A Winter Sport Reinvented in the Caribbean
To practice for the 1988 Winter Olympics in Calgary, the Jamaican bobsled team raced down the island’s Blue Mountains in a modified pushcart. Famously spoofed in the 1993 film, Cool Runnings, the idea of bobsledding without any snow or ice got plenty of well-deserved laughs. It was admittedly funny, but it also looked like a lot of fun.
Now you can re-create the experience with Rainforest Bobsled Jamaica at Mystic Mountain, a new eco-themed park, opened in 2008 by Rainforest Arial Tram, which also has attractions in Costa Rica, St. Lucia, and Dominica. In Ocho Rios, on Jamaica’s northeast coast, film buffs, thrill-seekers, aspiring Olympic athletes, and even adventurous families can hop in custom-designed, high-tech bobsleds and speed down a 1,000m-long (3,200-ft.) track of rails that, at one point, drops 122m (400 ft.) at about 48kmph (30 mph).
The departure point is located at the top of Mystic Mountain. To get there, you have to ride one of the park’s other attractions, the Sky Lift Explorer, a chairlift that takes you more than 210m (700 ft.) up, high above the treetops. From here, you bobsled down a winding route that carves through a dense tropical forest. If you’re craving another escapade after this stomach-dropping rush, check out the park’s zipline called the Tranopy Ride.
The resort town of Ocho Rios also offers active pursuits for adrenaline junkies, in addition to its revered sunshine and sandy beaches. One of the most popular exploits is clambering up a limestone-tiered 285m (940 ft.) waterfall called Dunn’s River Falls (www.dunnsriverfallsja.com). Just try to avoid going when cruise ship passengers are in the port; it can quickly get overcrowded. A more off-the-beaten-path option is a 3-hour horseback ride and swim with Chukka Caribbean Adventures (www.chukkacaribbean.com). You’ll ride through historic St. Ann, two of the island’s oldest sugar estates, and along the coastline of Chukka Coves’ private beach. This company also offers kayaking trips on the White River and tours of Nine Miles, Bob Marley’s birthplace and burial site. Feel free to adopt the reggae spirit and chill out for a while. When you’re ready for more excitement, you’ll find it. After all, the country that figured out how to bobsled without snow clearly knows a few things about adventure. —JS
Jamaica Tourist Board, 18 Queens Dr., Montego Bay ( 876/952-4425; www.visitjamaica.com).
Tour: Rainforest Bobsled Jamaica, Mystic Mountain ( 876/974-3990; www.rainforestbobsledjamaica.com).
When to Go: Dec–Apr.
Sir Donald Sangster International Airport in Montego Bay.
$$$ Jamaica Inn, P.O. Box 1, Main St. ( 800/837-4608; www.jamaicainn.com). $$ Riu Ocho Rios, Mammee Bay ( 876/972-2200; www.clubhotelriuochorios.com).