For my spring break, I had no desire to remain in America, sit around and do nothing. I yearned for another adventure, for it had been too long since my last. My desire was heard when one of my good friends, Faith, messaged me wanting to spend spring break in the Caribbean. That kick-started us into searching for which island would be the best and which flight deal we could get. The end result? A week in Jamaica via JetBlue from Orlando to Montego Bay! After the flight was booked, the next big question remained. Where do we stay? Scouring all sorts of websites including Hostelworld and Air BnB, we attempted to find the best deals in Montego Bay within walking distance of the beach (that was a must). We did not find anything that would fit our budget, the cheapest being $300/person. Since that search turned up pricey, I started looking around Jamaica, within driving distance
from Montego Bay. Through this search I found Reggae Hostel Ocho Rios in Ocho Rios, Jamaica. The location seemed perfect (virtually right on the beach), there was free breakfast, it was in walking distance, and best of all, it was affordable! The hostel was and hour and a half to a two-hour drive by bus, but was absolutely perfect location wise! From the hostel, we walked to attractions and restaurants. So without further adieu, here is my list of Things to Eat and Things to Do when in Ocho Rios (I recommend this city over Montego Bay).
Things to Do:
Reggae Hostel Ocho Rios is within a two-mile range of many of Jamaica’s attractions. Join me as I walk you through what I recommend to do for when you come to Ocho Rios (all within walking distance).
- The Beach at Margaritaville: Most beaches in Jamaica charge admission for entrance. This is to help keep the beach clean and for guests only. A short walk from the hostel
is a shopping are called Island Village, right on the beach. Margaritaville, a restaurant in Island Village sits on a beach and allows free admission. Moreover, the beach at Margaritaville is perfect if you want drinks or snacks during your day at the beach.
- Dunn’s River Falls: This waterfall is easily the most famous waterfall in Jamaica. Every company across the island offers tours here and much of the attractions advertising features this location. The hostel was 2 miles away, so Faith and I walked to the waterfall! Admissions was not too badly priced, $20 and it included a guide to hike the waterfall (do not do it solo). The waterfall itself is situated in that you cannot view its entirety. Rather, its staggered. So, the guide started us at the base, on the beach at Dunn’s Falls. From there, the group of us locked hands and began the ascent. The way the waterfall is shaped, you climb one part and then walk through the water to the next spot to climb up. Altogether, the 900 something foot climb takes anywhere from 45 minutes to an hour. I thoroughly enjoyed climbing the waterfall and the tour guide is great about taking pictures, simply give the guide your phone before hand!
- Dolphin Cove Ocho Rios: Dolphin Cove has a few locations in Jamaica. This location was about a mile and a half from the hostel, an easy walk. If you plan on going to Dolphin Cove, try to arrange it on a day that the water is calm . We went on a rough day and everything but swimming with the dolphins was closed down. Also, if you go during the off season, you can receive major discounts on your package. Faith and I did the swim with dolphins package. For this we arrived thirty minutes early, learned how to signal the dolphins, and then were able to interact with the dolphins. While your personal time with the dolphin does not amount too much (you swim once, kiss the dolphin, hold the dolphin, and dance with the dolphin), it is still an amazing experience. I was able to mark it off my bucket list! Also, if you go during a pleasant day, you can swim with stingrays, navigate a boat, swim with nurse sharks, and play on the beach. There is also a mini zoo! The staff at the mini zoo allow you to interact with macaws, a parrot, tropical birds, an iguana, a snake, and bunnies. The staff is very knowledgeable of the animals and can answer any question! It is very common to tip them for their time.
*Side note: the signs say no photography is allowed while swimming with the dolphins (they have a photographer), simply have a friend or someone sit on the benches outside the enclosure are and have them take pictures and videos.
- Ocho Rios Bay Beach: This beach is one of the pay for beaches near the hostel. For $3 you have all day admission. The water here is even more blue and even clearer than
that at the Margaritaville Beach. Moreover, the sand here is extra fine. It is so fine that in the water, the sand feels like moldable clay. It is a strange feeling and the sand in the water is extremely fun to play with. Also, the beach here has a watersports office. Faith and I utilized this
and went snorkeling one day (Garfield Dive Center). Like Dolphin Cove, do not snorkel if the waves are rough. We did not know this and went snorkeling, there was no fish, just ocean floor. Also, when the water is super rough, there is a 99% chance of swallowing the entire Caribbean Sea (I think I did). If you snorkel, do it on a nice and pretty day.
- Hiking: The main road from Montego Bay to Ocho Rios is quite beautiful. When we hiked to Dolphin Cove and Dunn’s River Falls, we took the main road out of Ocho Rios. The hike along the road was beautiful! We walked near the ocean, encountered waterfalls, and saw interesting signs. We passed the exiting Ocho Rios sign, found the street sign, and even came across a replica of the Ocho Rios Fort (during British occupation)! It was fascinating to see all of this and the vegetation (very jungle like) simply by walking.
