Ocho Rios - Runaway Bay

Destination Location

Ocho Rios / Runaway Bay

Overview

Balmy air perfumed by tropical allspice trees greets you upon arrival on Jamaica's lushly forested north coast. The woodsy aroma is a small whiff of the paradise to come from the nearby beachfront resorts at Ocho Rios and Runaway Bay.

Runaway Bay is in St. Ann, known as Garden Parish. It is a Caribbean cornucopia of history, culture and eco-adventure. And it offers as much relaxing seclusion or interactive recreation as you want. The captivating rhythms, spices and natural beauty unique to Jamaica are wonderfully concentrated in this region.

If you want to get wet (and a little wild), this is the right place. The quaint but vibrant seaport of Ocho Rios, known locally as Ochi, is named after the swift-moving rivers and countless tributaries. Aside from beach and pool diversions, the aquatic fun also includes tubing down the great White River, horseback riding in the ocean and scuba diving and snorkelling with sharks and rays.

The most popular activity – and for good reason – is climbing the cascading tiers at Dunn's River Falls, a national treasure.

Ocho Rios' naturally filtered water flows through dense jungle on temperate inland slopes. From breathtaking panoramas at the foot of the Dry Harbour Mountains, you can marvel at the sea's blue waters that stretch more than 145 km clear to Cuba.

From these heights, you'll also see the massive cruise ships docked at Ocho Rios. You can survey sandy bays, rocky coves and the peaks and valleys that form "cockpit country." Feel how the tropical heat is moderated by the windswept sea and cool mountain breeze. Find shade under towering palms, bamboo and fruit-bearing trees such as almond, ackee and lychee.

Peppered with botanical gardens, there's no shortage of natural attractions in the Garden Parish.  But if you're looking for some zesty local culture, there's plenty of that too. After all, this is the island's spiritual heart – the birthplace of reggae superstar Bob Marley and patriotic leader Marcus Garvey.

With such a rich medley of sights, sounds and flavours, Ocho Rios and Runaway Bay are destinations well-suited to families, couples and outdoor enthusiasts who want to soak up – and soak in – the local charms.

Ocho Rios - Runaway Bay is a fantastic destination for:

  • beaches
  • outdoor adventure
  • snorkeling and diving

Events of interest:

Jamaica Fat Tyre Festival

This is a seven-day mountain biking event designed to highlight Jamaica’s vibrant culture, unique geography and great riding trails. Since its inception, the event has sparked serious interest on several major biking blogs and some of the top biking magazines, making Jamaica a contender as a great mountain biking destination. The Fat Tyre Festival has also featured some of the world’s top mountain bikers, including Cam McCaul, Kyle Ebbett, Kathy Strand and Katie Holden, among others. It’s held each year in the middle of February.

Bob Marley celebrations

The first week of February features activities throughout the island to celebrate the life and achievements of music legend Bob Marley. Activities in Jamaica usually include a service at the Ethiopian Orthodox Church and ceremonial laying of plaques at the Bob Marley Museum in Kingston.

Destination basics

The humid tropical climate of Jamaica's north-central coast varies from hot to slightly less hot. With an average daytime temperature of close to 30 C and no winter to speak of, you can appreciate the jungle canopy's shade and the abundance of refreshing natural water sources. The warm sea is about 26 C.

Tourism peaks here during the dry season from December to the windiest month, April, known locally as "kite season." It is a pleasurable time to bask in the Caribbean heat, cooled by the trade winds. In January and February, days can drop to 19 C. Spring break crowds flock to Jamaican resorts from mid-March to mid-April. Make reservations well in advance for the region's top hotels, restaurants and attractions.

The quietest time to visit is from Easter until November, when the elements vary the most. The wet season officially starts in May, but September and October are the rainiest, most humid months. Tropical downpours tend to be short and sporadic, often leaving behind the clearest skies, as well as mosquitoes (so bring repellent). Storm season peaks in August and September, but storms rarely occur.

Average monthly temperature and average monthly rainfall diagrams for Ocho Rios / Runaway Bay

St. Ann's rich diversity and proud independence resonates in Jamaica's national motto: Out of Many, One People.

Visitors to the region are treated to a historical cocktail of plantation society, cheeky pirates, British conventions and "soul rebels" like Bob Marley and his Rasta disciples.

Jamaica is an English-speaking Commonwealth country, with the British custom of driving on the left-hand side of the road. Yet its distinct music, language and piquant cuisine is more akin to New Orleans than it is to other Caribbean islands. The pulse of upbeat reggae, lilting Jamaican Patois and smoke from pimento-fired jerk barbecues fills the air in St. Ann Parish.

