Ocho Rios, a lively cruise port located on the north coast of Jamaica, known for picture perfect white-sand beaches, turquoise waters and lush landscape, is a gateway to Jamaica`s most iconic attractions. “Ochi” as it is called, famous for its well-known Dunn`s River Falls and Dolphin Cove, has got plenty of hidden treasures besides.
Jamaica`s northern coast offers a variety of alternatives to spending day on a beach. Head into the mountains and rainforest for birdwatching and hiking, raft down the river, or explore breath-taking natural waterfalls. A relaxed vibe with zero hustle is a refreshing change to Ocho Rios, Jamaica`s most popular holiday destination.
Deciding what to see and do in Ocho Rios depends on how much time you have (hope you have more than just a day). If you are short on time, make sure you check out our blog post Things to do in Ocho Rios. If you are wondering where to stay in Ocho Rios, see our blog post Staying at The Club Hotel Riu Ocho Rios.
For a taste of the “real Jamaica”, head away from on the beaten track Ocho Rios in the north. The following list takes you along the most stunning spots in the northern coast. Here are the best things you shouldn`t miss out when visiting Jamaica!
UNIQUE THINGS TO DO IN JAMAICA
THE GLISTENING WATERS AT THE LUMINOUS LAGOON
Luminous Lagoon, also known as Glistening waters, on the north coast of Jamaica, is an experience that will both surprise and amaze you. Off the country`s attractions, this is the most unusual; a Jamaica`s natural wonder that surprisingly many tourists don`t even know about.
Luminous Lagoon, a home to a natural phenomenon known as bioluminescence, is one of only few places in the world where you may witness such a phenomenon. Swimming in the lagoon full of millions of harmless microscopic organisms that sparkles when disturbed, is definitely bucket-list worthy experience not to be missed while in Ocho Rios.
The Luminous lagoon in Jamaica has one of the brightest displays of bioluminescence found around the globe.
GOOD TO KNOW:
- Avoid visiting on a full moon night or rainy day as this will limit the effect of the bioluminescence.
- Secure the seat at the rear of the boat for the best view of the water glowing blue light when the boat starts moving
- Don`t forget to bring your water shoes as the water at the lagoon is not very deep (about 3 – 4 feet) and the bottom of the bay is covered in several feet of mud.
- Video and photographs are very difficult to capture, enjoy swimming in glow-in-the-dark-lagoon and create memories that will last a lifetime
- Tours run from around sunset to 9pm in a bay in Falmouth, located about 1 hour drive from Ocho Rios. Each tour lasts around 30 to 45 minutes and is definitely worth it.
Desperate for a day at the secluded beach surrounded by lush vegetation? If yes was your answer, head away from Ocho Rios to the northwest shore of Jamaica in the parish of Portland and discover serene place called Frenchman`s Cove.
What makes Frenchman`s Cove unique is the emerald river that meets the inviting waters of the Caribbean sea. Small, hidden white sand beach surrounded by small secluded jungle and breath-taking views is a place where you can relax and get away from it all.
Frenchman`s Cove, considered as one of the most beautiful beaches by luxury travel magazine Conde Nast Traveller
GOOD TO KNOW:
- The beach is open to the public from 9 am to 5 pm. The entrance fee to the beach if you are not staying at Frenchman`s Cove Resort is JMD 800 or USD 10.
- The walk to the beach is about 5 minutes
- Drinks and lunch are served on the beach
- There are lounge chairs and/or dining tables and chairs for a small rental fee
THE BLUE LAGOON
Save your time for the trip to the northwest shore of Jamaica in the parish of Portland. This secluded corner of the island is home to Jamaica`s largest underground spring fed lagoon. One of the top beauty spots in Jamaica might look familiar to you. Made famous by a Brooke Shields unforgettable movie “The Blue Lagoon”, this not a formal tourist attraction is definitely unmissable place while in Jamaica.
