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Ocho Rios Jamaica Resorts, Hotels and Inns
BREEZES GOLF AND BEACH RESORT North Coast Highway, Runaway Bay
876-973-2436, fax 876-973-2352; reservations 877-GO-SUPER
This property was one of our first stops when we came to the island. At that time, it was known as Jamaica-Jamaica. The property, still part of the SuperClubs chain, has seen many renovations and is still one of the most popular resorts on the island. Guests here enjoy use of a golf course and school right across the road, as well as tennis, horseback riding, windsurfing (with a Mistral school on the property) and more. Rooms have a tropical decor and the grounds are always immaculate (as with all SuperClubs).
BOSCOBEL BEACH East of Ocho Rios at Oracabessa
876-975-7330, fax 876-975-7370; reservations 877-GO-SUPER
This SuperClubs resort is an excellent destination for families. Starting with the carousel horses and childrens music that greet arrivals at the entrance, everything is kid-friendly at this property. Three types of rooms are offered: lanai (smallest), junior suite (with a step-down living room/kids sleeping area with two twin beds/couches), and two-story junior suites. The kids program accommodates all age groups from toddlers to teens and entertains with arts and crafts, swimming, games and more. An adults-only section offers a piano bar, Italian restaurant, hot tub and pool.
CIBONEY Main Street
876-974-1027, fax 876-974-5838; reservations 800-CIBONEY
The feel of Ciboney is much different from other resorts in this area, with the atmosphere of a small subdivision, a place with street signs and roads. The 226 villa suites are scattered throughout the hillside and each has a plunge pool just steps away. Transport from the main house to the 226 villas is available anytime. Ciboney offers 14 honeymoon suites with sunken baths, kitchen and living room. Each villa also comes with maid service.
Theres a weekly nature walk around the property, with guides pointing out lemons, limes, coconuts, guavas, mangos and other tropical fruits that are tended by 50 gardeners on staff. The property spans 45 acres.
This all-suite hotel is perched high on a hill overlooking Ocho Rios. The recent construction offers 71 one- and two-bedroom suites with balconies, air conditioning, kitchenettes, satellite TV, telephones and fold-out sofas; two-bedroom suites also have Jacuzzi tubs. Theres a restaurant on the property.
COUPLES OCHO RIOS North Coast Highway, east of Ocho Rios
876-975-4271, fax 876-975-4439; reservations 800-268-7537
As its name suggests, this resort is for couples only. This immensely popular all-inclusive makes vacation fun easy. It is also admirable for its promotion of off-property attractions, to which free excursions are offered. Travelers can enjoy trips to Dunns River Falls, a day of shopping in Ocho Rios, or a sunset cruise as part of the package.
Couples has a large white sand beach with a full menu of watersports. If you want an all-over tan, a boat will carry you out to a small island specially set aside for nude sunbathing, where you can enjoy plenty of sun as well as a dip in the pool and a cocktail at the swim-up bar.
This romantic resort is best known for its tropical gardens and waterfalls. It sits on the hillside, with the beach just a short shuttle ride away. There are 113 rooms and five restaurants here. Facilities include tennis, a fitness center, yoga, Tai Chi, bird feeding and non-motorized watersports. One-hour tours of the gardens and waterfalls are run on a regular basis.
FISHERMANS POINT Main Street
876-974-5317, fax 876-974-2894
This condo complex bills itself as Jamaicas first luxury seafront condominium resort. Located on Turtle Beach, each unit has a kitchenette, satellite TV, bathroom and private balcony. You have the choice of a one- or two-bedroom apartment. Facilities include a childrens playground, pools, restaurant and supervised childrens program.
FRANKLIN D. RESORT (FDR) North Coast Highway, Runaway Bay
876-973-3067, fax 876-973-4600; reservations 800-654-1-FDR
FDR is a favorite with families. It offers a supervised childrens program, but the resort also has a unique feature: Vacation Nannies. One nanny is assigned to every suite and tends to the childrens needs; baby-sitting services in the evening are also available for a very low fee. The property is a big hit with the kids because they are offered everything a child could want, including a disco (one for kids and another for teens) and an arts and crafts center (all the kids make leather necklace name tags for their first project).
