Must see attractions in Ocho Rios, Port Antonio & the North Coast

  • Top ChoiceSights in Ocho Rios

    Blue Hole

    High on the White River, Jamaica's heavenly Blue Hole is a vision and is an undisputed highlight in Ocho Rios. To reach this popular spot, make your way up a series of magical falls (one measuring 20ft high) and blue pools surrounded by forest, with ample opportunity to swim, dive and swing off ropes 15ft in the air and into the water. There is an entry fee to enter. The Blue Hole is open from 8am to  5pm. Guides accompany you through the cascades on a well-marked trail (with steps and ropes where necessary for safety). The tiny cave climb under one of the falls is safe but isn't for claustrophobes. The guides are excellent and are attentive to both kids and more senior visitors who might be uncertain on some of the climbs. For those who arrive unprepared, vendors sell jelly shoes at the entrance. There are also refreshment stands. Remember, take nothing you aren't happy to get wet. Safety at the Blue Hole While no official accounts of leptospirosis have been confirmed at the Blue Hole, they have been reported. The leptospirosis bacteria can occur in any body of water and is always a concern when doing water-based adventure activities. The bacteria can enter the body through the eyes and nose or via cuts or abrasions, or by swallowing contaminated water. Life jackets are also available for those who want to enjoy the falls but aren't strong swimmers.

  • Top ChoiceSights in East of Port Antonio

    Blue Lagoon

    The waters that launched Brooke Shields’ movie career are by any measure one of the most beautiful spots in Jamaica. The 180ft-deep (55m) “Blue Hole” (as it is known locally) opens to the sea through a narrow funnel, but is fed by freshwater springs that come in at a depth of about 131ft (40m). As a result, the water changes color through every shade of jade and emerald during the day, thanks to cold freshwater that blankets the warm mass of seawater lurking below. The seemingly bottomless pool of turquoise water is nestled in a protected cove and surrounded by forested cliffs. Blue Lagoon is a definite bucket-list trip in Jamaica © Westend61/Getty Images How to get to the Blue Lagoon From Port Antonio, it's about a 17-minute drive on Fair Prospect Rd to Folly Rd with a turn off at Blue Hole Road. Park at the beach. Since this area is public land, there is no entrance fee. You can swim at the entrance to the lagoon, or take a boat tour (around US$30) on a short ride past some glitzy seafront villas to nearby Cocktail Beach (where parts of the Tom Cruise movie Cocktail were filmed) and rustic Monkey Island. Note that if it's been raining heavily, runoff water from the hills turns the lagoon a murky green.

  • Top ChoiceSights in East of Ocho Rios

    Firefly

    Set amid wide lawns high atop a hill 5km east of Oracabessa and 5km west of Port Maria, Firefly was the home of Sir Noël Coward, the English playwright, songwriter, actor and wit, who was preceded at this site by the notorious pirate Sir Henry Morgan. When he died in 1973, Coward left the estate to his partner Graham Payn, who donated it to the nation. Your guide will lead you to Coward’s art studio, where he was schooled in oil painting by Winston Churchill. The studio displays Coward’s original paintings and photographs of himself and a coterie of famous friends. The drawing room, with the table still laid, was used to entertain such guests as the Queen Mother, Sophia Loren and Audrey Hepburn. The upper lounge features a glassless window that offers one of the most stunning coastal vistas in all Jamaica. The view takes in Port Maria Bay and the coastline further west. Contrary to popular opinion, Coward didn’t write his famous song ‘A Room with a View’ here (it was written in Hawaii in 1928). Coward lies buried beneath a plain white marble slab on the wide lawns where he entertained many illustrious stars of the stage and screen. A dance floor nearby covers his old pool – the house is now used as an exclusive venue for society weddings.

  • Top ChoiceSights in East of Port Antonio

    Winnifred Beach

    Perched on a cliff 13km east of Port Antonio is the little hamlet of Fairy Hill. Follow the road steeply downhill and you’ll reach Winnifred Beach, yet another totally gorgeous strip that puts a lot of the sand in more famous places to shame. It's the only truly public beach on this stretch of the coast, and has a great vibe, with food and drink stands, weekend sound systems and Jamaicans from all walks of life. If you drive, please make a donation for parking – the beach relies on public funds for its upkeep.

