Jamaica’s stunning beaches are its claim to fame, but savvy travelers — like The Real Housewives of Atlanta, who recently paid a visit — know that there’s so much more to discover on this diverse island. Forget perfect waves and rum drinks and explore Jamaica’s other natural treasures: A trip to the port city of Ocho Rios supplies insta-worthy scenery as well as opportunities to experience waterfalls, mountains, caves, and water gardens. Ochi also serves up delectable local cuisine. So ditch the beach lounger (at least for a few hours here and there) and try these Ocho Rios adventures.
1. Dunn’s River Falls
One of Jamaica’s most famous natural wonders, Dunn’s River Falls is a spectacular sight, with waterfalls spouting out over 600 feet. The falls cascade into Dunn’s River and feature crevices and formations perfect for climbing. Scaling up the falls and relaxing in one of the lagoons or pools is the ultimate Jamaican excursion. Film buffs might recognize the nearby Dunn’s River beach as the location where Ursula Anders saunters out in the James Bond classic, Dr. No.
2. Green Grotto Caves
Photo: Courtesy of Jim Smith
Explore the underground caverns of Green Grotto Caves, for an unexpected island excursion. The caves were used by Jamaica’s indigenous Arawak settlers during ancient times and served as a hideout for 17th century Spanish colonialists and were finally converted into storage for rum barrels in the 20th century. Today you can take a tour through the limestone labyrinths and view rock formations, stalactites, and light holes. Finish off the journey with a dip in the subterranean lake.
3. Mystic Mountain
Photo: Rosalind Cummings-Yeates
Scale the heights of Jamaica’s native beauty with a visit to the 700-foot Mystic Mountain peak. You can choose to whiz through the lush rainforest canopy with a zip line tour, grab a scenic rise to the top of the mountain with the Sky Explorer ChairLift or glide down in the signature bobsled ride. Inspired by the famous Jamaican bobsled team, the ride rushes down the mountainside using the force of gravity. It’s a one-of-a kind experience that you can only have in Jamaica.
4. Coyaba River Garden and Museum
Photo: Courtesy of Jamaica Tourist Board
Soak up the serenity of Jamaica’s tropical splendor at the Coyaba River Garden and Museum. Coyaba translates to paradise in the Arawak language, and strolling through the secluded gardens will make you feel like you’re in your own private paradise. The manicured, three-acre gardens features a mini version of the Dunn’s River Waterfalls, a water garden filled with tropical plants and fed by streams and a natural aquarium. A 45-minute guided tour explains the museum’s history and the contributions of Jamaica’s first Arawak settlers.
5. Ocho Rios Jerk Centre
The landscape isn’t the only thing that makes Jamaica so special: The cuisine provides another kind of fun adventure. You may think you’ve sampled jerked meats before — but unless it was smoked on an open fire with Jamaican pimento wood, it wasn’t the authentic Jamaican jerk. You can taste the real thing at the Ocho Rios Jerk Centre, a local favorite for spicy servings of jerked pork, chicken, ribs, or fish. The open-air eatery also features daily specials like curried goat and catches of the day. Wash it all down with a cold Red Stripe beer and relax under the thatched roof as you revel in your Jamaica adventures.
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