Once calm fisherman’s village that suddenly became popular touristic town, Ocho Rios is peculiar place. Me and Greg spent 10 months there and I’m still confused about my feelings towards ‘Ochi’. White sand beaches and turquoise sea, but noisy and far from clean town center. One time you meet lovely friendly people, on other occasion you are bugged by pesky sellers that wouldn’t take no for an answer. I have a kind of a love & hate relation with Ocho Rios, but I definitely believe it is a place worth visiting. Especially if you take into account all the nature treasures of this part of the island.
Many tourists come to Jamaica only to stay in closed resort for 2 weeks, I think they’re missing out on some fun things to do. My advice is – don’t be afraid to go out of the hotel area. Read my post about safety in Jamaica, try to avoid potentially dodgy situations and you’ll be just fine. Not only that, you will spend fantastic time and collect great memories.
If you’re curious what should you do in Ocho Rios, what you can definitely skip and where you should be careful read on
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THINGS TO DO IN OCHO RIOS
DUNN’S RIVER FALLS – yes, but…
If you’re a fan of water activities you will be glad you came to Ocho Rios. The name means Eight Rivers in Spanish, and on one of them – Dunn’s River you will find one of the landmarks of Jamaica. Huge waterfall that looks more like giant stairs is well worth seeing and climbing. It is so popular it is even pictured on 100 JMD (which is around 0,80 american dollar, but still..)
You can climb up the cascade against water falling down, which is the fun way. If you don’t feel up to it, you can climb the wooden steps on the side and admire the waterfall, robust surrounding plants and people getting wet. Some river stones are steep and slippery, so the climb is not for everyone, but if you give it a try you’ll enjoy yourself for sure.
How to get there:
You can easily get there by route taxis driving from Ocho Rios to St. Ann’s Bay, as the entrance to the falls is right next to main road. That’s the cheapest option, the cost should be 100JMD per person (about 0,80 USD).
If you want to take a private taxi you shouldn’t pay more than 10 USD from Ocho Rios.
What to take:
water shoes and a rash-guard (it’s better to bring them from home, as you will be overcharged for crappy quality staff otherwise)
Those are of good quality and price if you ask me:
underwater camera or GoPro (don’t take your smartphone if it’s not waterproof)
Ticket to the waterfalls and park:
20$ per adult
12$ for kid under 12 y.o.
So, Dunn’s River Falls is fun, buuuuut….
BLUE HOLE – that’s where real fun is!
In Blue Hole you not only climb up the waterfall. You can also dip yourself in tiny crystal clear ponds, get good share of excitement from jumping off the rocks to deeper water holes, squeeze through passages between the rocks while the water is falling all over your head. That’s where the real fun is!
We enjoyed our trip to Blue Hole more than anything else that Ocho Rios has to offer.
One big advantage of Blue Hole over Dunn’s River Falls is that it’s not so popular and commercialized yet. We got there early enough to be almost alone on the route most of the time. We only encountered one or two groups of people climbing up on our way back.
Friendly guide showed us some interesting things on the route like spices and plants or a clay cave. He took pictures for us with my underwater camera and he well deserved the tip, that you’re expected to leave with him. Yep, having the guide is mandatory, but their services are not included in the price, so apart from paying the ticket price have some money prepared for them.
Some people frown upon idea of ‘paying double’, but the guides will really do everything to keep you entertained – some of them will show off by jumping head first and performing somersaults from the cliffs you wouldn’t even dare climbing. Waterproof camera is a must!
How to get there:
It’s a bit challenging as not all drivers want to go there. Blue Hole is located about 15-20 minutes from Ocho Rios up in the hills and the road is far from perfect. You can try with a local taxi driver which will surely be cheaper. If you’re not lucky you can book the trip with the hotel or tour company, it will be more expensive but convenient. You’re gonna have to share your guide with bigger group of people.
What to take:
underwater camera or GoPro is a must if you want to have great memories
towels and dry clothes to change (there’s no way you can get away dry from this experience)
15$ or 1500JMD, which is not the same, so if you have Jamaican currency it’s better.
GRAB A BITE
I know that food in the hotels is usually pretty good, but I’m pretty sure you’ll get bored after couple of days. Surprisingly for such a small town Ocho Rios has a lot to offer when it comes to cuisine, and it’s always fun to go out to eat something in the evening. Here’s what I can wholeheartedly recommend:
TASTE OF INDIA
If you like Indian cuisine or spicy flavorful food in general you cannot miss this rooftop restaurant on the main street. It’s not the cheapest option, but the food is pretty amazing and authentic (the owner is Indian).