Theres a full array of watersports as well and two peaceful bays that are calm enough for childrens swimming.
GOLDENEYE Oracabessa, St. Mary
876-975-3354, fax 876-975-3679; reservations 800-OUTPOST
If youve won the lottery and youre wondering where to stay on your next visit to Jamaica, this might just be the place. Located eight minutes from Oracabessa (15 minutes from Ochi), Goldeneye is a one-of-a-kind getaway.
The Goldeneye house itself is available for rent at $5,000 per day for up to six guests. The Ian Fleming Villa, a three-bedroom accommodation, has a garden dining area, private beach and full-time staff to whip up meals. A private TV room features a big screen TV, satellite programming, VCR, bar and more. Another option is Goldeneye Village, a flexible configuration of cottages (eight bedrooms, total) that may be rented as individual units or as a group. Each has indoor and outdoor dining facilities, kitchen, private beach access and entertainment/TV room. These units are newly built and decorated with local artwork and fabrics.
Goldeneye has seen many celebrities. During Flemings lifetime, the writer played host to Noel Coward, Errol Flynn and Elizabeth Taylor. Now, as part of Chris Blackwells empire, the propertys stellar guest list has included Martha Stewart, Jim Carrey, Christy Turlington, Quincy Jones, Harry Belafonte and Naomi Campbell. Each famous guest has planted a tree, now marked with plaques, on Goldeneye grounds.
GRAND LIDO BRACO VILLAGE RESORT West of Runaway Bay on North Coast Highway, Runaway Bay
876-954-0000, fax 876-954-0020; reservations 877-GO-SUPER
New to the SuperClubs chain, this resort was built with the purpose of recreating a Jamaican village, and youll find everyone from the peanut man offering fresh roasted goodies to the jerk cook to the woodcarver. The resort is built around a town square with cafés, art stores and a friendly feel. Its no substitute for getting out and experiencing a real Jamaican village, but for first-timers it can be educational and fun. Theres also a full array of all-inclusive diversions: tennis, soccer, golf, beaches and watersports.
GRAND LIDO SANS SOUCI North Coast Highway, 2 miles east of Ocho Rios
876-974-2353, fax 876-974-2544; reservations 877-467-8737
Grand Lido Sans Souci, one of the SuperClubs chain, is ultra-luxurious the place to go for relaxation and first-class pampering. The adults-only (16 and over) resort is built on a hillside, with rooms that wind from the public areas down to the beach below. There are two beaches, one reserved for au naturel sunbathing.
A stay here includes complimentary services at Charlies Spa, located by a natural spring. You can have a massage, manicure, pedicure, reflexology, body scrub and facial.
While youre at the spa, keep an eye out for Charlie, the resident turtle who lives in the springs cave.
Recently, the 146-suite resort added 36 one-bedroom Jacuzzi suites as well as a new freeform pool, tennis courts, a jogging track, volleyball court and an expanded games room. Your all-inclusive fee offers unlimited golf at Breezes Golf & Beach Resort, 24-hour room service, watersports and meeting facilities for up 80 participants theater-style. Day and night passes can purchased by non-guests.
HEDONISM III Runaway Bay
876-973-4100, fax 876-973-5402; reservations 877-GO-SUPER
This all-inclusive resort is the sister to Negrils Hedonism II. Like the longtime favorite, the atmosphere here encourages visitors to shed their inhibitions and take part in the fun. Along with swim-up rooms (the first in Jamaica), theres a nude beach, nude pool, waterslide, circus workshop and more.
