Ocho Rios, Jamaica
Located about an hour and a half from Montego Bay, Ocho Rios is another cruise ship port which can get really crowded when the ships pull in. But in my opinion, there is so much more to do here. We spent two days in Ocho Rios, but I would actually recommend 4-5 days. There were several activities/excursions that I would have loved to partake in if we’d had the time.
There are lots of lodging options in Ocho Rios for every budget. A selection of all-inclusive resorts (one of our drivers recommended the Riu or Jewel Resort), beachside lodging, hotels in the hills, and a decent selection of accommodations on AirBnB. We stayed at an awesome hotel, the Kaz Kreol Beach Lodge. LOVED it here. Located right on the beach on the outskirts of town (i.e. away from the crowds), this place was a gateway to paradise at a very reasonable price point ($75/night when we stayed in January 2016). Every room has an ocean view, there is a lovely private beach for swimming, and a bar right on the beach. Meals can be taken in the small dining room, out on the pier (bliss), or on your private balcony. We ate dinner here the first night and the food was amazing – far exceeded my expectations. The food was so good that we didn’t feel the need to dine anywhere else during our stay. And all the staff we encountered were wonderful — helpful, friendly, and accommodating. Totally recommend this spot.
As far as excursions go, there are many options. We had a really fantastic experience with Peat Taylor Tours, and I would highly recommend them. My best friend is a HUGE Bob Marley fan, so we chose to do the trip to the Bob Marley Mausoleum. Peat Jr. picked us up at our hotel and drove us up to Nine Mile (about an hour outside of Ocho Rios in the hills), Bob’s birthplace and resting place. I really enjoyed the drive; the rural countryside offered a glimpse of the “real” Jamaica. I also really appreciated having a driver for this leg of the journey since the country roads were rough and navigation would have been challenging.
The site of the mausoleum has definitely been turned into an “attraction” of sorts, but it was still very cool to see the house Bob was born in, his childhood room and adult retreat, and be able to pay my respects at his actual grave. No pictures were allowed in the actual mausoleum (respect), but he rests in a gorgeous marble tomb that sits six feet above the ground. His mother is also buried in an adjacent mausoleum, along with his grandparents nearby. Sacred ground, indeed. I would definitely recommend this tour for Bob Marley fans.
After our visit to Nine Mile, Peat Jr. took us to Scotchies for some authentic Jamaican jerk. If you are in Ocho Rios, Montego Bay or Kingston, you MUST eat at Scotchies! I had the Jerk pork — amazing. Kelly and James confirmed that the Jerk chicken was also amazing. If you want to eat where the locals eat, this is your spot!
We ended the day with a trip to Dunn’s River Falls. Dunn’s River Falls is amazing and definitely not to be missed. It’s not often that you get a chance to climb an active waterfall! Part of me wishes we hadn’t done a guided tour and had climbed on our own (I’m rather adventurous and think we could have handled it), but our guide took such wonderful pictures of us that it ended up being worth it.
Definitely bring appropriate water shoes (i.e. not flip flops or crocs!) because you will be climbing slippery rocks in rushing water, and prepare to get wet (as our guide said – “No wet, no fun!”) He was right.
If you can, try to visit on a day when there are no cruise ships in port, since it’s a popular attraction and can get very crowded. Here’s some video of our group climbing the falls.
Those were the only excursions we had time to experience in our too short two days in Ocho Rios, but had I more time, I would have also liked to visit the following places:
The Blue Hole: An amazing swimming hole. Hire Peat Taylor tours to take you there!
Tubing on the White River: We had a great time white water tubing on Rio Celeste in Costa Rica, so would have loved to do this again in Jamaica. Excursion also available through Peat Taylor tours.
Mystic Mountain: Don’t pass up an opportunity to zipline through a Jamaican rainforest of bobsled down the mountain!