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Jamaica's title originates from a classic Arawak expression, Xaymaca, meaning "land of wood and water." Searching round the island, it's easy to determine why the Arawaks emerged with this description. The luxurious greenery Jamaica's inland contrasts perfectly the pristine whitened-sand beaches stretching across the island's northern coast. About 90 percent of the island's 2.5 million citizens have West African descent, and the other 10% comprise mainly of small pockets of the European unprivileged. The area lies 90 miles south of Cuba, and trails only its neighbors, Cuba.
Recently, Jamaica's image has had a little of the beating, as some vacationers have bristled at excessively aggressive suppliers along with a rising crime rate. The more luxurious resorts have forbidden their visitors from departing the place with no guide. Obviously, this means that many tourists can’t get a real vibe of the island’s fascinating culture and attractions.
Vacationers to Jamaica do not need to feel unsafe if they follow the basic safety protocols and act with caution and alertness. Overall, Jamaica's people are amiable and hospitable, and they're proud to greet you for their island paradise.
Ocho Rios is located on Jamaica's north coast, 60-four miles, or perhaps an hour along with a half's drive, from Montego Bay and 2 hrs from Kingston, Jamaica's capital around the southern coast.
This tiny city has converted into a greatly popular tourist destination, with virtually every major cruise line creating a stop here. It's accepted the economical boom which has included the tourism industry.
You might get the sensation that every person you meet here's selling you something, and to some degree that's true. The folks of Jamaica are poor, generally, and also the little crafts they're constantly offering may mean dinner up for grabs that evening. Should you don't want what's on offer, just nicely and firmly let them know you aren't interested. You do not need to feel intimidated or obligated to buy from them.
Should you arrived at Ocho Rios throughout the month of Feb, you'll be treated towards the Reggae Sunsplash Festival, which remembers the gorgeous sounds of traditional Reggae music, along with the fascinating Rastafarian heritage.
So enjoy Ocho Rios' beaches and restaurants, negotiate yourself a great deal on some souvenirs, and let yourself become lost in Jamaica's island beat.
Docking & Local Transportation
Cruise ships pier in the Port Authority of Jamaica in Ocho Rios. There's easy road access in the port to surrounding tourist locations.
Taxis and buses are run by the Jamaica Union of Vacationers Association, or JUTA. Minute rates are controlled, and a listing of costs could be acquired from the JUTA office.
Local Interests
The peculiar story of Edinburgh Castle is constantly on the cruise people. The castle's resident, Lewis Hutchinson of Scotland, accustomed to shoot and kill people. He was eventually taken and hanged. The castle is within ruins now, however it still creates a chillingly fascinating story.
The Coyaba River Garden and Museum, on Shaw Park Rd. is stuffed with local flowers, fountains, and items in the ancient Arawaks, the island's original occupants. Coyaba means paradise in Arawak, which is apt considering the garden, is fittingly enchanting.
Harmony Hall, at Tower Isles on Route A3 was once the crown jewel of the sugar plantation. Now it is a splendid memorial. The gallery houses a garden café, a quaint little restaurant that serves local cuisine.
Goldeneye is really a hotel and also the former home of James Bond's creator, Ian Fleming. It given its title towards the 1995 Bond movie that introduced Pierce Brosnan as 007.
Prospect Plantation, available on Route A3 east of Ocho Rios (876/994-1058), is among the rare farms that's still running. Trees happen to be grown here by luminaries varying from Charlie Chaplin to Winston Churchill. Additionally towards the plantation tour, three trails tell you the home that are ideal for horse riding.
Lastly, for the adventurous souls, a visit to Dunn's River Falls is a must. Helpful information can help you climb to the peak of the six-hundred-feet waterfall. Climbers would be advisable to carry aquasox, as sandals will not provide sufficient protection against edgy rocks. Additionally, pay a trip to Fern Gully, a four-mile rocky-gorge that runs with the heart from the Jamaican jungle.
