Cliff jumping is for the brave at heart – those people who are unafraid to take a leap of faith and jump off the edge. Fortunately, when doing this in the Caribbean, or more specifically Jamaica, a cliff jumping session typically ends in cool and refreshing waters, in coves that are fun to explore.
As with most things that are exciting and daring, before engaging in a cliff jumping encounter, you must first learn about what it means to ‘cliff jump’, the best places to do it safety, and what the overall experience is like.
Among the best places to cliff jump in Jamaica is Rick’s Cafe in Negril. Greenery abounds at Rick’s and collides in the most spectacular way with the deep blues of the nearby ocean on the cliffside. The water in the cove nearby is an inviting turquoise color, and many people include cliff diving or jumping here as part of their stay in Jamaica.
Rick’s Café is a popular spot to spend the day, and has a bar, restaurant, and even a lounge area. There are also umbrellas and cosy cabanas close to the bar. Rick’s Café is especially popular with people who want to cliff jump, or those who want to just sit on the edge of a dramatic cliff side vantage and take in a spectacular sunset.
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Rick’s Café was founded in 1974 by Richard Hershman. Negril was a lesser known touristic destination at this time, and the venue added something new, not only to Negril, but to Jamaica. It was the first public bar and restaurant in the area with such outstanding views of the sunset. After Hurricane Gilbert in 1988, the Café was destroyed. It was rebuilt but destroyed again after Hurricane Ivan in 2004.
Determined to continue to make its mark on the tourism scene of Jamaica, the Café came back bigger and better post Ivan, and has since grown tremendously in popularity. The total property is about 2 acres, which means there is plenty of room to explore. Rick’s Café is located on top of a 35-foot high cliff, which makes for amazing views. There are upstairs rooms, which are available only if you order food. The bar is usually most crowded around sunset, so make your plans to go there well in advance to get there early.
While in Jamaica, you may hear both locals and tourists talking about Rick’s Café. Part of the reason for that is that the Café is well known for its prime opportunities for cliff jumping. A Rick’s Café diving experience and tour starts at around US$20, if you sign up with companies like Island Routes. The experience comes complete with trained lifeguards and security on duty to keep guests safe.
You can take a local cab to get to Rick’s Café if you are in the Negril area. Most hotels in Negril are about 5-10 minutes from the Café area. From Montego Bay, you can take a tour bus, by organizing a tour via Island Routes. It is also possible to embark on a Catamaran Cruise which stops off at Rick’s Café.
Many people question whether cliff jumping is safe. That of course depends upon the way you choose to engage in the pastime, and how careful you are in doing your research before plunging into the waters beneath. As accidents are not unheard of in the cliff jumping arena, it is advisable to proceed with caution. Here are some things you should consider doing before diving in.
If you have never cliff jumped before, spend some time watching others do it successfully while on site, before making up your mind to engage in a cliff jumping session.
This helps to be aware of any hidden or obvious hazards. Pay attention to the signs in the area, like boulders or coral heads beneath the surface.
This helps so you are not caught off guard for your cliff jumping endeavour-like knowing where to jump from, and where to exit. Being as informed as possible before jumping in will add to your overall experience.
In some areas, it is not advisable to dive in headfirst, as that could prove extremely dangerous, particularly in shallower water. Be cautious.
Remember that if you choose to cliff jump, you are doing so at your own risk. There are signs all over the Rick’s Café property saying this, and if you choose to ignore them and get hurt in the process, the Café is not responsible.
The nearest hospital to Rick’s Café is about 90 minutes away. Keep that in mind before deciding to cliff jump.
The best time to cliff jump at Rick’s Café in Jamaica is from 2-4pm. There are usually more people in the area during this time, which is good if you are a first-time cliff jumper; this gives you an opportunity to watch people in action before you make the jump yourself.
In the area where Rick’s Café is located, there are some cliffs which are not as high that children may attempt to jump from. You can bring kids along if they can swim.
Cliff jumping can be scary, especially if its your first time. You literally have no idea what to expect, once your feet leave the edge. There’s no turning back once you’re over the edge, and at that point, you’ll either be filled with excitement, panic, or both. Those mixed feelings usually wear off in a few seconds, and after that its pure exhilaration as you free fall into the waters below, with a gigantic splash. Cliff jumping is all about letting go and enjoying the moment. Most people find that making the jump is the most difficult part, but once they are past that point, fear makes room for one of the most amazing experiences of a lifetime.
The experience of cliff jumping in Jamaica can best be described as a combination of going down a water slide and jumping out an airplane, at a much lower altitude, while feeling everything inside you rushing upwards to your neck. It is that exciting, and that real, and a million thoughts might go through your mind in just those few seconds it takes to hit the water.
There are real concerns for some people… that they might land the wrong way and do a belly flop, or that they’re not positioned in the correct way. These are usually small matters, as most people hit the water just fine.