  • Top ChoiceSights in East of Port Antonio

    Frenchman’s Cove

    This beautiful little cove just east of Drapers boasts a small but perfect white-sand beach, where the water is fed by a freshwater river that spits directly into the ocean. The area is owned by the Frenchman’s Cove resort. There’s a snack bar serving jerk chicken and fish, alfresco showers, bathrooms, a secure parking lot and the option of taking boat tours (US$20) to the Blue Lagoon.

  • Sights in Ocho Rios

    Dunn’s River Falls

    These famous falls, 3km west of town, are Jamaica’s top-grossing tourist attraction. Great throngs of people at peak hours can sometimes make it seem more like a theme park than a natural wonder, but this doesn’t make the climb up the falls any less exhilarating. You clamber up great tiers of limestone that step down 180m in a series of beautiful cascades and pools. The water is refreshingly cool, with everything shaded by tall rainforest. Guides can help with the climb (tip expected), but aren’t strictly necessary; although the current is strong in places, the ascent is easily achieved by most able-bodied people. Swimwear is essential. There are changing rooms, and you can rent lockers (J$500) and buy jelly shoes from vendors. The park also includes food stalls and a restaurant, a kids' playground, and a hard-selling craft market. Try to visit when the cruise ships aren’t in dock, and ideally when the gates open in the morning (note that when cruise ships are in Ocho Rios, the falls open at 7am). Route taxis from Ocho Rios to St Ann’s Bay can drop you at the entrance.

  • Sights in Ocho Rios

    Spanish Bridge

    You'll need a car to reach this delightful swimming spot on the White River, 5km beyond Blue Hole on a rough road, but it's worth the adventure. The stone bridge, built by the Spanish in the 17th century, sits over a lazy bend in the river, surrounded by shady trees and giant bamboo. There's a rope swing off the bridge if you're feeling brave (it's higher up than it looks), or admire the local lads who show off their tricks. Alternatively, find a picnic spot on the opposite bank and wade in the shallows – it's the perfect spot for an afternoon's lazing. There's a stall selling cold drinks, and with a new access road being built, you'll probably be able to buy food there soon.

  • Sights in Ocho Rios

    Shaw Park Gardens

    This park is a tropical fantasia of ferns and bromeliads, palms and exotic shrubs, spread out over 11 hectares centered on an old great house (once a hotel). Trails and wooden steps lead past waterfalls that tumble in terraces down the hillside. A viewing platform offers a bird’s-eye vantage over Ocho Rios. The gardens are signed from opposite the public library on the A3.

  • Sights in West of Port Antonio

    Tacky Falls

    Tacky Falls is so pristine and isolated that, if you stumbled across them wandering up the coast from Robin’s Bay, you might be tempted to claim them as your own. The falls drop in two tiers over a sheer rock wall reaching more than 30m high, and cascade into a clear pool you can swim in. It's a 40-minute hike from Robin's Bay – locals will be able to direct you.

  • Sights in Ocho Rios

    Mahogany Beach

    The small and charming Mahogany Beach is particularly popular with locals; it comes to life on weekends with loud music, smells of jerk cooking and impromptu football matches. There is plenty of parking plus showers, and a small shop selling beach goods. The beach is about 1km east of the town center – it's quickest to jump in a taxi to get here.

  • Sights in Port Antonio

    Folly

    This rather appropriately named two-story, 60-room mansion on the peninsula east of East Harbour was built entirely of concrete in pseudo-Grecian style in 1903 by Olivia Tiffany Mitchell, heiress to the Tiffany fortune. It was only lived in for 35 years before being abandoned and given to the government in lieu of unpaid taxes, after which it fell into disrepair. The story that it was abandoned due to the use of seawater in the concrete, causing the iron reinforcing rods to rust and the roof to collapse in 1936, is apocryphal, if more exciting than the story of unpaid taxes. The shell of the structure remains, held aloft by limestone columns, and makes a perfectly peculiar locale for a picnic. The orange candy-striped Folly Point Lighthouse, built in 1888, overlooks Monkey Island – so named for the primates once kept there by Mitchell's son-in-law Hiram Bingham, who rediscovered Machu Picchu in 1911. It's a great place to explore, but we'd advise against solo exploration, especially for women, as there have been reports of muggings here.