JAMAICA INN Two miles east of Ocho Rios, North Coast Highway
876-974-2514, fax 876-974-2449; reservations 800-837-4670
This classic Caribbean inn with 45 suites has drawn such visitors as model Kate Moss, Phil Donahue, Marlo Thomas and actor Albert Finney. Sir Winston Churchill was a frequent guest here and favored the White Suite. Each suite has a beach view, private verandah and antique furnishings. The inn is also home to a noted restaurant.
PLANTATION INN Main Street
876-974-5601, fax 876-974-5912; reservations 800-752-6824
This 63-room hideaway, styled like an old plantation mansion, was used in the filming of Prelude to a Kiss, starring Meg Ryan and Alec Baldwin. The property offers plenty of activities. Rooms have large private balconies.
RENAISSANCE JAMAICA GRANDE RESORT Main Street
876-974-2201, fax 876-974-5378; reservations 800-HOTELS1
This large, sprawling hotel has the largest meeting space in Ocho Rios, and hosts many meetings. Many conventioneers bring their spouses and children, who find plenty of activity. But there are lots of reasons to stay at Jamaica Grande even if youre on your own. We stayed here recently and enjoyed a beautiful seaside room.
Downtown Ocho Rios is just a short walk away. A protected beach offers calm, quiet waters for an afternoon swim. The swim-up bar in the pool sits beneath a 26-foot replica of Dunns River Falls. The resort features two towers of rooms, but our choice would be the cabana rooms, right on the beach. Lower-floor rooms step right out onto the sand.
RUNAWAY BAY HEART HOTEL AND TRAINING INSTITUTE Runaway Bay
876-973-2671, fax 876-973-2693; reservations 212-319-2100
This hotel offers something a little bit different. Its a training institute operated by the government of Jamaica to teach young people skills of the hotel trade. There are just 20 rooms, each with air conditioning, telephone, satellite TV and private bath. The beach is a five-minute shuttle ride away; golf is available next door. The hotel also offers the Cardiff Hall Restaurant for formal dining. Prices at this resort are a bargain.
SANDALS DUNNS RIVER North Coast Highway
876-972-1610, fax 876-972-1611; reservations 800-SANDALS
This massive Sandals establishment is custom-made for people who enjoy fun in the form of organized activity and watersports. A new spa here features a full menu of treatments, including reflexology, body scrubs and aromatherapy. Its located in a newly renovated fitness center (an open-air beauty that would inspire anyone to pump a little iron) and includes hot and cold plunge pools and private treatment rooms in a luxurious atmosphere.
Just down the road from Sandals Dunns River, Sandals Ocho Rios is one of the most romantic resorts in the chain, with lavishly planted grounds that bloom with birds of paradise and buzz with the sound of hummingbirds. Sandals founder Butch Stewart grew up on these grounds; the building used for the piano bar was his grandparents home.
Guests at Sandals Ocho Rios enjoy the Stay at One, Dine at Six policy and can take meals at the other Sandals properties. A reservation desk at Sandals Ocho Rios arranges reservations for meals at other properties; a free shuttle to Sandals Dunns River makes dining at that nearby property easy.
SHAW PARK BEACH HOTEL Cutlass Bay
876-974-2552, fax 876-974-5042; reservations 800-377-1126
This low-rise hotel is set on a long stretch of white beach. It offers 33 standard guest rooms with shower only, 60 superior (with both a shower and tub) and 13 suites. Regardless of category, every room has a balcony or terrace overlooking the sea. Amenities include deep-sea fishing, sailing, windsurfing, scuba diving, aerobics, tennis and a childrens play area.
TAMARIND TREE Runaway Bay
876-973-2678, fax 876-973-5013
Located within walking distance of the beach, this 25-room inn is air conditioned throughout and has a pool, satellite TV in the rooms and a disco.
VILLAGE HOTEL 54 Main Street
876-974-9193, fax 876-974-5440
This 32-room resort is air conditioned and has a restaurant, satellite TV, pool, health club and disco. Within walking distance of the beach.
Things to Do and See in Ocho Rios Jamaica
Ocho Rios has some interesting sites, many of which feature beautiful greenery and tropical surroundings.