Expect to pay something around 60-80 $ for dinner for 2 persons (including appetizers, main, side dishes and one or two beers). It’s well worth it.
Surprisingly this restaurant actually serves three types of cuisine: Chinese, Jamaican and Indian Tandoori. While I usually think it’s not the best idea for a restaurant to have such a vast menu with options from all over, this time I was mistaken. We tried Chinese noodles and they were very good, we tried tandoori dishes and they were excellent. Jamaican options were decent, but probably it’s just my taste preferences.
If you pay between 40-60 $ you should be able to fill your belly (portions are substantial) and satisfy your thirst J
CALABASH ITAL RESTAURANT
Although it’s more of a bar than a restaurant, for veggies like myself Calabash is a true heaven. Tasty, cheap and big portions – all the food is vegan – could I ask for more?
delicious veggie burger is around 4$
main dish with rice or potatoes and salad around 5-6$
MISS T’s KITCHEN
Cute restaurant hidden from the hustle of the main road in a nice garden. We were impressed with a very colorful Jamaican design and cheerful vibe of the place. They serve a mix of Jamaican and international cuisine. I really enjoyed their wraps and curries.
The prices can be a bit on the high side, depending what you order (dinner for 2 persons with drinks anything between 40-80$).
RENT A CAR AND GO FOR A TRIP
Yes, I know it may sound a bit scary, but if you’ll follow basic safety rules and drive carefully you should be perfectly fine driving in Jamaica. Why drive instead of going for an organized trip? First of all you’ll be able to stop wherever you want and believe me, trip along the north-east coast of Jamaica is one of the most scenic ones.
Drivers won’t take you everywhere and if they will you may end up paying far more for getting around by taxi than for renting a car for a day.
Check out my tips on staying safe in Jamaica and read on to learn where exactly you should go 🙂
DRIVE ALONG NORTH-EAST COAST
After driving around Bali on a motorcycle I thought no landscape will ever leave me so awestruck. Obviously, I was wrong. Trip along coast of Jamaica was one of the most picturesque ever. The more east you’re going to drive the worse is the state of the road, but the more pristine and wonderful landscape you’ll admire.
We set off from Ocho Rios to Oracabessa – just outside of this village you will find a tiny fish tavern with fantastic view over the cliffs. The tavern itself is interesting as well – just look how colorful it is (picture above).
We followed the road further to Port Maria – cute little town with beautiful old St Mary’s Parish Church located right by the sea. Great place to take some pictures, and if you happen to be there on Sunday you may witness people going to church (or even going in procession). Make sure to take some snaps of women all dressed-up in their posh ‘church’ clothes with old-fashioned hats on their heads. It’s like traveling back in time to 60’s.
After this short stop we went through Annotto Bay and Hope Bay and arrived to Port Antonio, which is charming little city offering many attractions. We enjoyed our stroll in Eroll Flynn Marina, there is a small but cute beach too if you’d like to chill out and refresh yourself. We skipped Blue Lagoon and Reach Falls, as hardly any water attraction could beat our Blue Hole experience. Next thing we did however was worth every penny, and we recommend it to anyone…
VISIT GREAT HUTS RESORT
This is truly amazing place, though resort is a little misleading name. This extraordinary hotel consists of African huts scattered around jungle-like garden on top of towering cliffs overseeing turquoise waters of Boston Bay.
If your schedule and budget allow you I highly recommend staying there for at least one night. We liked it so much that after one night we decided to stay for one more and cancelled out next booking in Kingston. Although we ended up paying for this night in two places (we cancelled too late) we don’t regret this decision.
Read my full review of Great Huts here. If not my words, the pictures will surely convince you to go there.
Did I mention Great Huts are 50 m from fantastic Surfer’s Beach and you can learn surfing for about 40$ while you stay there? The experience is definitely worth it.
VISIT TOWN OF ST ANN’S BAY
This is for more adventurous tourists who want to know how real Jamaicans live. Located 20 minutes by route taxi from Ochi St. Ann’s Bay is a little town with no touristic attractions. What’s interesting there you may ask. If you like observing people and getting to know their ways it’s gonna be a nice experience for you.
VISIT MARKET IN OCHO RIOS
There you go!
I hope you found my ideas about things to do in Ocho Rios interesting. After 10 months working in Jamaica we spent fantastic 2 weeks just driving around, soaking rasta vibes and checking out every attraction worth trying. I’m sure you’ll enjoy your stay in ‘Ochi’ if you’ll give it a try and get out of resort.
If you have any questions just let me know in the comments and I’ll try to help you as much as I can 😉
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