Ocho Rios puts you within easy access to many memorable experiences in Jamaica. You can climb waterfalls, go bobsledding through a forest, explore underground caves, and swim from white sand beaches.
There’s a great culinary scene in this laid-back former fishing village, too. Choose from a variety of jerk food stalls and restaurants, sip an ice-cold beer with your toes in the sand, or sample a rum punch.
Here are 16 of the best things to do in Ocho Rios, a town that will seduce you with its cheerful Caribbean charm.
Climb Dunn’s River Falls
Ever imagine cooling off in a tropical waterfall? If that fits your Caribbean fantasies, come to Dunn’s River Falls, one of the best places to visit in Jamaica.
Here, you climb the 180-foot high falls that cascades for 600 feet over rock ledges. You’ll join hands with fellow climbers, while a surefooted guide helps you ascend the partially submerged rocks that act like natural steps.
Water tumbles over your feet and legs. For a good soak, sit on the ledges, allowing the streams to surge over your shoulders.
Climbing the falls is one of the best things to do in Ocho Rios. Be sure to wear water shoes that won’t slip off your feet; that means no flip-flops. Dunn’s River Falls & Park also has a beach, a zipline, and shops.
Read: Best Beaches in Jamaica
Tour Bob Marley’s Childhood Home & Mausoleum
Pay homage to reggae musician and legend Bob Marley by visiting his childhood home and burial place in Nine Mile, a small village in the mountains of St. Ann. To reach Nine Mile from Ocho Rios, you head through Fern Gully and up into the lush hills.
For fans of Bob Marley, visiting Nine Mile is a near-spiritual experience. On the tour, you walk through the house he grew up in and see where he sat outside to meditate. A Rastafarian guide, often a relative or friend, relates anecdotes about the musician.
You also gain insights into how Marley’s Rastafarian beliefs informed his music, and you see his burial site. For fans, walking where Marley did is an emotional experience.
Although you can visit on your own, taking a tour relieves you of driving the winding and pot-hole-filled road. The knowledgeable guides relate facts and tales about Marley’s worldwide musical legacy in between playing his songs.
Try Jerk Food
Eating jerk chicken, pork or beef is one of the best things to do in Ocho Rios; you can’t come to Jamaica without sampling the island specialty. Ocho Rios features some exceptional eateries to taste the spicy, smoky delight that Jamaica is known for.
At waterfront Scotchies Jerk Center in Ocho Rios, located outside the town, lunch on jerk meat or fish. In town, head to the open-air Ocho Rios Village Jerk Centre, which also plates delicious curried goat.
If you’re in Discovery Bay, sit down at the rainbow-striped Ultimate Jerk Centre. At most restaurants, dishes typically come with a side or two of rice and peas, yams, plantains, or festivals (warm dumplings). Treat yourself by adding more sides to your entree, and if you like beer, order Red Stripe, the local brew.
Explore Konoko Falls & Botanic Garden
At Konoko Falls and Botanic Garden, the waterfall is smaller and less well-known than Dunn’s River Falls, and as such, attracts fewer visitors. Palm and cedar trees, ferns, grasses, and tropical flowers create a lush setting.
Let a knowledgeable guide lead you up the slippery, winding path to the natural pool and to Yssasi Point, a lookout from which the green hillsides sweep down to the city and Ocho Rios’ harbor.
Be sure to wear water shoes on your climb. Afterward, meander through the gardens brightened by yellow shrimp flowers, red ginger, white and purple iris and other blooms.
At the mini-zoo, you can admire scarlet macaws and parrots, feed the parakeets in the aviary.
For lunch, the restaurant serves jerk chicken and other fare – or drive to nearby Oceans on the Ridge for curried goat, fish, burgers, and fries.
Get an Adrenaline Rush at Mystic Mountain
For adrenaline junkies, a day at Mystic Mountain Jamaica Adventure Park is one of the best things to do in Ocho Rios. Set in a verdant forest, the park pulses with exciting attractions that begin at the mountaintop.
The Sky Explorer chairlift takes you up 700 feet to the adventure base where you glean tidbits about Jamaica’s Olympic bobsled attempt before folding yourself into a sled for a gravity-driven, 3,280-foot rush down the mountain. Apply the brakes or go full gold medal.
At Mystic Mountain, you can also glide through the tree canopy on ziplines, tackle a ropes course, and ride a roller coaster with turns and twists that open up briefly to splendid coastal views. Afterwards, relax by the swimming pool.
Splash in the Blue Hole
The Blue Hole’s setting is the stuff of dreams: a waterfall tumbling into a brilliant sky-blue pool surrounded by lush trees in Ocho Rios’s hills.
You can go for the adrenaline rush of swinging over the water by rope before letting go for a plunge into the natural sinkhole – or just jump into the pool from a lower platform.
Swim & Sun at Puerto Seco Beach Club
In the town of Discovery Bay, Puerto Seco Beach Club’s white sands stretch for 1,200 feet and offer the perfect setting in which to sit, sun, swim, kayak, and romp on the inflatable rafts of the offshore aquapark.
