Cruise and Beach Destinations
in the Caribbean, Mexico & Beyond

4 Best Cruise Ports in Jamaica

Dunn's River Falls Jamaica
Dunn’s River Falls; © Jamaica Tourist Board

The best cruise port in Jamaica depends on what visitors want to do when they get there.

The ports at Ocho Rios, Montego Bay, Falmouth and Port Antonio offer visitors a chance to experience Jamaican culture and some unique attractions, especially Dunn’s River Falls.

All four are destinations for western Caribbean cruises with Ocho Rios especially popular. They line the northern Jamaican coast with Montego Bay on the northwest, Falmouth and Ocho Rios along the center and the smaller Port Antonio to the northeast.

The locations matter because each port is appealing for different reasons.

Anyone planning a western Caribbean cruise will often find that Ocho Rios and Falmouth are mentioned the most often as ports of call. Montego Bay and Port Antonio are visited less often. Which one to choose depends on timing, the cruise itinerary and personal preferences.

Quick Travel Tips

  • 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.

Best Port for Attractions: Ocho Rios

Ocho Rios Jamaica
Ocho Rios; © Jamaica Tourist Board

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 also ranks as one of the three most popular resort areas in Jamaica. The other two are Montego Bay on the northwest coast and Negril on the far western tip of the island.

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 (holding hands). 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 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. Shore excursion prices vary widely depending on whether they include amenities or other activities such as a visit to the Blue Hole.

Other popular attractions near Ocho Rios include Blue Hole and Secret Falls where visitors jump off rocks into a bright blue natural swimming pool.

Still 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 near the Ocho Rios cruise dock has a tram, ziplining and its signature attraction—a 1,000-meter-long bobsled ride through the rainforest.

Many visitors also 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.

Best Port for Beaches: Montego Bay

Montego Bay
Montego Bay; credit: Wikimedia (Creative Commons license)

Montego Bay 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 hotel visitors to Jamaica. Cruise visitors will find a small terminal and limited shopping unless they go into the city proper. Otherwise, they can 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

Best Port for History: Falmouth

“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 historic 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.

Anyone who wants a more active attraction can take a short trip east to Dunn’s River Falls and the Blue Hole.

Best Port for Quiet: Port Antonio

Rafting on the Rio Grande in Jamaica
Rafting on the Rio Grande is popular at the Port Antonio cruise port. Credit: Wikimedia Creative Commons license

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 at Port Antonio 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.

Other Tips

  • English is the dominant language
  • U.S. dollars and international credit cards are widely accepted
Scott S. Bateman is a professional journalist who has traveled widely throughout the Caribbean and the Americas. He is the author of four books about cruising in the Caribbean, Alaska and Mexican Riviera.
January 11, 2024

Falmouth Cruise Port Guide

Falmouth cruise terminal
Historic Falmouth Cruise Port is a 32-acre terminal and historical park on Jamaica's northern coast.

Montego Bay Cruise Port Guide

Montego Bay
Montego Bay, Jamaica, is a western Caribbean cruise port and the tourism capital of Jamaica.

Ocho Rios Cruise Port Guide

Ocho Rios harbor
Ocho Rios cruise port visitors will find one of the best destinations for things to do in Jamaica.

4 Best Jamaican Beaches for Cruise and Resort Visitors

Best and Worst Times to Visit Jamaica

12 Best Jamaica Tourist Attractions

Jamaica Travel Tips: Hotels, Attractions, Weather

Jamaica Monthly Weather Averages: Rain, Temperatures