It is a bit of a mystery, but the name “Ocho Rios” has two possible sources: it may be a simple translation from the Spanish “eight rivers” or a corruption of “las chorreras” (the spouts), after the large number of beautiful waterfalls that surround the area. Whichever is correct, the locals refer to it with no small measure of fondness as “Ochee.” Located about 60 miles from Annotto Bay on a half-moon shaped sliver of a cove on Jamaica’s northern coastline, Ocho Rios was once a sleepy fishing village. Its beauty and proximity to some of Jamaica’s most enticing natural wonders have made it a favorite destination for visitors. Situated between the jungle mountains and its amazing beach, Ochee is also one of the key cruise ship ports in Jamaica.
One of the best ways to enjoy the area is to hire a taxi for the day. Rates are very reasonable and most drivers are very capable guides. You can arrange a driver through your hotel, or taxis can be found in town by the market on Newlin Street. Look for the ones with the red public passenger plates. Taxis are not metered, so agree on your fare in advance. Most drivers will either wait for you or will return to pick you up later in the day.
In addition to Fern Gully, which is a local “must see”, ask the driver to take the coastal road east to Noel Coward’s cliff-side home Firefly. During the heyday of his reign in Jamaica, Coward entertained such the rich and famous here. Nearby Rio Nuevo, Port Maria and Discovery Bay all offer a glimpse into the history of the area, as do the working plantations that still exist at Brimmer Hall and Prospect Estates, open to the public. Runaway slaves once used the nearby Green Grotto Caves as a hideout. The Bob Marley museum, as well as his burial place, at Nine Miles is nearby as well.
Nearby Dunn’s River Falls cascades over terraced rock running from the mountains to the beach. Guides lead travelers up and down the falls although it is allowed to walk the distance unaccompanied. Water shoes or sandals are a must to prevent slipping on the rocks. There are several points along the way to stop and enjoy the scenery and cool water pools. The climb can take over an hour if you don’t rush, and there is no need to do so! Along the way, photographers will take your picture and offer you a momento of your visit. Crafts are available for sale, including some of the beautiful wood carving for which Jamaica is so rightly famous. When you are finished at the falls, return to stroll slowly along Main Street the clock tower and enjoy a meal of Jamaican jerk pork at the Jerk Centre near the market.
There are many activities in Ocho Rios in which you may indulge. Horseback riding, golf, tennis, scuba, deep-sea fishing are all available and easily accessible, not to mention shopping and just laying on the white sand beaches for which the area is best known.Children can swim with dolphins at Dolphin Cove. If you like to bike, there are good guided rides through the Blue Mountain tropical rain forests that typically offer lunch as a part of the program. The rainforest at Fern Gully provides deep, green forest glades through which visitors may drive or walk. Horseback riding along the beach, and even into the water, is available for those who want to experience the joy and freedom of a beach excursion on horseback. Many of the same equistrian centers also offer mountain bike tours, Jeep safaris and canopy trips through the region. Throughout the day and into the evening, party cruises leave and return with hordes of young guests, many taking advantage of the opportunity to over-indulge in the local Red Stripe beer. Offshore, there are a number of good coral reefs, including Devil’s Reef, for snorkelers and divers to enjoy.
Most hotel properties will gladly make arrangements for any of these and other activities in the Ocho Rios area.
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