Things to Do in Ocho Rios
The Blue Hole—alternatively known as the Cool Blue Hole, Secret Falls, or Island Gully—is a natural limestone sinkhole near Ocho Rios. A deep cavern within the tropical mountains of Jamaica, the Blue Hole gets its name from the deep azure hue of the water. Travelers visit to swim, cliff dive, and make their way through the lush rain forest to Secret Falls.
A visit to Nine Mile, a sleepy town high in the Jamaican mountains of St. Ann Parish, is a must for die-hard Bob Marley fans. Home to the birthplace, house, and mausoleum of the legendary king of reggae, Nine Mile offers visitors insight into Bob Marley’s everyday life and his music, and a deeper understanding of his roots.
Legendary explorer Christopher Columbus first trod upon Jamaican soil at Discovery Bay, where he landed in 1494. Columbus Park commemorates that momentous day in history with a museum that explores the history and impact of that landing, along with the pre-colonial history of Jamaica’s indigenous people.
From Arawak canoes to sugarcane milling, nautical relics and cannons, the open-air museum overlooking the harbor at Discovery Bay is littered with fascinating artifacts from Jamaica's past.
The White River valley prides itself on its eco credentials, offering all manner of outdoor adventures.
The white limestone rocks give the White River its name, causing the water to tumble over rapids and forming tranquil lagoon pools for rafting.
You can go tubing or kayaking in the White River, or even saddle a horse for a ride along trails leading through tropical rainforest! Visit the landscaped Village of Flowers, and seek out the old Spanish Bridge dating back to the 1600s.
High above the sun-drenched beaches and bustling fray of Ocho Rios, the lush Konoko Falls and Park are filled with innumerable species of tropical flora and birds, and streams that tumble into gentle waterfalls. The excellent on-site museum traces the history and culture of Jamaica’s original inhabitants, the Tainos and Arawaks.
The Green Grotto Caves are a labyrinth of limestone caves located in Falmouth, between the resort towns of Ocho Rios and Montego Bay. Once used as shelter by the native Arawak Indians, the caves have since been used as a hiding place by smugglers and runaway slaves and even served as the site of a nightclub.
Take a step back into the wilds of Jamaica with a drive through the incredibly lush and tropical Fern Gully. A towering tunnel of ferns and tropical overgrowth, this rainforest is so full and green that it has become one of the most noteworthy attractions in all of Jamaica.
See water falling over canyons, beautiful gorges, tropical birds of paradise and more than 300 varieties of fern. Along the way visitors can stop to haggle with roadside vendors for wooden arts and crafts, or, if they’re lucky, they’ll spot Fern Man, who wears a robe of pure fern. With so much green vegetation, this shady forest canopy is a great spot for a quick drive or a leisurely walk.
The eastern side of Discovery Bay, where Christopher Columbus is thought to have first landed on Jamaica's north coast, is a beautiful stretch of white sand beach fringed with palm trees. Lined with snack bars and vendors offering boats and water skis for rent, Puerto Seco Beach is a great destination for a family outing.
Also known as Ocho Rios Bay Beach, busy bayside Turtle Beach is just off Main Street, and is the main beach of Ocho Rios. Despite its proximity to the cruise ship port, the crescent-shaped sandy stretch is clean, and the crowd is mostly locals with a smattering of travelers who come for a release from the ship to kayak and jet-ski.
A former banana-port town on Jamaica’s northwest coast, sleepy Port Antonio is an off-the-beaten-path destination. Away from the busier Montego Bay and Ocho Rios, Port Antonio is marked by craggy shorelines and hilly jungle rife with rivers and lagoons. It’s clear why Errol Flynn, aka Tarzan, built a Hollywood escape here in the 1940s.
More Things to Do in Ocho Rios
One of Jamaica’s most significant cultural sites, Seville Great House & Heritage Park, near Ocho Rios, includes ruins from the island’s first inhabitants and subsequent Spanish and British settlements. The immaculately restored Georgian-style manor and its grounds are operated by the Jamaica National Heritage Trust.
Nestled into the jungle-laced hillside above Ocho Rios, you find one of Jamaica's most idyllic botanical gardens. The 25-acre Shaw Park Gardens & Waterfalls boasts some 600 species of plants, including exotic tropical flowers, ferns and a giant banyan tree. The gardens sit on the former estate of plantation owner John Shaw. When it was sold to the Pringle family in the early 1900s, the daughter Flora took in upon herself to design and plant the gardens. A gorgeous stream runs through the gardens, cascading down waterfalls into glittering pools, making it a great spot to enjoy a walk and a picnic lunch.
Cranbrook Flower Forest is a stunning example of Jamaica’s tropical heart, filled with flowers and hidden pools. A riverside nature trail winds through the tropical rainforest, lined with exotic flowers, leading to tranquil swimming holes.
Follow the trail on foot or on horseback, and try to name the tropical flowers, from begonias to heliconias!
If you are looking to raise your adrenaline levels, zip lines traverse the forest for a wild ride overhead, and cool swimming holes and falls offer a welcome break from the heat of the day.
For local arts and crafts displayed in a grand setting, visit the Harmony Hall crafts gallery housed in a former Methodist manse outside Ocho Rios.
Local paintings, sculptures, carvings and crafts are displayed for sale in the elegant building, a local landmark with its carved wooden verandas and central staircase. You’ll also find a good range of books and prints here.
Downstairs, the gallery also hosts a restaurant, Toscanini’s, one of the finest in Jamaica. The authentic Italian menu features standout local produce, including lobster and the catch of the day fresh from the sea.
Set in the lush rain forest outside Ocho Rios, Mystic Mountain is a nature theme park featuring thrill rides, gardens, and pools. Adrenaline junkies can zip through the jungle on ziplines and bobsleds, while more laid-back visitors can enjoy panoramic views on a chairlift canopy ride.
Ocho Rios, Jamaica, is the ultimate gateway to a plethora of sightseeing and cultural experiences on the north coast of the island. Originally a fishing village, Ocho Rios has grown into a well-known port of call for cruise ships with its bustling economy surrounding the port.
Experience life in a colonial plantation at Brimmer Hall!
Established in 1817, this historic estate today is still a working enterprise, producing Jamaica’s famous coffee and tropical fruit.
To further enjoy the scenery, tour the plantation by tropical tractor and take a drive past coconut palms, citrus groves, coffee trees, and fields of pineapples and bananas.
The grand estate home provides insights into colonial life, furnished with antiques from the era.
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