Once a simple fishing village in a gorgeous crescent bay is now a cluster of global brand shops, hustlers and wannabe guides in a gorgeous crescent bay, waiting for their ship to come in, literally, as cruise ships now dock here and unload thousands of squealing innocents into the maws of Jamaican commercial endeavour.
However, for all that, Ocho Rios is family-friendly and home to a large, curving white beach called UDC – aka Turtle Bay – that shelters behind a reef and offers watersports, cafés, bars. Pay a small fee to enter. It’s crowded at weekends with locals or whenever a cruise ship is in port.
Ocho region has plenty of some fun stuff such as Rainforest Adventures Mystic Mountain (a small amusement park 2 kms from Ochi, ziplines, scenic cable car ride, but don’t go there when cruise ships are docked!
Ten miles (16 kms) west of Ocho Rios, Runaway Bay is home to lovely beaches that see many less visitors and hawkers than Ochi. The difference is especially noticeable when cruise ships dock in Ocho. Runaway has some good all-inclusive resorts adjacent but not a lot of attractions. There are a couple of historical museums nearby and of course Bob Marley’s childhood home and mausoleum in Nine Mile, not far away.
A little east of Ochi near the town of Prospect is Reggae Beach, an attractive and secluded place with limited facilities but lots of character. It’s also pay-to-enter.
Best Activities in Ocho Rios
• The superb Dunns River Falls walk is 5 kms up the road, with private beach.
• Calypso Rafting – tubes or rafts on the White River.
• Island Village, a cute collection of walkways, flowering shrubs, lagoons, shops and casino designed to relieve the cruise punter of his life savings at ramming speed. The town itself has excellent night life opportunities, a good reggae museum, some cute tropical gardens and plenty of modest guesthouses or sublime beach resorts to hand, so it’s not a bad place to visit or spend a few days if you manage to avoid cruise-wally-overload; the most likely time not to be overwhelmed by cruisers is after dark and at weekends.
Ocho Rios – Montego Bay 1. 5 hours drive.
Ocho Rios – Negril 3 hours drive.
Ocho Rios – Port Antonio 2. 5 hours drive. Ocho Rios – Kingston 1. 5 hours drive.