11 Top-Rated Tourist Attractions in Ocho Rios
Once a snoozy fishing village, Ocho Rios now hums with tourists and cruise ship passengers who come here to enjoy the many tropical adventures nestled around the lush countryside. "Ochi," as it's called, is quieter than Montego Bay, though not as relaxed as Negril, and unlike other resort towns in Jamaica, the beaches here are not the focal point. Instead, Ocho Rios is known for its lovely waterfalls, luxuriant gardens, and lazy rivers. The most popular things to do center around these surrounding natural attractions include bobsled rides through the rain forest, river tubing, caving, dolphin encounters, and ziplining.
The area has also long been a playground for musicians and literati. Ian Fleming, author of the James Bond series, made his home near here at Oracabessa, and you can tour the hilltop retreat of Noel Coward, the famous playwright and composer. Not far from Ocho Rios, the village of Nine Mile is the birthplace and final resting place of reggae legend Bob Marley, and many music fans love to make a pilgrimage here on a day trip.
See also: Where to Stay in Ocho Rios
1 Dunn's River Falls
One of Jamaica's most photographed attractions, Dunn's River Falls encompass 180 meters of terraced cascades. With the help of a guide, you can climb the limestone tiers to the top of the falls, slide down the smooth sections of rock, and swim in the cool lagoons at the base. Cruise ship crowds flock here when the ships are in port, so it's best to time your visit around them. Bring a camera and wear water shoes and appropriate clothing as chances are, you'll come back soaked.
Address: Hwy A3, Ocho Rios
2 The Blue Hole
Typically less crowded than Dunn's River Falls, the alluring Blue Hole (also known as the Irie Blue Hole) is a series of picturesque jungle pools fed by waterfalls in the lush mountains, about a 25-minute drive from Ocho Rios. Also called Island Gully Falls or the Secret Falls, this used to be off the main tourist track, but in recent years, it's become more popular.
Several levels offer different vantage points, but the higher you climb, the less people you'll probably encounter. One of the most popular things to do here is to clamber over the slick rocks above the pool, where you can play Tarzan on the rope swings and jump off into the turquoise water. Guides are recommended for safety - they'll show you the best places to swim and cross the river, but if you don't want to swim in the pools, you can visit the area on your own. It's also a good idea to wear water shoes, as the rocks can be slippery.
3 Rainforest Adventures, Mystic Mountain
If you're looking for a tropical adrenaline rush, Rainforest Adventures Mystic Mountain should be on your must-do list. This popular attraction offers several different types of adventures. Start by ascending the mountain on the Sky Explorer, a chairlift perched high over the rain forest. At the top, you can enjoy breathtaking views of the cruise ship port and coastline below. From here, you can zoom down the mountain on the Bobsled, a single-person roller coaster ride, or fly through the rain forest treetops on the ziplines. The Tranopy tour package includes all three activities, and those who prefer a slower descent, can return on the chairlift. Guided nature walks and an infinity pool with a waterslide round out all the fun here. Many visitors also combine a visit here with a trip to nearby Dunn's River Falls.
4 Dolphin Cove
Across the road from Dunn's River Falls in Ocho Rios, popular Dolphin Cove is a marine park offering up-close critter encounters. The five-acre property encompasses a natural cove where you can snorkel with stingrays or paddle around on a glass-bottom kayak, surrounded by rain forest. The dolphin encounters are the highlight here. Each visitor scores plenty of time with these gentle creatures, including the chance to hold and feed the dolphins as well as swim with them and enjoy a dolphin "kiss." You can also ride a camel; watch a shark show; and see iguanas, snakes, and tropical birds on the Jungle Trail walk. Photos of your experiences are available for an extra fee.
On the site of a former lookout for the pirate, Henry Morgan, Firefly is the hilltop home and final resting place of playwright, Sir Noel Coward. The simple one-bedroom home was built high on a hill above Coward's original home, Blue Harbour, and his photos, paintings, and pianos are still in place. You can see the home on a guided tour and learn about Coward's life, as well as some of Henry Morgan's infamous history. But the highlight here is the spectacular view of the Jamaican coast from one of the best vantage points on the entire island.
Location: Grant's Town, St. Mary
6 Nine Mile Tour
A Mecca for music fans, the small village of Nine Mile in Saint Ann Parish is the birthplace and final resting place of reggae legend, Bob Marley. Guided tours take you through a small museum and the mausoleum where Marley is buried. During the tour, you can learn about the Rastafarian religion and hear interesting stories of Marley's extraordinary life.
