Oracabessa is located in the midst of some of the most spectacular natural and man-made attractions in the entire Caribbean. It also has two of the best beaches in Jamaica: James Bond Beach, and Reggae Beach. Both of these beaches are open to the public – one is within walking distance from the center of town and the other is a short 5-minute drive.
James Bond Beach sits on a small peninsula in Oracabessa Bay. Located just off Main Street Oracabessa, adjacent to luxury estates Golden Eye and Golden Clouds, James Bond Beach has brightly painted changing rooms, a water sports centre, a bar and a restaurant. It is surrounded by crystal clear water on three sides and an amazing backdrop; the lush mountains of St Mary reaching straight down to the sea.
The large lawn at James Bond Beach provide a regular concert venue for international artists such as Rihanna, Ziggy Marley, and Lauren Hill. Scenes from the classic James Bond movie Dr. No, which features a young and beautiful Ursala Andress were filmed at James Bond beach. The huge 2-story Moonraker bar, open on all sides, can hold up to 200, but the only time it's that packed is during occasional jazz, blues, soca and reggae concerts. It's a genuine beach bar where sandy feet and wet swimsuits are the norm. The Bond-related décor is subdued, obvious only in the names of movies painted on small bamboo pieces that hang over the first-floor bar. Both locals and tourists come to James Bond Beach to drink, dine, sun and swim. Celebrity friends of owner Chris Blackwell, who is also a movie producer and founder of Island Records, sometimes stop by.
Reggae Beach is one of the most beautiful beaches in the Caribbean and is located approximately 5 minutes by car from Oracabessa. The beach is a long stretch of sand protected by cliffs on either end. Reggae Beach is known as one of the quieter, less-crowded beaches in Jamaica and is considered as one of the island’s best-kept secrets. In the evenings, dinner and music are served under the stars with an array of beach food with fish and lobster as the main attractions. Reggae Beach is renowned for its Friday after-work jams which carry on till 1 a.m., with a bonfire, DJs and live band. Kayaks are available for rent and there are often musicians performing in the afternoon. There are three bars located on the beach with a range of food and drinks available.
In 2008, the Caribbean Urban Music Awards were presented at Reggae Beach, which were based on the votes of over 1.5 million Caribbean music fans worldwide. Award recipients present at the ceremony were Beenie Man, Sly and Robbie, and Spragga Benz. In 2010, Reggae Beach was voted by Readers of Lonely Planet guidebook and magazine as the Greatest Cultural Tourism Experience. The award was announced in August 2010. Reggae Beach in Jamaica placed first, ahead of Ballet at the Mariinsky Theatre in St. Petersburg, Salsa dancing in Havana, Opera in Italy, and authentic Blues in Chicago.
Ochos Rios is a short drive from Oracabessa and has a wide range of activities, including duty free shopping, restaurants, and sightseeing. One of the top shopping areas in Ochos Rios is Soni’s 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 Soni’s for clothing and jewelry. Jewelry shops here include Chulani Jewelers, Casa De Oro, The Gold Mine and others.
Another top shopping area in Ochos Rios is the Tajmahal Shopping Centre. This open-air mall is home to jewellers and other luxury merchants including Bijoux Jewelers and Mohan’s Duty Free Shop. 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. Note: Expect to bargain for the best price at both places, but do it in good fun and you’ll find that the vendors are not as high-pressure as they seem.
Another interesting stop in Ochos Rios 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.
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 Bay’s 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.
There are a variety of attractions and recreational activities available in Ochos Rios and surrounding area, including golf, helicopter rides, horseback riding, ziplines and mountain bikes. Scenic tours can also be re-arranged with stops at places such as Port Antonio, Firefly, and coffee plantations.
