Set the stage for an unforgettable Caribbean getaway with the top things to do in this coastal Jamaican paradise.
Ocho Rios is a quaint town to the north of the Jamaican coast with more than a handful to offer vacationers. Once a sleepy fishing village, “Ochi,” as it’s popularly known by the locals, has experienced momentous development in recent years to become a premier tourist destination, welcoming visitors from around the globe. The port city is a popular cruise ship terminal, with passengers happy to take advantage of its award-winning luxury resorts, thrilling tropical adventure tours, and cozy surrounding nature.
Unlike most Jamaican resort towns, Ochi’s top attractions are not based around the coast; but rather its natural surroundings. The town has magnificent waterfalls, lazy rivers, and lush gardens, offering exciting activities like bobsled rides, river tubing, ziplining, and dolphin encounters.
Essentially, Ocho Rios is a cross between lively Montego Bay and laid-back Negril, boasting a striking balance between a vibrant city atmosphere and a small-town vibe amidst the green Jamaican countryside. From bobsledding through the rainforest to dipping in the iconic Dunn’s River Falls, there is never a dull moment in Jamaica’s capital of adventure.
There Are More Things To Do In Ocho Rios!
This guide has been refreshed with new locations, photos, and tips for a successful vacation to Jamaica. Whether visitors want to explore a magic rainforest, lie on a beach, go shopping at a local market, or see a waterfall, Ocho Rios is the place to be. Have fun!
Ocho Rios is a must-visit holiday hotspot with engrossing adventures that can only be experienced in Jamaica. Whether visiting on a solo trip, honeymooning as a newlywed couple, or vacationing with family, Ochi promises an action-packed holiday full of lifetime memories. Here are the top things to do in this Caribbean gem, including lesser-traveled highlights of the city.
One popular thing to do in Ocho Rios is visit Fern Gully. For those who have watched the animated film based on this magical forest, seeing it in real life is sure to impress. Here, guests can explore a roughly three-mile scenic drive through the rainforest.
Regardless, Fern Gully is a fun idea during warmer months or for those who don't want to walk.
Remember that this is a slow-paced scenic drive, so try to avoid speeding. After all, this is the rainforest, and there will likely be animals present.
One of the more fun day trips for people in Ocho Rios is The Turtle River Falls & Gardens. Here, tourists can experience a 15-acre tropical garden as well as a river/waterfall where it might be perfect to cool off in warmer months.
Ocho Rios is close to many of these natural attractions, as it is the premier resort town in the area. The Turtle River Falls & Gardens used to be called "The Enchanted Gardens," so if someone calls it that, don't panic—it's the right place.
The next thing to see while in Ocho Rios is to visit the famous Inn at Shaw Park Gardens. Here, guests can walk the beautiful property, as well as see the Shaw Park Gardens and Waterfalls. What makes this Inn and garden special is that it's known to be unique: even among locals.
In the garden, people can see a large, lushly appointed garden with greenery everywhere. This location is highly-rated among travelers.
For those who love the beach, heading over to Mahogany Beach in Ocho Rios, Jamaica, will be worth it. Here, tourists can explore a beach pavilion filled with food, fun, and sun. This is a popular destination on the island, so make sure and come here early.
At Mahogany Beach, there may be an entry fee on special event days/holidays.
Dunn’s River Falls is an exciting natural wonder and one of the top attractions in the country. The 600 by 80-foot travertine waterfall features terraced cascades that visitors can climb to the top to enjoy the scenic view below or explore the idyllic natural landscape.
The river water flows down smooth limestone rocks into a pristine natural lagoon, ideal for swimming.
Dunn’s River Falls is arguably the most photographed spot in Ocho Rios and is constantly thronged by cruise ship passengers.
Wear grippy water shoes when climbing the waterfall to remain stable in slippery areas. Guests can also sign up for the Blue Hole and Dunn River tours to experience two of Ochi’s top attractions in a single trip.
A beach in Ocho Rios with clear blue waters.
Tourists looking to escape the crowds at Dunn’s River Falls will find the Cool Blue Hole to be the perfect alternative. Also known as the Irie Blue Hole, this exquisite series of jungle pools is just 25 minutes from Ocho Rios.
The clear pools, with a distinct turquoise color, are fed by waterfalls cascading down the mountain, resulting in a paradise-like swimming location.
Visitors can climb up the rocks to different vantage points with dramatic views of the Blue Hole or channel their inner Tarzan and swing from ropes, plunging into the soothing waters of the pool below.
All tours to the Cool Blue Hole must be reserved in advance
Up for a tropical adrenaline rush? The Rainforest Adventures Mystic Mountain offers fun events perfect forth rill-seekers.
The Sky Explorer Chair Lift takes participants to the top of the mountain, where they can enjoy a bird’s eye perspective of the Jamaican rainforest before zooming down through the dense canopy on the Bobsled in what can only be described as a roller-coaster experience.
