Ocho Rios is a very popular vacation spot in Jamaica, which means that there are several attractions to captivate. But Ocho Rios is not your typical commercialized resort spot. I would say it capitalizes on the natural beauty of Jamaica rather than man-made attractions and is definitely more of an eco-tourism expedition than anything else. If you’re more interested in unplugging, relaxing or ‘roughing it’ in the outdoors, then that’s what Ocho Rios is for; making your own adventure. So, here’s a list of Ocho Rios and Ochi-adjacent attractions to bring out the nature lover in you.
It’s common knowledge that there’s the Bob Marley Museum in Kingston, but the South Coast isn’t the only place music fans can get their fix on the man who popularized reggae music and the Rastafari culture around the world. Before he was a superstar living in the country’s capital, he was a child of Nine Mile in St Ann. The Bob Marley Nine Mile Tour takes you through the house he was born and raised in as a child (prior to moving to Trench Town and exploring his musical abilities). Visitors can stand where he stood and see the expanse of St Ann that Bob must’ve seen hundreds of times as a young boy. And the tour wouldn’t be complete without a trophy room immortalizing all of his accomplishments or a chance to taste brand name Marley Coffee. Overall, a promising journey for the reggae/world music fan of the humble beginnings that made the legend himself.
2. Cool Runnings Catamarans
For those of us who don’t know what a catamaran is, (I had to research it myself) simply put, it’s a boat. And Cool Runnings is offering mini-cruises along the North Coast. They offer two main tours, the Snorkel Dunn’s River Cruise that takes you out to sea and allows guests to snorkel and view Jamaica’s reefs and marine life, followed by a sail through a tropical rainforest on your way back to a buffet style lunch on Mahogany Beach Pier. The second Tour is the Caribbean Night Dinner tour, setting sail at sunset and anchoring for dinner under the stars. Each cruise comes with an open bar, friendly staff and a DJ who keeps the spirits up for the entire trip.
3. Dolphin Cove
When life offers you a chance to swim with the dolphins you don’t turn it down, because that’s one of the hallmarks of a tropical island vacation. But at Dolphin Cove, there is so much more than swimming with dolphins (and stingrays and sharks). A beachfront property that guests are open to enjoy as well, there are also games (with prizes) and a Jungle Trail that exposes you to other flora and fauna such as birds, snakes and iguanas as well as indigenous plants. And why not make it a full day event with the food served on the property. Come for the dolphins but stay for so much more.
Dunn’s River Falls is just one of those things that people equate with Jamaica, and for good reason because it’s a sight worth seeing. 600ft waterfalls, Dunn’s River Falls has a fascinating history that involves Spaniards and James Bond, but let’s face it, that’s not why we go there. We go for the idyllic paradise waterfalls promised in commercials and that’s what you get (give or take the amount of people). The adventurous ones can climb along the side of the falls, while the more relaxed can enjoy the natural pools that the waterfall empties into or take a walk on the adjoining beach. There are also craft markets to buy (and commission) works of art and a taste of Jamaican cuisine to energize for another go at the falls.
One of my new favourite words is spelunking aka cave exploration, which as you can imagine, is exactly what happens at Green Grotto Caves. A completely safe tour that requires full clothing, sneakers and protective headgear, takes you on a voyage through underground mysticism. Learn about its rich history of hide n seek, arms smuggling and rum, and my vagueness is only meant to entice you more. And did I mention that it was completely safe, for those of us apprehensive about an underground cave, but a low risk that’s worth it since you won’t be seeing anything that you could see above ground.
Every vacation needs a lazy day where you can lie around and take it all in. And it’s a nice change of pace after the nature walks you’ve gone through on this list, so make it a Margaritaville day. A pool bar and grill on the shores of the Ocho Rios Bay, you’ll have the resort quality holiday you’ve been craving. A pool (inclusive of a swim-up pool bar), water trampoline and waterslide or the beach with all of the water sports they have to offer, it’s a very family-friendly environment in the daytime (but nighttime is a different story). Of course, there is a restaurant with a variety of food options and at a place called Margaritaville there have to be free flowing drinks (because it’s always 5pm). The only caveat would be the hefty price for food but still a worthy endeavor as you can stay there all day and night.
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Run by Rainforest Adventures, Mystic Mountain is another trademark attraction that combines the great outdoors with amusement park activities. One of the main attractions is the Sky Explorer – which you’ll need to start with because it brings you up the mountain – is a chairlift that offers you a taste of the magnificent views you’ll get from the top. There’s also the zipline and bobsled (think roller coaster with brakes) that sends you flying through a rainforest. But aside from the adrenaline-fueled attractions, one could also enjoy bird watching, a wading pool and waterslide and a bird’s eye view of Ocho Rios sprawled out before you.
8. Shaw Park Botanical Gardens
To finish off this eco-tourist’s dream (and I know that I’m killing you with nature but that’s Ochi for you) is 25 acres of the Shaw Park Botanical Gardens. The gardens are in a terrace formation, so the higher or lower you go in altitude (depending on where you started) there’s always something new to witness. And a park of 600 species of plants, for the nature lover it won’t get boring. The cherry on top would have to be the majestic waterfall to complete this picture of tropical glory and perfects any picnic backdrop.