You can add paddleboarding, snorkeling, diving, and getting a massage. There’s also an onsite restaurant.
Located in St. Ann Parish, Discovery Bay, in the western part of Ocho Rios, is one of three places reputed to be where Christopher Columbus first set foot on the Western Caribbean island in 1494. Other area contenders are Rio Bueno and Seville, not far from Discovery Bay.
Go Underground at Green Grotto Caves
Green Grotto Caves, a 5,000-foot long cave system in Runaway Bay, near Ocho Rios, contains labyrinthine chambers and island secrets. Ages ago, the Tainos, an Arawak-speaking tribe native to the Caribbean, used the caves, possibly for ceremonies and protection.
When the British invaded Jamaica in the 17th century, fleeing Spaniards hid in the caves. In the 19th century, the caves sheltered runaway slaves; in the 20th century, the chambers concealed smugglers bringing arms to Cuba. During WWII, Jamaican officials protected barrels of rum by storing them in caverns.
Most paths in the caves are easy to walk, but some, such as the “limbo hole,” require you to bend low to get through a short passageway.
The guides point out stalactites, stalagmites, Grotto Lake, and the roosting bats hanging upside down from the cave roof.
Visit James Bond Beach
A pretty but relatively small swath of sand and turquoise waters in Oracabessa, James Bond Beach gains fame as a movie location and for its proximity to Goldeneye, the home where author Ian Fleming wrote his 007 novels.
Until Jamaican officials changed the name to gin up publicity for the area, locals called the strand Laughing Waters Beach or Roaring River Beach. It’s a scenic spot for swimming, kayaking, and paddleboarding. If the bar is open, treat yourself to a vodka martini, shaken, not stirred.
Drive Through Fern Gully
Driving Fern Gully winds you through a surprising swath of greenery. Towering trees and 30-foot-high ferns, sunlight flickering through their leaves, canopy over Jamaica’s A3 highway that cuts through a gorge for three miles.
A river ran here until an earthquake obliterated the stream, and officials paved the former riverbed to create a road.
A scenic drive, Fern Gully takes you through lush landscape. Local vendors sell cold drinks, snacks, souvenirs, and the opportunity to snap a photo of you with one of the path’s rather ribald sculptures.
For lunch, head to nearby Ocho Rios Village Jerk Center and enjoy the spicy fare with an ice-cold beer.
Sun at Ocho Rios Bay Beach
At Ocho Rios Bay Beach, also known as Turtle Beach, the water has a relatively long shallow slope, good for non-swimmers and waders.
This white sand beach shaded by palm trees puts you within easy walking distance of the center of Ocho Rios, where you’ll find the Craft Market, as well as all manner of shops and restaurants.
Go Tubing on the White River
On this real-life river ride, you sit in an inner tube and float for three miles down the White River. Led by a guide, you glide under a canopy of lush bamboo, swirl through mini-rapids, and float through calm lagoons.
It’s a fun outing that gets you wet and keeps you cool on a hot day – but still gives you time to explore the town of Ocho Rios.
Shop in Ocho Rios
Did you promise your teens back home a T-shirt with Bob Marley’s face and your young grade-schoolers carved turtles and fish? No problem.
Browse the Ocho Rios Craft Market, a collection of some 100-plus vendors. Be prepared to bargain at craft stalls, as that’s expected. At Island Village Shopping Center, browse stores selling jewelry, beach wear, and chocolates.
Anchoring the shopping center, Margaritaville Ocho Rios draws people to its waterslide, swim-up bar, and drinks. Look for local Caribbean rums such as Appleton Estate and Hampden Estate at duty-free shops.
Check out the local grocery store for good prices on Walkerswood Jerk Sauce, Blue Mountain Coffee, and other island products.
Swim at Mahogany Beach
Small but convenient, and always popular, Mahogany Beach offers a great option for swimming and sunning near Ocho Rios’ shops and restaurants.
The sand is more café au lait than white, the sea is calm, and a little river runs at one end of the strand, emptying into the ocean. An onsite eatery serves local fare. Boat outings depart from the dock and the seductive rhythm of reggae drifts on the sea breeze.
Devour Devon House I Scream
If you love ice cream, don’t miss Scoops Unlimited, producers and sellers of Jamaica-made Devon House I Scream, a brand rated by connoisseurs as among the world’s best. All the fruits used in the ice cream are grown by Jamaican farmers, which may explain why it’s so good.
Flavors include chocolate, Blue Mountain coffee, mango, stout, soursop, rum and raisin, and guava. You’ll find Scoops Unlimited at Island Village on Turtle River Road in Ocho Rios.
Interact With Dolphins at Dolphin Cove
You will long remember your encounter with dolphins. The intelligent, friendly creatures inhabit a large, natural lagoon at Dolphin Cove.
There are also sharks and stingrays here, and a Jungle Trail Walk where you can see snakes, iguanas, and tropical birds.
Ready to explore Jamaica? Find your island fun by browsing our luxury cruises to Ocho Rios.