Ocho Rios is a small city of about 9500 people, located in the province of St Ann. We went February 2015, and I would gladly return anytime!
How We Got There
We flew in from Edmonton, had a layover in Toronto and Halifax. Once we got to Jamaica (Montego Bay), we got a taxi and took the hour and a half trip through the countryside on the A1.
Where We Stayed
We stayed at Freedom Palace Villa for the duration of our stay, a quaint little bed and breakfast. The owners, Daiya & Tony were friendly but not overbearing, helpful and were there when we needed them or had questions. They also had free wifi, which was nice. I had 0 concerns about our stuff being stolen. We were quite close to downtown (within about 10 minutes walk to the core), which was also nice.
What We Did
We had the time of our lives. Ocho Rios is a very friendly little city. We didn’t really stay out past 9 pm or so, so I can’t speak for the nightlife, but the day life was exciting and busy!
We arrived around 10 am. We then caught a cab to Ocho Rios. We shared with a gentleman who was from Ocho Rios, just coming back from a business trip in the Cayman Islands. He got off downtown, and then we realized the challenge of finding our hotel…it was a nightmare…and it started raining as soon as we got into town. The place we stayed was not a resort, but a bed and breakfast right in town. I thought I would be smart and turn on my data to use google maps… HUGE mistake, in fact, it was a 150$ mistake. We found our place, but the damage had been done to my data plan. We met Tony, our resident friendly guy, and got into our room. We passed out for a few hours (blame the flights), and woke up shortly before dusk. We walked to a local grocery store to grab a few snacks, walked back to our hotel, and basically went back to sleep. I’m sure it rained almost the entire day, stopping for a short while for us to walk to/from the grocery store.
We woke up ready to conquer the day! We walked but a block, and ran into Jack, a goat farmer and herbalist. He then introduced us to another guy (who’s name I feel terrible about not remembering), who led us through “a local way to get places”, which was basically forested area that was very uneven. He also picked up various herbs and other botanicals, had us guess what it was, and gave us the samples. He was a really friendly guy, who was really fun and had a lot of knowledge. He led us to Reggae Pot (as I told him I was a vegan/Ital food enthusiast), and we went in. Not the best ital food of the trip, but pretty darn good none the less.
We then went into the market, which was a lot to take in. Given that we were pretty much the only white people, the various sellers went crazy – shouting at us, telling us to come in, etc. It was a lot to take in on my second day. I learned that day that it is best to always go into someone’s shop as a sign of respect and buy nothing, rather than just walk by and say “no thank you”. I also later learned that a lot of those merchants barely make anything (we’re talking like under a dollar a week), so just looking really means a lot to them.
Later, we walked around town and met this seemingly nice local. He gave me a flower and said some sweet lines, which made me chuckle, and Ian get a bit on guard, but we were also looking for some of that good good, so Ian and I both went with it and asked to link up. He brought us to the fisherman’s beach, which was fun. I drank rum & boom energy drink, Ian had a beer and we enjoyed some local goods….
We came to realize this character was sort of a low-level crime associate, and it started to get awkward very quickly. We also met an old rasta man who was a sweetheart. Our host was telling us how great of a guy he was, how he didn’t have any stuff on him now, but would tomorrow, etc…. and thats when we mutally decided to “jump ship”. He walked us to “our hotel” (not our hotel), said he’d pick us up tomorrow so he could bring us to his place of living, etc. (Luckily, we didn’t run into him again.) We walked around town a bit more, had some dinner, and then ran into our pal, who was able to supply us with that good good. 😉
We visited Dunn’s River Falls. It rained like crazy right in the middle of our visit, but returned to sunshine.
We also walked to Turtle Park, a gorgeous park in town, that apparently is quite the hookup spot after dark.
We also then visited Mahogany Beach, a locals beach that is free to visit. It was small, but enjoyable none the less.
We visited Mystic Mountain, a touristy attraction not far from town. We rode the chairlift over the mountain, rode the bobsled roller coaster through the jungle, took the zipline tour and rode the water slide a minimum of ten times each. It was pretty expensive, but a once in a lifetime experience.
Later, we walked around town, went for dinner, and just took it all in.
We went to the Blue Hole, a very cool attraction, though not looked after by the government, so the roads were terrible. Our host, Ritchie VIP, whom we met at Mahogany Beach, was fun and friendly.
This was also the day that Ian proposed to me!
We spent the rest of the day walking around town, having a grand old time. That evening, we went out for dinner at a resort, the restaurant called Blu Bamboo. It was the highest rated restaurant in the area.
We did our own thing in the morning. We went into the local market to buy some souvenirs, which was fun for about five minutes, and then turned into an all-out shouting match. Everyone was trying to grab our attention. I misunderstood Ian and thought we had no money left, so when we went into a shop and I advised we had no money left, then turned around and bought bamboo cups from a seller right in front of the other store, needless to say, it got a bit heated. We got in and got out as fast as possible, with our souvenirs and gifts intact.
Later that day, we visited Fire Water with our host, Daya. Fire water is a small pool of water with a very unusual quality. The pool contains water which can catch fire! This phenomenon is believed to be caused by a high concentration of sulphur in the water. It was an interesting experience. They gave us massages on these rocks, which was intense, to say the least. Afterwards, my skin was red and seemed almost burnt, but I air dried, and my skin was EVERYTHING. I didn’t have any sunscreen on my face, and I didn’t burn, my skin was soft and even. A gorgeous face and body treatment. I just felt right. Our host, Daya, drove us there, hung out with us, and also got a treatment on her hand. She works with the local children in that area, so she was able to ensure we got a fair deal. We also then went to little Dunn’s River falls, an off the path locals hang out.
We spent our last evening walking around town, went for dinner, and ran into a couple of friends from our travels.
We walked back to Mahogany Beach first thing to enjoy a bit more ocean and take a few photos of the place that Ian proposed to me (as when he did our camera was out of batteries). We also found out the place Ian proposed to me is also used as a jamaican bath, as we walked in on someone taking a bare naked shower. Awkward, to say the least. ;-D
We called a cab, and took the beautiful trip back to Montego Bay. Our driver enjoyed old time-y country music, so that was our soundtrack, which certainly matched my mood (sad, disappointed [to leave], and wilted)
It was shocking how “Americanized” the airport was. As soon as we walked through security, there were all kinds of American fast food chains, etc. We stopped at a restaurant, and then back to Canada we went.
- Juici Patties
- The Healthy Way
- Reggae Pot
The friends we made