Island traditions were born in St. Ann when Christopher Columbus first tried to land here on May 5, 1494, meeting resistance from the Taino (Arawak) Indians. But the natives soon fell to the conquistadors who established some of the first Spanish settlements and cathedrals in the Americas. By the 17th century, sugar plantations flourished on the island under British rule.

In 1655, the Spanish were evicted at Ocho Rios by British forces. To help get rid of them for good, the Crown gave rogue buccaneers free reign as official privateers. Chief among them was the notorious Henry Morgan, who later became Lieutenant Governor of Jamaica (and the trademark of a popular brand of rum).

Over the next 175 years, indentured African and Asian servants vastly outnumbered the governing class. Uprisings culminated in 1831 with the Christmas Rebellion. Within seven years, slavery was abolished, plantation estates were deserted, “free villages” flourished and religion grew.

Today, Jamaica is a church country. Upwards of 90 per cent of the population is Christian, representing all denominations. Many Rastas (or Rastafari), a spiritual fraternity adhering to the common good of "one love," also attend church.

Our Lady of Perpetual Help in the parish capital of St. Ann's Bay is a spectacular Catholic church with 16th-century Spanish origins. En route to the cut-stone cathedral covered in vines, you'll pass a towering monument to Columbus. The statue typifies Jamaica's grudging acceptance of its origins by way of Spanish and British occupation.

Visitors are invited to attend island-wide Sunday church services and most businesses are closed on this traditional family day. It starts with mass, followed by an early dinner and community parties, often at the beach.

Drax Hall Point is a beautiful location at sunset overlooking the beach at St. Ann's Bay. Here, kids fly homemade kites, while others kick around in spirited soccer games.

The U.S. dollar and credit cards are widely accepted at hotels, restaurants, shops and at almost all other attractions in major cities where tourists visit. If you're planning to leave the tourist areas and visit local shops on the outskirts of town or in the rural areas, you'll need Jamaican dollars. Most Jamaican ATMs accept international bank cards and dispense funds in Jamaican dollars. Exchange rates can vary daily so it's best to shop around for the best rate before converting your cash.

While it may not actually be located near eight rivers, as its name might suggest, Ocho Rios is brimming with world-class resorts, a stunning beach, and some top-notch dining. Located in St. Anne Parish on the northern coast of Jamaica, travelers flock to this area - lovingly called “Ochi” by many - for some fun in the sun and to relax in paradise.

 

Beachside

 

Most of Ocho Rios top resorts and restaurants can be found lining the coast. The coastal area of Ocho Rios boasts three popular pristine beaches - Ocho Rios Bay Beach, Mahogany Beach, and Shaw Park Beach - though many of the resorts also feature their own private strips of sand and surf. Some of the beachside area’s most popular resorts include Jamaica Inn, Hotel Sandals Royal Plantation, and Moon Palace Jamaica Grande, where visitors are pampered into a state of utter relaxation. While there is plenty to see and do here, visitors tend to stick to the beachside area of town unless they are taking a tour of the nearby waterfalls found in the jungle that surrounds Ocho Rios.

 

Town

 

The town of Ocho Rios is predominantly made up of residential areas, including villas that visitors can rent for the duration of their stay. The streets are lined with lush foliage, and walking along them sheds light on why St. Anne’s Parish is known as the “garden parish”. One of inland Ocho Rios’ most popular attractions is Fern Gully, a stunning ravine lined with exotic tropical foliage that can be explored through a tour company or on your own. Ocho Rios is also brimming with shopping opportunities, particularly in the inland area of town. Be sure to stop by Wassi Art, a pottery workshop that produces stunning handmade souvenirs.

While many come to Ocho Rios to kick their feet up and relax, there is plenty to entertain the adventurous souls who don’t want to spend their whole vacation in a seaside recliner.

 

Sports

 

Located in on the property owned by the Hotel Sandals Royal Plantation, the Golf Club is the ultimate golfing destination. After teeing off, gaze out over endless sweeping views of the sparkling Caribbean Sea and the surrounding Blue Mountains. You may feel you’ve found paradise as you work your way through this expertly maintained 18-hole course, which is perched some 700 feet above sea level. Be sure to grab a bite at the Sweet Spot Jerk Shack located on the #10 green for some truly memorable course-side snacks.

