Photo credits: Koolrunnings.com
With so many attractions dotted across the island paradise of Jamaica, getting voted as one of the best by the Jamaica Hotel and Tourist Association is not an easy feat. But the Kool Runnings Adventure Park in Negril has managed to claim that title amid stiff competition, even though it’s open to the public for a total of three months each year.
You can call it a summer blockbuster, but the water park, described as the Caribbean’s premier water attraction, is only available between May and August each year to the broader public. It attracts families and groups in droves during this short time, with visitors coming from all over the island, as well as from overseas.
So, what’s all the hype about? I had different expectations after hearing from others how much fun they had, but after visiting recently, I can only say it’s one of those places of adventure you need to visit at least once in your life. Why? Read on to find out.
What is Kool Runnings Adventure Park?
Started in 2007, Kool Runnings is Jamaica’s only full-service water park. It’s a state-of-the-art facility spread over five acres. The property boasts some of the most amazing slides and rides with creative names and descriptions. It also includes a lazy river and the kid-friendly Coconut Island, as well as a couple of spots to enjoy delectable Jamaican eats and treats plus enjoy the goings-on. In short, it’s a perfect blend of adventure and relaxation – you can take your pick, or pick both.
How to enjoy a day at the Kool Runnings Water Park
Whether you’re a bold adventure-seeker who’s looking to get your pulse racing, or you prefer to keep it safe, there is a ride for you. With steep plunges as high as 40 feet and winders as long as 385 feet, plus the milder stuff, you can choose the level of excitement you can handle, or you can try it all. For me, I warmed up on one of the milder slides and then decided on some of the wilder ones as my confidence grew (I’ll tell you which was my favourite a little later).
With that said, let’s talk a little bit about the main attractions of the park – its slides and rides. Their names are taken from things which are uniquely Jamaican in origin, resulting in pretty exciting expectations.
- Bobsled Ride: this is the largest of the waterslides and gets its name from…you guessed it, the famous Jamaica Bobsled team that defied the odds to have a significant showing at the 1988 and subsequent Winter Olympic Games. That group actually inspired the movie Cool Runnings (from which the name of the water park is inspired, by the way). The slide features twists and turns that mimic flying along in a bobsled. You can experience it by yourself or with a team.
- Green Grotto: all of 385 feet long, this slide is inspired by the caves of the same name that can be found in St. Ann. It comes with a 3D virtual reality electronic system that allows you to set the visuals you want to experience as you whoosh through your own version of reality on your way down.
- Duppy Conqueror: know, first of all, that duppy is Jamaican for ghost, which means if you have the guts to take on this alarmingly steep drop from 40 feet up in the air, you would basically have overcome any fears you had of apparitions. With that said, it’s not for the faint of heart.
- Sly Mongoose: this is a tricky one and can sneak up on you. Just when you think it’s all easy-peasy, then whoosh.
- Lightening Bolt: this was my favourite slide. Named after the legendary Jamaican sprinter, it’s just as speedy as its namesake, but its thrill factor will also have you going again and again and again.
- Kick Puppalick: do you know that fancy word called ‘somersault?’ Well, that’s what kick puppalick is in Jamaican speak, and you will be flipped by this slide, which is one of the crowd favourites. Be prepared to be slam-dunked in a catchment pool below. Please note this one is only for swimmers.
- Red Snapper: probably the most modest of the slides (and hence most popular), this one is named after that fish every Jamaican love. Good fun, suitable for the entire family (and heart rate settings).
- Capt. Mikie’s Coconut Island: this one is for the kids and features a bunch of water games to keep them happy. Its specialty is dumping a coconut-bowl of water on you when you least expect.
- Rio Bueno Lazy River: this is the laziest of the water attractions at Kool Runnings. It meanders and stretches for a good quarter-mile, allowing you to enjoy the scenery as you float along with your friends or family.
- Bungee Trampoline: as the name suggests, it’s a cross between bungee jumping and the trampoline and a great way to emulate flying. However, it was listed as unavailable when I visited.
There are many other activities to take part in at Kool Runnings. For example, one of the highlights of my visit was exercising my…ahem…exquisite marksmanship skills in a game of paintball. There is also go-karting and a head-spinning ride known as the Human Gyroscope. You can even go rafting.
To top it all off, you can grab a bite at several eating spots, including the Sweet Potato Grill, Kool Blendz Juice Bar, Knot Out Sports Bar, and the Dash-een Restaurant, or pick up a souvenir at the Kool Tings Gift Shop. Oh, and there is daily musical entertainment.
Before you go
Before you hop on the next tour bus, hire a taxi, or jump in your car, you should know a few things.
- In addition to being closed for a significant portion of the year, the Kool Runnings Water Park is also closed on Mondays for the duration of its opening period.
- Most slides require you to be at least 48 inches tall, so bear that in mind when taking kids.
- You need proper swimming gear to utilize slides and rides. Also, if you can’t keep stuff in your car or mode of transportation, you will need cash to rent a locker.
- You should be in good health. If in doubt about your physical condition or if you suffer from epilepsy, it’s recommended that you consult a physician before going.
- Lifeguards are on duty for your safety. Heed any instructions you are given.
- Take cash along, entry is not free. General admission is currently listed as USD$33 and USD$22 for kids under 48 inches tall, while toddlers are free. However, there are group plans that you can take advantage of and Jamaicans can take advantage of different rates under the Jamaica Tourist Board Programme.
What to take
Don’t forget to take along your camera. There will be plenty of opportunities for taking pictures and moments that whiz by, which can only be preserved with a photo or video. Also, as mentioned before, you will need to take along standard swimming gear. Regular clothing is not allowed on the slides.
In addition to money for entrance fee (if you didn’t book ahead) and possibly for locker rental, you will also need to take cash for food and refreshments. I believe cards are accepted, so you can walk with plastic if you prefer not to travel with much cash on you.
The length of time it takes to get to the Kool Runnings Adventure Park depends on which side of the island you’re traveling from. From Kingston, it’s at least 3.5 hours. From Montego Bay, it probably won’t take more than 1.5 hours. If you have no idea of the area, I would recommend hiring one of the many tour companies operating across Jamaica, but call around for the best price. If you’re staying at a hotel in Negril, they might even offer tours to Kool Runnings or can recommend a visit to get you there, so check ahead.
The Kool Runnings Adventure Park is now way more than just a water park that you have to experience yourself to fully appreciate. If you haven’t already, you should start planning for next summer right away.