Dive a sunken pirate hotspot, numerous wrecks, walls and reefs at this colourful and culturally-rich Caribbean destination. Jamaica has over 100 dives for all experience levels, plus a wealth of colourful marine life, you’ll be spoilt for choice.
St Ann Parish lies on the northern coast of Jamaica and is a gateway to some stunning dive sites which lie within the warm, clear, tropical waters of the Caribbean Sea. Dive sites include ship and plane wrecks, exciting deep canyons, steep reef walls and vibrantly coloured coral reefs.
Divers who are hoping to have a wreck diving experience, a cave diving experience, the opportunity to see Stingrays up close and to be surrounded by coral reefs made up of every colour of the rainbow should dive from St James Parish on the Caribbean Island of Jamaica.
Diving in the Westmoreland Parish on the island of Jamaica, means getting a true Caribbean Island experience; sandy beaches, turquoise waters, a plethora of marine life from colourful corals and sponges, to schools of reef fish to Sharks, there is something to see that will excite anyone!
Diving in Jamaica
Scuba diving in Jamaica isn’t the first thing that comes to mind for those vacationing in this culture-rich Caribbean nation. It isn’t as well known for diving as its other West Indies counterparts, but that doesn’t equate to zero possibilities for divers in Jamaica. There are plenty of options with lots to see underwater, such as schools of tropical fish, stingrays, eels, various coral species and a few sharks and turtles.
There are around 100 dive sites around Jamaica’s 1,022 km (635 miles) of coastline, where a wealth of marine life typical to the Caribbean Sea thrives. Negril, Montego Bay and Ocho Rios are where the best diving happens, and since the 1990s, these regions have created designated marine parks and reserves, which has enabled the reefs to improve over the years.
The conditions are Jamaica’s dive sites, which are usually shallow and calm, mean that it’s a great place to take beginner dive courses. For those seeking further certifications, cave and wreck specialty courses are a good choice, as there are many sites perfect for these kinds of training.
Most dive sites are accessible by shore or boat, and are usually quick to arrive at. You can find lots of dive centers in the beach towns, or alternatively, dive resorts and most all-inclusive resorts will have their own dive center that you can use. Liveaboard diving remains scarce around Jamaica, so your best bet is to approach resorts and dive centers for your trip.
Best time to dive
Jamaica's fantastic location in the Caribbean Sea means that it’s a great diving destination all year round, with tropical warm water and hot weather no matter the season.
The high season runs from mid-December to mid-April, when the climate is drier, more comfortable and ever so slightly cooler. Prices are normally more expensive during this time, understandably. The low season is from mid-April to mid-December, during which the two distinct rainy seasons occur in May and October to November. Prices on hotels and diving are usually less expensive, so the off season is the perfect time to grab good deals.
There’s little difference in temperature throughout the year. Even in winter, air temperatures stay between 27-30°C (81-86°F). The warm water temperatures similarly barely change, lingering around 27°C (81°F) between January and April, going up to 29°C (84°F) between July and November.
It’s said that for a calmer ocean surface and the best visibility, June to September is the best time to dive in Jamaica, although humidity is higher in the air.
It’s also important to be aware that this island is in the center of the hurricane belt of the Caribbean, and October to November is when hurricanes are most likely to happen.
Types of diving
Overall, Jamaica offers fairly easy diving suitable for all levels of experience. The majority of dive sites offer reef, wall, wreck and cave diving, where you’ll see a myriad of beautiful coral and tropical fish, and even stingrays, sharks and turtles.
Some of the best diving is in Negril and Montego Bay, where in the latter you’ll discover some of the healthiest reefs the country has to offer. Perfect for beginners, Surprise Reef is a vibrant, colorful reef dive site that as the name suggests, offers much to discover.
A top cave diving spot is Widow-Maker’s Cave at Montego Bay, and the Arches and Caves nearby boast incredible topography. One of Jamaica’s best wreck dives is The SS Kathryn Wreck at Ocho Rios, which is a shallow WWII mine-sweeper resting at only 15 meters (50 feet).
Most dive sites are very easily accessible, and the most popular way to dive anywhere in Jamaica is either by shore or boat. Dive sites are normally close to where the operators depart, and travel time can range anywhere from just a few minutes to 20 minutes.
What to see
Tons of tropical fish, abundant soft and hard coral species, sponges, eels, turtles and some sharks are commonly encountered in the waters around Jamaica. With 260 species of reef fish, including pufferfish, butterflyfish, sea slugs, parrotfish, and even mackerel and barracuda, there is some impressive diversity here. On occasion, nurse sharks and the West Indian manatee have been spotted, and if you’re lucky, you could even come across larger sharks and whales if they happen to be migrating.
Particularly at Montego Bay, you’re bound to meet a myriad of colorful fish among the healthy reefs here. For encounters with majestic rays, visit Stingray City where lots of stingrays fly by. While turtles can be seen in many dive sites, one of the top rated spots is Surprise Reef, where they are known to frequent. Though somewhat remote, Shark’s Reef is where divers see stingrays and nurse sharks relaxing on the sandy bottom.
Best places to dive
Here there are a couple of sites that truly stand out. The Sunken Plane is a delightful wreck dive at about 18 meters (59 feet), where the marine life has seemingly seen over this interesting sunken plane. After, try diving the nearby Stingray City, where as mentioned, you’ll meet an insane amount of gliding stingrays.
situated near Kingston, was a pirate hotspot in the 1600s. In 1692, much of it sank as a result of an earthquake and large tidal wave. Divers need special permission to dive here, but if you can acquire it, it’s an out of this world historical experience. Otherwise, just nearby Port Royal are a number of cays that have exceptional reefs and wrecks, which are similarly top rated spots.
Negril is home to many wonderful dive sites, one of which is especially famous - The Throne Room, boasting caves for advanced divers and reefs that are perfect for beginners. Divers of all levels can also enjoy wrecks dives and outstanding reefs in Negril, in addition to dramatic walls.
The Devil’s Reef is located off the shores of Ocho Rios, with healthy coral species, reef fish, moray eels, sea slugs and even nurse sharks live in this protected zone.
Finally, we end with a spot that’s perfect for beginners - the magnificent Middle Shoal Reef, a very shallow site that has literally almost everything. Expect to see colorful parrot fish, blue chromis, a plethora of reef fish, and even turtles, all bustling among beautiful coral.