As if a ride in a regular Jamaican minibus wasn’t thrilling enough, we present more plum experiences to ‘big up’ your Ochi and St Ann sojourn.
A shrewd choice of a more organised tour operator should sweeten your daily schedule and transport you safely to wherever-and-back in time for tea — or if you’re feeling bold and reckless just leap into a taxi and dauntlessly make your own way.
With a bit of time to spare there are oodles of sights to be seen within St Ann’s “Garden Parish”, teeming in tropical plants, eye-pleasing parks and lush rainforest. Every hands-on-hips view from up in the hills is spectacular — the astounding scenery around the Nine Mile birthplace of His Royal Bobness, for instance, is a common excursion and just a rattling, winding bus trip away.
But let’s begin with a few not-too-far-away beaches for some well-deserved lounging about in sun-soaked piña coladament.
“Which Way’s the Beach?”
Open daily to the public and for a couple hundred bills you can enjoy immaculate, clean white sand (pictured above). Lounge around watching the ships come and go, or have a go at a range of watersports such as jetskiing, snorkelling or flat-bottom boating.
The usual facilities are here but the beach bars really could offer better value, so you might want to bring your own drinks and snacks.
Meanwhile on a beach elsewhere...
Less fancy but highly enjoyable, take a mad minibus ride west to PRIORY BEACH (11 km) or RUNAWAY BAY (27 km). The more popular latter beach is long with excellent bars, food and shower facilities.
MARGARITAVILLE BEACH is all exotic and t’ing and free to enter — but beer-belly busy whenever the cruise ships come a-steaming in, and drink and food prices are off the scale.
Slightly to the east of Ochi and down a winding lane, lovely and palmy though it is, the boat and catamaran “booze cruises” operate from here so it can be a little on the wild side at times but blissful again when that noisy bunch sails off and world peace is restored (see above).
A little further east by the White River, a well-kept family-run beach (below) at which you are made to feel very welcome!
Though not easy to find (which keeps the hordes away), with its own idyllic restaurant, a lovely colourful bar and plenty of ‘beach pastimes’, this is a great little haven to enjoy some “fun in the sun”. Read manager Gregory's own OCHI INSIDER page. Instagram and Facebook.
Destinations to Dive In To
A ski-lift and bobsled run in Jamaica? It’s true! The excitement kicks off as the Rainforest Sky Explorer chairlift carries you, feet a-dangle, over 200 metres above the treetops to the top of the ‘mountain’ from where you can ‘big up’ your adrenaline in a bunch of active pursuits and daring rides, all in full panoramic view of Ochi below.
The Jamaica Bobsled is a wild 1000 metre gravity descent through the trees on a twisty-turny metal track. One of Ochi’s top attractions, you can pretend you are part of the Jamaican Olympic bobsled team (in a warmer setting).
More leg-dangling fun, the Zip Lines effortlessly and safely glide you along several wires way up in the rainforest trees, teasing your curls between assuredly secure platforms high above the ground. Phew!
Time now for an ice cold Ting and a bite at Mystic Dining with its astounding views of the coast, or enjoy the pool and waterslide (pictured), before taking the Sky Explorer gently back down to sea level. See their official Website, Instagram and Facebook.
TURTLE RIVER PARK
Taking things down a little in the centre of town, 15 acres of relaxing, quiet park (pictured below) in which to sit and soothe and replenish your inner man.
Lots of greenery, trees, pathways and gazebos, the Turtle River just passing through, and a large pond with drowsy turtles and darting koi carp to point at. Friendly park wardens patrol for your safety, and basic facilities include perhaps the strangest and least-private toilet cubicle in all of Christendom.
TURTLE RIVER FALLS & GARDENS
From Turtle River gush fourteen cascading waterfalls in fifteen lush acres of tropical paradise (pictured above) a short distance from town.
A guided just-over-an-hour tour shows off the many varieties of indigenous flora, the walk-in-aviary in which exotic birds will happily perch on your head, and the limpid ponds of koi and lilies. View the Instagram page (sadly not updated for a long time).
A bumpy ride to the hills on the east edge of St Ann. The relatively secret, busload-free Blue Hole has pools to swim in and a waterfall climb from which you can cliff dive, swing Tarzan-like, or cannonball with a big ‘spa-doosh’ into the deep, clear waters (below).
TAINO HERITAGE CAMP
What a beautiful place (pictured) — this preserve of Taino culture at Oracabessa is new to us but we were instantly hooked!
“The Taínos are the indigenous peoples of Jamaica, and this, the island's first interactive Taino Village, is a re-enactment of Taino living... relive the fascinating heritage through interactive workshops for schools, families and corporate.”
Find out more at the official Website, Instagram and Facebook. And read Kati Rahu and Beike's new OCHI INSIDER page.
Overshadowed by dense tree growth, almost 5 kms of former river bed was paved over long ago to make the familiar winding Fern Gully Highway (below).
