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Ocho Rios

Affectionately called “Ochi” by the locals, Ocho Rios is the second most popular tourist town on the north coast of Jamaica. It's normally a laidback city, but can get a bit crowded when a cruise ship docks, as Ocho Rios is home to Jamaica’s mos...

Categories: Caribbean > Jamaica

The most famous attraction in Ocho Rios, Jamaica, is Dunn's River falls, where you can barefoot your way up a staircase of cascading water. For sheer natural beauty, you can't surpass Shaw Park Botanical Gardens, which offers 32 acres of indigenous trees, flowers and shrubs as well as picturesque streams and waterfalls.
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5-Nights Couples Sans Souci

Price: $1,307 - # of Days: 5 days
Couples Sans Souci blends old world glamour with modern style. Tucked between into a hillside overlooking the Caribbean sea, this hidden beachfront gem exudes a sense of solitude and intimacy. Make yourself at home in luxurious suites, beautifully decorated in shades of royal blue and cream and acce...

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5-Nights Sandals Dunn's River

Price: $1,793 - # of Days: 5 days
The completely reimagined Sandals Dunn’s River is where nature and luxury go hand in hand. Ideally located on the stunning north coast of Jamaica, here you will find rivers meandering through forests and cascading waterfalls. It features accommodations that have been elevated to new heights wi...

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6-night Grand Cayman, Jamaica & Bahamas Cruise

Price: $1,202 - # of Days: 6 days

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127-night Navigate the World: 2027 World Cruise

Price: $84,299 - # of Days: 127 days

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141-night World of Splendor: 2027 World Cruise

Price: $92,299 - # of Days: 141 days

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14-night Western & Eastern Caribbean: Bahamas & San Juan Cruise

Price: $2,769 - # of Days: 14 days

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14-night Western & Eastern Caribbean: Mexico & Bahamas Cruise

Price: $2,619 - # of Days: 14 days

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7-night Western Caribbean: Greater Antilles & Mexico Cruise

Price: $1,299 - # of Days: 7 days

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Ocho Rios

Ocho Rios, Jamaica, would seem to be Spanish for "eight rivers," but it is most likely a corruption of the Spanish word chorreras, which means "waterfalls." Jamaicans refer to it fondly as Ochi. The second-most important tourist town on the north coast, it offers the island's best shopping, plenty of regional attractions, varied nightlife and fairly good (though often crowded) beaches. It sits on the edge of the jungle in a sheltered bay with a mountainous backdrop—truly lovely.

Ocho Rios is one of Jamaica's most-visited cruise ship ports, and many noncruisers frequent the all-inclusive resorts in the area. Ocho Rios can be crowded, especially when the cruise ships are in port, and as it continues to develop, it is losing the charm that made it so popular in the first place. However, there has been a townwide drive to crack down on hustlers and illegal vendors and to encourage residents to take more pride in their city and property, with regular maintenance and decorative plantings.

Must See or Do

Sights—Fern Gully gorge; Shaw Park Gardens; Cranbrook Flower Forest; Green Grotto Caves.

Museums—The Bob Marley museum at Nine Miles; Seville Great House Museum with exhibits covering various periods in Jamaica's history.

Memorable Meals—Jerk chicken, fish or pork at local restaurants.

Late Night—Jimmy Buffet's Margaritaville for its great waterslide and music.

Walks—West along Highway A3 to explore the rocky coastline; Dunn's River Falls.

Especially for Kids—Swimming with dolphins at Dolphin Cove; the zipline at Chukka Caribbean Adventures; bobsledding down Mystic Mountain.


Ocho Rios sits at the foot of the Dry Harbour Mountains, midway along Jamaica's north shore, about 70 mi/115 km east of Montego Bay. The hills crowd down to the shore west of town, and the coastline is deeply indented with small coves and bays. Many are, from a practical standpoint, the private reserves of hotels and all-inclusive resorts.

