A common sobriquet for cliff jumping is Tombstoning. This isn’t to say it’s related to America’s Old West town of lore, but instead, it requires cliff divers to have no margin of error.
It is not a fun vacation day activity, but a very real, and competitive, sport where the best cliff divers risk their limbs and lives for the thrill of one of the most dangerous descents known to man.
For those who want to jump or dive, here are the most extreme cliffs the world has to offer.
Brontallo Cliffs – Lavizzara, Switzerland
Home to several WHDF Diving Championships, Switzerland’s Brontallo cliffs in the Lavizzara municipality offer breathtaking jumps. Some of the higher cliffs reach upwards of 78 feet.
Aside from the crowds drawn by the diving competitions, however, there are only 50 listed residents, making Brontallo a popular place to visit (but not live) for top notch cliff divers.
As seen in the video below, the main attraction here is the jump. There are no fancy stands, the judges aren’t wearing suits and there’s no concession stands to wait in line at.
There is just a man and his jump.
Kahekili’s Leap, Lanai Maui – Hawaii, USA
Kahekili’s Leap, also known as Warrior’s Leap, is thought to be the birthplace of cliff diving. It’s an incredible cliff on the south part of the Lanai island in Hawaii.
According to an ancient Hawaiian legend, King Kahekili, who was Maui’s last independent ruler, used the cliff to test his warriors’ loyalty and bravery. His warriors were also expected to take the plunge, and now so can you.
Nowadays, hundreds of experienced cliff divers visit Kahekili’s Leap each year and take part in various competitions.
The South Tip on the island is the southern-most point of the United States, so when you hit the water, you’re quite literally jumping off America and into international waters.
The height of the cliff is around 60 ft, while the depth of the water is only 10 to 20 ft. Also, the bottom is completely made out of sharp rocks, making the jump even more dangerous.
So if you’re a beginner, you might want to sit this one out.
However, don’t get discouraged if you can’t go cliff diving here. Kahekili’s Leap is also one of the more popular snorkeling places in Hawaii.
What’s more, if you want to explore the rest of the island, you can rent a four-wheel-drive and visit some of the steepest cliffs. You can also check out some historic sites and hear more about the birthplace of this extreme sport.
Kimberley, Western Australia
The majority of awesome cliff diving spots sit on the ocean, but the best cliff diving in the West Australian Kimberley region actually takes place further inland. Here divers will find a smattering of lakes surrounded by stunning gorges, waterfalls and mountain peaks.
Some of the highest diving spots reside on the cliffs overlooking the Ord River. There’s an 80 foot cliff to challenge divers’ temerity and skill, but also smaller ones for those who want to live quite that dangerously.
La Quebrada – Acapulco, Mexico
Although cliff diving is said to have originated in Hawaii, Acapulco is where it took off. A Timex commercial from the late 50s featured cliff diver, Raul Gomez, diving 87 feet into the Ocean while wearing a Timex wristwatch. It’s not an amateur spot either, as you can see Gomez fighting the Ocean swells after his jump.
The video below shows cliff divers reenacting this timeless jump, and battling the swells just as much 60 years later. The cliffs in Acapulco are one of the main reasons cliff diving is a professional sport today.
Red Rock Park – Vermont, USA
This park in South Burlington is probably one of the more dangerous places to dive.
The water in Lake Champlain is cold enough to take your breath away (if the jump hasn’t already), and the narrow cliff walls can sandwich a jumper that’s not careful about avoiding the adjacent rock face.
The 80-foot jumps are not for beginners, but then again, most of the places on this list should come with a warning and a guide.
Between the numerous obstacles, the height and the mental tension, Red Rock Park is one of the most extreme places a cliff diver could try to tackle.
Hell’s Gate – Texas, USA
Hell’s Gate is made up of two cliffs that surround the Possum Kingdom Lake in Palo Pinto County in Texas. The enormous cliffs stand as gates to the entry of a cove that’s on the south side of the lake.
The bigger cliff measures 92 ft, while the smaller one is 88 ft high.
Due to improper form and poor preparation, many people got hurt while diving there, especially during the cold months. That’s why the authorities have made cliff jumping legal only during the summer.
Since weather conditions improve during the summer, the water is much calmer and it’s safer to dive then. Now, for more than ten years, Red Bull has been organizing a cliff diving competition in Hell’s Gate. The competition attracts divers from all over the globe, who hope to take home the prize every June.
Also, on the 4th of July, thousands of people visit Hell’s Gate get to watch the spectacular fireworks display.
In addition to cliff diving, you can also take part in boat tours, fishing trips, and much more. In fact, there are activities happening in Hell’s Gate all year round.
Havasu Falls (Grand Canyon) – Arizona, USA
Havasu Falls are a part of the Havasu Creek in the Grand Canyon. They’re also within the Havasupai tribal lands.