Nearby to Oracabessa are some of the finest attractions in Jamaica, including Dunn’s River Falls, Mystic Mountain, Shaw Park Gardens, Fern Gully, and dozens of others ranging from golf to bobsledding to swimming with dolphins. The most popular local attractions are listed below:
Bamboo Rafting - Martha Brae
Enjoy a scenic drive and bamboo rafting adventure on this Jamaican half day trip. The exotic Caribbean flora and fauna will have you amazed as you slowly drift downstream, listening to nature's gentle voice. Built for two, these bamboo rafts make for a romantic day out on your family vacation! Travel along the coastline to the historic market town of Falmouth before heading inland to the Great River. Once on the gently flowing river, you'll board your 30 ft (9 meter) bamboo raft, a unique ride poled by your experienced and well-informed captain. The expert raftsman will maneuver through the waters at a slow pace, allowing for breathtaking sights and endless photo opportunities.
As you glide down the river on a bamboo raft, you'll have the chance to soak up the sun and the legend that surrounds the river's scenic banks. The rafts are built for two, making this activity ideal for the romantic at heart during your Jamaican vacation.
Bob Marley's Birthplace and Museum - Nine Mile
When one thinks of Jamaica (mon), you can't help but think of the King of Reggae, Bob Marley. Journey to the village of Nine Mile, where Bob lived, loved and played. Learn about the Rastafarian religion he practiced and made famous as well as seeing his final resting place. A moving tribute to a great musician! Travel through the hills and curves of the parish of St. Ann, called the garden parish, until you reach Nine Mile. This little village is tucked away in the beautiful mountains of Jamaica and is the birth place (Feb.6,1945) of the legendary "King of Reggae", Bob Marley. It is also the place he was laid to rest.
The tour starts with a walk through his home as a young boy, which is now a museum and photo gallery. Your guide will reveal little known insights into Bob Marley's childhood and musical career. You'll even have a chance to stand on "Mt. Zion Rock" (Bob's meditation spot) and rest your head on the "pillow", made famous in the song "Talking Blues".
The highlight of the tour is of course walking through the beautiful mausoleum, Bob's final resting place.
Camel Ride and Plantation Tour - Ochos Rios
Prospect Plantation is an agricultural property established in the 18th Century. Take a tractor drawn Jitney and experience a working Jamaican plantation, where you will see bananas, cassava, sugar cane, coffee, various spices and many other crops! You will see the magnificent White River Gorge - a spectacular view. Jamaica's first hydro-electric power station was built here by Sir Harold Mitchell.
At Sir Harold's Viewpoint the Jitney stops for you to enjoy a cool refreshing drink. From this lookout, the island's north coast and the probable site of Columbus' first view of the island can be seen. On a clear day, Cuba, some 90 miles away to the north, is visible on the horizon. The channel between the two islands was known as the Spanish Main by buccaneers because it was the dominant path taken by ships en route to Spain from Central America.
You will also embark on a Camel Trek around the plantation. Marvel at the stunning scenery and enjoy the unusual experience of riding a camel! You will be amazed at just how high you are on top of a camel!
You will also be taken to other points of interest within Prospect Plantation, such as, the Great House and the surrounding gardens, butterfly aviary, as well as getting the chance to feed the ostriches, pet the camels and see Farmer Joe climb a 30 foot Coconut Tree!
Coffee Plantation - Blue Mountain
Come and experience a working Jamaican plantation! Croydon Plantation is nestled in the foothills of the Catadupa Mountains and you can sample the tropical fruits in season and enjoy a delicious Jamaican buffet surrounded by the lush green mountains of St. James. Book now for an unforgettable day in Jamaica! Nestled in the foothills of the Catadupa Mountains, Croydon is the birthplace of National Hero Sam Sharpe, the infamous slave leader behind the Jamaican Baptist War slave rebellion.
Sample the plantation's tropical fruits in season and enjoy a delicious Jamaican buffet in the tropical atmosphere of the lush green mountains of St. James.
Cranbrook Flower Florist - Laughlands
This beautiful park, a recent addition to Ochi's 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. I've 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. Other activities include bird watching, pond fishing, croquet, donkey rides and volleyball.
