Caribbean: Jamaica - Ocho Rios

Famous for its falls, no trip to Jamaica is complete without Ocho Rios on the itinerary.
by Lori Seto

Shed your worries and cares in lush Ocho Rios, where Ian Fleming conjured James Bond for 14 novels and five films. Located one and a half hours from the airport in the middle of the northern coast, Ocho Rios boasts quaint fishing villages, world-class golf greens, and green as far as the eye can see.

In a Word: Green

Lush ferns (more than 570 species!), picturesque waterfalls, and tropical terrain blanket the hilly Jamaican countryside in Ocho Rios, located in the "garden parish" of St. Ann.

Why We'd Go: 6 Features You'll Never Forget

  • Cascading falls: Climb the 600-foot, world-famous Dunn's River Falls. To have fun sans cruise boats full of tourists, definitely do not visit on a day when the mother ships are docked (ask the tour desk at your hotel for cruise schedules). Wear firm-fitting sandals or sneaks for sure footing, tote a waterproof camera, and pocket a little money in a Ziploc bag to tip your guide or spend in the souvenir shop in the market "conveniently" located near the exit. Final note: Although guides instruct the group to hold hands, not doing so actually helps you keep your balance better.
  • Plant parades: Drive through the three-mile Fern Gully to be surrounded by a canopy of towering, 30-foot fern trees. Visit Coyaba River Garden and Museum or Shaw Park Botanical Gardens to learn more about the island's history and diverse array of indigenous flora and fauna.
  • Beach espionage: Laze in the sun on the silky soft sand of James Bond Beach near the quaint, fretwork fishing village of Oracabessa.
  • Sandy trots: Take an ambling, three-hour horseback ride along the beach (and into the ocean bareback!), into the mountains, or through nearby working plantations.
  • Plantation digs: The still-thriving, 900-acre Prospect Plantation has been producing sugarcane, coffee, and bananas since the 18th century. Tour the beautiful grounds and gaze at views of the White River Gorge from an open-air jitney (a cart pulled by a tractor) or atop a horse. For an alternate view, tackle the miniature golf course or sidle up to the bar for a rum punch.
  • Island eats: Wash down jerked anything with a Red Stripe beer at the Ocho Rios Village Jerk Centre, or sip a bowl of spicy pepperpot soup and take a spin in the cliff-side terrace rope chairs at Almond Tree.

When to Go: Ocho Rios at its Best

  • Best weather: December to April. Rain (called "liquid sunshine") is common, especially in October.
  • Best prices: Mid-April to mid-December; exact dates vary by hotel. Hurricane season swirls from June to November (September is trickiest).
  • Festival highlights: The life and music of resident son Bob Marley is celebrated in Nine Miles, the town where he was born and buried, during the first week of February; Carnival, celebrated every April, is the highlight of the year; the Ocho Rios Jazz Fest happens every June.

Photo: The Jamaica Tourist Board

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