COLUMBUS PARK Discovery Bay
This open-air park marks the spot where, according to some, Columbus first set foot on Jamaica. The small park is worth a stop if youre already heading along the North Coast Highway. You can see cannons and maritime artifacts.
FIREFLY Port Maria
Hours: 8:30-5:30 daily
The historic home of playwright Noel Coward is open for tours. Named for the luminous insects seen in the warm evenings, this house has certainly entertained its share of luminaries from the political and entertainment worlds, including Queen Elizabeth II, Sir Laurence Olivier, Sophia Loren, Elizabeth Taylor, Alec Guiness, Peter OToole and Richard Burton. A tour of Firefly includes a look at the home, photos of the many celebrity guests and the grounds where Coward is now buried.
This is the one attraction that just about every cruise ship passenger and resort guest enjoys, a spectacular series of falls that is actually climbable. Guides lead groups up the falls. At the end of the climb, you are led into a hectic market with vendors selling crafts, carvings and T-shirts.
Be prepared to get wet and have fun at Dunns River Falls, but dont expect a quiet, private getaway. The adventure here can be trying to work your way through crowds of tourists and higglers.
FERN GULLY A3, south of Ocho Rios
Fern Gully is a stretch of Highway A3 that winds south from Ocho Rios. For three miles, the road is lined with lush ferns and innumerable plants; well worth a drive even if youre not headed that way.
Runaway Bay is a town in Saint Ann Parish on the northern coast of Jamaica. Runaway Bay is a notable tourist destination located 16 km west of Ocho Ríos, and slightly east of Discovery Bay. It is also the location of the Hedonism III nudist resort. Ocean View Beach is a private beach situated at Runaway Bay. You're so far removed from the action such as it is in Ocho Rios, you stay at Runaway Bay mainly if you're interested in hanging out at a particular resort. It is especially recommended for those who want to escape from the hordes descending on Ocho Rios, where cruise ship crowds and aggressive vendors can intrude on your solitude. This part of Jamaica's North Coast has several distinctions: It was the first part of the island seen by Columbus, the site of the first Spanish settlement on the island, and the point of departure of the last Spaniards leaving Jamaica following their defeat by the British.
PROSPECT PLANTATION TOUR A-1 west of Ocho Rios
If youre interested in learning about Jamaicas fruits, this is an excellent opportunity. This working farm takes visitors by tractor-drawn jitney or on horseback to view fields of bananas, cassava, sugarcane, coffee, allspice and more.
An easy walk in Ocho Rios is the One Love Trail, a roadside paved walkway with sea views. It runs from the bauxite factory to Dunns River Falls.
This two-day hike starts with an early morning pick-up from Ocho Rios hotels then heads off into the mountains for a trek in the national park. After overnighting (and we mean a short overnight) in a log cabin, groups begin the trek to the summit at 2 am, arriving at the top in time for sunrise.
CRANBROOK FLOWER FOREST West of Ocho Rios at Laughlands, one mile off
North Coast Highway (sign on left past Chukka Cove)
Hours: 9-5:30 daily
876-770-8071 or 995-3097
A popular picnic destination for families, this beautiful garden also offers a good hike. Budget about an hour to walk from the central gardens to the waterfalls; bring rubber-sole shoes for walking on the often-wet rocks.
SANDALS GOLF AND COUNTRY CLUB 876-975-0119
This course takes advantage of the verdant scenery for which Ocho Rios is known. The lovely clubhouse has an elegant restaurant and bar to enjoy after play. Par 72.
BRACO VILLAGE RESORT GOLF CLUB West of Runaway Bay on North Coast Highway
This nine-hole course and club includes a putting green and driving range. Par 28.
BREEZES GOLF AND BEACH RESORT North Coast Highway
This championship course sits across the street from the Breezes Resort and many of its guests use the excellent facilities. The course has hosted such events as the Heineken World Cup Western Zone Qualifier and the Jamaica Open. The course includes a clubhouse, restaurant and pro shop. Par 72.