At ground level, guests can stroll along scenic nature trails, check out a hummingbird garden, or swim in an infinity pool. There is also an electric ATV ride to maximize the visitor experience.
Choose a package with the best combination of activities tourists are interested in.
A person spitting fire in Ocho Rios, Jamaica
The Green Grotto Caves is a set of famous limestone caves in Jamaica with a rich legacy dating back to the slavery era. Initially occupied by the Arawak Indians, the underground tunnel system was used as a hideout by escaped slaves fleeing from the British, when it was famously referred to as the “Runaway Caves.”
The caves were also immortalized at the Box Office, chosen as a shooting location for the James Bond movie Live and Let Die. Today, they harbor nine species of bat colonies and different snakes, adding to the thrill of visiting them.
Take advantage of guided tours to learn the history and fully explore the myth of the Green Grotto Caves.
Nine Mile is a village in Saint Ann Parish with connections to king or reggae music and one of Jamaica’s most celebrated sons. The quiet village is said to be the birthplace and final resting place of Robert Nesta Marley, offering visitors a chance to experience the life and exploits of the reggae legend.
Nine Mile is also home to the Bob Marley Museum and Mausoleum, making it a popular destination for historians and fans of the music genre. Touring it also provides the perfect opportunity to learn about the Rastafarian religion and Jamaican culture.
The Jamaican flag and its bright colors are conspicuous worldwide and popularly used in merchandise. At The Craft Market, guests can don the famous brand by shopping from the numerous vendors in the area.
The lively market is located on Main Street, comprising a series of shops under colorful tents selling Jamaica-branded t-shirts, hand-stitched straw purses, carvings, and other beautiful souvenirs.
This is the best place to find memorabilia to take back home.
After shopping, settle down in one of the many restaurants for a sumptuous jerk meal while interacting with the locals.
Carry enough cash for comfortable retail therapy at The Craft Market, and don’t be shy to bargain.
Beautiful ocean of Ocho Rios, Jamaica
Tourists who like to take it easy during their vacation will want every part of a serene ride on an inner tube as it drifts gently on the gentle waters of the White River. It is the perfect opportunity to unwind while soaking in charming views of tropical landscapes.
Birders can also spot various species along the way, with some guides breaking into traditional songs to enhance the experience. River rafting is one of the most romantic activities for couples in Jamaica and a great way to explore the biodiversity of the country’s jungle.
A light at the Royal Plantation Resort, Ocho Rios, Jamaica
While the beach isn’t the first thing that comes to mind when considering Ocho Rios's top attractions, tourists should never sleep on the city’s coastal offerings. Ocho Rios Bay Beach is a popular cruise ship terminal and one of the best beaches in Jamaica.
Fun activities abound on this picturesque stretch of coastal bliss, with guests coming to bask under the sun, lounge on the soft beach sand, or enjoy water sports. Located just 2 minutes from the city, Ocho Rios Bay Beach is the perfect coastal escape for snorkeling, boating, parasailing, and tubing fans.
Konoko Falls & Park is a serene and family-friendly piece of outdoor heaven that nature enthusiasts and outdoor lovers will crave to experience. The spot features lush botanical gardens with peaceful trails that guests can stroll along to explore its tropical blooms.
A small museum in the facility also allows vacationers to learn some Jamaican history and facts about the indigenous Taino Indians.
Meanwhile, its mini-zoo houses multiple species of birds that visitors can interact with, and a cute waterfall provides some amazing photo opportunities.
Dolphin Cove is a popular marine park across the road from Dunn’s River Falls. It stretches about 5 acres and houses a lovely natural cove full of underwater species like dolphins and stingrays. Those interested can snorkel with the amazing creatures in the middle of the rainforest.
However, the highlight of Dolphin Cove is the dolphin encounters, which enables vacationers a chance to get up close with these friendly animals. There is no better way to spend family time in the city than holding and petting, to kissing the dolphins.
Remember to adhere to all recommended snorkeling guidelines to avoid any unwanted incidents.
Ocho Rios experiences a hot tropical climate with little temperature variations throughout, making it a worthy destination during any season. Nevertheless, the best time to visit is between December and March, when the weather is milder and perfect for scoping out all the outdoor attractions in the city.
Temperatures average a toasty 83 degrees Fahrenheit, offering the perfect conditions for a dip in the beaches and the numerous natural pools in Ocho Rios.
The best time to take advantage of deals is between September and December. This is essentially the off-season for hotels; hence accommodation rates drop drastically to attract as much business as possible.
Flight rates sometimes drop by as much as half in many last-minute deals offered during this period. It is the perfect timing for budget travelers seeking to tour the Caribbean city without breaking the bank.
Whichever time of the year they visit, tourists are advised to pack enough suncream and dress warmly as it remains pretty warm year-round, and prolonged exposure can result in sunburns.
