Once a snoozy fishing village, Ocho Rios is now humming with tourists and cruisers who come here to enjoy the many tropical adventures nestled around the lush countryside. ‘Ochi’, as it’s called, is quieter than Montego Bay, though not quite as relaxed as Negril, and unlike other beach towns in Jamaica, the beaches aren’t the focal point here. Instead, Ocho Rios is known for its beautiful waterfalls, lush gardens, and lazy rivers. The most popular things to do near these surrounding natural attractions include bobsledding through the rainforest, river tubing, caving, dolphin encounters, and ziplining.
The area has also long been a playground for musicians and literati. Ian Fleming, author of the James Bond series, settled near here in Oracabessa, and you can climb the retreat of Noel Coward, the famous playwright and composer. Not far from Ocho Rios, the village of Nine Mile is the birthplace and final resting place of reggae legend Bob Marley, and many music lovers love to make a pilgrimage here on a day trip.
1 Dunn’s River Falls
One of Jamaica’s most photographed attractions, Dunn’s River Falls includes 600 feet of terraced cascades. With the help of a guide, you can climb up the limestone layers to the top of the waterfall, slide along the slippery parts of the rock and swim in the cool lagoons near the base. Cruise ship crowds congregate here when the ships are in port, so it’s best to time your visit around them. Bring a camera and wear water shoes and suitable clothing if the chances are good and you will come back soaked.
Addresses: Hwy A3, Ocho Rios
Official Site: https://www.dunnsriverfallsja.com/
2 The blue hole
Typically less crowded than the Dunn’s River Falls, the alluring Blue Hole (also known as the Irie Blue Hole) is a series of picturesque jungle pools fed by waterfalls in the lush mountains, about a 25-minute drive from Ocho Rios. Also called Island Gully Falls or the Secret Falls, this used to be the main tourist trail, but in recent years it has become increasingly popular.
Different levels offer different vantage points, but the higher you climb, the fewer people you’re likely to encounter. One of the most popular things to do here is clamber over the slippery rocks above the pool, where you can play Tarzan on the ropes and jump into the turquoise water. Guides are recommended for safety – they show you the best places to swim and cross the river, but if you don’t want to swim in the pools, you can visit the area on your own. It is also a good idea to wear water shoes as the rocks can be slippery.
3 Rainforest Adventures, Mystic Mountain
If you’re looking for a tropical adrenaline rush, Rainforest Adventures Mystic Mountain should give you the best. This popular attraction offers different types of adventures. Start climbing the mountain on the Sky Explorer, a chairlift high above the rainforest. At the top, enjoy breathtaking views of the cruise ship port and coastline below. From here you can zoom down the mountain on Bobsleigh , a single-person roller coaster ride, or soar through the rainforest treetops on the ziplines . The Tranopy tour package includes all three activities and those who prefer a slower descent can return on the chairlift. guided nature walks and an infinity poolyou can have fun here with a slide. Many visitors also combine a visit here with a trip to nearby Dunn’s River Falls .
Official Site: https://www.rainforestadventure.com/jamaica-mystic-mountain/
4 Dolphin Cove
Across the street from Dunn’s River Falls in Ocho Rios, the popular Dolphin Cove is a marine park with crypts up close. The five-acre estate includes a natural cove where you can snorkel with stingrays or paddle on a glass-bottom kayak surrounded by rainforest. The encounters with dolphins are the highlight here. Each visitor scores plenty of time with these gentle creatures, including the chance to hold and feed the dolphins, as well as swim with them and enjoy a dolphin “kiss.” You can also ride a camel; watch a shark show; and see iguanas, snakes, and tropical birds walking the Jungle Trail . Photos of your experiences are available for an additional fee.
Official Site: https://www.dolphincoveja.com/
On the site of a former pirate lookout, Henry Morgan, Firefly is the hilltop home and final resting place of the playwright, Sir Noel Coward . The humble one-bedroom home was built high on a hill above Coward’s original home, Blue Harbor, and his photographs, paintings, and pianos still stand in place. You can take a tour of the house and learn about Coward’s life, as well as some of Henry Morgan’s infamous history. But the highlight here is the spectacular view of the Jamaican coast from one of the best vantage points on the entire island.
Locatie: Grant’s Town, St. Mary
Official site: https://www.firefly-jamaica.com/story.html
6 Nine Mile Tour
Mecca for music lovers, the small village of Nine Mile in Saint Ann Parish is the birthplace and final resting place of reggae legend, Bob Marley . Guided tours take you through a small museum and the mausoleum where Marley is buried. During the tour you can learn about the Rastafari religion and hear interesting stories about Marley’s extraordinary life.
