Welcome to Ocho Rios, Jamaica! Ocho Rios sit on Jamaica’s north coast and is a popular cruise ship destination. Renowned for its legendary beauty, it is blessed with sun swept beaches, magnificent flora and cascading waterfalls. The origin of the name Ocho Rios (eight rivers in Español) is actually derived from the words “las chorreras” (the sprouts) which is a village by the waterfalls. Ah yes, the falls….Jamaica is home to the world famous Dunn’s River Falls. The Falls are a national park featuring a dramatic six hundred foot drop of cascading water in a serene rainforest setting. A living phenomenon, the falls constantly regenerate themselves with travertine deposits that adhere to the falls and replenish the rock formations.
Once we disembarked from the ship, we made our way straight to the falls. The ship and the locals will try to get you to book a tour, but that is not necessary. Tour operators can be pretty aggressive and will try to convince you to jump in one of their vans. Go right past them and hail a taxi. The falls are only five minute ride from the port. Make sure to negotiate a price before you get in ($5 per person or $10 if you’re on your own). Try to get to the park right when they open in the morning. That’s the best way to get some pictures of the falls without a horde of people in the background. The park entrance fee is less than $20.
The falls begin on the beach and flow out into the sea. It takes a decent level of physical fitness to actually climb up the falls. They do have a walkway, stairs and observation deck for those who choose to enjoy the scenery without getting wet. There is some steep terrain to navigate along the way.
If you encounter an obstacle you can’t pass, you have the option to exit the water and bypass it. If you do a guided tour, you will end up in a group of 10-15 people and hold hands in a human chain as you traverse the falls. It is a safe way to travel, but not the pace to stop and enjoy the scenery or take pictures. We found a pair of adventurous honeymooners from California on the ship and invited them to join us on the trek. This worked out brilliantly because we could pass our cameras back and forth and get creative photos. You will get drenched on the climb. We bring a waterproof scuba camera, but when the lens gets flecks of water on it the images suffer.
My recommendation is to take plenty of pics at the very beginning. I carry a camera in a plastic zip lock bag to keep the lens dry and wear a bathing suit with a secure pocket. You can rent lockers for about $5 which is a smart investment. You’ll also need water shoes. They sell them at the park – usually in Jamaican green & gold for about $10. They make a fun keepsake. While working on cruise ships in my younger days I used to climb the falls once a week. My personal recommendation is a Vibram five fingers all terrain shoe.
The climb is a great workout as you are constantly fighting the current and gravity. At the end we toasted with a Red Stripe before grabbing a taxi and heading to lunch. Jamaica’s national dish is Curried Goat. The best spot in town for authentic island cuisine is the Ocho Rios Jerk Centre. Jerk is a spicy seasoning you are probably familiar with. It’s used to season meats and seafood. What you may not know is they don’t serve honey mustard – you have two condiment choices: hot or hotter. I love the fire and the only thing that kept the tears from coming to my eyes were the Red Stripes. My favorite Jamaican dish is jerk conch and it went well with an amazing dish of Curried Goat. You can walk from the Jerk Centre to the Cruise Terminal in about ten minutes. On the way you’ll get a chance to shop at the tourist friendly Taj Majal shopping centre.
On the way back we made a pit stop to enjoy a Jellied Coconut – this refreshing concoction is straight from the tree and for a few dollars more they’ll load it up with rum. Jamaica sells plenty of “alcohol alternatives” around every side street. A word of warning – the security checkpoint at the cruise terminal is intense.
They have trained dogs and the penalty for recreational drugs is severe for passengers and crew members. My recommendation is a Blue Mountain coffee. This delicious brew over a glass of ice is the perfect Jamaican pick me up. For more pics from Ochos Rios, please visit our gallery. We had a blast in Jamaica and hope to make it back again for one last climb!