23 Reasons to Visit Ocho Rios, Jamaica
Ocho Rios is the perfect spot for a Caribbean beach vacation full of adventure for the whole family.
We know we might be biased here at Villa Serenity but visiting Ocho Rios is sure to be jam-packed with peaceful moments, adventurous escapades, and breathtaking landscapes. With so much to do in Ocho Rios, it’s challenging to decide what you want to do here during your stay. Nicknamed the adventure capital of Jamaica, Ocho Rios has more activities per square mile than anywhere else on the island.
Although the name, Ocho Rios, means eight rivers in Spanish, it seems that’s a bit of a misnomer. There is indeed an abundance of natural waterfalls and four rivers to explore in addition to the coastal landscape, but eight rivers is a bit of a stretch.
Here are some of our favorite attractions in the area.
Go to Dunn’s River Falls
We would be remiss to not start the list with Jamaica’s most popular attraction, Dunn’s River Falls. The cascading waterfall is a must-see for every Jamaica tourist, and when you visit, you’ll see why. The 180-foot tall fountains of water jet down the natural rock stairs into several small lagoons before flowing down to the Caribbean. Bathe in the lagoons, chill on the white-sand beach and climb to the top of the Falls if you dare. The Falls also has a historical significance as the location of the Battle of Las Chorreras in 1657 between the British and Spanish.
Because this spot is so popular, we recommend going when no cruises are in port in Ocho Rios.
2. Zipline through the rainforest
Mystic Mountain is fun. 700 feet above the sea, this mountain peak in Ocho Rios is full of outdoor adventures to experience the tropical rainforest differently. Zipline through the bright green forest or take the chairlift to explore. There are so many ways to have fun on the adventure mountain while learning about the tropical landscape.
3. Lounge on the beach
Of course, you’ll want to spend plenty of time on the beach, and Ocho Rios is the perfect place to do so. Visit the cozy Mahogony Beach, Dunn’s River Beach, and James Bond Beach. Ian Flemming, the author of the James Bond books, wrote many of his novels on the island. He lounged at James Bond beach. The film “Dr. No” was also filmed here. If you’re a fan, you have to visit this gorgeous Caribbean shore in Ocho Rios.
If you’re staying at a resort or a villa, you might also have a private beach and resort beach access to enjoy the crystal white shores with fewer people. At Villa Serenity, we have our own private beach and pool for you and exclusive resort beach access nearby.
4. Swim in the Ocho Rios Blue Hole
The Blue Hole is absolutely spectacular. The natural limestone sinkhole is nestled in the Jamaican mountains near Ocho Rios. It attracts travelers with its flowing waterfall and sparkling azure water surrounded by exotic flowers and tropical rainforest. There are a few different places to jump into. The best part? It’s 20 feet deep and relatively untouched by human design.
5.Visit Bob Marley’s birthplace
It’s difficult to think of Jamaica without Bob Marley. Lovers of the reggae artist’s work will be excited to know he was born near Ocho Rios in Nine Mile, a tiny town in the same St. Ann Parish. You can explore the legend’s birthplace and home while gaining a deeper insight into the everyday life and roots of Bob Marley.
6. Try the Puddin’ Man
Edgar Wallace has been known as the Pudding Man for years. Just Coool Grocery, located east of St. Ann’ Bay, serves up some of the best sweet potato pudding on the island, if not the entire Caribbean. The shop serves up other Jamaican traditional foods like toto, okra, and salt fish. The wait times can be as long as twenty minutes, but the delectable slow-cooked treat is well worth it.
7. Visit Seville Great House & Marcus Garvey
Marcus Garvey is a national hero in Jamaica, and he was born in St Ann’s Bay near Ocho Rios. Born into a poor family, he would grow up to be a celebrated political activist and journalist. He founded the Universal Negro Improvement Association and African Communities League. His work was to unify and connect people of African descent worldwide.
The Great House is full of history, with a particular focus on the history of various people of Jamaica. The property itself is gorgeous. 300 acres back onto the ocean, making it a prime picnic area after you learned about the exciting history of Jamaica.
8.Enjoy the best Italian food on the island
Evita’s Fine Italian cuisine has over 30 varieties of pasta and Jamaican Italian cuisine. It’s the self-proclaimed “Best Italian Restaurant on the Island,” and no one who’s been there would disagree. The food has traditional Italian favorites and original recipes like Jerk spaghetti. An open-air dining experience, the lovely ambiance only adds to the occasion.
9. Explore the Blue Mountains (highest peak and Jamaican coffee)
The Blue Mountains are the most extensive mountain range in Jamaica and home to Jamaica’s highest peak. While you could spend days exploring and hiking the area, the most popular attraction is one of the many coffee plantations along the way to the mountains from Jamaica. Learn how coffee is grown and sample different varieties. Depending on your tour, you might also visit Catherine’s Peak, one of the highest spots in Jamaica.
10. Drive Fern Gully
A 5-mile road winds through over 500 different types of luscious green ferns. We recommend booking a tour where they’ll point out different types of ferns, their use, history, and other local facts. You’ll also not need to worry about speedy drivers around a bend if a local familiar with the area shows you around.