Although rare, there is a risk of tropical storms during the wet season in Ochi, with the highest likelihood in September. This falls within the Atlantic hurricane season, so visitors should check the local weather forecast for any warnings.
The nearest airport to Ochi is the Donald Sangster International Airport in Montego Bay, from where a bus trip to the city will cost travelers around $3-5. Once in Ochi, there are various ways to get around, including:
Taxis are the primary and most popular mode of transportation. These are governed by MAXI, JUTA (Jamaican Union of Travelers Association), and ICAL and are available at airports, hotels, and major tourist spots. Taxi rates vary from operator to operator as vehicles are not metered. They are also charged by car and not by the number of passengers.
Agree on a specific fee for the ride before the journey starts to avoid undisclosed add-ons at the end of the trip. Tourists can also access cheaper rates by sharing the taxi with other visitors instead of chartering alone.
For those planning to spend a good share of their time exploring downtown Ochi, walking is a suitable option as most attractions are condensed together, making it easy to discover them by wandering around the area.
The Main Street runs from one end of the city to the other, traversing popular sites like the clock tower on DeCosta Drive and Dunn’s River Falls, accessible on foot.
Most car rental agencies are based in Montego Bay and Kingston, although some, including Bargain and Island Car Rentals, can be accessed in the city. Car hires are handy for day trips to neighboring towns like Montego Bay and Negril.
Public transportation is limited in Ochi and the surrounding region. Most routes are plied by minibusses that passengers must flag down from the side of the road to board.
The buses in Ocho Rios are generally crowded and very slow, stopping almost anywhere to pick up travelers. This can be inconvenient for tourists, so they are best left to the locals.
Unlike other cities, Ochi is not split into traditional suburbs. Instead, it has several beach areas (except for downtown) that can be defined as neighborhoods, each offering a unique experience with distinct attractions. Here are the best places for travelers to find accommodation in Ocho Rios.
Downtown Ochi is the heart of the city and a neighborhood on its own, featuring a cluster of businesses and activities along Main Streets. It is a great place to find souvenirs and experience the local lifestyle.
It has several restaurants serving delectable Jamaican cuisine and bars for those curious to sample the electric Jamaican nightlife.
Dolphin Cove and Dunn’s River Falls are two of the most exciting places to visit in Ocho Rios. These are a stone’s throw away from each other and offer a lively, kid-friendly atmosphere perfect for vacationing families.
The pristine beaches in the area are popular, with visitors coming to bask in the silky-smooth white sands.
Tourists should pack their favorite swimming costumes when in the Dolphin Cove area; endless water-based adventures are worth experiencing.
James Bond Beach is ideal for tourists looking to escape the crowds and enjoy a laid-back beach experience. The area gets its name from Ian Fleming, the author of James Bond, who owns a property nearby. James Bond Beach is situated on the city's outskirts and offers a quieter and calmer beach visit.
Visitors interested in experiencing raw Jamaican culture can head to this beautiful traditional Jamaican beach. The beach is full of local vendors selling merchandise and other wares to tourists as the soothing sounds of reggae music blast the air. Puerto Seco Beach is also a mini culinary Mecca, with several eateries serving traditional jerk-style foods.
Ochi is more than just beautiful beaches and amazing natural attractions. It also has an eclectic culinary climate, featuring traditional jerk cuisine and chef-prepared fine dining options.
Numerous restaurants and watering holes throughout the city, mostly along Main Street and DoCosta, cater to all dining preferences.
Whenever in Ochi, here are the best spots for a fantastic meal:
Evita’s Italian Restaurant
Ocho Rios Village Jerk Center
B'cloud 9 Hookah Bar
There is no shortage of fine places in Ochi to lie down and rejuvenate after a long day of exploring its attractions. The city is home to some of Jamaica’s top-rated all-inclusive resorts but also offers quaint B&Bs for the more economical traveler.
Here are the best hotels in Ocho Rios.
Sandals Royal Plantation
Couples Tower Isle
When it comes to visiting Ocho Rios in Jamaica, there are some details to remember. First, for US citizens, a visa is not required, only a passport. Many travelers mistake this policy and apply for visas, which are not needed to come to enjoy the island.
The next thing to remember in Ocho Rios is that the sun is very powerful. Many past visitors recommend only spending 30 minutes in direct sunlight at a time. This is because the sun shines extra bright throughout the Caribbean, which can lead to sunburns and discomfort. Pack a good sunscreen, and everything should be fine.
For attire, it's recommended to bring a few nice shirts, dresses, pants, or "dinner" garments to this resort town. Ocho Rios is known to be on the more luxurious side, meaning many restaurants and establishments might enforce a dress code. No shoes, no shirt: no service.
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Nicholas is a serial traveler and outdoor enthusiast who likes to document his adventures on the road. He has over 5 years experience freelancing in article writing, focusing on travel, entertainment, and lifestyle niches.
Set the stage for an unforgettable Caribbean getaway with the top things to do in this coastal Jamaican paradise.