Location: Ocho Rios, Jamaica
I wrote a whole article on how we ended up staying in Ocho Rios on Tuesday, if you haven’t checked it out yet, click here. Turns out, it was actually a blessing in disguise as there is so much to see in the Ocho Rios area. We were lucky enough to have hired a driver, who took us to some amazing places in the region. There is one site that you may notice is missing – Nine Mile – the birthplace of Bob Marley. We asked our driver what he would recommend seeing and this was the list of things he put together for us. He explained that Nine Mile was very touristy, and given we only had a short amount of time on the island, he could think of more interesting things to see. That being said, when (and not if) I go back to Jamaica, I will definitely check it out just to tick if off my list! And so, without further ado, here are the things we got up to during our time in Ocho Rios.
1. Dunn’s River Falls
If you know me by now, you will know that I have a small obsession with waterfalls. I don’t know why but I’ve had it since I was a young girl. Come to think of it, I probably took a liking to them as we have none in Malta, which is where I grew up. The Caribbean is the perfect place to explore waterfalls and Jamaica is no exception. We visited two waterfalls when we were there and both were just such amazing experiences.
Dunn’s River Falls is one of the most famous waterfalls in Jamaica and for good reason. It is believed to be the site of the famous battle of “Las Chorreras”, fought in 1657 between the Spanish and the English for possession of the island. The Spaniards called the area “Las Chorreras”, which means “the waterfalls or the springs”. The waterfall is surrounded by a large park which is also worth walking around. At the park you’ll find the stalls of many vendors selling local souvenirs. Note that these guys are master sellers and they will pull you in. It’s a little hard to avoid them though as the stalls are lined up on the exit route.
Tip for all those planning to visit, I strongly recommend you buy some water shoes (like the ones I’m wearing in the picture above). You can pick these up for really cheap and if you want to walk on the rocky ground under the waterfall, they are a must. Entrance to the park costs about $15, and do be sure to take cash. Lastly, please respect the signs and do not carve your name, birthday, shoe size, etc into the rocks. It’s such a pointless action yet I saw so many doing it. Let’s respect the places we visit!
2. The Blue Hole
Another waterfall for you – I just can’t help it. I love them so much. The Blue Hole is quite appropriately named given that it’s a collection of turquoise pools and hidden waterfalls. If you’re brave enough, you can jump from a series of points, guided by the staff. The staff are totally legendary – they know these waterfalls so well they literally walk around the rocks and water like they are walking around their bedroom. How they didn’t fall and injure themselves in beyond me! As I mentioned in the last point, make sure to bring cash for entrance and your water shoes. The Blue Hole can get quite busy so try to visit in the morning before it gets too overcrowded!
3. Sun Valley Plantation
Sun Valley is a working plantation and was one of the most interesting tours I have been on. Once you arrive, you’ll be greeted by the present day owners that will walk you through the story of the property. You’ll learn all about the tropical fruits and plants, the spices used in Jamaican cooking and maybe even taste some of the exotic fruits. If you are interested in learning about local produce and how it is grown, then I definitely recommend that you check this out!
4. Turtle Release
Another memorable experience was watching the newly hatched turtles being released back into the sea. Mel Tennant, the organiser of this tour works tirelessly to save the turtles from being killed illegally. Unfortunately there is a long-standing tradition that eating the turtle eggs has health benefits. After moving to Jamaica in 2003, Mel purchased a seaside home not too far away from Ocho Rios. He soon discovered that each year, sea turtles came ashore in front of his house to lay their nests of between 100 and 240 eggs. Once they hatch, Mel and his team guide them from the nest to the water. We got to participate in cleaning the sea turtles from sand after they hatch and lined them up so that they can begin their journey back to the sea, not to be seen again for another 20 years. It was one of those experiences where you cannot believe what you are taking part in. The little baby sea turtles were so small and as I write this now, I can’t help but wonder where the sea turtle I held and washed is now.
5. Luminous Lagoon
Last but not least, the Luminous Lagoon. Possibly the most incredible experience of 2018. We experienced a phenomenon that can only be seen in four places around the world: Jamaica, Puerto Rico, The Bahamas and Indonesia. They say that Luminous Lagoon is the largest and brightest of all four. It’s a pretty short tour (about 45 minutes) – shorter than the drive from the hotel to the lagoon but oh so worth it. You can’t really see it from the images as they are slightly blurry, but there I am swimming amongst fish that glow in the dark. I admit that was a pretty basic way of explaining it. What actually happens is that the millions of dinoflagellates that live in the lagoon emit light when disturbed, creating that eerie electric blue glow that you see in the pictures. Totally jaw-dropping. It was the most surreal experience and I think it’s something everyone should experience.
I want to point out that we booked all of the above directly through our driver and not through the hotel. I mentioned in Tuesday’s post that a lot of these all-inclusive resorts make their money through charging exorbitant prices to tourists for tourists, yet very little money actually trickles down to the locals. If you are able to book a driver through the hotel to take you anywhere, just ask them about tours. They will be more than grateful that you are giving them the opportunity to earn money directly, and I’ve found that they generally recommend places that are not as touristy as the ones that your hotel might offer.
Have you been to Ocho Rios or just Jamaica in general? I’d love to hear about your favourite sites to see and what you enjoyed most! Drop them in the comments!