Jamaica is known for reggae music, Blue Mountain coffee, and rum. But, scuba divers also know the crystal clear waters surrounding this Caribbean island also make it a great dive destination.
However, it’s not as popular as say, the Bahamas or Grand Cayman, so there isn’t as much useful information online.
So we are aware that sometimes planning the PERFECT dive holiday to Jamaica can be somewhat stressful.
But it doesn’t have to be.
In this guide, it is my goal to show you all of the best dive locations in Jamaica, how to get there, what to expect, who to dive with, visa information, and more.
There are a number of options when it comes to diving in Jamaica, so I will tell you what makes each one unique and special.
Once you decide where you want to go, I’ll give you all the information you’ll need to make it happen. You won’t have to worry about any stress about not knowing what to expect, but you will still be able to plan every detail.
Dive Sites to Explore in Jamaica
Despite not being known as a major dive destination, Jamaica has over 100 dive sites around the island.
While marine life has suffered thanks to over-fishing in the past, some of the big draws of these dive sites aren’t so much about the critters, but rather the topography of the sites themselves.
There are plenty of great reefs to explore, but you should definitely try to make it to a few of the following dive sites:
The Throne Room
Near Negril, the Throne Room is a large underwater cavern filled with elephant ear sponges that look like, you guessed it, thrones. The cavern is 60 feet deep and home to eels, barracuda, and sometimes nurse sharks.
This old WWII mine-sweeper was scuttled to create an artificial reef near Ochos Rios. Divers can explore around the ship and also inside the wheelhouse. Not suitable for beginners.
Located in Montego Bay, Widowmaker’s Cave has a depth of about 80feet, a chimney you can enter or exit from, and plenty of parrot fish, black corals, and barracuda.
Port Royal Sunken City
A seedy old pirate city that was lost to the ocean after an earthquake in 1692. It’s definitely a unique dive site, perfect for those with an interest in history or looking for adventure. Located near Kingston, this dive site needs a special permit from the local authorities, but can be organized by most recognized dive operators.
Another dive site near Montego Bay, Basket Reef is named after the basket sponges and cover the area. It’s also said to be a good spot to see turtles and dolphins if you are lucky.
A good array of reef fish and coral can be found on this Ocho Rios dive site, including sea fans, gorgonians, eels, and jacks. If you are lucky you may also see some turtles and nurse sharks.
Located near Runaway Bay, the Canyon starts at 35 feet and descends to a depth of 140feet. Beautiful corals, snappers, moray eels, and wrasse are commonly seen. Sometimes you can also find spotted eagle rays.
Located near Port Antonio, this dive site is renowned for its visibility. It’s a shallow dive with lots of vegetation and a good spot to find eagle rays.
Deep Plane Wreck
This intentionally sunk Cessna aircraft has become a beautiful artificial reef. It attracts plenty of reef fish and is covered in sponges.
A drift dive by Montego Bay that starts at 60 feet and drops down as far as 200 feet. Plenty of fish and, if you are really lucky, you may catch a glimpse of a hammerhead. Experienced divers only.
Jamaican waters and coral reefs have really suffered from over-fishing, however the creation of two marine parks; one in Montego Bay and the other in Negril, have revitalized the marine life, especially the smaller species, in these areaa.
There are 260 recorded species of marine fish found in Jamaica’s tropical waters. Here is what to look for
Sharks: While not a guarantee, sharks can frequently be spotted in the waters around Jamaica. You may see reef sharks, black tips, nurse sharks, or even a tiger shark.
Turtles: Both green turtles and hawksbill turtles. Turtles did suffer from the overfishing problem, however there is now a ‘Save Jamaica’s Sea Turtles’ program to protect them. Ocho Rios and Montego Bay are popular nesting areas so you are mostly likely to see them in those areas.
Manta Rays: A rare sighting, but eagle rays have been known to frequent a couple of dive sites.
Dolphins: Best seen around Negril, especially in the evenings. Though they are more likely to come swim beside you boat than be seen on an actual dive.
Barracuda: A regular visitor to many of the dive sites around Jamaica.
Plenty of reef fish: including parrotfish, angelfish, butterfly fish etc.
How to get to Jamaica
Jamaica is a small island, but there are several airports. The three international airports in Jamaica are: Sangster Airport (Montego Bay), Ian Flemming Airport (Ocho Rios), Norman Manley Airport (Kingston).