11. Go to Firefly
Firefly is the last house of playwright Noel Coward. While the house is nothing grand, a one-bedroom home with some photos and paintings of the deceased writer, the location provides panoramic views of the Jamaican coast. The area was originally the lookout of the pirate Henry Morgan, and tours of the property outline the history of the thieves of the sea.
12. Check out Green Grotto Cave
Green Grotto Cave in Runaway Bay is a twisting geological wonder. Made of limestone, the caves have harbored many secrets throughout their time, including hiding runaway enslaved people during the colonial times, escaping Spanish settlers under the British rule, all the way back to the Arawak Indians. Tours of the caves go deeper into the history and geology of the intricate maze of cave tunnels.
13. Experience Jamaican Nightlife
Ocho Rios is an exciting place to party. With a plethora of club options, you’re sure to find something you like. Margaritaville Caribbean is located on the water and was created by American country singer Jimmy Buffet. While it is family-friendly during the day, it’s open to the wee-early hours of the morning with non-stop music hits and drinks. For a different Jamaican flare, book a cruise party where you can jam to music and bottomless drinks on the sea.
14. Hand-feed birds at Turtle River Falls and Gardens
Turtle River Falls and Garden is a hidden gem featuring pools, hammocks, and a bird sanctuary. There are also fish ponds and turtle ponds. The rainforest has six waterfalls, but the main attraction is the aviary, where parrots and other tropical birds will feed out of your hand. Not everyone knows about the place, so you can find it a relatively quiet destination without much overt tourism.
15. Columbus Park Museum
Discovery Bay is the first place Christopher Columbus visited in Jamaica. The museum has different artifacts, most unrelated to the explorer, including a water wheel used to power a sugarcane mill and an Arawak-style log canoe. The museum is an open-air historical and archeological museum overlooking the coast. The landscape features pimento trees or allspice trees. It’s free to enter and a great place to learn more about the history of Jamaica.
16. Swim with the dolphins
For an activity that the kids will never forget, head to Dolphin Cover in Ocho Rios. The attraction is an enclosed oceanic environment on the coast with the option to snorkel with stingrays, Jamaican dolphins, and Caribbean sharks. You’ll also have the chance to spot exotic birds, tropical snakes, and iguanas on the Jungle Trail walk.
17. Try the best Jerk on Island (Scotchies)
Scotchies makes the most authentic jerk on the island, and their flagship restaurant is located right in Ocho Rios! Enjoy the Jamaican classic, meat dry-rubbed with a spicy mixture of scotch bonnet peppers, allspice, nutmeg, soy sauce, and thyme. The restaurant handmakes all their sauces and has an excellent Jamaican ambiance.
18. Tube on the White River (village of flowers old Spanish bridge 1600s)
The White River, named for the white limestone rocks creating mini rapids in the river, the spot is a gorgeous area to raft. Alternatively, book a tour to saddle up your horse or kayak down the glistening water tumbling into soothing lagoons. You’ll enjoy the tropical scenery as you float down the river, keeping your eye out for the old Spanish bridge from the 1600s.
19. Enjoy Shaw Park Gardens
The Shaw Park Gardens is a relaxing way to spend the day in Ocho Rios. The upkept park is perched 900 feet above sea level, giving you a fabulous vantage point of the city and sea below. With over 600 species of plant life, cascading waterfalls, and island wildlife, you’ll enjoy learning more about the Jamaican landscape. The entry fee includes a tour guide, who will point out important flora and fauna during your visit.
20. Go to a rum distillery (Hampden Estate)
Jamaicans make some excellent rum. One of the best ways to learn more about the rum-making process is to visit a local Jamaican distillery. Hampden Estate, located near Ocho Rios, has been making rum for over 260 years. Many of the techniques from the 1700s they still utilize today with their Pure Jamaican Rum. Even if you aren’t a rum drinker, Hampden Estate is truly magnificent with massive trees draped in tropical vines, an abandoned sugar factory, and equipment from the 18th century makes this as much a history lesson as a distillery tour.
21.Take a Marta Brae bamboo river raft
Float down the Marta Brae river in a 30-foot bamboo raft with a guide gently maneuvering your boat through the blue river waters. Harkening to the romance of the Venice canals, you’ll be treated to a fruity drink as you watch tropical birds and exotic plants. When you’re done with your float, visit Miss Martha’s Herb Garden to check out local Jamaican herbs. The location is about 40 miles from Ocho Rios and the birthplace of the famous sprinter, Usain Bolt, making it a lovely day trip destination.
22. Hike Konoko Falls
Konoko Falls has a little bit of everything. Perfect for families, the park has botanical gardens, a climbable waterfall, and swimming holes to cool off in. Although the waterfall isn’t as powerful as Dunn’s River Falls, the flowing water over the limestone is still a beautiful natural wonder. If you’re lucky, you might spot some tropical wildlife. The falls are located on Mystic Mountain, so you can combine your waterfall visit with other rainforest adventures.
23. Quad down the coast
You’re going to get dirty for this one. Rent an ATV and explore the coast and rainforest in a muddy style. Many tours take you to the oldest estates in custom trails. If you get too dirty, you can cool off in private swimming holes before exploring the Georgian Great House with a spectacular view of the area. You’ll likely be hungry just in time for a Jamaican food prep tutorial before a delicious buffet-style lunch.