Ocho Rios is a better choice for bicyclists than bustling Montego Bay, but still be careful along the North Coast Highway. Rental bikes are available at some resorts, as well as Abe Rental & Sales Ltd, 876-974-1008, and Jakes Bike Rental, 876-973-4403.
BLUE MOUNTAIN BICYCLE TOURS LTD. Main Street, Ocho Rios
876-974-7075 or 974-7492, fax 876-974-0635
Great for those who arent up for a mountain bike trek uphill, these tours cruise 18 miles downhill through the Blue Mountains and the tropical rain forest. Tours include brunch, lunch, refreshments and all bike equipment.
HIGH HOPE MOUNTAIN BICYCLE ECOTOUR 16 Top Road, St. Anns Bay
876-972-2997, fax 876-972-1607
Of special interest to ecotourists and those who arent out for a challenge, this tour takes a five-mile downhill route through the beautiful hills, starting 2,300 feet above sea level. A guide points out the native species seen along the way. Complimentary fruit juices are provided and fruit sampling is encouraged. This tour is recommended for travelers 12 to 60 years old in good health with no physical handicaps. A bicycle helmet and safety lesson are given.
Beaches of Ocho Rios
Ocho Rios is home to several beautiful beaches. Note: Resort beaches are private and restricted to use by guests or those who have obtained day passes. Guests or day pass visitors at the SuperClubs area resorts (Grand Lido Sans Souci, Grand Lido Braco) or Couples Ocho Rios have nude beaches on-site. The Couples Ocho Rios beach is especially unusual because it is located on a small offshore island that includes a swim-up bar, a pool, hammocks and restrooms.
James Bond Beach (876-975-3663), west of Ocho Rios in the town of Oracabessa in St. Mary, is near Ian Flemings former home, Goldeneye. Its open daily and admission is charged. Ian Fleming used to come here for a swim. It offers plenty of opportunities for active travelers, including Wave Runners, helicopter tours and horseback rides. Theres also a beach bar and grill. Admission charged.
MOVIES MADE IN JAMAICA Jamaicas varied terrain has played host to many Hollywood films. Check out some of these movies for a look at Jamaica on the big screen: Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea; Island in the Sun; Dr. No; A High Wind in Jamaica; The Harder They Come; Papillon; Live and Let Die; Return to Treasure Island; Club Paradise; Claras Heart; Cocktail; Mighty Quinn; Wide Sargasso Sea; Scam; Cool Runnings; How Stella Got Her Groove Back.
Scuba Diving Dive operators are found at most of the all-inclusive hotels, including Couples, Enchanted Gardens, Club Jamaica, both Sandals and Sans Souci. Local Ocho Rios dive sites include:
Jacks Hall, a 40-foot dive with all types of coral.
Devils Reef, a sloping ridge east of Ocho Rios that is home to many sponges as well as morays.
Top of the Mountain, a 60-foot dive near Dunns River Falls filled with many coral heads and gorgonians.
Wreck of the Katryn, a 50-foot dive to a 140-foot minesweeper that was deliberately sunk.
Dickies Reef, good for beginners, starting at a depth of 22 feet.
Boscobel, 876-974-2353 or 957-7330
Couples Ocho Rios, 876-975-4271/2/3/4/5
Enchanted Gardens, 876-972-1937
Garfields Dive Station, 876-544-4354 or 876-544-4424
The Braco and Runaway Bay areas are home to two dive shops operated by Resort Divers (an operator with offices in Montego Bay, Runaway Bay and Ocho Rios; web site www.resortdiver.com). Grand Lido Braco is home to Resort Divers, 876-974-5338 or 954-0657, fax 974-0577. In Runaway Bay, Resort Divers is located at FDR Resort, 876-974-5338. Good dive sites in the Runaway Bay and Braco areas include:
Caverns, a 40-foot dive thats often the home of nurse sharks.
Nursery, a 20-30-foot site that includes large coral heads.
