Photos by Rosalind Cummings-Yeates
History and beaches aren't usually paired together, but Jamaica's legendary Doctor's Cave beach is a different bit of sandy shoreline.
Located in the heart of Montego, Bay, this "bathing club," as it's officially known, is one of the island's most historic stretches of sand. Jamaica is noted for an unending supply of pretty beaches, and Doctor's Cave Beach certainly has gorgeous ambiance, but that's not what makes it so historic. No, it's the healing waters and over 100 years of cultural legacy that makes this beach so special. Situated smack dab in the middle of downtown Montego Bay's Gloucester Avenue or "hip strip," it's also one of the island's most popular beaches.
I relaxed on the serene strip about 20 minutes after my plane landed, all in the name of research. Legend has it that several centuries ago, when slavery still plagued Jamaica, runaways would dip into the spring waters of the cave leading to the beach and their sores and bruises from whips and beatings would quickly heal.
A Dr. McCatty founded a beach club on the location in 1906, which is how the beach acquired its name. By the 1920s, a British doctor published research on the healing waters of Doctor's Cave Beach. Celebrities and wealthy travelers flocked there, prompting hotels to spring up all around its shores. The club features a lounge, pool table, steam bath and sauna for members.
The cave was wiped out by a hurricane in 1932 but the beach retains its allure. The water is warm and crystalline and the sand is soft and pearly. But is the water magical and healing? Nope. Apparently, those special curative abilities left when the cave was demolished.
That didn't stop me from lounging and splashing in the water as streams of dancehall music played at the Groovy Grouper beach bar.
Doctor's Cave stands out from other beaches on the island because it's private, charging a $6 entrance fee, which keeps the beach manicured every day. This also allows for loads of amenities, including three gift shops, a cyber cafe and changing room. It's small and gets crowded fast but that's part of the fun. You'll hear everything from German to French mixed in with the local patois, since the beach attracts as many tourists as locals, which isn't the case on many of the bigger beaches.
Doctor's Cave is part of the Montego Bay Marine Park, so there's a chance to spot marine life while swimming or snorkeling. Check it out for great views, fun and history.
Topics From This Article to Explore