For vacationers, Sangster Airport in Montego bay is the most popular (and often cheapest). Transfers to your accommodation should be arranged ahead of time with your travel provider or resort/hotel.
For American, Canadian, British, and Australian citizens, visas are not required. There is no fee associated with visiting Jamaica and the period of stay (at the discretion of the authorities) can be as long as six months. However, you may be asked to provide proof of a return ticket.
Other nationalities may need to obtain a visa on arrival or ahead of time, so please check in advance.
Make sure that your passport is valid for the duration of your visit and that you have, at minimum, one blank page in your passport.
Best times to Visit
However, you do need to be aware of potential hurricanes. Hurricane season is between June 1st and November 30th. Hurricanes don’t always hit the island, but if you are travelling during this season you do need to keep an eye on the weather.
Now, a hurricane isn’t just going to pop out of nowhere, you will get an advance warning, but it is something to keep in mind when planning your scuba diving vacation.
If you are hoping to experience Jamaica outside of the crowds and before hurricane season, come during the months of April and May. It’s a whole lot quieter, prices are a bit cheaper, and the water is still perfect.
Where to Stay
Most travelers to Jamaica choose to stay on a resort in one of the resort areas: Montego Bay, Ocho Rios, Negril, etc. The all-inclusive packages are often a good deal and come with peace of mind regarding safety.
The best dive areas on the island are in the fringing reefs surrounding Negril and Montego Bay; both of which have a variety of resorts in the area.
While all-inclusive resorts may not always be your preferred style of travel, there are some definite bonuses to this. Firstly, the resorts that offer diving have trustworthy, qualified guides and instructors.
Secondly, for those who don’t have their own gear, renting is easy. And finally, some resorts even include scuba diving as a free activity for your stay (this is true for all Sandals resorts).
Other Things to See and Do
While scuba diving and white sandy beaches are both a big draw, Jamaica has a whole lot more to offer. Dunn’s River Falls is a major attraction where visitors can actually climb up the waterfall. A visit here can also be combined with zip-lining tours.
Another popular spot is the Bob Marley museum where tourists can tour Bob Marley’s old home near Kingston. Or, if you love coffee, head to the Blue Mountains where you visit some coffee farms and even do some hiking.
For safety reasons, tours should be booked through your hotel/resort with a trusted guide.
Common Travel Questions
Jamaica is a popular destination, especially for North Americans, but there are still a couple of concerns that travelers have questions about.
Is it safe?
Both the USA and Canada have travel warnings for Jamaica. This is mainly in the capital of Kingston and specific parts of the Montego Bay area, but does also apply across the island.
Violent crime is a serious problem in some parts of the island, including gun violence, sexual assault, and robbery. While the media does tend to sensationalize these threats, it’s better to be safe than sorry.
For this reason, it is recommended that visitors to Jamaica stay at higher end resorts which have additional security. Travelers are also advised against walking around areas outside of the resort on their own, especially after dark.
If you are interested in any day tours or excursions, it’s best to go with an organized tour that can be booked with your travel provider or from your resort.
What about Zika?
Zika virus does exist in Jamaica. So if you are pregnant, or planning to get pregnant in the near future, save this as a dive destination for a later time.
Bites are most likely to occur during dawn and dusk and protect yourself by staying indoors during that time, or applying mosquito repellent with deet.
Jamaica Geograpaphy & Helpful Information
Jamaica is an island nation of the Caribbean and a land of beaches and swaying palm trees. This is the place of reggae music, colorful artworks, and best foods.
The total area is 10,991 km2 (4,244 sq mi) and a population of approximately 2,881,355. Away from the coast are the breathtaking mountains and waterfalls, rivers, and a spread of cactus all over the Savannah plains.
Capital city of Jamaica: Kingston
Best times to visit Jamaica: The best time to visit Jamaica is during the months of November to December where the weather is pleasant and the sky is clear. Accommodations are a bit cheaper than the rates in summer.
Visa requirements for Jamaica: The US and Canadian citizens are not required to obtain a visa if the travel is less than 6 months however, a passport is needed.
Currency of Jamaica: Jamaican dollar (JMD) is the currency of Jamaica.
Official Language of Jamaica: The official language of Jamaica is Jamaican Patois (de facto).
UNESCO World Heritage sites in Jamaica:
There is 1 UNESCO World Heritage Sites in Jamaica and 2 on their tentative list.
- Blue and John Crow Mountains (2015)
More articles about Jamaica:
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