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5 Fantastic Excursions in Ocho Rios, Jamaica (and one’s to avoid)

Ocho Rios is the 2nd most visited destination in Jamaica, right after Montego Bay, and is surrounded by natural wonders worth exploring. Whether staying in one of the all-inclusive resorts or stopping by for the day on a cruise there are several fun excursions to consider.  

We just returned home from spending two weeks in Ocho Rios and during our time there we were able to experience many excursions. Here are our recommendations for the best excursions in Ocho Rios and the ones to avoid.  

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Blue hole in Ocho Rios

Best Excursions in Ocho Rios, Jamaica

1. Go On A Catamaran Cruise

One of the best ways to enjoy your time in Ocho Rios is to take a catamaran cruise, offering the opportunity to see the island from a different perspective. You can enjoy sunbathing on the deck with a drink in hand, swim in the clear blue waters, or snorkel at one of the many reefs nearby. A catamaran cruise is a perfect way to relax and soak up the beauty of Jamaica.

In Ocho Rios, there are several options for catamaran tours, but our recommendation is one that will also take you to the base of Dunn River Falls for you to climb up. 

Best Catamaran Tour Options:

2. Dunn’s River Falls

Dunn’s River Falls is one of Jamaica’s most popular tourist attractions for good reason. The falls are located in Ocho Rios making them very convenient to get to. With a height of 600 feet, Dunn’s River Falls is one of the tallest waterfalls in Jamaica. The falls are made up of a series of tiered cascades, which create a series of refreshing natural pools. 

You can enter without a guide or take a guided excursion which will assist your group in ascending the falls from the bottom, taking photos along the way. 

Whether you’re looking to cool off on a hot day or just enjoy the natural beauty of Jamaica, Dunn’s River Falls is definitely worth a visit. Do bring small bills for tips since your guides will be asking for them pretty aggressively and avoid the souvenir stands. 

Best Dunn’s River Tour Options:

3. Zip Lines

Jamaica offers exhilarating ziplining experiences for those looking for an adrenaline rush. There are several zipline courses to choose from within the Ocho Rios area, each offering stunning views through the rainforest.  

The most convenient can be combined with your visit to Dunn River Falls. You can enjoy 4 different ziplines, including the steepest zipline I have ever been on. The real thrill is the longest zipline that has the Dunn River Falls rushing below. 

Best Zipline Tour Options:

4. The Blue Hole

The Blue Hole is one of Jamaica’s most popular tourist attractions and is located around 30 minutes from the resort area of Ocho Rios. Located in the center of the island, the Blue Hole is a large, deep pool that is surrounded by lush vegetation. 

After arriving at the Blue Hole and getting a life jacket, a short hike takes you to the Blue Hole. There is a platform about 12 feet above the pool for you to drop off of.  Following the stream down there is also a rope swing for guests and stairs to take you back to your transportation.

Best Blue Hole Tour Options:

5. River Tubing

Visiting the Blue Hole only takes about 40 minutes so many people combine it with a trip to go river tubing. This is a short 10-minute drive from the Blue Hole. 

River Tubing in Ocho Rios Jamaica

After arriving and getting life jackets you head to the river with clear and refreshing water. Floating down the river was relaxing with a few exciting areas with rushing water. The guides make sure we all stayed together and were entertained. We sang Bob Marley songs and they pointed out different vegetation as went. 

Best River Tubing Tour Options:

Excursions to Avoid in Ocho Rios

6. Horseback Ride & Swim

I love horseback riding, but in Jamaica, I wish I would have given this excursion a pass. First, it took too long to get to the actual horseback riding.  From the time we left our Sandals Resort till we were on the horse was about two hours, even though it was only 20 minutes away. The whole process was very unorganized. 

The actual horseback ride was fine, but nothing special. Things got strange as we entered the water with the horses. At first, it was really cool feeling the horse swim beneath us. Then things took a turn when the horses started pooping.  We were told to stay single file and to keep our legs in the water. When the horse in front of you pooped it would then float past your legs in the water.  Not my idea of a good excursion. 

7. Dolphin Encounter Ocho Rios

Swimming with dolphins sounds like an amazing experience, but I just feel conflicted about having dolphins in captivity for our enjoyment. Additionally, the staff is known to be very aggressive about asking for tips. 

8. ATV Rides

I have gone on several ATV rides in both the Caribbean and in the US and this was the worst.  There was a lot of waiting around and the ride was just boring with no high speeds or anything exciting. The guides were fun and maybe it would have been better with some mud, but I recommend doing this elsewhere and spending your time enjoying your resort instead. 

9. Luminous Lagoon Tour

One of the many natural phenomena in Jamaica is the Luminous Lagoon in Falmouth.

While this tour seems like fun, we heard from guests in Ocho Rios that it was not worth the time it takes to get to the lagoon. From Ocho Rios, it is over an hour of driving each way and the excursion is only around 30 minutes. The magical glow of the Luminous Lagoon only lasts a few minutes because once people start getting in the water it gets murky from the muddy bottom being kicked up. 

Tips For Enjoying Your Excursions in Ocho Rios

Bring Small Bills For Tips

The Jamaican people are very nice, but many of them are very aggressive when it comes to tipping. At some excursions the guides were amazing and we wanted to tip whether we were prompted to or not. On other excursions, we had guides that barely did anything and wanted a tip. 

One person drove us from one activity to the other which was about a 3-minute drive in a trailer and wanted to tip. So bring small bills so you can tip people but with the freedom to tip how much you would like. 

Limit Your Excursions 

We made the big mistake of going on an excursion that included 4 different activities in one day. They are very laid back and not concerned with time so we spent hours waiting around. The actual activities we did were probably a combined 90 minutes, but it took all day with long periods of waiting around between activities. We left our resort around 8 am and did not return until 4 pm. By the time we got back, we were exhausted as well.

We also do not recommend spending too many days going on excursions. Ocho Rios is known for its all-inclusive resorts so enjoy the time on the beach or snorkeling nearby. Do not feel the need to cram a bunch of excursions into your trip. I think one excursion every 2 or 3 days is plenty. 

Avoid Souvineer Stands

Some of the souvenir stands have very predatory sales tactics. For example, they will offer something small, saying it is a gift, and then ask for a “donation” refusing to take it back. Sometimes they will even carve your name on the item to make you feel even more obligated to buy.

The worst was at Dunn River Falls where you have to go through this area to get to the parking lot. We put our heads down and walked out quickly as vendors tried to get our attention while it took our fellow travelers about 10 minutes to get through the area.

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