Green Grotto known at various times as the Runaway Bay Caves, Cave Hall Caves, Discovery Bay Caves, Dry Harbour Caves, Hopewell Caves, Rum Caves and Dairy Caves, are among Jamaica’s most prominent natural attractions. They are of international status and have been seeing visitors since the 18th century.
Situated on 25.9 hectares of the island’s beautiful North Coast, the Caves are located between the resort centres of Ocho Rios and Montego Bay and are precisely 3.2 km from Discovery Bay to the west and 4 km from Runaway Bay to the east.
The island’s first inhabitants, the Taino people, are thought to have used the caves for shelter, and many artefacts found at the site appear to validate this idea. Historians also believe that the Spanish sought protection in the caves when they battled the British for control of the island in 1655.
The Green Grotto Caves provided a perfect hideaway for runaway slaves, as well as for the smugglers who ran arms to Cuba. More recently, the caves were utilized as a place to store rum, and they were used as the backdrop for the submarine scene in the James Bond thriller, Live and Let Die.
The “Green Grotto Caves” are filled with stalagmites, stalactites, light holes and ceiling pockets. There is also a natural wishing well and hollow rocks which act as natural drums. The caves sport many formations which resemble familiar objects.
The main feature of Green Grotto Caves is the “Grotto” with an underground lake which can be found at a depth of 36 meters below the surface. The lake is crystal clear and incredibly still, on first viewing the lake one may not even notice it there as it provides a perfect reflection of the cave roof above.
The lake is connected to the sea through a series of underground channels; as a result the lake rises and falls with the sea level. The “Green Grotto Caves” are filled with stalagmites, stalactites, light holes and ceiling pockets.
There is also a natural wishing well and hollow rocks which act as natural drums. The caves sport many formations which resemble familiar objects; your guide will point these out to you on your tour.
The modern day inhabitants of Green Grotto Caves are bats! Many bats have made their homes in the dark crevices found in the caves. Bat excretions (know as guano) is rich in nitrogen and makes good fertiliser.
In the days of the buccaneers, the guano was collected from the caves and used as an ingredient in the manufacturing of gunpowder. Because of the explosive nature of the guano, it was dangerous to carry naked flames in to the caves so early explorations were made in the dark.
Guano build-up can still be found in the caves – this is one of the reasons that visitors are issued with protective headwear (the guides also advise visitors to close their mouths when looking up at the bats).
At present, it is recommended that visitors wear comfortable shoes, preferably sneakers. A complimentary hard hat will be provided at the beginning of the 45-minute tour of the cave.