- Shopping in Ocho Rios: There are many, many tourist shops in Ocho Rios. I found the
best shops to be in Island Village and the Taj Mahal Shopping Center. They had a wide variety of touristy apparel and spices. When you shop, bargain with them! Make a deal, if you want a lower price, walk away and usually the shopkeepers will give you a lower price. The Blue Mountain Coffee grounds can be pricey, but some of the Taj Mahal stores have small bags for less than $10. Also, if you want jerk sauce and jerk spices, look for the shops that will have 3 for $10 deals, they do exist! Another interesting place to shop is the Craft Market but beware the shop owners will try to convince you to see their shop and do get very feisty if you keep walking. Honestly, shopping in the craft market stressed me out. Too much yelling at me and too much “come see this, come see that.”Beware that if you are out in Ocho Rios, people everywhere will want something from you whether it be for the service they provide or the goods they sell. Get very used to briskly walking away and having insults thrown your way for not shopping in their place.
- Turtle River Park: This kids park/walking park was almost right across from the
hostel. There is a cute playground and walking trails. It is a great location if you need some quality backdrops for instagram! It is also very beautiful with the flora and fauna throughout the park. Very peaceful if you need a quite minute outside.
- Blue Hole: Faith and I did not make it to this attraction. However, several people in our hostel had been here and gave it rave reviews! You can book a taxi for $10-20 to the site and once there it is $10 to get in. There are ledges to jump off and rope swings to hang off! For those who have gone, this has been a favorite.
- Luminous Lagoon/Glistening Waters: Faith and I also did not have time to do this as it was more than an hour drive from the hostel. The hostel offered a $40 tour. What this entails is the drive to the area, a boat ride at night, and once at a certain spot, the ocean lights up bright blue with bioluminescent. Jamaica is supposedly one of four places in the world that this phenomenon can be experienced. If you have time, I recommend doing this!
Things to Eat:
One of the best parts of my week in Jamaica was the food! The food was a little more pricey than anticipated (coffee was $5-7), but overall delicious! Here are the places to eat and what to order!
*Side note: dining in Jamaica takes a while. Prepare for an hour or two for your meal. Restaurants close early on Sundays. Also, split checks are not super common.
* Government tax in Jamaica is 16.5% so add that to your tab plus tip!
- Ocean’s 11: This restaurant has a superb view! It juts over the water as a pier would. Moreover, you can sit on the top floor, against the railing, and eat your meal with a perfect view of the water! We went here twice and I ordered a jerk chicken sandwich the first time and calamari and red velvet cake the second time. I definitely would recommend the jerk chicken sandwich! As for the red velvet cake, it is tasty, but not how Americans view red velvet cake. It is not as sweet and the icing is somewhat bitter.
- . Jim Crow’s Tavern: One of the more pricey places in Ocho Rios, it stays open later than most and has a great menu! I ordered a jerk chicken pizza and was certainly not disappointed! The pizza was so filling I had leftovers for days!
- Mamma Marley’s: This restaurant was conveniently located in the Taj Mahal Shopping Center. The food is more expensive than the others in the area. Out of all the restaurants, this was probably my least favorite The menu is not as large, the food is more expensive, and they give you less.
- Reggae Alley Bar & Grill: I went to two restaurants before this trying to find someone who had fried conch. The two before were fresh out. However, the third time was the charm! The fried conch at Reggae Alley was delicious! It was a first for me and dipped in ketchup was scrumptious. If you go to any Caribbean island, I recommend trying conch.
- Island Coffees Cafe: Located in Island Village, this coffee shop quickly became a favorite for both me and Faith. The coffee was from a family farm and the shop ran by the family. There was a large variety in coffee drinks (including spiked drinks) and even a lunch menu! I am not ashamed to say I ordered coffee here three times over the course of a week. #noregrets
- Island Grill: Late in the week, Faith and I ran low on vacation funds. Rather than dining at a restaurant in which we would pay $10-$15 for a meal, we discovered a Jamaican fast food restaurant! The food was excellent and I ate the best french fries in my entire life. The fast food place itself reminds you of a combination of Burger King and McDonald’s yet is ten times cleaner and ten times less greasy.
- Cafe Blue: Located in the Montego Bay Airport is this quaint coffee shop! The coffee drinks here are a little more expensive, but so fabulous. While you wait for the customs line to die down, Cafe Blue is an excellent place to grab a cold coffee and relax. Plus, it is the last chance to drink Blue Mountain Coffee before departing.
- Dolphin Cove Dining in Little Port Royal: There is a restaurant upstairs in Little Port Royal. They have unlimited drinks for $15 and a $10 buffet. The buffet was awesome! I was able to get jerk chicken, dumplings, and pasta!
- Snacks and Drinks: Jamaican chocolate is fantastic! Moreover, the cookie snacks in their grocery stores are also really tasty. The strawberry ones were the favorites of both Faith and I. The soda fountain in Jamaica is also very unique. The Coke there has a fruity undertone. The have a drink flavored kola champagne, one of my favorites. The drink essentially tastes like orange soda with vanilla in it.
At the end of the day, Jamaica is a beautiful country. The shades of green are amazing. The jungle atmosphere is completely unique. The food is incredible. The beaches are beautiful. It was the most spectacular week away from school work I had ever spent. For those looking to travel outside America without going to far, Jamaica is a great place to vacation!