Wow Cliff, a wall dive that borders the Cayman Trench.
Ganja Planes, two aircraft that ran you guessed it ganja a few decades ago. Today they provide a perfectly legal high to divers with their varied fish life (including many barracudas). An intermediate or advanced dive.
Judys Paradise. An intermediate or advanced drift dive, this site is known for its rays, turtles and nurse sharks.
Fishing in Jamaica Go out with an operator for a half-day or full day of deep-sea fishing off the coast. Those with experience may bring home tonights dinner!
Broadreach Cruises, 876-974-2527
King Fisher & Sun Fisher 876-974-2726 or 974-2260
Mitzy, 876-974-2527 or 957-4224
Sunfisher Ltd., 876-994-2294
Triple B, 876-975-327r
HELITOURS 120 Main Street
876-974-2264, fax 876-974-2183
For the best view of Ocho Rios, consider a quick helicopter tour. We tried this, traveling from the Couples Resort up the coast to get a birds-eye view of Goldeneye, and it was an experience to remember. The operator offers three tours. The Jamaican Showcase lasts one hour and goes all the way to Kingston and Port Maria. The Memories of Jamaica tour, a half-hour ride, travels over Noel Cowards Firefly and Ian Flemings Goldeneye. The Ocho Rios Fun Hop, a 15-minute trip, swings over Shaw Park Gardens, Fern Gully, Prospect Plantation and Dunns River Falls.
Guided Trail Rides
CHUKKA COVE EQUESTRIAN CENTRE North Coast Highway, between Runaway Bay and Ocho Rios
876-972-2506, fax 876-972-0814
Chukka Cove is well known for its world-class polo matches, but the center also offers guided horseback trips along the beach and in the mountains. They operate a very popular three-hour beach ride for beginners and experienced riders that departs daily at 9 am and 2 pm. The trip takes you through Richmond and Llandovery, two of the oldest sugar estates on the island. Shower facilities on the beach are available and free refreshments are served.
HOOVES LTD. 4 Church Crescent, St. Anns Bay
876-972-0905, fax 876-972-9204
This tour company offers two guided horseback tours. The Hooves Beach Trail takes 21&Mac218;2 hours, departing at 9:30 and 2:30 daily. The ride crosses Seville Estate in St. Ann with a visit to the great house and break on the beach (including a ride in the sea).
The Bush Doctor Mountain Trail is a two-hour trail ride 1,800 feet above sea level. It offers a good chance to peek at the rural side of Jamaica. Rides are offered at 9:30 and 2:30 daily.
Refreshments are included, as is round-trip transportation from Ocho Rios, Boscobel, Oracabessa and Runaway Bay hotels. There is a weight limitation of 250 pounds and riders should wear long pants and sneakers; those taking the beach ride should bring swimsuits and towels. Discounts are offered for children under 12 and private rides are available on request.
COYABA RIVER GARDEN AND MUSEUM Shaw Park Estate, Shaw Park Ridge Road
Hours: 8:30-5 daily
INTERESTING FACT: Coyaba is an Arawak word that describes the practice of burning herbs on flat stones. The scent put the Indians into a heavenly state, or coyaba.
This attraction offers information and displays on the Arawaks through a small but nice museum. Starting with pre-Columbian history, displays follow the development of the island through the years. Special exhibits spotlight the famous sons of St. Ann, including Bob Marley and Marcus Garvey, while other recall the history of the region with facts such as Falmouths introduction of electricity, something achieved before the city of Philadelphia boasted electric power.
A lot of people who come to Jamaica dont get to see the real Jamaica, explains Toni Allen, manager. Were a beautiful country but we also have a beautiful people and a beautiful history.
The real splendor of this attraction lies in its beautiful gardens. Stroll past natural springs and waterfalls, where small pools are filled with colorful koi and turtles. Ginger lilies, silk cotton trees (which bloom only every seven years), Jamaican cedar, pimento, jade vines and bamboo fill the park that lies alongside the Milford River Head (with a daily flow of two million gallons).
