About Ocho Rios beaches
Ocho Rios is known as the ‘garden parish’ because of its lush tropical flora, exotic fauna, magnificent waterfalls, winding rivers and beautiful beaches. Movie buffs know that ‘Goldeneye’, the luxurious former estate of James Bond author Ian Fleming, is just a few miles east of town. It’s been converted into a high-end resort.
Expect crowds on the Ocho Rios beaches, especially when cruise ships are in town. Turtle Beach is less scenic but equally busy, since it’s used by both residents and tourists. James Bond Beach has scenic mountains behind it and you’re likely to spot turtles swimming in the water at Reggae Vibes Beach.
Beyond the beach:
The rivers and waterfalls in and around Ocho Rios make for lovely kayaking, hiking and exploring trips. Though often crowded, Dunn’s River Falls’ 183m (600ft) waterfall is a must-see. You can swim near the pounding falls, and if you dare, hike up the slippery rocks. A quieter alternative are the nearby YS Falls. Horseback rides are offered along the beach or through the historic, 600-acre Annandale Plantation, a place the Queen Mother once visited. Non-cowboys can tee off 213m (700ft) above sea level at Sandals Golf & Country Club (on Main Street) or bike ride through the Blue Mountains. A drive through Fern Gully (on Route A3) a natural canopy of vegetation, lets you glimpse at hundreds of different fern species.
Swim with dolphins at Dolphin Cove (adjacent to Dunn’s River Falls), or float lazily on river rafts on the nearby White River or Black River. For a little more adventure, kids can tube, bungee jump or bounce on a water trampoline at the small beach near Island Village (at Turtle River Road and Main Street). The most memorable and educational experience might be the Jamaica Tourist Board’s ‘Meet the People’ programme, which lets you visit a local school or spend a day with Jamaican families. Arrangements must be made in advance. Many of the all-inclusive resorts are child-friendly, with kid clubs, activities and swimming pools. At the Franklyn D Resort & Spa (on Runaway Bay) each family is even assigned a ‘vacation nanny’ on arrival.
Just west of Ocho Rios is Prospect Plantation (Highway A1), a place full of history and interesting flora, some of which Winston Churchill planted himself. Tours, given on open-air tractors, offer spectacular views of the White River gorge. Just a few kilometres outside town is Shaw Park Gardens (Park Ridge Road) (www.shawparkgardens.com), a lovely botanical park. A day-trip to Kingston, the country’s gritty capital, will give you a taste of the real Jamaica. While there, check out the Bob Marley Museum (56 Hope Road), a pilgrimage destination for reggae music fans.
Hire a deep sea fishing boat and try to hook a blue marlin, the area’s prime catch. Spend the day river rafting or cruising through the Jamaican rainforests on all-terrain vehicles, stopping to zip on ropes from treetop to treetop. Sooth your sore muscles at the clifftop KiYara Ocean Spa at the Jamaica Inn, Main Street, (www.jamaicainn.com), known for its top-quality treatments using native plants. The resort’s gourmet restaurant offers a six-course dinner under the stars, with live music, but formal attire is required.