Ocho Rios has the best beaches in most of Jamaica, which states something. In the end, Jamaica has the best beaches within the entire Caribbean. Mallards Beach is easily the most well-known from the local beaches, and consequently you might not cash room to lie lower. For any lesser-known locale, try Turtle Beach, further south. Of course, you will find ample beaches to become find if you're willing to become a little adventurous.
For any relatively small city, Ocho Rios can feature some world-class courses. At Runaway Bay, next to Ocho Rios, the Breezes Runaway Bay Club provides a challenging course.Sandals Golf And Country Club is really a gorgeous course, having a tough design that's upstaged through the breathtaking scenery everywhere. You will not wish to hustle through 18 holes here. Rather, stroll with the course's 60-500 yards and revel in. Jamaica's earliest course, Manchester Country Club is a mere nine-hole course. Nonetheless, you should have only a short while, this can be a pretty course high above ocean level.
SuperClub's Runaway Golf Club, at Runaway Bay near Ocho Rios on the north coast (tel. 876/973-7319), charges no fee to guests who stay at any of Jamaica's affiliated SuperClubs. For nonguests, the price is US$80 year-round. Any player can rent carts for US$35 for 18 holes; clubs are US$14 for 18 holes.
Sandals Golf & Country Club (tel. 876/975-0119) is a 6,500-yard course, known for its panoramic scenery some 210m (689 ft.) above sea level. (From the center of Ocho Rios, travel along the main bypass for 3km/2 miles until you reach Mile End Rd. A Texaco station is located at the corner of Mile End Rd. Turn right and drive for another 8km/5 miles until you come to the Sandals course on your right.) The 18-hole, par-71 course was designed by P. K. Saunders and opened in 1951 as the Upton Golf Club. Rolling terrain, lush vegetation, and flowers and fruit trees dominate the course. A putting green and driving range are available for those who wish to hone their skills first. Sandals guests play free; nonguests pay US$25 for 9 holes or US$45 for 18 holes.

Horseback Riding
In the parish of Trelawny, 25 miles west from Ocho Rios, Braco Stables, near the town of Duncans (tel. 876/954-0185; www.bracostables.com) offers horseback riding that explores the scenic countryside and includes a swim bareback with the horses on a beautiful, private beach.
The stables are on Braco Estate, which dates back to the mid-17th century when it was a sugar factory. The cost of a horseback tour is US$70 per person for 2 hours, plus US$30 per person extra if you want a lunch of barbecue chicken and all the fixins.
Rafting on the White River
You can arrange to go river rafting down the White River to the east of Ocho Rios, a 45-minute drift that takes you down the largest river in the area. The trip is one of the finer ways to spend a day in Ocho Rios when you tire of the beach. You glide along the banks of the river on a 9m (30-ft.) bamboo raft built for two, experiencing the rapids and looking at the lush growth. Halfway down the river you stop at the Jungle Bar for lunch and reggae music. The cost is US$55 per person, including the services of a guide. To reach the site, head east from Ocho Rios to the White River Bridge, a distance of 5km (3 miles). Rafting is possible daily from 8:30am to 4:30pm. Call tel. 876/974-2527 for more information.

Swimming with Dolphins
One of the most-visited attractions in Ocho Rios, Dolphin Cove, North Coast Highway (tel. 876/974-5335; www.dolphincovejamaica.com), attracts thousands of participants from cruise ships every month. Nestled among the seafronting rocks and low cliffs of a location 1.6km (1 mile) west of the center of Ocho Rios is an eco-sensitive series of stone and wire marine pens that are the home to about 16 dolphins. Each of them was caught, usually in fishing nets, off the coast of Mexico, and brought here after months of testing and training at enormous expense, for the amusement of their human counterparts. The headquarters of the venue is a 1950s, lemon-colored villa that functioned for years as the private home of the attraction's Jamaica-born owners, the Burrowes family. Check the photos in the building's entrance. Guests participate in programs that bring them into close encounters with dolphins who cavort, jump in the air, and swallow fish (mostly mackerel and herring imported from the cold waters of Canada) on a schedule that's noted below. Know in advance, however, that there's a lot more on-site than just a view of some sea mammals. The entire 2.8-hectare (7-acre) site has been configured as a self-contained beach and entertainment center that can and often does shelter and amuse cruise ship passengers throughout their ship's stopover in Ocho Rios. Snorkeling and swimming are available from a narrow beachfront. Immediately adjacent is a waterfall cascading directly into the sea from the Chico River. A restaurant features a lunchtime buffet, served daily from noon to 3pm, costing US$15 per person. There is also transport in a glass-bottomed boat for a 30-minute float over the reefs. You have unlimited access to nature trails that meander through a jungle landscape that has been enhanced with the presence of caged birds, caged iguanas, and large yellow boa constrictors held in check by their handlers.