The gardens also have small, self-contained accommodations. Especially well suited to couples, the charming rooms were constructed using bricks from Port Royal.
CRANBROOK FLOWER FOREST West of Ocho Rios at Laughlands, one mile
off North Coast Highway (sign on left one mile past Chukka Cove)
Hours: 9-5:30 daily
876-770-8071 or 995-3097
This beautiful park, a recent addition to Ochis tourist offerings, is a must-see for anyone who wants to experience the lush beauty of Jamaica away from the crowds. The area is the private creation of Ivan Linton, who has pampered the plants of this former plantation for over two decades. It has taken 19 years to develop, says Linton. I am a dabbler. Ive always enjoyed gardening and been involved in horticultural societies.
Today, Linton proudly points out the bird of paradise, croton, ginger, heliconia and begonias. The grounds are perfect for a picnic. After you eat, hike alongside the shady Laughlands Great River. The path climbs high into the hills to a waterfall paradise and is highly recommended.
The day we journeyed here, children were playing in the river as their mothers did laundry in the shallow water. Other activities include bird watching, pond fishing, croquet, donkey rides and volleyball.
Be sure to wear good walking shoes for the hike at Cranbrook. On our recent visit, we hiked up to the waterfalls over very slippery rocks.
GREEN GROTTO 2 miles east of Discovery Bay
At the bottom of the cave lies a subterranean lake where you can ride on a boat. The cave was used as a hiding place for many people throughout history, from pirates to the Spanish governor, who was looking for a place to avoid the British. This is a good destination for those who want to see caves without really going off the beaten path.
SHAW PARK BOTANICAL GARDENS Cutlass Bay
Hours: 8-5 daily
These beautiful 25-acre gardens are perched high above Ocho Rios, with excellent views of the bay and the coast. The gardens include a stunning waterfall as well as many tropical blooms.
WALKERSWOOD 7 miles south of Ocho Rios on A3
If youve shopped for Jamaican food either on or off the island, youre probably familiar with Walkerswood. This small community produces the popular Walkerswood Jerk Sauce, which spreads a taste of Jamaica throughout the world. Today if youre traveling beyond Fern Gully, youll see this small community. The factory isnt open to the public, but the efforts of this village can be found island-wide.
Thanks to the popular food purveyor, the tiny village exerts an influence far beyond the borders of St. Annes Parish. Established in 1978, the company was conceived as a project to provide employment to residents of the area located in the hilly countryside just inland from the north coast. Founder and Managing Director Johnny McFarlane recalls that initially the company made fudge, then fish cakes to supply the nearby Jamaica Defense Force Base, as well as selling seasoned sausages and pork to local bars. While these dishes proved popular, it was the seasoning with which they were prepared that really ignited the companys success.
Walkerswood Jerk Sauce, made in the traditional way with hot peppers, scallions and spices, was originally sold in a market in Ocho Rios. It soon became popular not only with locals, but also with travelers who liked it so much that they raved to their neighbors. Letters (and sometimes money) began to pour in from customers desperate to replenish their supply of jerk sauce from afar.
In 1986, the company began exporting their Jerk Seasoning in earnest, opening a small sales office in Miami. Walkerswoods first year of exports, says McFarlane, were all of US $15,000, but have since grown dramatically, reaching US $3 million last year.
Although the company has grown, it remains very much a part of the Walkerswood community. The factory, located since 1978 on the grounds of the Bromley Great House in the village of Walkerswood, at present employs around 60 local residents.
12 miles south of Ocho Rios on A3 to intersection of A1;
continue south on A1 about 4 miles
Foodies shouldnt miss the small community of Faiths Pen, where rows of food stands offer food specialties with home-cooked taste. For just a few dollars, buy a streetside lunch of jerk or callaloo served at a picnic table. Faiths Pen stalls include such names as Neitas One Stop, Johnny Cool No. 1 and Shuts Night and Day. Look for jerk chicken, curried goat, roast fish and mannish water. You can expect to fill up on traditional dishes for under $10 per person. The facilities are spartan. Each stall has a small area with stools, and meals are served on Styrofoam plates.