The falls have been a major tourist destination for years now and they attract adventurers from all over the world.
Havasu Falls consist of one main chute that drops somewhere between 90 ft and 100 ft. At the end of the waterfall, there’s a series of plunge pools.
Due to the high concentration of calcium carbonate, the water there is a beautiful blue-green color. There are also plenty of travertine dams near the falls that are spectacular to look at.
If you want to go cliff diving in Havasu Falls, you’ll first have to complete a 10-mile hike. The trail is long, difficult, and will take a lot out of you, but it’s more than worth it.
What’s more, you can even find some tourist organizations that organize overnight camping along the trail.
However, if you want to start with something easier, you can find cliffs that are 30 ft or 60 ft high. Just keep in mind that Havasu Falls are a pretty popular destination. That’s why you might need to book your trip a few days or weeks in advance.
The Seven Mile Beach – Negril, Jamaica
Negril is a popular beach resort town that’s an hour and a half drive from the airport in Montego Bay. There are several beaches in Negril, but the most popular one by far is the Seven Mile Beach.
It is an incredible beach with white sand, crystal blue waters, and loads of fun activities for everyone. Once you’re there, you can go scuba diving, snorkeling, jet-skiing, and much more.
However, the biggest attraction of the town is a cliff that stands next to the tourist hotspot, Rick’s Cafe.
It’s a 30 ft cliff that’s frequented by both locals and tourists who are looking for that thrill of cliff diving. If you want to take the plunge, it’s best to get there somewhere around noon. That way, you can see others doing it and build up the courage.
After the jump, make sure to stay and watch the sunset, as most visitors say it’s the best part of the experience.
There are some other cliffs in Negril that are higher than the one in Rick’s Cafe, but they’re usually tough to get to. If you’re up for the challenge, however, you can ask the locals for some advice on how to reach them.
Horseshoe Lake, Jasper National Park – Alberta, Canada
Jasper National Park is the largest park in the Canadian Rockies, extending over thousands of acres of land. Horseshoe Lake is one of the deepest lakes in the park and a huge tourist attraction. Once you’re there, you can go swimming, fishing, boating, and of course, cliff diving.
You can see the crystal clear blue water of the lake after a short 1-mile hike up the mountain. The tallest point you can jump off of is around 80 ft high and it’s definitely not for the faint of heart.
Once you get there, the rangers and employees will warn the divers about the dangers of jumping in the water. However, that doesn’t seem to stop the adventurers who are up for a challenge.
The best time to go cliff diving in Horseshoe Lake would be during the summer months. During that time, the water is just the right temperature and you won’t be freezing.
Of course, for those who don’t feel comfortable jumping from 80 ft, there are smaller cliffs you can go to.
Also, make sure that you’re wearing the proper shoes, because the cliffs do get slippery. In fact, multiple people have slipped and injured themselves climbing that cliff.
Serpent’s Lair – Aran Islands, Ireland
The Aran Islands are the gem of Galway and, according to National Geographic, one of the top island destinations in the world.
Located close to the western coast, Serpent’s Lair is a natural pool. It was carved by the ocean currents for thousands of years.
Since 2012, Red Bull has been hosting its international cliff diving competition, right here in Serpent’s Lair. Over 20 divers fearlessly stand on the cliff’s edge every year and face the 88-foot drop.
Apart from the cliff itself, the divers have to face strong winds, sometimes bad weather, and the cold water. However, that doesn’t seem to stop them as the Serpent’s Lair has now become a world-famous cliff diving destination.
After a few accidents a couple of years back, the authorities now only let professional divers take the plunge. So if you’re a novice in the sport, you might be better off starting your diving career somewhere else.
But don’t let that stop you from visiting this incredible destination. In addition to cliff jumping, you can also swim a lap in nature’s most beautiful pool or take a boat trip around the island.
Devil’s Tears – Nusa Lembongan, Indonesia
Nusa Lembongan is a small island that’s close to the southeast part of Bali in Indonesia. It’s also arguably one of the best places to catch a sunset and go cliff diving.
You’ll find Devil’s Tears on the southwest coast of Nusa Lembongan, and it’s pretty close to Dream Beach, another popular attraction on the island. Devil’s Tears is a unique cave pool and there are plenty of spots to go exploring and cliff diving there.
The water in the pool is a stunning blue-green color, and on clear sunny days, you can even see the turtles and fish swimming underneath you. However, when the tides change, Devil’s Tears can be a pretty dangerous spot.
Even though the cliff itself isn’t that high, on some days, the waves are so high they can easily reach it.
In fact, there have been a few instances where the waves swept away someone who was standing too close. So if you’re planning to go cliff diving there, make sure the water is calm to avoid getting hurt.