If the idea of swimming with the dolphins appeals to you, you should reserve a place in advance, participate in a 30-minute orientation lecture, put on a life preserver, and then get ready to pet, play with, and in some cases, get pushed or pulled around the watery pen by a well-trained marine mammal.
Dolphin shows are presented daily at 9:30am, 11:30am, 1:30pm, and 3:30pm. General admission to the compound costs US$50 per person. Enhancements to the general admission cost are noted as follows, and in every case, include general admission to the compound: "Touch the Dolphins" from a seat on the pier costs US$75 per person; a one-on-one encounter in the water with a dolphin goes for US$150 per person; and a two-on-one encounter whereby one swimmer will be pulled along the surface of the water while he/she holds the dolphin's dorsal fins costs US$225 per person. No children 7 and under are allowed in the water with the dolphins.
Sandals Grande Ocho Rios Beach & Villa Resort, Main Street, Ocho Rios (tel. 876/974-1027), focuses more on tennis than any other resort in the area. It offers three clay-surface and three hard-surface courts, all lit for night play. Guests play free, day or night, but nonguests must call and make arrangements with the manager. Nonguests can purchase a day pass for US$80 per person. The resort also sponsors twice-a-day clinics for both beginners and advanced players. Frequent guest tournaments are also staged, including handicapped doubles and mixed doubles.
Eating Out
Because nearly all the major hotels in Ocho Rios have gone all-inclusive, smaller, independent restaurants are struggling to survive.
Jamaica Evaluates Its Jerks
Jamaicans, and especially professional drivers, are passionately committed to publicizing the virtues of whatever out-of-the-way stall or kiosk that serves -- in their opinion -- the country's best jerk pork and chicken. Debates rage in bars and on beaches, but one site that gets consistently good reviews from jerk aficionados is Blueberry Hill (tel. 876/403-5308), which is located on the coastal road about .8km (1/2 mile) east of the North Shore community of Buff Bay, midway between Port Antonio and Ocho Rios. (It's near the junction of the North Shore Coastal Highway with one of the roughest roads in the Third World -- the one that runs over the Blue Mountains back to Kingston.)
Don't expect a palace. Established in 1980 and within shouting distance of less-famous jerk stalls that have cropped up like clones, it's little more than a roadside lean-to, built from concrete blocks that are caked with the carbonization of years of the slow-cooking jerk process. It serves only jerk pork, jerk chicken, and on rare occasions, jerk fish. You'll be asked in advance if you want a quarter-pound or a half-pound portion. (We always allocate a half-pound portion per person.) It will be presented on paper plates, wrapped in aluminum foil, and accompanied by slices of brown bread from the local supermarket, served with no pretense at all from its original plastic bag.
There's no dining room. With a sometimes engaging sense of conviviality (and at other times, in abject, sullen silence), clients collect their bounty in aluminum-foil wrappers, and eat with their fingers while standing beside the road, or perhaps sitting on a battered makeshift stool. Red Stripe beer and Ting (something akin to Sprite) are the drinks of choice. Overall, it's unpretentious, delicious, friendly, and fun, and it's open daily from 10am to 10pm.
