Wrapped around a small bay with postcard-worthy snugness, Ocho Rios is a former fishing village that the Jamaica Tourist Board earmarked for tourism in the 1960s and developed in the mid-1980s. With Main St lined with shopping plazas, craft markets and fast-food emporiums, its appeal is not immediately obvious to the more adventurous traveler, but others welcome this ‘Jamaica Lite’ – the opportunity to experience the country without straying too far from the comforts and conveniences of home.
The frequent docking of cruise ships at the central pier that commands the town’s focus gives ‘Ochi’ a decidedly ‘packaged’ feel, spiced up by the incessant entreaties of ‘guides’ and souvenir sellers. However, it has also endowed the town with an international eating scene and two distinct kinds of nightlife: rough-and-ready dancehall clubs and beach sound-systems versus karaoke nights and all-you-can-drink swimwear parties. The choice is yours.
Those who come to Ochi expecting peace and solitude are likely to be disappointed, but the town makes an excellent base for active, solvent travelers who wish to explore the scenic north coast and to partake in slick, well-managed ‘adventures’ such as dog sledding, zip-line tours, horseback riding and waterfall climbing.