The term ”hidden gem' could well have been invented for the Blue Hole in Jamaica; even some of the locals are unaware of its existence. The Blue Hole Ocho Rios, to give it its full name, is tucked away up in the Thatch Hill Mountains. Make the effort to seek out this very special little place and you'll be rewarded with some of the island's most beautiful scenery and an atmosphere of absolute tranquillity. Anyone going to Jamaica for a holiday should put this at the top of their to-do list.
Getting to the Blue HoleTo get to the Blue Hole in Jamaica you'll either need to catch a bus, take a taxi, or hire a guide. The drive up the mountainside can be quite challenging and it's far better to rely on local skill and knowledge than to attempt driving it yourself. Even the drive up has its own attractions: you'll pass through tiny, ramshackle villages, see street-side stalls and tradesmen, and even encounter the occasional wandering goat. The views of the canyons are quite spectacular and there's plenty of opportunity for photographs as you make your way up Thatch Hill.
Beginning the journeyOnce you've arrived, you'll be given a lifejacket and a guide will lead you up the slope towards the first of the waterfalls. Again, have your camera handy as the scenery is breath-taking. You'll see bright flowers and the colourful flash of plumage as birds flit between the branches. It's also worth remembering to bring some water and some sunscreen, as it can get very hot. In fact, that's one of our top tips for any excursion on your Jamaica holidays: always have a bottle of water with you. The next part of your journey involves climbing along rocks and through waterfalls as you make your way upstream. Water shoes are a good idea, as the terrain can be tough on bare skin. If you don't have any with you, ask your guide, who should be able to source some from local vendors. You'll find that many of the stretches of rock are lined with ropes to help you pull yourself along, as things can get slippery. Water shoes or waterproof boots with good soles will definitely help you to keep your footing.
Fun at the Blue Hole Ocho RiosThe hike itself only takes around half an hour but by the time you make it to the site you'll be more than ready to take a dip. Set in the base of a secluded canyon and surrounded by lush, green ferns, towering palm trees and thickets of wild bamboo, the pool more than lives up to its name. The waters are sapphire blue and fed by a waterfall. While it's possible to use the ropes fixed in the canyon walls to climb your way down to the banks of the Blue Hole, the traditional method is a lot more fun. This is one of those holiday attractions where you quite literally jump in with both feet. There are jumping-off points all around the pool, ranging in height from about one metre to around nine metres. Your guides will instruct you as to which are the best for your ability (and nerves) and the rest is up to you. Despite their ice-blue appearance, the waters are very warm and remarkably still. For truly adventurous souls, there are a few Tarzan-style swings from which to launch yourself, and even a trapeze if you really want to try your hand at being an acrobat. However, all the fun and frolics are conducted under the expert eyes of your guides, who will quickly let you know if something isn't safe.
The journey backAfter about an hour or so, it'll be time to return to the drop-off point. However, as this is Jamaica, there's no hurry and you'll have ample opportunity to splash around in the smaller waterfalls and pools on your way down. Although you'll have paid a fee for the experience, it's standard practice to tip your guides. The usual rate is between 10 and 15%. From the drop-off point, you can hop in a bus or taxi or, if you hired one, pick up your private hire car and take the return journey down Thatch Hill to where you started. While the Blue Hole in Jamaica isn't an officially recognised tourist attraction, the fact that it's a bit off the beaten track comes with its own benefits. Unlike some ultra-popular sites, you won't find any gift shops or merchandise and there are rarely any queues to worry about. For a slice of true tranquillity and the chance to let your inner child run free for an hour or two, it could easily become a highlight of your holidays to Jamaica.