Don't think for a moment that there aren't dozens of other jerk stands with reputations deeply entrenched throughout Jamaica. A much-respected competitor, located on the coastal highway (they call it "Main Street") 1.6km (1 mile) east of the center of Discovery Bay, is Mackie's Jerk Center and Bar (tel. 876/973-9450). The roadside venue is a party-colored cluster of open-air verandas, one of which is circular and contains an area reserved for serious drinking 'round about twilight time. It's a tried-and-true destination for minibuses, loaded with foreign visitors, who stop for its toilet facilities, and who sometimes get the first exposures of their lives to the phenomenon known as jerk. It's open daily from 9am to 11pm. "Festival bread" (deep fried cornmeal dough sprinkled with sugar) is fatteningly delicious and can be ordered separately. No credit cards accepted.
Any jerk stand in Jamaica will accept U.S. dollars, but know in advance that it usually works out to be just a bit cheaper for you, based on unfavorable exchange rates at the jerk stands, to pay for your meal in Jamaican, rather than in U.S. dollars. Why? Because jerk entrepreneurs, while very skilled at the culinary nuances of jerk cuisine, don't view themselves as bankers, and tend to charge not-very-favorable rates on the U.S.-to-Jamaican exchange rates.
The Casanova features fine dining, inventive drinks, and buzzing live entertainment to an all-encompassing crowd. This can be a meal done correctly, with each and every taste bud prepared to sing this menu's praises, which is an awesome spot to spend the night hearing Reggae.
Parkway Restaurant, at 60 Da Costa Dr, is a smaller more elegant place, but just as delicious. The Jamaican menu can make your stomach heavy, but will not hit your bank account, so indulge.
Night life in Ocho Rios revolves mainly round the nightclubs within the resorts themselves. You will find lots of options, so you shouldn't be missing plans every evening.

There are a number of shopping plazas in Ocho Rios. We've listed them because they're here, not because we heartily recommend them. Newer ones include the New Ocho Rios Plaza, in the center of town, with some 60 shops; opposite is the Taj Mahal Mall, with 26 duty-free stores. Island Plaza is another major shopping complex, as is the Mutual Security Plaza with some 30 shops.
Ocean Village Shopping Centre (tel. 876/974-2683) is one of the originals, with numerous boutiques, food stores, a bank, sundries purveyors, travel agencies, service facilities, and what have you. The Ocho Rios Pharmacy (tel. 876/974-2398) sells most proprietary brands, perfumes, and suntan lotions, among its many wares. Nearby is the major competitor of Ocean Village, the Coconut Grove Shopping Plaza, which is linked by walkways and shrubs. The merchandise here consists mainly of local craft items, and this center is often overrun with cruise ship passengers. Ocean Village is slightly bigger and more upscale, and we prefer it.
Just east of Ocho Rios, the Pineapple Place Shopping Centre is a collection of shops in cedar-shingle-roofed cottages set amid tropical flowers.
The Ocho Rios Craft Park has 135 stalls. A vendor will weave a hat or a basket while you wait, or you can buy a ready-made hat, hamper, handbag, place mats, or lampshade. Other stands stock hand-embroidered goods and will make small items while you wait. Woodcarvers work on bowls, ashtrays, statues, and cups.
Island Plaza, right in the heart of Ocho Rios, has some of the best Jamaican art, all paintings by local artists. You can also purchase local handmade crafts (be prepared to haggle), carvings, ceramics, kitchenware, and the inevitable T-shirts.
Specialty Shops
Swiss Stores, in the Ocean Village Shopping Centre (tel. 876/974-2519), sells jewelry and all the big names in Swiss watches. The Rolex watches here are real, not those fakes touted by hustlers on the streets.