 

Outdoor Activities

 

While most parties interested in snorkeling can simply rent gear from their hotel and head out into the waters nearest to their resorts, scuba diving is best down with a diving outfit, particularly because of the heavy cruise ship traffic that this area sees. Garfield Diving Station is the main outfit located in the town of Ocho Rios, though nearby Montego Bay offers some other dive shop options. Talk to your divemaster about the local dive sites, because there are certainly plenty to choose from. Drift dives to spot nurse sharks along Jacks Hall are popular, as is diving at Top of the Mountain, a massive underwater mount covered in an array of stunning corals. Be sure to keep your eyes out for rare yellowcheck wrasse.

 

Located just 4 kilometers (2.4 miles) from the center of Ocho Rios, Dunn River Falls is one of the area’s most famous sites and is considered one of Jamaica’s national treasures. The stunning turquoise falls descends some 183 meters (600 feet) and then continues to flow out into the Caribbean Sea. Visitors and locals alike scale the falls each day and take dips in the many naturally occurring pools formed by this breathtaking natural feature. Several tour groups offer tours to the falls, including the highly rated Jaital Tours group, though it is also easy enough to hire a taxi to take you there and back from town.

 

If you have often dreamed of swimming with dolphins, then a trip to Ocho Rios may just help to make your dream come true. Yaaman Adventure Park features Dolphin Cove, a highly rated attraction that draws crowds in with the promise of getting to make some aquatic friends in an eco-friendly setting. While the park features lots of natural attractions, the jewel in its crown is Dolphin Cove, where guests don life vests and swim with dolphins.

 

Shopping

 

Ocho Rios offers an endless array of shopping opportunities that is sure to enthrall the many shopping enthusiasts who explore this town. While wandering along any of the streets near the coast, you are sure to find shops that entice you to explore them - and you should! Whether you are hunting for souvenirs or looking for a special gift, you are sure to find something you love. One of the most popular shopping destinations in Ocho Rios is the Island Village Shopping and Entertainment Centre. Here you will find a colorful array of shops and local products, along with a movie theater, restaurants, and even its own Margaritaville!

 

If you are looking for a more authentic Jamaican shopping experience, head to Wassi Art. While located further out from the beachside strip than many shops, Wassi Art is an experience that should not be overlooked. This pottery workshop features locally produced art that is both beautiful and unique.

 

Nightlife

 

While there is not a particularly pronounced nightlife scene in Ocho Rios, there are a couple of nightclubs that get the crowds dancing until the wee hours of the morning. The most popular of these clubs is Gen-X Sports Bar and Nightclub, which features dancing and DJs each night of the week. Amnesia is a spot frequented by locals and tourists alike, while John Crow’s Tavern boasts a space where you can mix and mingle.

Whether you are in the mood for fresh seafood or some authentic Jamaican cuisine, you are sure to find something that saits your appetite in Ocho Rios. From vibrant beachside seafood shacks, to five-star restaurants with ocean views, there is something for everyone in this lively town.

 

Beachside

 

The blocks lining Ocho Rios’ beachside neighborhood are bursting with quality restaurants just waiting to be sampled. For an authentic experience, head to the colorful Miss T’s Kitchen, where patrons chow down on perfectly prepared home-style Jamaican cuisine while surrounded by brightly painted walls and furniture. If you’re looking for an evening filled with world-class cuisine and cocktails, make a reservation at the Jamaica Inn, where you can gaze out over the Caribbean as you enjoy an al fresco meal under the stars. If a nightcap is what you’re after, this town boasts several bars to choose from, including Ocean’s 11, an open-air bar that looks out over the azure waters lining Fisherman’s Beach.

 

Town

 

While most of Ocho Rios’ best dining options can be found in the swath of buildings lining the Caribbean Sea, visitors to this area would be remiss if they didn’t make the journey inland to Ocho Rios Jerk Center. Jerk is a style of Jamaican seasoning that is generally applied to perfectly grilled chicken. At this popular spot, diners can sample chicken, pork, conch, and ribs bursting with authentic Jerk flavor while seated in a bright and airy space that welcomes both locals and tourists alike. The restaurant also features daily deals on other menu items and serves up fried plantains on the sign that are sure to have you licking your fingers in delight.

Ocho Rios

Country: Jamaica

 

City By the Numbers  

 

Population: 9,451

 

Elevation: 22 meters / 72 feet

 

Average January Temperature: 26°C / 79°F

 

Average July Temperature: 29°C / 84°F

 

Quick Facts

 

Electricity: 110 and 120 volts, AC

Time Zone: GMT-5

Country Dialing Code: 1 876

Area Code: none

Currency: The Jamaican Dollar

 

Did You Know?

