The sun shines bright on the Caribbean islands, beckoning visitors to enjoy its pristine beaches and warm waters. Its famous crystal clear seas are well-known for a range of watersports, including snorkeling, scuba diving, sailing, and deep-sea fishing. However, its lush green jungles also offer many leisure activities for the more restless travelers. As well as kayaking, cycling, and hiking, rock climbing on the island's limestone cliffs, which for too long have been ignored, is now another leisure option.
Why go rock climbing in Jamaica?
Jamaica is a destination like no other: an island paradise where the pulsing rhythms of reggae and dancehall music echo through its exuberant hills and white sand beaches. Most visitors come to relax under the shade of a palm tree, cool off in its turquoise sea and forget their troubles while they indulge in an icy glass of brown rum. But what about those looking for a climbing-centered holiday?
Juan, one of the most prolific developers in Jamaica, bolting at Hannah Rock, Tangle River (St. James) ©JamRock Climbing
Jamaica didn't have climbing until very recently. This is unsurprising considering the highly-specific technical skills and especially the cost of the materials required to develop a new climbing destination, meaning that the sport tends to proliferate in wealthy countries first.
A few years ago, Daniel Oury and Juan Luis Toribio, two experienced Spanish climbers who moved to Jamaica for work, started developing their first cliffs. If you're eager to know how climbing kicked off in Jamaica, you can read "The birth of rock climbing in Jamaica: a new Climbing Big-Bang in the Caribbean."
The island’s best rock-climbing areas
Today, the country offers 100+ climbing routes spread across the island. On the north coast, you’ll find 30 sport climbs and a few trad at Hannah Rock, 20 sport routes at the John Crow Cliffs of Coral Springs, 50 climbs (mainly sport but also some trad) at Discovery Bay, as well as a couple of Deep Water Soloing spots at the West-end cliffs of Negril. On the south coast, there are currently 12 routes at Cane River Falls and some others at Bog Walk Gorge.
Juan Luis Toribio, responsible for developing most of the climbing on the island, shares with us some info on three crags you should not miss on your next trip:
1. Hannah Rock
Juan climbing at Hannah Rock, Tangle River (St. James) © JamRock Climbing
Jamaica’s biggest crag is located in Tangle River, at a pair of white tower formations called Hannah Rock. The cliffs get their name from the tale of a runaway slave who decided to end her life by jumping off one of them, preferring to die than return to slavery. The area currently has over 30 routes of approximately 35m, ranging from 6a to 8a/+, with the potential for some more (development is still ongoing).
The climbing here is as good as it gets in Jamaica: great quality rock full of pockets and tufas with amazing views of the jungly hills of the cockpit country. A campsite is currently being developed close to this area in a property with several taller walls, which we hope to start bolting very soon. If you would like to stay at the campsite, you can contact us via Instagram (@jamrockclimbing).
2. Coral Springs
Juan climbing at the John Crow Cliffs of Coral Springs (Trelawny) © JamRock Climbing
Located on the north coast, near the community of Coral Springs, is another unique area. The beautiful John Crow cliffs currently host some 20 routes, ranging from IV to 7b+, spread out through various walls. The rock there is quite sharp, but the views are breathtaking. You’ll be climbing surrounded by giant black vultures (the John Crows) as well as stingrays, coral reefs, and sea turtles that pop out to breathe from the turquoise Caribbean sea.
3. Cane River Falls
Juan sport climbing at Cane River Falls, Bull Bay (St. Andrew) © JamRock Climbing
Not far from Kingston, we find another climbing gem: Cane River Falls. Bogdan Simandan (@brsjamaica) and @jamrockclimbing have now developed 12 routes there, from IV to 8a, but there is still potential for hundreds more. The rock here is smooth and full of pockets (which, however, aren’t as good as they seem!) yet also has good friction, making the climbing a perfect mix of power and technique. This is also a great place to mingle with the locals who come to spend the day at the waterfall.
4. Extra-tip: Deep Water Soloing in Negril, Jamaica
Juan Deep Water Soloing at the 3 Dives area, West End Negril © JamRock Climbing
Negril’s West End, Jamaica’s laidback capital, also has something to offer to those whose idea of relaxing is trying hard on a steep overhang! Its many cliffs hide several caves with excellent potential for Deep Water Soloing, one of rock climbing’s lesser-known disciplines. If you want to learn more about it and how to practice this discipline safely, we recommend reading our article “10 Tips for an Awesome Deep Water Solo Day Out”.
In any case, Negril’s Deep Water Soloing is generally relatively safe since the sea is mostly calm and the cliffs are not very tall. While the rock is somewhat sharp, and the quality of the climbing depends significantly on conditions (given that the wind can make the walls damp), the natural beauty of the cliffs and sea makes up for the rest. The routes here tend to be short and bouldery, although you can also find the odd longer endurance climb.
The best areas for DWS are the cave under the 3 Dives Restaurant (make sure you purchase some food or drinks if you decide to climb there) and the Pirate’s Cave under the Pushcart Restaurant (you will need a kayak or paddle board to access it).
For more info, topos, or general tips on guiding services, accommodation, etc., you can message us on Instagram @jamrockclimbing.