Cruise and Beach Destinations
in the Caribbean, Mexico & Beyond

Ocho Rios Cruise Port Tips

Ocho Rios harbor. Credit: Wikimedia Creative Commons license
Ocho Rios harbor. Credit: Wikimedia Creative Commons license
Ocho Rios cruise port visitors will find it is one of the best destinations for attractions and things to do on the island of Jamaica.

The town is a popular cruise port as well as a popular all-inclusive resort destination. It is one of three major resort areas along with Montego Bay on the northwest coast and Negril on the far western tip of Jamaica.

Ocho Rios is a common port of call on western Caribbean cruises. Five- and six-day cruises often embark from Miami or other Florida cruise ports and visit Ocho Rios in addition to Grand Cayman and possibly Cozumel. Longer cruises embark from Florida and Gulf Coast ports such as Galveston and New Orleans.

Cruise ships go to Ocho Rios because of its pristine beaches, mountainous shoreline and garden-like scenery. It also has a famous natural attraction.

Quick Travel Tips

  • Dunn's River Falls is the most popular attraction and one of the best in the Caribbean.
  • Ocho Rios Bay Beach is within walking distance of the cruise docks.
  • Island Village by the docks is a large shopping, dining and entertainment development.

Where is Ocho Rios?

Ocho Rios is a small city on the northern coast of Jamaica. It is 280 miles east of Grand Cayman and 114 miles south of the Cuban coast. It is the easternmost port of all western Caribbean cruises.

Attractions and Shore Excursions

Walking Around Attractions

Ocho Rios is a moderate-sized resort city with a moderate amount of things to do and other points of interest within the cruise port area.

The cruise port and terminal are just to the east of the city. Even so, cruise passengers will find a decent amount of shopping and restaurants near the docks.

The most popular attraction within walking distance is Ocho Rios Bay Beach. The beach is a 10-minute walk to the east of the port. Just look to the left on arriving at the docks.

Ocho Rios Craft Market on Main Street is a half mile or about a 10-minute walk to the east of both the beach and the cruise docks. The market has the usual goods for sale at a Caribbean market: crafts, carvings, folk jewelry, recordings, t-shirts and souvenirs.

Note that Main Street also has many other shopping and dining places.

Turtle River Falls and Gardens on Eden Bower Road is a 15-acre tropical garden with 14 cascading waterfalls. The gardens are about a half mile or a 10-minute walk south of the docks. Tickets are $20 per person and $10 for children ages 11 and under.

Shore Excursions

Ocho Rios is a popular port of call for cruise ships in part because of its famous and probably most popular attraction – Dunn's River Falls.

It is one of the most famous natural attractions in the Caribbean. We had a blast when we went there.

Visitors to the falls, which cascade more than 600 feet down hillsides, climb up the rocks and water in the form of a daisy chain. The daisy chain, requiring visitors to hold hands, is a bit awkward but necessary for safety on the slippery rocks. Photo opportunities are abundant.

Cruise ships and local excursion companies transport thousands of visitors to the falls every year. The falls are less than a 10-minute drive from Ocho Rios. Shore excursion operators have many different ways of taking people to the falls. During our visit, we took a catamaran straight from the docks to the falls at a cost of more than $100 per person. The least expensive way involves an excursion bus and costs about $65 per person.

Despite the fame of Dunn's River Falls, Dolphin Cove claims to be the No. 1 tourist attraction in Jamaica with locations in Ocho Rios, Negril and Montego Bay.

The Ocho Rios facility is about two miles or three kilometers west of the cruise docks on the way to Dunn's River Falls. The two attractions will fill an entire day for cruise visitors with a large budget.

Dunn's River Falls crowd
Crowds can jam Dunn's River Falls when more than one cruise ship is in port. Credit: Wikimedia Creative Commons license
The beachfront property has been in business since the 1990s and offers a variety of interactions with dolphins, sharks, stingrays, parrots and pirates along with glass bottom boat excursions. Prices vary with the programs, but a typical outing will cost about $125 to $150 per person.

Mystic Mountain, which is two miles west of the port, has a variety of attractions including bobsleds, chairlifts and ziplines. Prices are usually about $100 to $125 per person with discounts for children. Prices depend on the cruise line and other factors.

Another popular shore excursion includes the Blue Hole, which is a very blue pool with cascading water, along with tubing or rafting on the nearby White River. These five-hour excursions cost about $100 per person.

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.

Ocho Rios has two 18-hole golf courses at the Sandals Resort in Upton about five miles or nine kilometers southeast of Ocho Rios and the Jewel Runaway Bay course about 16 miles or 26 kilometers east of the cruise terminal at Runaway Bay.

Beaches Near the Port

Cruise visitors who would rather spend time on the beach can either walk to one near the docks or spend money on a taxi, rental car or excursion bus to get to more.

Ocho Rios cruise passengers are blessed with having Ocho Rios Bay Beach right by the cruise docks. It means they don't have to pay for an excursion bus to take them anywhere.

Bamboo Beach, formerly known as Reggae Beach, is a larger and better option about five miles to the east of the port. It is included in some cruise line shore excursions. Prices usually range from $50 to $100 per person depending on amenities such as whether the excursion includes lunch or beverages.

Otherwise, cruise visitors may have to rent a taxi to reach other beaches. One of the best in the area is the quarter-mile-long Reggae Beach. It is about four miles or seven kilometers east of the cruise terminal. It is known for its beauty, serenity and snorkeling.

The smaller Mahogany Beach is about one and a half miles east of the port. It's a less appealing option than the others, but it is convenient for anyone walking in that direction through the town.

Another shore excursion option combines Pearly Beach with the nearby Dunn's River Falls. They are just three miles west of the port.

The more secluded James Bond Beach for fans of the early movies in the series is the farthest of the bunch. It is 13 miles or 30 minutes each of the port.

Shopping / Restaurants

The closest shopping is Island Village right by the cruise docks. It is a large shopping, dining and entertainment development. It has an outdoor concert venue, reggae and Jamaican art museums, a casino, water sports and of course plenty of shopping.

Like every other major port in the Caribbean, Ocho Rios has a market of local arts and crafts. The Ocho Rios Craft Park, located by Main Street, has 150 shopping stalls with the usual array of handmade and commercial souvenirs for sale.

A third shopping complex, Island Plaza, is located in the center of Ocho Rios It also has a wide range of commercial and handmade arts, crafts and souvenirs.

Note that all merchandise on sales has a 16.5 percent consumer tax. Also be prepared to negotiate with the vendors over price.

Getting Around / Transportation

Taxis and excursion buses are the best option for getting around Ocho Rios and visiting major attractions such as Dunn's River Falls. The area has a few local and national car rental companies that serve cruise visitors. Public buses are not recommended.

Weather / Best Time to Go

Jamaica's average monthly rainfall
© 2020 Scott S. Bateman
Jamaica is one of the warmest islands in the Caribbean and popular with western Caribbean cruises from December through March.

Average high temperatures range from the mid-80s Fahrenheit during the winter to more than 90 in the summer.

Rainfall averages less than one inch from January through March, picks up slightly in April and spikes during a brief rainy season in May and June.

Rain drops off somewhat in July and starts to climb again in August as the Caribbean hurricane season starts to become more active.

Total rainfall reaches nearly six inches in September and more than seven inches in October.

Like many Caribbean destinations, the best times to go are March and April for a low risk of rain and warm temperatures.
Scott S. Bateman is a professional journalist who has traveled widely throughout the Caribbean and the Americas.

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September 25, 2020