As you don’t really have much control when you’re free falling from a cliff, for some people it's instinctual to try to grab onto something, which can result in lots of flailing of arms and legs. This can be humorous to the people watching from above, so don’t take it personally if you hear laughter as you go down (if you can even focus on that), or as you hit the water. Some people receive rounds of applause after they make the big jump, typically depending on how ‘well’ the jump is executed. You shouldn’t focus too much on making a show of it though, as this can take away from the overall experience.
Tip: If you’re a first-time cliff jumper, it is highly recommended that you start on the lower levels and make your way up to the higher jumps. Cliffs in the most popular spots in Jamaica range from 8 feet to 40 feet. There is also a 27-foot option.
Of course, there is the obvious differentiation – cliff jumping, as opposed to cliff diving. Cliff jumping would simply require that you position yourself at the edge of a cliff and jump in when you are ready. Cliff diving on the other hand takes a certain level of skill, and you would have had to have diving experience for this to be worth doing. If you have no experience, cliff diving would be downright dangerous, and therefore not advisable. Not all cliff jumping locations are created equal. Some are deeper, or shallower, some have more rocks, some have potentially dangerous or poisonous marine life lurking below – you just never know. If you are a beginner, jump in at a lower-level spot, while leaving the high-level jumps for the more experienced.
Don’t feel pressured into cliff jumping. If it isn’t for you on that particular day, you can do it on another day, or not at all. Sometimes its just as fun to sit on the sidelines, as you get to relax as you watch other panic-stricken people trying to convince themselves to make the big jump. Grab a cold beer or cocktail and sit back and relax. Cliffs in Jamaica are also great for spotting dolphins in the nearby waters, and you’ll have a front row seat. You will also be perfectly positioned to take in some of the action, as the local cliff divers tend to really put on a show, some even climbing onto trees, and jumping from there. Take our advice, and do not try this yourself. Buy hey, since you’re not even considering jumping, of course that would be a stretch!
Tip: Feel free to leave a tip the local divers as a thank you for the courageous and daring entertainment.
Picture: Sunset view from Rick's Café.
It’s best to get there before 4pm if you’re not planning on jumping. This is the time that is usually busiest, and you’ll get to take in more of the action. Walk with a fully charged camera and phone, and prepare to stay long enough at least, to take in the amazing sunset from Rick’s Café. Just around 5:30 pm at this location, people start taking claim of various prime sunset watching spots at the edge of the cliffs, so be sure to find a spot that suits you from early. Rick’s Café makes a regular sunset watching experience even more exciting with a live in-house band, just around the time the sun starts to go down. This means you’ll be grooving to Reggae music, inclusive of well-known Bob Marley hits, as the sun descends slowly, marking the ending of a beautiful day.
Rick’s Café is a little more on the pricey end, and this is something that has happened over time (particularly after the location was rebuilt), as prices have increased. If you are on a budget, eat before you go, and plan to be back at your hotel for dinner. Beers at this location cost about $5-USD a pop. Try a cold Red Stripe Beer. As this spot is promoted more as a bar than a restaurant, expect bar snacks, and less than extravagant food. The food here while not five-star, is tasty and enjoyable. Expect things like buffalo wings, chicken tenders, and salsa & chips. There are also fish, and vegetarian options.
The service at Rick’s Café has received a few lacklustre reviews in the past, so keep your expectations in check. Once you can remind yourself that you are going for the experience, you should be just fine. You will more than likely be pleasantly surprised and find that you experience the best service in town while you are there!
Here’s a look at the menu at Rick’s Café so you know what to expect when you go: Rick's Cafe Menu. At Rick’s, the tip is usually included in the bill.
There are wooden tip boxes in the diving area, although some people drop paper money into the water, which the divers can retrieve easily because paper money will float. The divers in the water will usually swim over and collect the bills. However, if it is extra windy, it is best to place your tip into the box.
Rick’s Café isn’t the only cliff jumping spot in Negril, Jamaica. Another well-known spot is The Caves, which is located a few minutes from Rick’s Café. Though not as popular as Rick’s Café, you will find amenities at The Caves which will make your experience there a comfortable one. There’s also a cool bar in a cave at this location, as well as outdoor pools, and accommodation options. At The Caves, you can also start at the lower levels (about 8 feet), and make your way up to the more advanced jumps. A third cliff jumping location is also known as 3 Dives. There you can not only get your cliff jumping fix, but also taste some of Jamaica's best Jerk chicken, some awesome lobster, and enjoy live music with a gorgeous sunset backdrop.
Picture: 3 dives cliff jumping property.
All in all, cliff jumping is an exhilarating experience which will leave you with a sense of freedom that you would not have otherwise experienced, and not to mention bragging rights! It is one of the top things to do while in Jamaica.