The Rivers Run Through Jamaica: 4 Watery Routes for Adventure

When I was trying to get pregnant, I put off going to Jamaica, because Island Routes Caribbean Adventures does not recommend river tubing if you’re expecting. That’s how keen I was for tubing the White River; I was planning my whole trip around it. Needless to say, this year, when I finally got to Jamaica, I was the first one on our tour group to hop in a lime green tube and slip into the river. It did not disappoint!

White river rafting in St. Mary, Jamaica - Ocho Rios

Rafting along the White River

The White River is so named because the rapids give it a snowy colour, making it an exciting—though not scary—adventure. Moreover, the riverbank scenery is both beautiful and historic. Floating on limestone riverbeds, we saw a seventeenth-century Spanish bridge; a bamboo canopy; an old, verdant coconut plantation; and a Jamaican tody, a sweet green bird endemic to the island.


There are more than a hundred rivers running through Jamaica, and a whole host of adventures you can have on them. Here are three more:

The Black River

The Black River winds its way through Jamaica’s very special South Coast. This is old Jamaica—lush and laidback and seemingly world’s away from the high-energy hotspots of Montego Bay and Ocho Rios. One of the longest rivers in the country, the Black River gets its name from its naturally dark waters. This is the perfect place for birdwatchers, as more than one hundred species of birds have been recorded in the area. This river is home to crocodiles; take a boat trip and see how many you can spot!

YS River Waterfall in the jungle of Jamaica.

YS River Waterfall in the jungle of Jamaica.

The Y.S. River

Rivers sometimes come as part of a package with amazing waterfalls, such as the Y.S. Falls on the Y.S. River in southern Jamaica. A lot of people, including me, pair a trip to these falls with an Appleton Estate rum tour, which certainly makes for a stellar and varied adventure. There is also, however, a good argument to be made for spending the whole day at the family-friendly Y.S. Falls, which boasts a tropical garden complete with red ginger lilies; canopy tours zipping over the waterfall; exciting rope swings; and seven meticulously maintained pools with crystalline spring waters. My family brought along a picnic lunch, but hot dogs and other snacks are available for purchase.

The Martha Brae River

It’s said that “Martha Brae” is an anglicized version of the name of a powerful Arawak witch. Legend has it that a group of greedy Spaniards tried to force her to show them the location of a local gold mine, and to avoid complying, she changed the course of this river and drowned them—and herself. The gentle green waters of the Martha Brae can be traversed on a traditional Jamaican bamboo raft. These two-seater rafts—thirty-feet long—were once used to transport sugar to the sea. Using a pole, an experienced captain will navigate the raft for you. But, if you’re interested, he might let you try your hand at it! Bring your swimsuit, if you’d like to take a refreshing dip.

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