An estimated 500 at least — count ‘em — species of ferns thrive here and guided walks are available to fervent fern fans for exploring this tropical, verdant gorge. Just keep an ear out for the rustle of copious wiggly bugs if your wont is to go poking about in the beetley bush.
A natural cove where “you can live the experience of swimming with dolphins in the Caribbean Sea” — get up close, interact, splash about, and even get a kiss from these gentle delphine cuties (pictured above). As for any sharks and stingrays lurking around — it’s all part of the show!
GREEN GROTTO CAVES
If you’ve had your fill of rainforest and waterfalls, head several kms east of Runaway Bay to this spellbinding labyrinth of dark underground caverns (below), once inhabited by Arawak-Taino natives but now the realm of bats, snakes and ghosts.
After an arduous ride up knobbly mountain roads in a bouncing bus, you’re ready for the relative calm of some White River Rafting where, under a canopy of bamboo trees and birdsong, your polesman guide skillfully steers your 9 metre raft-for-two down river (pictured right).
For a little more action please, White River Tubing is a wilder ride — plop yourself into a large inner tube (fitted with a base to protect your bottom from creatures of the deep) and white-knuckle it through exhilarating rapids and swirls. For added sensation there is a midway stop where you can swing on a rope, jump in a pool, and have a cheeky beer or two.
SHAW PARK GARDENS
High on the hills overlooking Ochi, 25 acres of exquisite botanical park, gardens and foaming cascades — a natural but well-groomed setting of tropical flowers and stunning views reached by a short but steep taxi trip up Eden Bower Road, to 900 m above sea level.
Guides are on hand to show off their impressive plant identifying skills. Sadly the bold-looking cannons pointing out to sea are purely ornamental, ruining any compulsive desires to fire watermelons at the cruise ships.
DUNN'S RIVER FALLS
Jamaica’s most famous waterfall (above) is another must-do, go-to attraction as gazillions of touristic photos will attest. Climb up through the exhilarating whoosh of the tiered falls, hand-in-hand in a trustful chain of fellow visitors.
It’s a little strenuous but rewarding when you reach the top where staggering views await and limpid pools beckon you to plunge in.
Well-trained staff are on hand to ensure fun and safety. When the going gets slippy there are [highly recommended] ‘water shoes’ for sale to ease your ascent, and a wooden walkway for those who are wobbly-of-foot. It would be wise too to keep cameras and things in a waterproof pouch. For more info visit the official Website or on Instagram (not updated for years).
Surely high on ‘the path to enlightenment’ list of any trip to Jamaica is a visit to the birthplace and mausoleum of Robert Nesta Marley. Once through the black entrance gates, safely away from the outside hullabaloo, a paved and pretty walkway leads up to [a reconstruction of] Bob’s humble boyhood home, and his more lavish place of rest (pictured).
Does the spirit of this enterprise live up to The Legend? This is a beautiful place created with much care, and entering the ‘family home’ and mausoleum are goosebump moments. So ‘One Love’ indeed, but an excess of souvenirs and the gaggle of folks wanting ‘tips’ at every turn takes away some of the mystic charm.
Overall this is an illuminating trip out, and the friendly [official] guides will brush you up on all Bobular matters, and offer some insight into the Rastafari lifestyle and beliefs.
A little sister to Dunn’s River Falls but happily far less crowded, so perhaps there is a bit more scope to take in the scene and enjoy your visit properly — this waterfall is, for our money, no less breathtaking in its beauty.
Take the refreshing waterfall climb (‘water shoes’ are a must) and a guided tour through the sumptuous floral gardens where a ‘mini zoo’ of parrots and creatures and a small museum of Jamaican history will coax your sense of eternal wonder. See more at the official Website, on Instagram and Facebook.
“De Name’s Bond...”
The first James Bond movie, 1962’s ‘Dr No’, featured the bauxite works (pictured) west of Fisherman’s Beach as ‘Crab Cay’, the sinister HQ of the eponymous ‘doctor’. Thus Reynolds Pier here is now also known as the James Bond Pier — they should really set off closely-rigged explosions to give disembarking cruise ship visitors a more spectacular sense of the movie.
The iconic scene in which Honey Ryder emerges from the Caribbean Sea in white bikini and knife belt was filmed at the private Laughing Waters at Roaring River, 5 km to the west of Ochi. You could always try to sneak in, much like the two characters did in the movie.
Should you wish to re-enact the scene in which 007 and Honey bathe in the waterfalls, just head for Dunn’s River Falls, wade right in, soap yourself down and get scrubbing that hairy chest.
The final scene of the movie in which the lascivious pair are set adrift in a boat was filmed in St Ann’s Bay, about 11 km west along the coast.
The more wealthy among you might like to visit the exclusive resort of Goldeneye just up the road at Oracabessa, tastefully spread out around the former estate of author Ian Fleming where all of the classic Bond books were written — the desk at which he worked is still in its original place.
The press announcement of Bond 25 (as yet to be titled) took place at Goldeneye in April 2019 with producers and stars of the movie present (and Chris Blackwell, the coolest guy on the planet — well it is his home after all).