An hour’s drive north of Kingston and sitting on the north coast of the island, Ocho Rios is one of the jewels in Jamaica’s crown. A former laid back fishing village, the town now boasts five-star resorts, a cruise ship harbour and world-class duty-free shopping options, with tourists drawn to its spectacular beaches and surrounding natural wonder. The latter makes Ocho Rios – meaning 8 rivers in Spanish – a pilgrimage for adventure sports and wildlife enthusiasts, keen to hike, traverse, kayak and swim the rainforests and waterfalls of the region.
If you’re looking for things to do in Jamaica and want to experience the adrenaline-raising opportunities of its natural wonder for yourself, then read on. Here are 5 of the best outdoor adventure activities in Ocho Rios, Jamaica.
DUNN’S RIVER FALLS
One of the Caribbean’s principal tourist attractions, Dunn’s River Falls is just a short 3 mile drive along the coast from Ocho Rios. This collection of waterfalls, ledges and springs is truly a wonder of nature; the calcium in the river and deposits of travertine rock cause it to ‘regenerate’ regularly and form the tufa terraces for which it’s famous.
Standing at nearly 60 metres high and 180 metres long, it takes an hour and a half to climb to the top via these terraces, which form a vast, natural staircase as well as the odd pool for cooling off in. Bliss!
Alternatively, if you prefer a dry climb, there’s a staircase for those not confident in their hiking abilities (or the non-slip soles of their shoes, for that matter), though be aware that you won’t reach the summit this way. That said, the hike takes you through lush vegetation and offers views of the famous natural phenomenon along the way.
Whichever path you choose, it’s essential you’re accompanied by a guide for safety’s sake; the terrain can get a little treacherous.
Entrance to the falls and surrounding park will set you back around £15 (2900 Jamaican Dollars).
YAAMAN ADVENTURE PARK
For a collection of thrilling, outdoorsy adventure activities, and paired with Dolphin Cove, visitors to Ocho Rios should head to Yaaman Adventure Park. Sitting 3 miles north east of Ocho Rios, the coastal park offers dune-buggy driving, horseriding, a bird aviary, secret river ride and even cooking classes on-site! We certainly wouldn’t pass up the chance to learn the secrets of jerk chicken, ackee, codfish, and curried goat in between all the more active pursuits of the island.
What’s more, Yaaman Adventure Park offers one of the most enjoyable shore excursions in Jamaica, with trips to the Dolphin Cove included in their package. Sounds like the perfect day out to us.
Speaking of the Dolphin Cove…
Just a couple of minutes down the road from Dunn’s River Falls, you’ll find Ocho Rios’ Dolphin Cove. Here, you can swim with dolphins, shark and stingray in their natural habitat, observe their feeding time and learn more about these incredible species via the park’s educational program.
What’s more, the Dolphin Cove’s surrounding 5 acres of rainforest boasts its very own Jungle Trail, where you can interact with some of the region’s lizards and tropical birds. No wonder it’s regularly voted Jamaica’s number one attraction.
Entry for adults is £50 (9600 Jamaican Dollars). As activities in Jamaica go, Dolphin Cove is definitely worth the money.
THE BLUE HOLE MINERAL SPRING
If you’re keen to cool off from the balmy Jamaican heat but without the crowds of Dunn’s River Falls, then the Blue Hole Mineral Spring, sometimes called Secret Falls, is where you should take the plunge.
Nestled in the mountains above Ocho Rios (around 20 minutes from the town), the views from the top are breathtaking. Even more guaranteed to take your breath away, though, is a leap into the crystal clear waters of the Blue Hole, which is actually a series of limestone water pools with drops ranging from 9 or 15 feet. There’s even a Tarzan rope and chance to go tubing for those not satisfied with simply jumping in! Regardless of how you enter the water, prepare for bracing temperatures.
Ocho Rios’ Mystic Mountain stands at 700 feet tall and overlooks the town and ocean; squint hard enough, and you’ll be able to see some of the Caribbean’s other amazing islands! Those with strong calves and stronger stamina can hike the mountain, but most visitors prefer to take the Sky Explorer to the summit. And what a stunning vantage point awaits; this ultra-modern stairlift provides spectacular views of the surrounding scenery, and offers a gentle ascent rather than something hair raising.
Should you prefer some serious speed and stimulation from your excursion, Mystic Mountain boasts ziplining and even a bobsled run, which takes you hurtling down the mountain through thick rainforest at gravity-defying speed. Cool runnings, indeed.
If you’re visiting Ocho Rios as part of a wider exploration of the Caribbean islands, then check out our article on 10 IDEAL ports of call on your next Caribbean cruise for some inspiration on where to head next!