The Jamaica cruise ports at Ocho Rios, Montego Bay, Falmouth and Port Antonio offer visitors a chance to experience Jamaica culture and some unique attractions, especially Dunn's River Falls.
All four are popular western Caribbean cruise ports. They line the northern Jamaican coast with Montego Bay farthest west, Falmouth and Ocho Rios in the middle and the smaller Port Antonio to the east.
The locations make a difference for anyone who wants to see Jamaica's most famous shore excursion at Dunn's River Falls.
Anyone planning a western Caribbean cruise will often find that Ocho Rios and Falmouth are mentioned the most often as ports of call. Which one to choose depends on timing and personal preferences:
The most famous attraction, Dunn's River Falls, is closest to Ocho Rios.
Ocho Rios is the most active with the most attractions.
Falmouth focuses on New World history.
Montego Bay is best for beaches.
Port Antonio mostly attracts small ships.
Royal Caribbean often favors Falmouth because the company was a partner in rebuilding the historic port.
Ocho Rios on the north coast of Jamaica is the top cruise destination on the island because of its pristine beaches, varied attractions and garden-like scenery.
It ranks as one of the three most popular resort areas along with Montego Bay on the northwest coast and Negril on the far western tip of Jamaica.
Ocho Rios is a popular port of call for cruise ships in part because of its famous and most popular attraction – Dunn’s River Falls. Dunn’s also is one of the most famous natural attractions in all of the Caribbean.
Visitors to the falls, which cascade down hillsides more than 600 feet, climb up the rocks and water in the form of a daisy chain. Photo opportunities are abundant.
Our family enjoyed the trek up the falls and the time splashing in pools at the top. But the falls are often crowded with tourists.
Dunn's River Falls is located slightly west of Ocho Rios. It is a five to 10-minute drive from the Ocho Rios cruise docks, an hour from Falmouth and 90 minutes from Montego Bay. The cost at the time of this writing is $20 for adults and $12 for children.
Other area attractions include river rafting and canoeing on the nearby White River, hiking or cycling in the Blue Mountains and swimming with the dolphins at Dolphins Cove.
The 700-feet-high Mystic Mountain located near the Ocho Rios cruise dock has a tram, ziplining and its signature attraction -- a 1,000 meter long bobsled ride through the rainforest.
In addition, many visitors go to Eden Falls, Fern Gully and Shaw Park Botanical Gardens. Excursion companies offer jeep safaris, ATV safaris, zip line canopy tours and a bamboo rafting trip, among other adventures.
Major beaches include Mahogany Beach and Ocho Rios Bay Beach.
Montego Bay, Jamaica is both the capital of St. James Parish and the tourism capital of Jamaica.
The second largest city on the island is a hub for many visitors to Jamaica. Cruise visitors can take advantage of the duty-free shopping and relax on the miles-long white beaches facing, of course, the water inlet known as Montego Bay.
Montego Bay attractions include the restored Rose Hall Great House plantation and the translucent waters of Doctor’s Cave Beach. Croydon in the Mountains is a working plantation with panoramic views of the Catadupa Mountains. The Greenwood Great House was formerly owned by the poet Elizabeth Barrett-Browning.
Other attractions include:
Appleton Estate rum tour
Aquasol Theme Park: Watersports and activities.
Ride ATVs 700 feet above sea level to the top of Mount Zion.
Falmouth Cruise Port
"Historic Falmouth Cruise Port" is new 32-acre cruise terminal and park developed by the Jamaica Port Authority and Royal Caribbean Cruise Line.
The development includes a craft market, duty-free and boutique shops, restaurants, offices and homes within walking distance.
Falmouth was founded in 1769 and is considered one of the Western Hemisphere’s best-preserved towns from the Georgian era.
One of the more significant historical buildings is the William Knibb Memorial Baptist Church. It was built by a missionary and leader in the movement to abolish slavery in Jamaica.
Port Antonio Cruise Port
Port Antonio is the smallest of the ports. This old seaside town is known for attracting celebrities and the wealthy.
Rafting on the Rio Grande is one of the most popular tourist attractions. Another one is the Blue Lagoon, a nearly landlocked cove whose waters have numerous shades of blue.
Other attractions include:
Boston Beach, the birthplace of “jerk” cuisine.
Navy Island, just off the mainland
Nonsuch Caves and Atherry Garden, caves with stalactites and stalagmites and a well-tended garden.
Somerset Falls, a series of cascades and falls on the Daniels River.
Cruise lines that visit Port Antonio include Oceania, Silversea, Regent Seven Seas and Star Clippers.
Transportation / Getting Around
Jamaica is the third largest island in the Caribbean with 4,400 square miles. Although renting a car at a cruise port is an option, it is not advisable because of road conditions and safety reasons.
“Violent crime is a serious problem throughout Jamaica, particularly in Kingston and Montego Bay. Violence and shootings occur regularly in certain areas of Kingston and Montego Bay,” the U.S. State Department says.
Buses, minibuses and route taxis are the main forms of transportation for many people on the island. But they are recommended only for tourists with extensive experience visiting Jamaica.
Other than excursion operator buses, the best way to get around the island is by using JUTA, the Jamaica Union of Travelers Association. Drivers are certified by the Jamaica Tourist Board.
JUTA vehicles have a Jamaica Tourist Board identification tag along with the red plates and JTB decal displayed on their vehicle.
Cruise Port Weather
Rain and temperatures are factors in deciding when to visit Jamaica and which ports to visit.
The island has the lowest level of rain in March and April each year, according to historical data from the Jamaica Meteorological Service. Average rainfall starts to climb in May and reaches a high point during the fall months, especially October.
Beach lovers may find that April weather has the best combination of warm temperatures and low risk of rain.
Jamaica has slightly more rain in January and February with temperatures that are warm during the day and somewhat cool at night. These months are good for people who prefer more land activities.
The rest of the year has high enough rainfall to make visiting a bit more risky. One exception is Montego Bay in July, when the levels of rain drop back to an average of two inches during the month.
English is the dominant language
U.S. dollars and international credit cards are widely accepted