There is little order to the town's irregular layout. Main Street winds along the shorefront and is lined with tourist amenities, including the main crafts market, bars, restaurants and sundry hotels. Highway A3 (the main coastal highway) bypasses town as DaCosta Drive and runs along the shore (west to Montego Bay and east to Port Antonio). Milford Road runs south from DaCosta Drive and snakes into the highlands, linking the north coast to Kingston.


In 1494, Christopher Columbus landed about 8 mi/12 km west of today's Ocho Rios in a bay he named Santa Gloria (he was stranded at the same site nine years later, when his worm-infested ships sank). The Spanish initiated their first settlement—Sevilla la Nueva—on the site in 1509.

In the 17th century, local Spanish Gov. Don Christobel Arnaldo de Yssasi refused to give up control of the area to the British after they gained control of the island in 1655. Bloody battles ensued at Dunn's River in 1657, Rio Nuevo in 1658 and Shaw Park in 1659. Yssasi fled the island in a dugout canoe in April 1660.

The British farmed pimento, lumber and cattle, but Ocho Rios never developed into a major fruit-shipping port like other towns. It remained little more than a small town with a fishing harbor until the 20th century, when tourism and bauxite became mainstays of the local economy. In 1923, the Shaw Park great house, located on a struggling citrus plantation, became Jamaica's first exclusive hotel. By 1948, it was joined by similar establishments, including Sans Souci and Silver Seas.

Meanwhile, chemical analysis revealed that the local soil contained high levels of bauxite, the chief raw material used to produce aluminum. Following this discovery, the bauxite mining industry took off, thanks to the efforts of foreign investors Reynolds and Kaiser. This led to dredging and expanding the harbor, which served both the bauxite export and the cruise ship industries.

The contemporary look of Ocho Rios was initiated in the 1960s, when the St. Ann Development Council sponsored tourism development, including shopping malls. As one of Jamaica's foremost tourist resorts, Ocho Rios has taken steps to further upgrade its facilities to meet the demands of 21st-century travelers.


Mammee Bay, the pretty beach east of Dunn's River Falls, is where James Bond (played by Sean Connery) and Honey Ryder (Ursula Andress) took a dip in the 1962 film Dr. No.

Dunn's River Falls is visited by almost a million people annually.

The Green Grotto Caves were once used as a hideout for smugglers running arms to Cuba.

The Seville Great House, just outside of Ocho Rios, is more than 260 years old and houses artifacts from the 1600s.

The Arawak population (Tainos) was decimated by disease after the Spaniards discovered them and forced them into slavery.

Reynolds Pier is not solely a cruise ship port but is also used to ship sugar.

Jamaica Inn has hosted statesmen and screen sirens, among them Winston Churchill and Marilyn Monroe.

Fern Gully gorge, which runs 4 mi/6 km from the Ocho Rios coastline, is home to more than 500 different species of ferns. The sun barely penetrates the deepest areas of the gorge.


Most ships dock at the cruise ship terminal on Ocho Rios Bay (the UDC Port), on the west side of town, just off the main coastal road. Others berth just west of the cruise ship terminal at Reynolds Pier.

When visitors disembark at either pier, they walk into a fenced, secure area that is off-limits to vendors—only licensed taxi and tour companies can solicit business within the compound. There are police officers on duty at all times to ensure that no soliciting of visitors takes place. The only cabs allowed in the vicinity are those that have prior arrangements to collect customers and who are licensed by the local authorities.

You can take a cab or walk into town from either pier (there's no bus service between the piers and town). Shuttle service is provided. It's about 0.5 mi/1 km to the center of Ocho Rios. There is a tourist-information office, run by the Tourism Product Development Company, and an internet cafe located at the cruise ship terminal. You must go to town (a five- to 10-minute walk) for an ATM and phone services.

Shore Excursions

One of the most popular excursions is to Chukka Caribbean Adventures at Chukka Cove, where horseback rides, all-terrain vehicle adventures and a canopy zipline ride are offered. For a visual kaleidoscope and thrills, try the rain-forest bobsled ride at Mystic Mountain. Options for nature lovers include excursions to Cranbrook Flower Forest and to Dunn's River Falls.

Check with your travel agent for additional information.

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