Hawaii is considered the birthplace of cliff diving, thanks to King Kahekili and his cliff-leaping warriors. In fact, for more than 40 years, the Sheraton Maui Resort and Spa has staged a nightly ceremonial re-enactment of Kahakili's spiritual leap. A loincloth-clad "warrior" carries a lei and torch to the crest of Pu'u Keka'a, a mountain Hawaiians believed dead souls leapt from to enter the spirit world. After offering the gifts to the sky in each direction, the warrior leaps from the cliff. But Pu'u Keka'a isn't the only place to leap -- numerous other cliffs on the Big Island draw intrepid cliff divers who want to try it themselves.
In 1934, a 13-year-old boy, Enrique Apac Rios, leapt from La Quebrada in Acapulco, Mexico. From that jump grew an enduring tourist draw: the La Quebrada cliff divers. Around sunset, this well-experienced team of professional divers starts showing off for visitors who flock to the cliffs to see the divers perform. As the sun slides away, the La Quebrada Cliff Divers look down onto breaking surf from heights of up to 147 feet (45 meters) [source: Vacations Made Easy]. Timing the waves and focusing on the pinpoint of safety between cliff and rocks, they hurl themselves from the cliff, tumbling and spiraling to the churning ocean below.
Dubrovnik, Croatia, on the Adriatic Sea has twice hosted events in the World Series Cliff Diving Competition -- first in 2000 and again in 2009. Competitors faced their most arduous challenge here in 2009 when they had to complete eight consecutive dives from 85 feet (26 meters) [source: Welcome to Croatia].
Jamaica's long beaches, stunning sunsets and relaxed attitude create a vacation utopia, but the West End Cliffs in Negril are a hotspot for thrill seekers. The 40-70 foot (12-21 meter) limestone cliffs are popular with locals and tourists, who leap into calm, clear waters of coves and natural pools [source: Extreme Angles Publishing, Fearless Planet]. Hotels and restaurants provide platforms at differing heights -- the highest platform at Rick's Cafe is 35 feet (11 meters) -- for cliff diving patrons.
Avegno, Switzerland is home to the World High Diving Federation, and the Cliffs of Brontallo host the WHDF Cliff Diving World Tour each July. Although space for spectators is limited, those who secure a spot are extremely close to the cliff-dodging acrobatics of the daring divers.
Before you decide to take the plunge, read the next page for safety information.