Who’s up for a day of spelunking? Green Grotto Caves are so alluring in photos that I decided to brave the bats and the snakes and spend a bit of time exploring a slice of the mythical underground of Jamaica. 

I’ve been in a cave or two before, and there’s definitely an eerie tingling in the air as you climb over rocks and under stalactites to roam the unknown. Each cavern promises its own trove of fascinating treasures, so I was determined to put on a brave face and head into Jamaica’s most famous caves.

Touring the Green Grotto Caves

It was a smooth drive from Montego Bay, about an hour to the east. The scenery was beautiful as the road parallels the coastline and the Caribbean Sea shimmered in the blazing sun. We were greeted upon arrival by the bright smile of a friendly guide who ushered us inside.

We paid our fees and were handed hard hats to protect us from low hanging structures and falling objects, flying or otherwise. This is where slight regret creeped in, but I puffed out my chest and headed forward with my friends.

Our guide had quite the sense of humor and I was immediately put at ease. The first stop inside the cave was a wide opening with dim lighting, a stage still intact and stone picnic benches. Our guide let us know that this used to be a buzzing night spot. While I can’t imagine throwing back Bob Marley shots and pina coladas here below the sleeping bats and dripping calcium, I thought to myself that this was indeed a cool place for a rad party. Under the right influence, I may have been convinced to burst out in the butterfly to the tune of a groovy reggae beat.

We moved on to climb the 65 steps that took us more than 50 feet underground and into the “Belly of the Grotto.” Here, you’ll find the most serene river running through the caves. It’s as quiet as a mouse and I was baffled to learn that it’s actually moving water and not a still lake. In fact, if you go deep enough, you’ll meet the sea and can swim out to nearby Puerto Seco Beach!

The Evolution of the Cave

Our guide was very informed and told us tales of Spanish soldiers who hid here from the English in the 16th century. Soon after, slaves were the ones who would make this vast underground expanse their hideout. I thought that the cool air and crystal clear water would make for a good hideaway until our guide reminded us that the caves were pitch black when slaves trekked its corridors. 

Apparently, bat droppings are extremely flammable so torches would be more detrimental than helpful. At this point our guide switched the lights off and I couldn’t even make out my glasses sitting on my face. It was so dark I was scared to move my feet an inch and I was definitely on edge listening for anything scurrying by my feet. These caves are home to Jamaican snakes and though they are non-venomous, this fact had me on high alert.

I said a small prayer for my ancestors who certainly had the strength of steel to navigate these dangerous caverns without light. One wrong step could easily lead to a fall down a hole of unknown depths. I was super relieved to make it back to light and onto the gorgeous deck area where I promptly ordered a snack and a drink for my nerves.

The tour was only 45 minutes long and was as fascinating as it was a little spine-chilling. We learned that we haven't even scratched the full network of tunnels underground as oxygen becomes very thin and discovery becomes more dangerous the further in you go. I might be a big wuss, but my kid had loads of fun—both in the caves and laughing at me all the way through.