If you’re looking for a brief escape from the fun-in-the-sun ethos of Negril, spend an hour or two down the caves at Roaring River Park. This natural beauty spot contains mineral waters that gush up from the ground in a meadow full of water hyacinths and water lilies. A stone aqueduct takes off some of the water, which runs turquoise-jade. Steps lead up a cliff face gashed by the mouth of a subterranean passage lit by electric lanterns (you can enter the caves only with guides from the cooperative). Inside, a path with handrails leads down to chambers full of stalagmites and stalactites. Take your swimming gear to sit in the mineral spring that percolates up inside the cave, or in the ‘bottomless’ blue hole outside the cave. Harmless fruit bats roost in the recesses.
As you arrive an official guide will meet you to show the way to the ticket office, and then around the gardens and cave; ignore the touts who congregate outside posing as tour guides.
The lane then continues beyond Roaring River for about 1km uphill through the village to Blue Hole Gardens, a beautiful sinkhole that is surrounded by a landscaped garden full of ginger torch and heliconia on the private property of a Rasta called Esau. Entry is overpriced, but you’ll get the chance to take a cool dip with the fish in the turquoise waters. The source of the Roaring River is about 400m further up the road, where the water foams up from beneath a matting of foliage.
This is also a quintessential counterculture lifestyle retreat that offers two very rustic but charming cottages set in gardens at the edge of the tumbling brook (the ‘waterhouse’ cabin sits over the stream). Bamboo-enclosed toilets and showers are alfresco. Here you can also rent ‘Esau’s Mountain Retreat’ (US$80), which is a separate cabin in the hills with fully equipped kitchen. Camping is US$10.
If you’re hungry, pop into Lovers Café, which is known for its veggie feast, I-tal dishes, fruit juices and herbal teas.
Roaring River is at Shrewsbury Estate, about 2km north of the main crossroads in Petersfield (8km northeast of Savanna-la-Mar). You can catch a bus in Savanna-la-Mar as far as Petersfield (J$150, about once every hour). From there it’s a hot walk or rough ride down the potholed road through the cane fields. Route taxis and coasters also run to Roaring River from Petersfield (J$100).
Organized tours to Roaring River are offered by companies in Negril (around US$75).