Located in a protected cove along the coast, Blue Lagoon fed by underground fresh mineral spring is surrounded by lush green vegetation. The lagoon opened to the Caribbean Sea has varying temperatures due to the mixing of warm seawater and the icy cold water supply from underground springs.
The popularity of “The Blue Lagoon” movie changed the lagoon`s name, but some locals might still refer to it as Blue Hole.
Water temperatures vary in the Blue Lagoon. Swimming in the lagoon with a mix of fresh spring water and warm salt water is a quite an experience.
One of the most striking things about the lagoon is the way how the lagoon changes its colours during the day. Known for its wide range of blue shades, the water in this stunning lagoon might change during your boat ride from royal blue to intense emerald, depending on the way the sun shines upon the surface.
With the moving over of sun, the water in the lagoon changes its colours from royal blue intense emerald.
At one time, the Blue Lagoon was considered to be bottomless with a mysterious dragon living there, but divers found out that the lagoon does have a bottom at a depth of about 180 to 200 feet (54 -60 metres). The deep blue water of the lagoon is a paradise for the divers.
The Blue Lagoon with its natural beauty is an unforgettable place favourite between backpackers, adventurous couples and locals alike. Both tourists and locals enjoy activities such as swimming, rafting, snorkelling, diving, kayaking or soaking up some sun on the lagoon`s small beach. Bear in mind that there is not much around (amenities, places to dine), but the relaxing atmosphere is certainly worth it.
GOOD TO KNOW:
Location: 5 miles (8km) east of Port Antonio in east Jamaica
NO ENTRANCE FEE
WHAT TO BRING: camera, towel, insect repellent, sun cream, pocket money
Distance from Ocho Rios: 2 ½ hours
Distance from Montego Bay: 4 hours +
Distance from Kingston: 2 hours and 15 minutes
Disctace from Negril: 5 hours +
RAFTING (at the Blue Lagoon)
Once you have seen picturesque lagoon, why not to try one of the most relaxing experiences Jamaica can offer? Bamboo rafting is a unique Jamaican experience and another popular way to explore the Blue lagoon and nearby Monkey island.
Bamboo rafts were originally used to transport production (especially bananas) from Portland to the coast for export.
An easy-going, slow-pace ride on a hand-crafted bamboo raft will take you around the bay and you will see where Tom Cruise was filming the movie “Cocktail”.
GOOD TO KNOW:
If you’ve chosen a great tour guide, he will talk about the lagoon`s history, the appearances of the lagoon in movies and the celebrities who have visited.
Have a relaxing float to the nearby tiny Monkey Island and enjoy one of magnificent scenery of Jamaican coastline.
TIP: Spend your afternoon rafting on Jamaican 9-metre (30 feet) bamboo raft. The rafts with comfortable seats are well balanced. Make sure you take a swim in inviting waters of the lagoon.
Bamboo rafting at the Blue Lagoon is an unmissable experience while in Jamaica
TIP: Rafting on the Martha Brae River or the Rio Grande in Portland are another alternative to rafting at the Blue Lagoon, however both are more expensive and more commercialised.
MARTA BRAE RIVER
Sailing along calm waters surrounded by the abundant greenery is one of the Jamaica`s most popular attractions. The Martha Bae River, located approximately 3 miles from the town of Falmouth (only 1 hour from Ocho Rios), offers a smooth 3 mile long rafting experience on a 30 feet (9 m) bamboo raft. The raft ride lasts approximately one hour.
During the plantation era, farmers used the river for transporting sugar and other crops to the harbour.
One of the least explored parts of the country, blessed with bio-diversity, is also home to numerous waterfalls. If you are a waterfall lover and you would love to visit stunning waterfalls but do not want a crowded attraction, visiting Reach falls is another must for you.
The pool below exotic Reach Falls has been featured in the Tom Cruise`s movie “Cocktail”.
