho Rios. Our paddling was limited to short excursions off the beach in the resort’s SOT kayaks and a day-trip to float the Martha Brae River on a bamboo raft.

We did go up into the Blue Mtns., but for a bike ride, not paddling. Although I can’t say that I recalled seeing all that many decent looking rivers along the way. In fact, I can’t think of one. The only river I remember seeing that had enough volume for a boat was choked with vegetation, old downed trees, etc. In most places the water seems to run down the mountains in numerous small springs, versus coming together in a major river.

But after having seen a fair bit of Jamaica, I may be a little hesitant to travel the interior solo. The non-tourist towns looked pretty rough, and there’s a lot of poverty in the countryside.

I think your best bet may be to rent a sea kayak and hop down the shoreline, maybe from hotel to hotel or something. Of course, you’d have to call ahead to likely destinations and see if that would work logistically. OR, stay at a nice resort with comp. kayaks and take long day trips up and down the shoreline from there.

Sorry I couldn’t answer your questions directly; hope this helped somewhat.

Non-tourist areas
I know what you mean about the non-tourist areas. The people are poor and the areas look rough, although I think for the most part the people are very warm and non-threatening.

But I felt helpless to understand much of what these folks say, and they say it in fairly animated tones. Especially the people who come up to you plying some sort of hustle, even if it is just selling coconuts. I understand my Jamaican friends okay, but that’s only because they are trying to make themselves understood to me. When they talked to the locals, they revert to islander-to-islander jargon & dialect, and I could only catch a few words.

That’s why I think it would be hard to lay out a point-to-point trip. I imagine myself stopping on a beach and having locals come up. I wouldn’t know if they were telling me “don’t stop here,” “want to buy a lobster,” or “mon, that’s a crazy looking boat, mon!” That’d intimidate me. And I doubt they have parks / campgrounds such as we are used to in the states.

Thanks for the idea of hotel to hotel. Duh, it never occurred to me.

On a drive between Kingston and Ocho Rios I remember seeing locals washing laundry in a river that looked boatable. I would feel sort of conspicuous paddling (playing) in a river where people are doing laundry (working + poverty). Maybe that’s why there’s not more of it. Don’t wanna bum out the tourists.


I went to the Sandals Ocho Rios resort with my wife on our honeymoon in 1994.

The resort had Ocean Kayak doubles. We had fun paddling them along the coast for relatively short trips. Most of the beaches near us were privately owned by hotels and they were guarded. We didn’t even consider landing.

The other issue is wind. It seemed like it was always quite windy. We would be sure to start early and paddle into the wind going out, so we would have the wind at our back coming in.

Lots of fun, but just fun little outings.

the “jargon” is called…
patois, the unofficial but commonly used language among locals. And, yes, they are probably talking about you when using it.

As far as river yakking, this would take considerable effort to plan & would certainly infringe on river dwellers & the bamboo raft guides who make their living giving tourists the “Errol Flynn experience.” We did this on the Martha Brae & saw more of those rafts than you could imagine…it’s quite a tourist draw & I’m not sure how gracious they would be to sharing the river with kayak traffic. Also, with few decent roads accessing the upper reaches of these rivers, getting the yaks upstream would be difficult (the rafts are poled up).

I’ll bet the property-to-property idea would be easier to arrange, especially if staying at a multi-location property like Sandals. For example, you could paddle from Ocho Rios to Dunn’s River & then from there to Montego Bay. Or you could resort-hop along Negril’s seven-mile beach.

Enroute, I would be very cautious leaving the yak unattended at other than a private resort. And be sure to give the cruise ships the right-of-way!