NINE MILE South on B-3 from Runaway Bay 18 miles to Alexandria;
turn east in Alexandria to Nine Mile
This small community was the birthplace of reggae legend Bob Marley. Today his former home is the Bob Marley Centre and Mausoleum (open daily; admission). Tucked behind a tall fence, the site is marked with green and gold flags. Tours are led by Rastafarians who take visitors through the house and point out the single bed that Marley wrote about in Is This Love. The homes walls are filled with photographs and scribbled messages left by fans.
This site can be a hassle, with numerous vendors and attempts to harass tourists, so consider a guided tour for this excursion.
One of the best polo facilities in the Caribbean is just outside Ocho Rios. Chukka Cove Equestrian Centre, on the North Coast Highway, is home to many international matches. Open daily; admission charged. 876-972-2506, fax 876-972-0814. See page 174 for details about horseback riding excursions offered by Chukka.
Ocho Rios doesnt have the selection of shops found in Montego Bay, but shoppers will find plenty of shop-portunities in this port city.
Shopping Districts One of the top shopping areas is Sonis Plaza, on Main Street, filled with duty-free shops offering good buys on jewelry, watches, perfumes, liquor and more. Many of the hotel personnel we talked with in the downtown area shopped regularly at Sonis for clothing and jewelry. Top shops here include Chulani Jewelers (fine gold and gemstone jewelry, watches and perfumes), Casa De Oro (sells everything from Tiffany watches to Mikimoto pearls), The Gold Mine (features Krieger, Bulova, Swiss Military watches and fine jewelry) and others.
Another top shopping area is the Tajmahal Shopping Centre. This open-air mall is home to Bijoux Jewelers (Breitling watches, Raymond Weil watches, Swarovski crystal, Baccarat crystal, Hummel figurines, Fendi leather), Casa De Oro (Mikimoto pearls, Fendi leather, Cartier leather, Tag Heuer watches, Tiffany watches and jewelry, Rado watches, and an extensive perfume center) and Mohans Duty Free Shop (crystal, perfumes, cigars, Cross and Parker pens and Swiss Army knives).
Crafts Ocho Rios has two craft parks, both off Main Street. The Ocho Rios Craft Park, opposite the Ocean Village Shopping Centre, is open 8-6, Monday through Saturday. It has 154 vendors selling everything from sandals to woodcarvings to straw goods. The Olde Market Craft Shoppes is nearby and also has plenty of handmade goods.
Expect to bargain for the best price at both places, but do it in good fun and youll find that the vendors are not as high-pressure as they seem.
Another interesting stop is Wassi Art Pottery Works, on Back Street in the community of Great Pond (on the east side of Ocho Rios).This shop offers a tour of its factory. Visitors learn that the pottery is made of clay from Castleton, a small town in the mountains of northeast Jamaica. The clay is worked into a variety of objects tiles, sculptures, plates, candlesticks and sold at the store and at fine boutiques island-wide.
Art Gallery Art lovers will also enjoy a stop at Harmony Hall, 876-975-4222 or 876-974-2870. This excellent art gallery is one of Jamaicas best and a good place to purchase original works of art. Dont miss the Annabella pieces, souvenir boxes decorated with Jamaican art. Harmony Hall sponsors several art shows annually.
Nightlife Much of the late-night action in Ocho Rios takes place in the resorts and along a stretch of James Street known as the Reggae Strip. The area is similar, although smaller in scale, to Mo Bays Hip Strip. This Reggae Strip (directly across from the Renaissance Jamaica Grande) comes alive every Thursday evening starting at 7pm. At that time, the street bustles with live entertainers and booths offering local cuisine. One of the top nightspots in town is Jamaicn Me Crazy at the Renaissance Jamaica Grande. Its popular with both locals and travelers. 876-974-2201.