Ocho Rios, a lively cruise port located on the north coast of Jamaica, is known for picture-perfect white-sand beaches, turquoise waters and lush landscape. This port town is a gateway to unique things to do in Jamaica. “Ochi” as it is called, is undoubtedly famous for its well-known Dunn’s River Falls and Dolphin Cove. However, it has got plenty of iconic treasures besides.
Jamaica’s northern coast offers a variety of alternatives to spending a day on a beach, though. Head into the mountains and rainforest for birdwatching and also 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.
EXPLORING UNUSUAL JAMAICA
Deciding what to see and do in Ocho Rios depends on how much time you have. We hope you have more than just a day, though. If you are short on time, make sure you check out our blog post Unmissable 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.
UNIQUE AND UNUSUAL THINGS TO DO IN JAMAICA
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 on the northern coast. Here are the unique things you should not miss out when visiting Jamaica!
1. THE GLISTENING WATERS AT THE LUMINOUS LAGOON
Firstly, an experience that will both surprise and amazes you. Off the country’s attractions, this is the most unique; a Jamaica’s natural wonder that surprisingly many tourists don’t even know about.
The luminous lagoon is home to a natural phenomenon known as bioluminescence. It is one of only a few places in the world where you may witness such an event. Swimming in the lagoon full of millions of harmless microscopic organisms that sparkles when disturbed is definitely a bucket-list worthy experience not to be missed while in Ocho Rios.
What`s more, the unique 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
- also 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 tough to capture, enjoy swimming in glow-in-the-dark-lagoon and create memories that will last lifetime
- tours run from around sunset to 9 pm 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.
2. FRENCHMAN’S COVE
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 a 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, is undoubtedly a unique thing see in Jamaica.
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 also served on the beach
- there are also lounge chairs and/or dining tables and chairs for a small rental fee
3. THE BLUE LAGOON
After that, 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. On first glance, one of the top beauty spots in Jamaica might look familiar to you. It is famous due to Brooke Shields’s unforgettable movie “The Blue Lagoon”. It is essential to note that this is not a formal tourist attraction. However, it is definitely a unique place while in Jamaica.
Blue Lagoon, located in a protected cove along the coast, is a rare find in Jamaica, indeed. The lagoon, surrounded by lush green vegetation, is fed by underground fresh mineral spring. Moreover, the lagoon opened to the Caribbean Sea has varying temperatures. It is due to the mixing of warm seawater and the icy cold water supply from underground springs.
Even though the popularity of “The Blue Lagoon” movie changed the lagoon’s name, 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 also a unique experience.
WHY IS THE BLUE LAGOON UNIQUE?
One of the most striking things about the lagoon is the way how it changes its colours during the day. The Blue Lagoon is undoubtedly famous for its wide range of blue shades. The watercolour in this stunning lagoon might vary 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. However, 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.
ESSENTIAL INFORMATION ABOUT THE BLUE LAGOON
- Location: 5 miles (8km) east of Port Antonio in east Jamaica
- NO ENTRANCE FEE
- WHAT TO BRING: camera, towel, insect repellent, sun cream, and also pocket money
- Ocho Rios: 2 ½ hours
- Montego Bay: 4 hours +
- Kingston: 2 hours and 15 minutes
- Negril: 5 hours +
The Blue Lagoon, with its natural beauty, is undoubtedly a unique 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 undoubtedly worth it.
4. 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 initially 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 also see where Tom Cruise was filming the movie “Cocktail”.
GOOD TO KNOW:
A great tour guide will talk about the lagoon’s history, the appearances of the lagoon in movies and also the celebrities who have visited.
5. MONKEY ISLAND
Additionally, have a relaxing float to the nearby tiny Monkey Island and enjoy one of the magnificent scenery of Jamaican coastline.
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, without doubt, an unmissable experience while in Jamaica.
GOOD TO KNOW:
Rafting on the Martha Brae River and the Rio Grande in Portland are alternatives to rafting at the Blue Lagoon. However, both are more expensive and more commercialised.
6. MARTA BRAE RIVER
Sailing along calm waters surrounded by the abundant greenery is one of 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.
7. REACH FALLS
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 another must for you.
Besides, the pool below exotic Reach Falls has been featured in Tom Cruise’s movie “Cocktail”.
Reach Falls, centred on a waterfall cascading down a rock face, is also 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
8. UNIQUE FIRE WATER POND
Along with the other tourist attractions, Jamaica holds another well-kept secret for its visitors. Nestled in the hills of S. Ann’s parish near Runaway Bay, the Windsor Mineral Spring is home to the unique Fire Water Pond.
It may be a small grotto, but a natural bubbling spring saturated with gasses is a natural phenomenon which can catch fire. More adventurous souls can walk through the flaming water or can take a dip in the water pond. Additionally, “fire massages” are offered in the poll.
Perhaps the spring has the healing powers, or maybe this unique thing to do in Jamaica is just another great alternative to the better-known tourist routes in Ocho Rios.
9. 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 is 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. Walkthrough the very same house that Bob lived in, stand on “Mt. Zion Rock”, rest your head on the “Pillow” and also 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.
Visiting 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) is, without doubt, a unique thing to do in Jamaica. You can also see the Rasta-coloured meditation rock where Bob used to rest his head while dreaming up lyrics.
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.
- Moreover, 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 found here
10. 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 an excellent 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.
The 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 it appears to have from a distance.
GOOD TO KNOW:
This undeveloped mountain paradise with majestic scenery is, without doubt, one of the unique 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.
OTHER UNIQUE THINGS TO DO IN JAMAICA
- take a 20-minute boat ride and visit the cool Floyd’s Pelican Bar, located in Parottee Bay in the middle of the Caribbean sea
- go cliff-jumping at Rick’s Café in Negril (don’t forget to stay for a sunset)
- meet crocodiles on a Black River Safari Tour
- get your blood pumping with Bobsledding, and other Mystic mountain adventures in Ocho Rios spend a day on a less touristy Treasure beach located on the island’s south-east coast
UNIQUE THINGS TO DO IN JAMAICA IN ONE DAY:
- relax at Frenchman’s Cove in the parish of Portland
- also have a swim or dive in the unusual Blue Lagoon in Portland
- rafting at the Blue Lagoon to the nearby Monkey Island
- cool of in the Reach falls
- after the sunset, experience the Luminous Lagoon with Glistening Waters Tours
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. However, 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 potholes 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). At the same time, keep in mind that breakdown assistance is minimal 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, sightseeing or airport transfer, contact Glen in advance.
What are your favourite unique adventures on the northern coast of Jamaica? What would you like to try the most? Let us know in the comments.
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