 

Ocho Rios is perhaps best known as the location of Dr. No, the first James Bond movie. The movie was released in 1962 and starred Sean Connery as the suave secret agent. One of his main adversaries, Miss Taro, lived in Ocho Rios and plotted against Bond with Dr. Julius No.

 

Orientation

Ocho Rios is located on the northern side of Jamaica, north of Ewarton. It is bound by the Caribbean Sea.

Ocho Rios is your gateway to an extraordinary natural wonderland on Jamaica's north shore.

This fun in the sun destination translates to "eight rivers". However, it derives its name from Las Chorreras – Spanish for "gushing" water, inspired by the 180-metre cascade at Dunn's River Falls.

Sheltered bays sprinkled with white sand beaches are backed by jungle hills. In the thick of it are hiking trails, forest parks and botanical gardens. Local flora includes some 3,000 species of flowering plants. Canopied stretches of huge ferns lead inland to fertile, rust-red country soil. Near the resort haven of Runaway Bay, you'll find nine species of bats residing in the Green Grotto and Runaway Caves. This amazing underground maze is open to intrepid vacationers.

The central north coast location of Ocho Rios triangulates with historic Discovery Bay to the west, Oracabessa Bay to the east and Bob Marley's mausoleum at Nine Mile in the Dry Harbour Mountains to the south. The parish capital of St. Ann's Bay is midway (roughly 10 km) between Runaway Bay to the west and Ocho Rios to the east.

Ocho Rios is 108 km east of Sangster International Airport in Montego Bay, about a 90-minute drive on the new coastal expressway called Highway 2000. Ian Fleming International Airport, just east of Ocho Rios, is used for private jets and island shuttles, named after the creator of James Bond. Each year from the early 1950s until his death in 1964, Fleming would head to his exotic Goldeneye estate in nearby Oracabessa to compose a new adventure for Agent 007.

Like most of Jamaica, Ocho Rios was first inhabited by a group of Arawak Indians known as the Taino people, who came to this beautiful island sometime around 1,000 BC. They called Jamaica Xamayca, or the Lands of Waters and Woods, thanks to the many natural resources the land provided them.

 

The Taino people lived in relative peace until Christopher Columbus and his crew landed in Jamaica in 1494. Many believe that Columbus took his first steps on Jamaican soil in Ocho Rios. Columbus claimed the stunning land he stumbled upon in the name of the Spanish Crown and named it Chorreros, or Rapid Rivers. When the English eventually won Jamaica from the Spanish, they misunderstood the name Columbus had given the area, and dubbed in Ocho Rios. By that point, most of the Taino people had been enslaved and then killed by the Spanish. In 1517, slavery of a different kind was introduced to the Lands of Waters and Woods, when the Spanish began to bring enslaved Africans to Jamaica to work on sugarcane plantations.

 

During the 1600s, England and Spain fought many battles over ownership of Jamaica, with the English eventually claiming the land for the British Crown. During the following centuries, Ocho Rios remained relatively untouched, except for the pirates who occasionally made use of the shallow coves and hidden caves of Ocho Rios’ coastline.

 

It was not until the 20th-Century that Ocho Rios was recognized for its lush beauty. Resorts began cropping up along the fishing village’s shoreline, bringing with them tourists, a world-class dining scene, and a steady stream of cruise ships that now anchor each month in the calm waters off of Ocho Rios’ coast.

Taxis in Jamaica are either metered or flat rate. Rates are charged by the car, not by the number of passengers. Check with your driver prior to the start of your trip for rates and details. To arrange taxi services, most hotels and resorts have assigned Jamaican Tourist Board (JTB) or Jamaican Union of Travellers Association (JUTA) drivers who carry photo ID and display a JTB or JUTA sticker on their front windshield. Tipping your driver is recommended—about 10 to 15 per cent is customary. Travellers should be aware that trips taken between midnight and 5 a.m. run on a standard tipping rate of 25 per cent on top of the metered fee.

Round trip transfers between the airport and your hotel can be purchased in advance by contacting WestJet Vacations at least three days prior to your departure. Motorcycles, mopeds, scooters and bicycles can also be rented for the day or for the week from most resort locations.

Car rentals are available in Jamaica, but not recommended. Driving here is on the left hand side of the road and you must be at least 23 years old (with a valid credit card) to rent.

Check with your Jamaica Tours Limited representative or your hotel concierge for further information on transportation options.

