Jamaica is a Caribbean Island steeped in history, culture and beauty that welcomes just over 4 million visitors each year. With the national motto of “Out of Many, One People” and unofficial motto of ...Read more
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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 most-visited cruise ship port. The city offers many adventures, as it sits on the edge of the rain forest in a sheltered bay with breathtaking mountains in the background.
A visit to Dunn's River Falls, one of Jamaica's most-photographed attractions, gives travelers the opportunity to explore almost 600 feet of terraced water falls. They can climb up the limestone rocks and then slide down smooth parts into the refreshing lagoons below. It is a beautiful spot on the island and should not be missed.
At Mystic Mountain, one of the top attractions in Ocho Rios, visitors can take a single person roller coaster ride through the rain forest, inspired by the Jamaican bobsled Olympic team. Or visitors can zip line through the rain forest canopy and see some of the best views of the forest. Another adventurous activity is a visit to Dolphin Cove, a 3-acre marine park surrounded by lush tropical rain forest to swim with dolphins in a natural ocean cove. More daring visitors can swim with Caribbean sharks, having the chance to hold and feed them.
For history lovers, there is no shortage of activities in Ocho Rios. The Seville Greathouse Museum is situated on a 300-acre property and is said to be the place where one of the first encounters among people from the Americas, Africa and Europe took place. Today it is newly refurbished and open for tours for visitors to learn about Jamaica's history. Another popular historical landmark is the small village of Nine Mile – the birthplace and final resting place of reggae legend Bob Marley. Nine Mile has a small museum and the mausoleum where Marley is buried. Tours of the village offer stories of Marley's life as well as insights into the Rastafarian religion.
Valid passport needed for entry
Jamaican Standard English (primary spoken language is Jamaican Patois)
Jamaican dollar (American dollars are widely accepted and easy to convert)
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.
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.
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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