The Caribbean's Little-Known Firewater Spring Is Truly A One-Of-A-Kind Experience

Hidden within St. Ann Parish on the northern coast of Jamaica lies a marvel of nature that few outsiders know about. It's called Firewater Spring, an exotic place with the power to incite the imagination as well as soothe the body, mind, and spirit. The mysterious spring is not only a sweet place for a soak, but it also harbors the startling ability to burst into flames, which is quite something to witness. 

Though the spring is actually listed on Google Maps, it's not easy to find. The road that leads there is known for its abundance of potholes, with no signage marking the spring's precise location. If you'd like to visit, your best bet is to hire a knowledgeable taxi driver in Ocho Rios. From there, it's about a 20-minute drive to the spring, in an area known as Windsor. When you arrive, you'll be met by the local guides who are the guardians of this natural wonder. They'll take you to the spring: A small, unassuming, sunken pool of water in an area enclosed by brightly painted cement walls and bamboo fringes — a Jamaican sanctuary of sorts. 

Firewater's unique healing properties

The most astonishing feature of the pool is that it can literally be set on fire, presumably due to the sulfur and natural gas that are present in the water. For centuries, the pool was actually a favorite soaking spot for slaves living in the area. But its flammability remained unknown until around 80 years ago, when a woman named Mehala Smith (also known as Granny May) accidentally dropped a torch in the water and set it on fire. Legend has it that at that point, Granny May made a beeline outa there, yelling that "duppies" (ghosts) were afoot in the pool.

But for the local people (even Granny May, eventually), the spring's combustible nature seemed to confirm its benevolence rather than any inherent darkness. The mineral-rich water is said to alleviate a variety of ailments, from skin conditions to arthritis. And as well as relaxing soaks in the bubbling lukewarm water, bathers can also enjoy "fire massages," in which an attendant dips a towel into the flames and then massages the face and extremities. Yikes! 

More St. Ann Parish treasures

Whether you visit Firewater Spring just to marvel at it or to partake in its healing magic, it's one unusual travel experience you're not likely to have anywhere else. Meanwhile, the parish of St. Ann offers many other natural wonders beyond blazing pools. One can't visit St. Ann without hiking up its epic waterfalls, Dunn's River Falls, which are only around five miles from Firewater Spring. The 1.5-hour trek to the top of the cascade is a magnificent adventure, with superb views and plenty of opportunities for refreshing lagoon dips along the way. The scenery around the waterfall is so exotic, it was the backdrop for a James Bond movie, "Dr. No."

Another fascinating sight in St. Ann Parish is the Green Grotto Caves, a 25-minute drive from Firewater Spring. This 5,003-foot long series of beautiful caves features interesting rock formations and light holes, and leads to an underground lake. The setting is so captivating, it was featured in yet another James Bond movie, "Live and Let Die."