Arrival

When traveling to Ocho Rios or nearby Runaway Bay, you will fly into Jamaica's Montego Bay Sangster International Airport.

During your flight, you'll receive a double-sided Jamaican Immigration/Customs form. Only one customs form needs to be filled out per family. Please note that this section must be complete in order for it to be stamped by immigration officials upon arrival.

After a brief stop at baggage claim, you'll bring the stamped portion of the form to a customs officer. When you depart, you will need to present this form to outgoing immigration. Do not lose this portion of the form since the screening process at departing immigration will be much lengthier if you do. In addition, make sure you sign this form before returning it.

Guests should be aware that a transfer or return flight ticket and proof of sufficient travel funds may be required upon entry into Jamaica. So keep your return WestJet ticket accessible in your carry-on when you arrive.

If you have purchased transfers to and from your hotel with WestJet Vacations (the trip to Ocho Rios is around 1.5 hours), look for a Jamaican Tours Limited representative holding a WestJet Vacations sign after exiting the customs area. Simply identify yourself as a WestJet Vacations guest and you'll be on your way.

Departure

Smiling WestJetters will be ready to assist you at the check-in counters in the departure area of the Montego Bay Sangster International Airport. An airport tax of J$1,000 is charged upon departure but when you fly WestJet, this tax is included in your ticket price.

If you have some time before your flight, the Montego Bay airport has all the shopping conveniences of an international airport, including duty free shopping. There are also many places to grab a bite to eat, as well as business, play and lounge areas to pass the time before your departure.

Vaccination

Although yellow fever is not a disease risk in Jamaica, the Jamaican government requires travelers arriving from countries where yellow fever is present to show proof of vaccination. It is also always recommended that you stay up-to-date on standard vaccines. Check with your local clinic for more information.

Jamaica uses the North American standard plug; however some properties have only two-pronged receptacles in the room rather than three-pronged receptacles.

Ocho Rios in St. Ann Parish has developed from a sleepy fishing village and port into the island's third most popular tourist destination.

What sets it apart is its prime central geography and small population. St. Ann is the country's largest parish, yet its total number of residents is only a fraction of the populations found in Montego Bay and Kingston – the nation's capital.

St. Ann's forest groves and turquoise waters have long been a playground for celebrities and luminaries such as Charlie Chaplin, Winston Churchill and Marilyn Monroe. Even Keith Richards of the Rolling Stones owns an estate in the hills above Ocho Rios.

A quarter of Jamaicans are linked to the tourism industry; other key exports include limestone, gypsum, sugar and coffee. Islanders parade the official Rasta colours of red, green and gold with fun and flair.

There is a mix of town and country folk, hillside mansions and shantytowns to discover. Smartly dressed kids in school uniforms walk to school along the narrow roads. Women with intricately braided hair and bedazzled skirts contrast the Rastas with dreads piled high in knitted caps.

Jamaica is the most populated English-speaking country in the Caribbean. The island's second official language is a kind of rapid fire Creole called Jamaican Patois, which is practically indecipherable to the untrained ear. The lyrical remix of British dialect originated in the 17th century with the island's first African residents.

Common catchphrases include ever-ting irie (pronounced "eye ree," meaning everything's all right), and the standard phrase for agreement and harmony, yeah man (not "mon," as per the stereotype).

One of Jamaica's finest exports is reggae. Its ever-present rhythms are a vacation bonus and a mainstay of the country's top radio station, Irie FM.

Island food is lively as well. Jerk chicken, pork and seafood are grilling passions on par with Texas barbecue. Other national specialties include the breakfast staple of ackee fruit and saltfish (cod). It's an acquired taste often served with bammies (cassava cakes) or fried-flour dumplings called Johnny cakes.

For a power breakfast, start the day with an omelette stuffed with callaloo, a leafy green similar to spinach, but without the bitter taste of Popeye's favourite veggie. It's loaded with vitamins, minerals, protein and amino acids – just what you need for a full day of outdoor adventure.

After a brief stop at baggage claim, you'll bring the stamped portion of the form to a customs officer.

The U.S. dollar and credit cards are widely accepted at hotels, restaurants, shops and at almost all other attractions in major cities where tourists visit.

Taxis in Jamaica are either metered or flat rate. Rates are charged by the car, not by the number of passengers.

Departing from:

^Total price one-way per guest. See terms and conditions.

*Prices are per guest, based on double occupancy and are limited; may not reflect real-time pricing or availability. See terms and conditions.

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