Reach Falls, centred on a waterfall cascading down a rock face, is an idyllic getaway for natural relaxation, located just 6 miles (9km) east of Long Bay.
GOOD TO KNOW:
The falls have been developed by the government and now also have a visitor`s centre and changing facilities.
Admission (with a free guide): Age 4-12 year olds: $5 US, Age 12+ year olds: $10 US, Children 3 and under are FREE
TIP: Follow the river upstream to seek out underground caves
BOB MARLEY MAUSOLEUM, NINE MILE
Last but not least, if you love cultural tours and you are a fan of one of the world`s great reggae legends, consider visiting Nine Mile – a place that Bob Marley called home. Hidden in the beautiful St. Ann Hills, only little over an hour ride from Ocho Rios, the village of Nine Mile is the birthplace and final resting place of the singer and his mother.
The Journey up to the mountains is truly breath-taking. The St. Ann Hills are also known for its green scenery and peaceful gorgeous landscapes.
The singer and peace activist, who was born and spent his early childhood before moving to Kingston at the age of 13, was also later buried here. Walk through the very same house that Bob lived in, stand on “Mt. Zion Rock”, rest your head on the “Pillow” and visit beautiful mausoleum – Bob`s final resting place.
Inside the Bob Marley`s house at Nine Mile
Nine Mile is owned and operated by Bob`s family.
The mausoleum: a white-washed building holding the remains of Bob`s mother and Bob Marley`s marble tomb (6 feet above the ground rather than the traditional 6 feet below).
GOOD TO KNOW:
- If you decide to drive there yourself, be aware that the road to the village is very narrow and steep. Make sure you honk your horn to let everyone know that you are coming through. This is what real Jamaica looks like.
- Ganja smoking is legal within the gates of Nine Mile. As a parent, you may want to reconsider taking this tour with kids (everyone is expecting to have some marihuana).
- A vegetarian restaurant and a Bob Marley gift shops can be foundhere
HIKING IN THE BLUE MOUNTAINS
With its drop-dead stunning mountain vistas, hiking trails and waterfalls, the cool Blue Mountain peaks, shrouded in mist, are home to some of the best coffee growing farms in the world. The longest mountain range in Jamaica is also wonderful hiking destination renowned for stunning sunsets and breath-taking sunrises from its peaks.
The Jamaican Blue Mountains, one of the highest mountain ranges in the Caribbean, are where some of the world`s best coffee is grown.
Blue Mountains, Jamaica`s UNESCO World Heritage Site is an unspoiled paradise for nature lovers, popular among campers and people interested in unique and diverse flora and fauna that is endemic to Jamaica.
The Blue Mountains are named for the colour if appears to have from a distance.
GOOD TO KNOW:
This undeveloped mountain paradise with majestic scenery is one of the best places to visit in Jamaica. When visiting the area, bear in mind the unmarked narrow and winding roads are impossible to pass without USV vehicle especially after heavy rains.
DRIVING IN JAMAICA
Driving in Jamaica is on the left-hand side of the road. Getting off Ocho Rios and its resorts will introduce you to the real Jamaica. Drivers should expect better roads on the north and northwest coasts and in and around Kingston and Portmore. The majority of the roads around the island are paved but suffer from large pot holes and poor traffic control markings, expect to get lost without navigation. Night-time driving is especially dangerous and should be avoided whenever possible (especially outside of the cities Ocho Rios, Montego Bay, Negril and Kingston). Keep in mind that breakdown assistance is very limited and unavailable in rural areas.
If you plan on road tripping during your stay in Jamaica but you do not feel confident to drive a car, you may always ask a taxi driver to take you wherever you wish. If you are looking for a safe and reliable driver and guide in Ocho Rios, we personally recommend Glenroy Coleman. For booking an excursion, sight seeing or airport transfer, contact Glen in advance.
What are your favourite adventures on the northern coast of Jamaica? What would you like to try the most? Let us now in the comments.
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