Called “the fairest land” by the first European explorers, Jamaica continues to enthrall visitors who come expecting gorgeous beaches. But there is more to the island’s appeal, as visitors can immerse themselves in adventures like beach horseback riding, mountain trekking, waterfall climbing and river rafting, particularly in the coastal resort areas of Montego Bay, Ocho Rios, Negril and Port Antonio.
“Jamaica is a diverse destination and very engaging,” said John Woolcock, manager of groups and conventions for the Jamaica Tourist Board. “We’re fortunate to have many different types of venues and attractions to give clients unique experiences. We have 150 licensed tour operators. Companies like Chukka Caribbean Adventures and Island Routes offer an extensive array of programs, with many geared toward teambuilding.”
Chukka, for one, touts its teambuilding capabilities, with specially trained facilitators who take groups on horseback ride-and-swim tours, down rivers via kayaks or tubes, and along foot trails through misty jungles, encouraging participation and providing an interactive wrap-up of the day’s adventures.
“Planners have the ability to go out there and customize programs to give attendees unique experiences that will really wow them,” Woolcock noted.
That wow factor is waiting with Rainforest Adventures Mystic Mountain in Ocho Rios, where a bobsled ride down the mountain pays homage to the Jamaican bobsled team that created a worldwide sensation during the 1988 Winter Olympics. Canopy ziplines and chairlift rides also explore the treetops at Mystic Mountain, while a Tranopy Tour combines all three adventures.
“Definitely, it’s a great way for the group to relax and unwind after the meeting, as well as enjoy the beautiful scenery,” said Marsha Mattos, director of sales. “We can accommodate groups of 25 up to 400, or they can do a total buyout.”
An air-conditioned conference space with audiovisual equipment is available for groups, while a mountaintop lawn and on-site restaurant also host private events.
Jammin’ in Negril
Back at sea level, Jamwest Motorsports and Adventure Park in Negril started as a quarter-mile speedway 14 years ago and now includes a two-mile racing circuit, ATV and safari tours, a zipline challenge, horseback riding and the largest goat farm in Jamaica.
The company recently added customized teambuilding experiences ranging from rock climbing contests to treasure chest hunts, with a Jeep safari excursion that includes encounters with exotic reptiles, traversing a mangrove forest and soaking in a therapeutic mineral bath.
Get set to spend some serious down time living it up, though.
“We have a program that lasts the entire day, starting at 9:30 and ending at 5, with others lasting till 2 or 3,” company representative Deidre Ann Evans noted. “Our teambuilding activities are requested quite often.”
Say “waterfall” in the Caribbean and there’s a good chance Dunn’s River Falls in Ocho Rios will spring to mind. Considered one of the most beautiful spots on Earth—and a Jamaican national treasure—the falls also make a great teambuilding activity as people have to link arms and climb its terraced steps together from bottom to top, pausing to swim and slide along the way.
Once you conquer the falls, check out the on-site craft market or enjoy a group snack in the lush picnic area.
Set between Ocho Rios and St. Ann’s Bay is the natural treasure Cranbrook Flower Forest, a 130-acre working nursery featuring gorgeous flower gardens and a winding river trail passing gentle falls and refreshing pools where visitors can cool off. The tranquil setting is available for private events as well.
Not all the beautiful sites in Jamaica are above ground, though. Boasting a dramatic history that includes time as a hideout for Spaniards who were being forced out of the country, Green Grotto Caves is a subterranean underworld of labyrinthine limestone caverns, stalactites, stalagmites and even an underground lake. Mind the bats.
In addition to their myriad attractions and adventures, Jamaica’s resort areas are developing into significant meeting centers, starting with Montego Bay and the oceanfront Montego Bay Convention Centre, which opened in 2011 and boasts a total of 139,302 square feet of meeting, exhibition and ballroom space.
“It’s been a game changer for us,” said Woolcock of the Jamaica Tourist Board. “You have all the hotels along that strip in the Rose Hall area, and it’s literally minutes away from the airport, which has convenient airlift coming right into Montego Bay.”
Woolcock said that most groups fly directly into Montego Bay and stay on to meet at places like the Hilton Rose Hall Resort and Spa, with more than 44,000 square feet of indoor/outdoor event space, or continue on to nearby Negril, Ocho Rios and other resort areas.
Those flying into Kingston will find the going easy as well.
“We have a new highway from Kingston to Ocho Rios,” Woolcock said. “The drive time is now just over an hour. Jamaica’s infrastructure continues to improve. This is a very exciting time for us in the group department.”