The Caribbean island of Ocho Rios is swathed in all shades of blue and tropical hues to give you a holiday break like no other.
“On your right is the most sought after hotel – once you check in you will never want to check out and people are dying to get there,” said our tour guide Latoyah as she pointed to a large cemetery in Ocho Rios the most popular cruise island in Jamaica. While the whole travel group burst into peals of laughter, it was the wry sense of humour on the Caribbean island that was the most entertaining part of the tour. So we first start with a quick language lesson when Latoyah tells us that Ya Mon is the word to say yes and Jamaicans use the word ‘no problem’ every time even when their life is full of problems in the hope that they will disappear soon.
Having hopped off the Norwegian Pearl cruise liner for a shore excursion, this break was really more about the people that the sights. Of course that is certainly not to take away from the fact that Ocho Rios has today morphed from a sleepy fishing village to the busiest cruise ship port in Jamaica dotted with swanky beach resorts that let you experience the Island Life. My first stop however was to go back in time and see the statue of Christopher Columbus who is believed to have been ship wrecked here for over a year. Driving along the beautiful ocean stretch of road on St. Ann’s bay for a quick photo pit stop, I head to the Konoko Falls that has an abundance of biodiversity as well as a display of birds primarily to educate people of how loss of habitat and illegal pet trade has sounded the death knell for them. Within the space is a museum where you can get a quick tour of Jamaica’s history through an array of maps, pictures and artefacts that tell you of a time gone by. This is where you can learn more of the seven heroes of Jamaica including Paul Bogle, George William Gordon, Nanny of the Maroons, Samuel Sharpe, Alexander Bustamante, Norman Manley and Marcus Garvey. Also check out Bob Marley’s Redemption Song here framed with an LP record; the local tour guide will even sing it for you. The flora and fauna includes the national tree Blue Mahoe, only found here and in Cuba and is named because of the blue-green tinge in the wood. If you are lucky like I was you can even spot the national bird – the Doctor Bird here.
Next we drive through the Fern Gully that is the road that connects to the capital Kingston and the topography is very dense courtesy the 500 varieties of ferns seen here with about 50 ferns being native to the region. Naturally then it is no surprise that this area is apparently cooler by 10 degrees compared to the rest of the island. Ocho Rios is also the place where you can try the ‘Jerk’ style of food which is like a barbeque of all kinds of meat that is so popular that there is an annual jerk festival that happens here too. Mother’s fast food is the local fast food chain exclusive to Jamaica which is where locals hang out but you can also find KFC which Latoyah says is popular and is colloquially short for ‘keep from cooking’. The town is dotted with churches and apparently there is one every street. “It is said that we have the most number of churches in Ocho Rios closely followed by bars, so no matter what the Spirit is always with you,” chuckles Latoyah. Jamaica’s highest point the Blue Mountains is at 7402 feet above sea level and is home to the famed gourmet Blue Mountain Coffee – a souvenir you can pick at a local store here. Shoppers will be delighted to know that this is where you can find the best gemstones and diamonds for arguably the lowest rates. Do stop at Dolphin Cove where you can have an amazing close up encounter with these affable animals and climb up to Dunn’s River Falls a must do activity when you are here. Adrenalin junkies have an array of activities including the river tubbing safari, zipline, Rainforest bobsled adventure and more. Or just enjoy life go by on a bamboo raft on the Martha Brae river, there is so much to see and do here, that you will wish to come back and spend more time. So the next time you need a holiday check out this Caribbean break, you are sure to come back with a smile on your face, now isn’t that what a holiday is all about.
- Ocho Rios is a popular port destination and port of call for almost all the cruise ships. You can also check www.ncl.com for ships that call here.
- While US Dollars work at stores and restaurants it is advisable to keep small currency handy and check in advance if the store will return change in USD or local currency.