Locatie: Nine Mile, Saint Ann Parish
7 Green Grotto Caves
The Green Grotto Caves, about a 30-minute drive from Ocho Rios in Runaway Bay, are Jamaica’s most famous limestone caves. Once used by the Arawak Indians, they were also the reputed hiding place of escaped slaves and Spanish settlers fleeing the British. In more recent times, they have also been used as a backdrop for a Bond film. Today they are home to bats and snakes. Guided tours share the history of the caves and show you the beautiful stalactites and stalagmites, as well as an underground lake. The slippery paths and many stairs can be a challenge for people with physical disabilities.
Official site: https://greengrottocavesja.com/
8 River Tubing op de White River
At the White River, about a 30-minute drive from Ocho Rios, nature lovers can relax on inner tubes and drift along the crystal-clear river on gentle rapids. This is a soothing trip that the whole family can enjoy and a great way to relax and enjoy the tropical scenery. Singing guides add to the fun, and birdwatchers will love to spot new species in the lush foliage that meanders along the river.
The Ocho Rios White River Valley Tubing Safari is a fun way to get a taste of floating down the river. This 90-minute adventure includes round-trip hotel transport, experienced guides, security inspection, and refreshments.
9 Shaw Park Gardens
High in the hills overlooking Ocho Rios and the Caribbean, Shaw Park Gardens is a haven for nature lovers. The 25-acre grounds allow you to stroll through lush botanical gardens interspersed with tropical blooms and ponded ponds. Many birds fly through the trees, including Jamaica’s national bird, the Doctor, also known as the swallow-tailed hummingbird. A waterfall flows through the gardens and friendly guides share their knowledge of all the botanical beauties.
Address: Shaw Park Rd, Ocho Rios
10 Turtle River Falls and Gardens
Turtle River Falls and Gardens is a relaxing opportunity to commune with nature. The property includes 15 acres of mountain gardens, 14 waterfalls, small pools, hammocks and a koi pond. A highlight here is the aviary full of exotic birds. You can walk in and hand feed them as they descend onto your outstretched arms. The tours are highly recommended and you should bring a bathing suit if you plan on taking a dip.
Address: Eden Bower Road, Eight Rivers, St. Louis. Ann
Official Site: https://turtleiverfallsandgardens.com/
11 Fern Gully Scenic Drive
Fern Gully runs south of Ocho Rios and is a three-mile winding road built on an old riverbed. Giant tree ferns form a canopy over the crown, creating a tunnel-like effect for those cruising along the road. It’s a beautiful drive and the dense foliage of the pristine tropical forest blocks the sun at several points along the route. Along the way, you can stop at roadside stalls to buy carvings and other souvenirs.
Where to Stay in Ocho Rios for Sightseeing
Most of the resorts in Ocho Rios are located along the coral-fringed coast, and this is the best place to stay. The main tourist attractions, such as Dunn’s River Falls and Green Grotto Caves, are scattered throughout the lush countryside and can be visited on organized tours from the resorts. Here are some highly rated hotels by the sea:
- Luxury Hotels: Tucked into lush foliage on a reef-fringed cove, the plantation-style Hermosa Cove features stylish, artful interiors and a lovely three-level oceanfront pool. You can follow in the footsteps of illustrious former guests such as Marilyn Monroe and Ian Fleming at the peaceful, family-run Jamaica Inn, on a pristine private cove. Personal service is a standout feature here. The adults-only Sandals Royal Plantation features ocean views from a coral reef and ocean view rooms with butler service and two small sandy beaches. Guests have access to more restaurants and facilities at the vibrant Sandals Ochi Beach Resort next door.
- Mid-Range Hotels: ClubHotel Riu Ocho Rios is packed with amenities and organized activities. It is a sprawling all-inclusive resort on beautiful Mamee Bay. Much more intimate is the boutique hotel Hibiscus Lodge on a jungle-shrouded bluff near the center of town. The beach is small but you can snorkel from the shore and breakfast is included in the price. The Couples Tower Isle is an adult-only facility that offers unlimited spa treatments and PADI Certified SCUBA Dives included in your stay.
- Budget Hotels: Chrisanns Beach Resort, with a pool and a small, rocky beach, offers affordable beachfront vacation condos. Amenities differ in each apartment as they are privately owned. Silver Seas Resort Hotel is also on the beach and is older in style, as are Rooms Ocho Rios. Both are near town.
More must-see destinations in Jamaica and the Western Caribbean
For information on other areas to stay and things to do in Jamaica, see our pages on Montego Bay, another lively cruise port, and the laid-back beach town of Negril. The beautiful palm-fringed beach is one of the best beaches in the Caribbean. If you’re wondering where to stay in Jamaica, some of the country’s resorts also make our list of the top luxury all-inclusive resorts in the Caribbean.