  • Sights in West of Ocho Rios

    Green Grotto Caves

    This impressive system of caves and tunnels, 3km east of Discovery Bay, extends for about 45km. The steps lead down into the impressive chambers, where statuesque dripstone formations are illuminated by floodlights. The Taíno people carried out their rituals here, and the caves have frequently been used as hideouts – by the Spanish during the English takeover of Jamaica in 1655, by runaway slaves in the 18th century, and between the two world wars by smugglers running arms to Cuba. The highlight is Green Grotto, a glistening subterranean lake 36m down. The entrance fee includes a guided one-hour tour, which is particularly family friendly. The guides conduct their tours with humor and attempt to amaze you by tapping formations to produce hollow drumlike sounds, as well as pointing out the different species of bats that live in the cave, and maybe even their imported predator, the Jamaican yellow boa.

  • Sights in West of Ocho Rios

    Cranbrook Rainforest Gardens

    This vast botanical garden is a tranquil treat, crafted in the lush valley that carves up into the hills south of Laughlands, about 5km west of Priory. Guided tours last around 90 minutes, show off everything from beautiful flowering ginger and heliconias, to the fascinating medicinal properties of the many plants. The Little River runs through the gardens, and at the top of the gardens there's a gorgeous secluded swimming hole – taking a swimming costume is strongly recommended. There are perfect spots for picnicking and you could easily spend a pleasant day here relaxing among the greenery.

  • Sights in Ocho Rios

    Konoko Falls & Botanic Garden

    This beautiful botanic garden has walkways and trails leading past pools and streams, and feeders buzzing with hummingbirds – a lovely quiet escape from the cruise-ship buzz of town. A small museum traces Jamaica’s history, and there's an aviary with parrots (and an enormous crocodile). Past the aviary, the paths lead down to an attractive series of waterfalls, surrounded by trees, ferns and flowers, all beautifully maintained. There's a cafe on-site for refreshments. It was formerly called Coyaba Gardens & Mahoe Falls, a name still more familiar to some Ochi taxi drivers.

  • Sights in East of Port Antonio

    Trident Castle

    A strange slice of Ruritania in the Caribbean, this folly on a headland 3km from Port Antonio was built in the 1970s by the (in)famously eccentric Baroness Elisabeth Siglindy Stephan von Stephanie Thyssen, also know as Zigi Fami. It resembles a rather magnificent wedding cake, and indeed is a popular backdrop for society weddings as well as music video shoots. Sadly, the castle is closed to the public, but it makes one hell of a landmark from the road.

  • Sights in Ocho Rios

    Fishermen’s Beach

    Immediately west of Island Village Beach is the tiny public Fishermen’s Beach, with colorful fishing boats and several eateries serving fresh fish and more. It's not obvious where the sand is when you first enter due to the fancy new redevelopment of the restaurant units, but push through and the old boats are still on the beach and there are cheap eats on a boardwalk as well as the fancier joints overlooking the sea from upstairs.

  • Sights in East of Ocho Rios

    Yaaman Adventure Park

    Formerly the more sedately named Prospect Plantation, this beautiful old hilltop great house and 405-hectare property has rebranded as an active adventure park. Get off-road in the 'wet & dirty' buggy ride. More relaxing are tours through the scenic grounds among banana, cassava, cocoa, coconut, coffee, pineapple and pimento by Segway (adult/child US$76/54), horse (US$54/43) or tractor-powered jitney (US$39/22).

  • Sights in West of Port Antonio

    Castleton Gardens

    These very fine botanic gardens, south of Annotto Bay, are spread over 12 hectares on the banks of the Wag Water River. They date back to 1862, when 400 specimens from Kew Gardens in London were transplanted on the former sugar plantation owned by Lord Castleton. More than 1000 species of natives and exotics are displayed. It's a lovely place for a picnic, and perhaps a quick dip in the Wag Water River.

  • Sights in Ocho Rios

    Ocho Rios Bay Beach

    The main beach of Ocho Rios, popular with tourists, is the long fenced-off crescent known variously as Turtle Beach and Ocho Rios Bay, stretching east from the Turtle Towers condominiums to the Renaissance Jamaica Grande Resort. There are changing rooms and palms for shade. It's a pleasant scene but can be a bit overshadowed by cruise ships when they're in port.

  • Sights in Port Antonio

    Errol Flynn Marina

    Port Antonio has one of the finest natural harbors in Jamaica, which has been converted into a posh yachting dock where sailboats moor and the well-to-do wander. At night it’s a popular place for young couples to stroll along the paths that snake around a few upmarket restaurants and shopping centers – a quiet retreat from the bustle of town.