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Ocho Rios, Jamaica

Great Destination:

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Total Stars:

Personality Types that Like it Best

Did You Know … ?

  • Ian Fleming wrote 13 of his James Bond books at his Ocho Rios home, Goldeneye.
  • Also, Fleming’s master spy was named for James Bond, author of “Birds of the West Indies.”
  • The name Ocho Rios is a poor rendition of Chorreras (river rapids) and doesn’t mean eight rivers.
  • Bob Marley, who brought reggae to the world, was born in Nine Mile near Ocho Rios.
  • Playwright Noel Coward wrote the film script for “Brief Encounter” while at his Ocho Rios retreat.

From cruising to canopy tours

Ocho Rios, as a place to look at, isn’t all that impressive. However, the town has things to recommend it, beginning with location, location, location.

Centrally sited on Jamaica’s north coast, the town faces a sheltered bay and has, at its back, a jungle and mountains. The shoreline is dotted with coves and bays, and the beaches look out onto the blue Caribbean. That’s where the beauty comes in.

As for the practicalities, Ocho Rios is Jamaica’s most-visited cruise port. In addition, inclusive resorts lure North Americans to the area — those who would rather fly in than float in and would rather stay awhile.

The city can be crowded if multiple cruise ships are docked simultaneously, but — given the promise of much business — Jamaicans have turned Ocho Rios into a top shopping destination and travel companies have developed a surprisingly broad range of choices for attractions and activities which can be pursued on shore excursions for cruisers and as pastimes for landlubbers, too.

Ocho Rios also offers considerable choice for restaurants and nightlife to complement resort eateries and entertainment.

Tourist diversions center around history (to a small degree) and nature’s wonders (to a much larger degree). In the former category, some plantation great houses are museums, but on still-working plantations, visitors can sightsee and pursue activities such as cycling or horseback riding. Tourists can even stay at a few great houses, such as Liberty Hill or Shaw Park, now converted to hotels.

Ocho Rios — which offers beautiful beaches, sunset cruises, exotic gardens, resorts with all the creature comforts and lots of shopping — wins its highest ratings from the less-venturesome travelers.

However, Caribbean waters combined with rain forests, mountains and wildlife provide fodder for the active adventurer. Activities range from kayaking, scuba diving and windsurfing for those who love their water sports to, on land, canopy tours, Jeep safaris and mountain biking.

Finally, a few words of caution: Visitors are a magnet for pushy vendors and beggars. Annoyances also may include petty thieves and con artists. It is best to exercise care, and learn to say no politely but firmly.

Things to do for Venturers

  • Take a Jeep safari or choose a canopy tour that has you swinging through the Laughlands River gorge. Or, if you really crave being above it all, sightsee by helicopter.
  • Bike in the Blue Mountains for a look at the rain forest and at area coffee plantations.
  • Plan a music-themed itinerary, starting with the museums: the Bob Marley Museum (Marley’s birthplace outside of town) and Reggae Xplosion, which tells the story of Jamaica’s distinct rhythms, including reggae, soca and more. Follow this with nighttime rounds of some of the city’s discos and clubs to hear reggae, soca and other sounds.
  • As to what is under the water, it is your decision: snorkeling or scuba diving. A choice diving site, off Jamaica Beach, boasts a dramatic reef called the Rio Nuevo Wall and offers a 25-foot dive.
  • Kayak on the White River. Or, go windsurfing. Or try the whitewater rafting on Swist River which has Class III-IV rapids.
  • Sample Jamaica’s famous jerk chicken, fish or pork at a restaurant or at a roadside jerk stall. Wash that down with fresh coconut milk.

Things to do for Centrics

  • Climb the 600-foot Dunn’s River Falls. Have your hair braided at one of the on-site kiosks.
  • Swim with dolphins at the aptly named Dolphin Cove. You could even be tossed into the air by the playful animals. Also, swim with stingrays (described as friendly) at Treasure Reef in Dolphin Cove.
  • Take the 45-minute tour with hardhat of the Green Grotto Caves to see stalactites and stalagmites and a below-ground lake.
  • Tour the 1,000-acre, 18th century Prospect Plantation east of the city. While at this working plantation, options include riding a horse into the White River.
  • Go deep-sea fishing and bring in a blue marlin or another big one good for a no-kidding fish story back home.
  • Watch craftsmen create pottery at the Wassi Art facility near Ocho Rios, then buy a piece or two of this original artwork in the showroom.

Things to do for Authentics

  • Visit playwright Noel Coward’s retreat, called Firefly, near Ocho Rios. Have tea there.
  • For an unusual factory tour, see the Walkerswood Jerk Seasoning operation. Buy Jamaican spices for your kitchen.
  • Go to sea, on a fun theme catamaran cruise — a sunset cruise or a party event. Or, see limbo and fire-eating as part of the entertainment at your resort.
  • Jamaica is known for its great houses, meaning plantation manor houses. Visit one or more near Ocho RIos. The Seville Great House and Harmony Hill are museums now. Also, stay at one of the great houses that have been converted into hotels.
  • Grant yourself a garden tour. Choices include Coyaba River Garden and Museum (with natural springs and waterfalls), Shaw Park Botanical Gardens (on a hill overlooking the city) or Cranbrook: Flower Forest and River Head Adventure Trail (includes 40 acres of landscape gardens and a hiking trail).
  • Shop for duty-free luxury items, but include some time for outdoor markets. Expect to bargain at the markets.

Additional Resources

For more information, consult the Jamaica Tourist Board at www.visitjamaica.com