While the Caribbean is a glistening treasure trove of tropical islands, each one a paradise in its own unique way, if you ask most people they would struggle to name more than a handful of them. Of that tiny collection though, one name is guaranteed to appear: Jamaica. Most famous of the Caribbean’s jewels, Jamaica has long since been a favorite travel destination for those looking to trade the smog and bustle of city life for the slow pace, warm sunshine, fresh air and cool turquoise waters of island living… even if only for a week’s vacation.
While Jamaica has a wealth of wonderful places to explore and activities to engage in, one that has been steadily rising in popularity is scuba diving. And for good reason. This glorious island nation is skirted by an abundance of deep caverns, shallow water reefs and, perhaps best of all, shipwrecks; all just begging to be explored by adventurous divers of all backgrounds and skill levels. To get you excited for the Jamaican adventure you need in your life, we’ve consulted with local experts to bring you the cream of the crop: the three top spots you simply must visit if you’re going diving in Jamaica.
The Throne Room: Negril’s famous dive site
Negril is a stunning region on the west side of the island. This little pocket of Jamaica boasts a bevy of caverns, perfect for adventurous divers. Most famous of these fascinating caverns is “The Throne Room.” It lies beyond a crack in the coral reef wall which takes you through descending layers of coral and underwater vegetation.
As you move through this enchanting underwater world, you will realize, with a smile, where it gets its name. Clinging to the cavern walls, you will see massive elephant ear sponges that form into shapes just like thrones. Along with the multitude of coral and the majestic sponges, you’ll also get to swim with eels, barracuda, an assortment of other tropical fish and, if you’re lucky, a few stray sharks.
Widowmaker’s Cave: the Star of Montego Bay
While its name sounds ominous, Widowmaker’s Cave actually earned its title thanks to a famous 1967 book by James Jones entitled ‘Go to the Widowmaker’. The book centers around a playwright who becomes obsessed with deep sea diving on a trip to Jamaica. Any diving enthusiast will tell you that’s an easy thing to do!
Widowmaker’s Cave can be found in Montego Bay and is considered one of the island’s more technical dives. The cave has two entrances, meaning you don’t have to backtrack and you can start and finish from whichever one you want. The traditional point of entry though is the opening you’ll find about 80 feet below the surface of the water. You then wind your way up to the exit. The winding, funnel of a cave is filled with all the life you’d expect in a tropical paradise and is a much-loved spot for underwater photography.
The SS Kathryn: Shipwreck Diving at its Finest
If you’re willing to venture a little further from the coastline of Jamaica, there are some fine shipwreck diving opportunities. Our favorite of these is to be found off the coast of Ocho Rios. The SS Kathryn (also referred to as the Catheryne Wreck) was a WWII mine-sweeping vessel.
While it would certainly be a more exciting story if it had been destroyed in the heat of battle, the Kathryn was actually intentionally sunk for the purpose of creating an artificial reef. Nowadays, you will find it has become exactly that. A specter of its former self, the SS Kathryn is now covered in coral and sponges, home to an assortment of colorful ocean-going critters. Bursting with life, this location is a truly wonderful place to explore. However, our experts suggest it should only be attempted by those experienced in shipwreck diving.