On my 42nd birthday I chose to follow Eleanor Roosevelt’s wise advice: “Do one thing every day that scares you.” Since childhood I’ve maintained a healthy sense of physical self-preservation. I kept my hands on my bike handlebars, but also kept my bones unbroken and my teeth intact. I’m not timid by nature, but jumping off cliffs, and letting my 5-year-old jump too, falls outside my comfort zone. However, in search of adventure and new challenges, our family visited The Blue Hole near Ocho Rios, Jamaica. Result–best birthday ever!
If we hadn’t read about the Blue Hole on TripAdvisor before leaving the States, we wouldn’t have known about it. The larger excursion companies don’t go there (something about it being privately owned we were told) so we arranged for a taxi from our resort. About 15 minutes after turning off the highway outside of Ocho Rios and ascending an increasingly narrow and bumpy road, we were warmly greeted in the parking lot.
TIP #1: Bring cash.
My husband and I were in flip flops, and were told we’d need water shoes, which we rented from ladies in the parking lot for $6/pair. I suspected this was simply a revenue opportunity, but we really did need them for walking on trails, climbing rocks and swimming. There’s no way we could have done it in flip flops. Our daughter wore her Crocs, which worked fine.
TIP #2: Bring water shoes (aqua socks) or plan to rent them on site.
Next we paid our $10/pp admission fee and met our guide, Lloyd, who led us down a short trail to the lower pool. My husband jumped in first, I shoved down my anxiety and jumped second, and Lloyd guided our thrill-seeking daughter to a lower jumping point. Another employee snapped photos as we leaped and swam in the refreshingly cool water. After that we climbed to another jump off point where my husband and I (but not our daughter) each swung out over the pool Tarzan style and let go. We also swam into a small cave-like area. By the time we climbed out of the water, the photographer had more than 20 shots that he’d loaded onto his laptop and we agreed to buy them from him downloaded onto a CD.
We honestly thought that was the end of the visit, but we were just getting started. Lloyd led us expertly up river by trail and water to more natural pools, jumping spots and some other cool surprises.
I can’t say enough about Lloyd. He spent an hour and a half with our family making sure we knew where to step, pointing out interesting things to see and even carrying our daughter when the footing was tricky. We felt completely safe in his care.
When we arrived, Lloyd offered to take charge of our GoPro camera. Honestly, it’s not the easiest camera to run, but Lloyd’s a pro and by the end of our tour we had dozens of fun family photos and several minutes of video.
TIP #3: Tip your guide well.
These guides work hard and Lloyd was so professional. You’ll also have a chance to buy soda, beer and trinkets.
We’ll remember our trip to the Blue Hole for years to come. It truly was the highlight of our Jamaican vacation. And today, I’m following Eleanor Roosevelt’s advice again by posting photos of myself in a bathing suit on line. As they say in Jamaica, “everything irie mon.”
Note: Because this requires swimming, balancing on rocks and a walking up a bumpy trail with stairs, I would not recommend it for anyone who isn’t at least fairly in shape. Life jackets are available at no extra charge.