Ocho Rios, nicknamed Ochi by locals who live there, is located on the northern side of Jamaica between the capital of Kingston and the popular tourist destination of Montego Bay. While its downtown area is full of bustling action and colorful buildings, the surrounding area is a natural paradise home to waterfalls, swimming holes, and caves just waiting to be explored.
A cruise to Ocho Rios places you in an excellent spot to shop and taste local treats before or after visiting other parts of Jamaica. Your visit to this alluring coastal town is sure to be a highlight of your time on a Caribbean cruise.
One of the most popular things to see on a cruise to Ocho Rios is Dunn’s River Falls, which is comprised of a myriad of smaller waterfalls cascading over dome-shaped cataracts. An easy way to visit is through a shore excursion, where you can explore the waterfalls on a nature hike or take off down mild river rapids on a tubing excursion. Walk alongside the falls for a refreshing break from the hot Caribbean air.
At Konoko Falls & Botanic Garden, continue your waterfall-hopping adventure and stroll through the peaceful walkways of the scenic botanical garden. In addition to the garden’s flora, you can see parrot feedings in the onsite aviary or learn more about Jamaica’s past in the small museum located on the site grounds.
Shaw Park Gardens offers over 25 acres of land to explore via trails and wooden steps. Along with waterfall terraces and a grand historic house, you’ll also walk past tropical plants like ferns, palm trees, bromeliads, and an array of other exotic greenery. Head to the lookout point for an excellent view of Ocho Rios.
The Irie Blue Hole is one of the most spectacular swimming holes in Jamaica. Located on the north coast of the island, this swimming hole is surrounded by a thick perimeter of lush tropical foliage and filled with translucent water in shocking shades of turquoise. Adding to the fun of the Irie Blue Hole are the ropes along the edge from which you can swing into the water.
Get the opportunity to interact with one of the most beloved animal species on the planet when you visit Dolphin Cove. In addition to hands-on dolphin experiences, you can also swim alongside sharks and visit the adjacent white sand beach, where you can rent a beach lounger to relax on. Families love visiting the onsite Treasure Reef, where you’ll find a replica of Port Royal where pirates used to frequent. You’ll still see some “pirates” walking around.
Located on the north coast of Jamaica near Ocho Rios, this system of caves is located deep within the earth. In the past, the caves have been used as a shelter for the indigenous Arawak, as a hideout for the Spanish during clashes between English and Spanish colonists who came to the island, and as a place for smugglers to stash their loot when running arms to Cuba between World War I and World War II. On a visit to the Green Grotto Caves, you’ll learn more about its fascinating history and see its impressive rock formations and stalactites.
On a cruise to Ocho Rios, there are endless opportunities to have fun in the water. Combine a scenic tour of Dunn’s River Falls with a thrilling tubing adventure down Jamaica’s White River. On the calm Martha Brae River, float on a bamboo raft surrounded by lush, tropical riverbanks as your guide navigates the river with a long pole. From action packed to serene, there’s a water adventure waiting for you.
Adventure seekers can’t miss a visit to Mystic Mountain, home to a fantastic zip-lining course, bobsledding experience, and a hillside rollercoaster. Ride the ski lift to the top of Mystic Mountain for fantastic views of the surrounding area.
For a unique way to experience Jamaica’s gorgeous beaches, trot along the shore on horseback. During your horseback riding beach adventure, you’ll also travel through a mangrove forest.
During your Ocho Rios, Jamaica cruise, there are several local treats you can try. Jamaican beef patties provide a savory snack with a comfort food element, thanks to their doughy exteriors and delicious meat filling. Johnnycakes, a flatbread made out of cornmeal, can be eaten like pancakes or alongside a seafood or meat dish.
A fun place to eat while in Jamaica is at the Jerk Centre, where you can feast on barbecued chicken and pork in a garden setting. For a quintessential Jamaican drink, get a coconut from a street vendor, where you’ll watch as the top is dramatically sliced off with a machete and fitted with a straw for you to drink out of.
Ocho Rios has an intricate history filled with many different cultures, and even Columbus is said to have come on land here during his explorations. With strong roots as a fishing village, today it mostly serves as a bustling tourism center. West Indian tribes as well as the Taíno have impacted the city’s present-day culture in terms of dance, theater, and arts. Music is a big part of the culture, and you’ll likely hear reggae and jazz beats during your time here. You can experience the music scene by timing your visit with the prominent Ocho Rios Jazz Festival or visiting the Reggae Xplosion museum.
Ocho Rios is home to two piers where cruise ships dock, both of which are within walking distance of the city center. The first pier is Turtle Bay Pier, which is centrally located right by restaurants and shops in the heart of the city. The other pier is James Bond Pier, which is located a bit farther west, though is still only a 15-minute walk to the city center. You’ll also find a small beach conveniently close to James Bond Pier.
A great way to get around while stopped on a cruise to Ocho Rios is to hop on a local bus. They are much more affordable than taxis and make for an interesting way to travel. In Ocho Rios, there are two types of taxis: local (route) taxis and tourist (charter) taxis. Local taxis are cheaper and follow a specific route. They’ll pick up anyone along the way going that route, so be aware that you’ll share the taxi with others. Tourist taxis operate as typical taxis do, with a specified location provided by the passenger. Regardless of which option you choose, be sure it’s an official taxi with a red license plate and fixed tariffs.
If you’re hoping to do some retail therapy while in port on a cruise to Ocho Rios, you’re in luck. The cruise port offers a number of different places to shop, some of which are within walking distance. Head to the Taj Mahal Duty-Free Shopping Center for some great deals. Island Village and Ocean Village Shopping Center are also great spots to find souvenirs and local fashions. Popular souvenirs include rum, coffee, Cuban cigars, and artwork and handicrafts by local artists.
Jamaica’s official currency is the Jamaican Dollar, and you’ll see prices listed with “J$” before the number to designate that this is the currency being used. Smaller currency amounts are handed out via coins instead of bills. U.S. dollars are also often accepted at businesses around Ocho Rios and the rest of Jamaica. If you need cash, look for the ABM sign instead of ATM. You’ll find several ABM machines throughout Ocho Rios. Tipping is expected here, and you can follow the custom you’re likely used to at home of about 15% to 20% of the total bill.