One of the best bets for shopping is Soni's Plaza, 50 Main St., the address of all the shops recommended below. Casa de Oro (tel. 876/974-5392) specializes in duty-free watches, fine jewelry, and classic perfumes. Gem Palace (tel. 876/974-2850) is the place to go for diamond solitaires, tennis bracelets, and 14-karat gold chains. Mohan's (tel. 876/974-9270) offers one of the best selections of 14-karat and 18-karat gold chains, rings, bracelets, and earrings. Soni's (tel. 876/974-2303) focuses strictly on souvenirs from coffee mugs to T-shirts. Taj Gift Centre (tel. 876/974-9268) has a little bit of everything: Blue Mountain coffee, film, cigars, and hand-embroidered linen tablecloths. For something different, look for Jamaican jewelry made from hematite, a mountain stone. Diamonds Duty Free Fine Jewelry (tel. 876/974-6455) beats most competition with its name-brand watches and jewelry.
The Coffee Café lies immediately upstairs from the Ocean's 11 Watering Hole, Lot #6, Fisherman's Point Row (tel. 876/974-6896). This is the closest thing to a Seattle-style coffee shop in Ocho Rios. Surprisingly well-accessorized, with a theme that involves the production, processing, and marketing of Jamaican coffee, it's airy, bright, and divided into sections devoted to a cafe, a gift shop, and a museum. In the cafe, bagels cost US$2.50, sandwiches US$5.50 to US$6, and steaming cups of espresso go for US$3 each. Main courses cost US$10 to US$28. The gift shop sells coffee mugs, coffee memorabilia, and vacuum-packed foil bags filled with Jamaica's finest coffee. The cafe is open daily 8:30am until between 8 and 10pm, depending on business. This shop contains five Internet stations, which anyone is free to use.
We're always on the lookout for art galleries, so in lieu of schlepping out to Harmony Hall (where the selection of Jamaican paintings is broader and better), Tallawah Arts, in the Island Village Shopping Center (tel. 876/675-8789), offers a small-scale collection of work by relatively minor artists that might suffice your gift-giving needs. Paintings, depending on their size, range from US$15 to US$140. The shop is open daily from 8am to 6pm.
After visiting virtually every shop within this bustling shopping center, our considered opinion is that Hemp Heaven, in the Island Village Shopping Center (tel. 876/675-8969), is its most creative shop. It only stocks items made from or related to hemp, which -- in case you didn't know -- is the fibrous stalk of the marijuana plant. Most of the objects were made in Jamaica, and manage to include hemp in some way that's beneficial to the object's texture, longevity, or healing powers. Inventories include bags; hats; T-shirts (45% cotton, 55% hemp) that, contrary to what you might have thought, are soft and not at all scratchy; hair oil; lotions; candles; massage creams; gift items that usually relate to Jamaica; and more. Garments here are durable, pre-shrunk, and despite their funky designs, they're sold and promoted with a sense of Jamaican nationalism and good fun.
The Potter's Art
The largest and most visible art pottery in Jamaica is found at Wassi Art, Bougainvillea Drive, Great Pond (tel. 876/974-5044; www.wassiart.com). This enterprise is often cited for its entrepreneurial courage by the country's growing core of independent business owners. Established in 1990, it developed from a personal hobby of one of its owners, Theresa Lee, an amateur potter. Today, with her husband Robert, she employs at least 50 artisans and workers in a small-scale beehive of energy about 4km (2 1/2 miles) north of the center of Ocho Rios. They turn out wonderful pottery. You'll reach the place via a winding and impossibly rutted road.
Tours of the factory (Mon-Sat 9am-5pm) are free, last about 15 minutes, and include a brief session trying to throw a pot on an electric potter's wheel. Don't expect a high-tech operation here, as virtually every aspect of the manufacturing process, including the digging, hauling, and processing of the Blue Mountain clay, is done the old-fashioned way -- by hand. All glazes used in the process are nontoxic and FDA approved.
The finished pottery comes in colors that range from the earth- and forest-toned to the bright iridescent patterns reminiscent of Jamaican music and spice. There's a cafe on the premises (try their meat-stuffed patties for an insight into what a Jamaican worker's lunch might include). Part of your experience here includes dialogues with talented artisans hailing from both Jamaica and Cuba.

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