The World's Most Thrilling Cliff Diving Spots

Cliff diving may seem like a simple sport—the kind of activity anyone can do. After all, you'll find most jump spots at laid-back beaches or carefree lakes. Seemingly no specialized skills are involved, no equipment, no high-tech gear. Just step to the cliff's edge, say a little prayer, jump, and hope for the best. Right?[slideshow:717]

Wrong. Just look at the activity's nickname, "tombstoning," to get some idea of its deadly reputation. This sport, in the wrong hands, is no laughing matter.

What most amateurs fail to realize is that cliff diving is a precision sport that requires impeccable timing and an intimate knowledge of the particular cliff on which you're standing. In the few seconds before you make your leap, you'll have to calculate the distance to propel your body so you miss the rock wall, the angle and speed of your entry into the water, the length of the wave swells, and the depth of the water at different tides.

Click here to see which wild cliff dives made our list.

It's no cliche: mere seconds could mean the difference between life and death.

When it comes to cliff diving, you'll have one of three options. First, the easiest: leave it to the professionals! There are spectacular viewing opportunities in resort towns like Acapulco and Negril, where you can see locals master the art of the jump. Or you can watch for international diving competitions, such as the Red Bull Cliff Diving World Series, where dives are combined with acrobatic twists, turns, and flips to become a true art form.

Second, seek out amateur-friendly spots—some of which made it onto our list—where the water is deep enough and the cliff heights are manageable.

Or finally, do your homework, train, and respect the cliff before attempting any dives. Just remember: look before you leap!

Click here to see 12 of the world's most thrilling leaps!