Location: Nine Mile, Saint Ann Parish
7 Green Grotto Caves
About 30 minutes' drive from Ocho Rios in Runaway Bay, the Green Grotto Caves are Jamaica's best-known limestone caves. They were once used by the Arawak Indians and were also the reputed hideaway of escaped slaves and Spanish settlers fleeing from the British. In more recent times, they were also used as a backdrop for a Bond movie. Today, they are home to bats and snakes. Guided tours share the history of the caves and show you the beautiful stalactites and stalagmites, as well as an underground lake. The slippery paths and many stairs might be a challenge for those with physical disabilities.
8 River Tubing on the White River
At the White River, about 30 minutes' drive from Ocho Rios, nature lovers can relax on inner tubes and drift along the crystal clear river over gentle rapids. This is a soothing trip that the whole family can enjoy and a great way to unwind and enjoy the tropical scenery. Singing guides add to the fun, and birders will enjoy looking for new species in the lush foliage fringing the river.
The Ocho Rios White River Valley Tubing Safari is a fun way to get a taste of floating down the river. This 90-minute adventure includes round-trip transportation from your hotel, experienced guides, a safety briefing, and refreshments.
9 Shaw Park Gardens
High in the hills overlooking Ocho Rios and the Caribbean, Shaw Park Gardens is a sanctuary for nature lovers. Within the 25-acre grounds, you can stroll through lush botanical gardens punctuated by tropical blooms and lily-topped ponds. Many species of birds flit through the trees, including Jamaica's national bird, the doctor bird, also called the swallow-tailed hummingbird. A waterfall cascades through the gardens, and friendly guides share their knowledge of all the botanical beauties.
Address: Shaw Park Rd, Ocho Rios
10 Turtle River Falls and Gardens
Turtle River Falls and Gardens is a relaxing chance to commune with nature. The property encompasses 15 acres of mountainside gardens, 14 waterfalls, small pools, hammocks, and a koi pond. A highlight here is the aviary full of exotic birds. You can wander in and hand-feed them as they descend on your outstretched arms. The guided tours are highly recommended, and you should bring a swimsuit if you plan to take a dip.
Address: Eden Bower Road, Ocho Rios, St. Ann
11 Fern Gully Scenic Drive
Running south from Ocho Rios, Fern Gully is a five-kilometer winding road built on an old riverbed. Giant tree ferns form a canopy overhead, creating a tunnel-like effect for those who cruise along the road. It's a beautiful drive, and the thick foliage of the unspoiled tropical forest blocks the sun at several points along the route. Along the way, you can stop at roadside stalls to buy wooden carvings and other souvenirs.
Where to Stay in Ocho Rios for Sightseeing
Most of the resorts in Ocho Rios cluster along the coral-fringed coast, and this is the best place to stay. Top tourist attractions, such as Dunn's River Falls and Green Grotto Caves, are spread out around the lush countryside, and you can visit them on organized tours from the resorts. Here are some highly-rated hotels by the sea:
- Luxury Hotels: Nestled into lush foliage on a reef-dappled cove, plantation-style Hermosa Cove has stylish art-filled interiors and a pretty three-tiered oceanfront pool. You can follow in the footsteps of illustrious former guests like Marilyn Monroe and Ian Fleming at the peaceful, family-owned Jamaica Inn, on a pristine private cove. Personal service is a standout feature here. Presiding over the sea from a coral bluff, the intimate adults-only Sandals Royal Plantation has ocean-view rooms with butler service and two small, sandy beaches. Guests have access to more restaurants and facilities at the livelier Sandals Ochi Beach Resort next door.
- Mid-Range Hotels: Packed with amenities and organized activities, ClubHotel Riu Ocho Rios is a sprawling all-inclusive resort on beautiful Mamee Bay. Much more intimate is the boutique Hibiscus Lodge Hotel on a jungle-cloaked cliff near the center of town. The beach is tiny, but you can snorkel right from shore, and breakfast is included in the rates. Accessible by boat transfer, the adults-only, all-inclusive Couples Tower Isle offers unlimited spa treatments and PADI-certified SCUBA diving included with your stay.
- Budget Hotels: Chrisanns Beach Resort, with a pool and small, rocky beach offers affordable beachfront vacation apartments. Amenities differ in each apartment as they are privately owned. Silver Seas Resort Hotel is also on the beach and older in style as is Rooms Ocho Rios. Both are right near town.
More Must-See Destinations in Jamaica and the Western Caribbean
For information on other areas to stay and things to do in Jamaica, see our pages on Montego Bay, also a lively cruise port, and the relaxed resort town of Negril. Its stunning palm-lined beach is one of the best beaches in the Caribbean. If you're wondering where to stay in Jamaica, some of the country's resorts also grace our list of top luxury all-inclusive resorts in the Caribbean.