Jamaica Overview

Bites & stings etc.

Things You Want to Avoid
Remember when your mom told you, “Look but don’t touch?” Those words of wisdom come in handy here. Although most plants and animals are harmless, you’ll find a few creepy crawlies both in and out of the water as well as some plants that are best avoided:


Cockspur (Caesalpinia bonduc): This shrub won’t inflict any permanent damage, it will rip at you with its hooked thorns as you walk past.

Cowitch (Mucuna pruriens and Helicteres jamaicensis): Think of fiberglass on a vine. Think how much you’d itch if you brushed into this plant, covered with fine fibers, as you walked along in shorts. Think of avoiding this one.

Fire coral:There are many varieties, all of which are edged in white. If you accidentally brush against the coral, it will defend itself and burn you.

Jellyfish:These wobbly creatures can inflict painful stings. The best treatment? Rubbing ammonia on the affected area. If you don’t have any ammonia with you on the beach, do as a watersports guy once recommended to us on a Montego Bay beach: urinate on the sting.

Maiden plum (Comocladia dentata): Be prepared for a nasty rash from this weed if you come in contact with its sap. The weed is dark green with ovate-shaped leaves.

Manchineel (Hippomane mancinella): These trees, members of the spurge plant family, have highly acidic leaves and fruit. During a rain, water dropping off the leaves can cause painful burns on your skin and the tree’s tiny apples will also burn when stepped on. In most resorts, manchineel trees have been removed or are clearly marked, often with signs and with trunks painted red.

No-See-Ums.Tucked into that oh-so-wonderful sand lie tiny sand fleas, waiting to bite when the sand cools. You won’t feel their bites, but just wait a day or two: welts like jumbo mosquito bites will make themselves apparent and they’ll itch for days. To avoid the no-see-ums, stay off the sand at sunset. The fleas are most active when the sand cools.
Sand spurs (Cenchrus genus): Also called the “wait-a-minute,” this pesky thorn will penetrate unsuspecting bare feet that stumble across it in the sand. Follow mom’s advice once again and wear your shoes.

Scorpionfish: This mottled pinkish fish hangs out on coral and is so ugly it actually looks dangerous – and it is. Stay away from this one.

Sea urchins:Avoid stepping on their brittle spines, which break off and lodge in your feet.

Snakes: Jamaica does not have any poisonous snake species. You might come across a harmless grass snake (Alsophis cantherigerus), which feeds on frogs and lizards.

Stingrays:Dangerous if stepped on. Make them aware of your presence by dragging your feet when wading.

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Jamaica Adventure Guide