Dolphin Cove - Ochos Rios
The Dolphin Cove Jungle trails meander through dense tropical foliage interspersed with animals and birds in their natural habitat. Iguanas, snakes and other reptiles are fed as intriguing stories are narrated by your guide. Birds of the Caribbean and South America - macaws and parrots, entertain you and allow you to touch and be photographed with them. Stingrays, eels, fish and turtles are but a few of the fascinating sea creatures you will see as the trail passes the seaside lagoon. Hear the beat of the Jungle Drums as they syncopate Caribbean rhythms.
Dunn's River Falls
Dunn's River Falls is one of Jamaica's national treasures. Globally, it is as well known as reggae and equally stimulating. There are few places where the Arawak name "Xayamaca" - land of rivers and springs - is more apt. The Spaniards called the area "Las Chorreras", the waterfalls or springs and it is truly one of the most beautiful spots on the island.
A stone's throw from Ocho Rios, one of Jamaica's fastest growing resort centres, Dunn's River Falls is unique. Described as a living and growing phenomenon, it continuously regenerates itself from deposits of travertine rock, the result of precipitation of calcium carbonate from the river, as it flows over the falls. The small dome-shaped cataracts are usually associated with thermal spring activity found in limestone caves. This, combined with its location near to the sea, gives Dunn's River the distinction of being the only one of its kind in the Caribbean, if not the world.
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, Ruth Bryan Owen, Sir Laurence Olivier, Sophia Loren, Elizabeth Taylor, Alec Guiness, Peter O'Toole 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.
Firefly, which sits 1000 feet above the coast, is well marked and easy to find on the road between Ocho Rios and Port Antonio. The view from the estate, now a government-sponsored museum dedicated to the English author, is magnificent.
The land originally belonged to the pirate Henry Morgan. Coward lived here from the 1950s until his death in 1973. You'll have 4 acres of grounds and gardens to walk at the top of the hill—no need to climb up the access road from the coast unless you want to.
Fireflies are supposed to gather regularly atop the hill at night, supplying the inspiration for the name. Open 10-5.
Fishing - Oracabessa/Ochos Rios/Port Antonio
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 tonight's 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, 876-975-327
Golfing - Ochos Rios
SANDALS GOLF AND COUNTRY CLUB
In June 1992, Sandals Resorts International purchased Upton GC and set about creating the most elite golf course in Jamaica. All the greens were rebuilt with Tifdwarf Bermuda grass and the fairways resurfaced with Bermuda grass creating a beautifully manicured layout. Sandals now boasts one of the finest Golf Courses in the Caribbean. Golf Digest Magazine granted a four star rating for courses to play while on vacation.
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 and open to the public.
Harmony Hall Gallery and Toscanni's Restaurant - Ochio Rios
Art lovers will also enjoy a stop at Harmony Hall. This excellent art gallery is one of Jamaica's best and a good place to purchase original works of art. Don't miss the Annabella pieces, souvenir boxes decorated with Jamaican art. Harmony Hall sponsors several art shows annually. With over 100 artists and artisans represented, the art ranges from naive to highly sophisticated, featuring many of Jamaica's leading painters, sculptors and carvers.
The crafts on display are equally diverse, highlighted by the popular Annabella Boxes, created by the gallery's founder. They are complemented by an eclectic selection of hand-made treasures, books and prints. With such variety, a meaningful memento of Jamaica is easy to acquire.
Fresh lobster is the signature dish at Toscanini's, the award-winning Italian restaurant, often named one of the best in Jamaica by international travel magazines.
Helicopter Rides – Ochos Rios
For the best view of Ocho Rios and the North Coast, consider a quick helicopter tour. The operator, Captain John's Island Hoppers, 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 Coward's Firefly and Ian Fleming's Goldeneye. The Ocho Rios Fun Hop, a 15-minute trip, swings over Shaw Park Gardens, Fern Gully, Prospect Plantation and Dunn's River Falls.
Horseback Riding – Heritage Beach
Ride through the waves on horseback! Discover the rich history and culture of Jamaica as you ride on your beautiful horse through the wooded areas where the Taino Indians used to hunt for food. Stop off at the beach where you'll be served some refreshments in the shade of a beach hut before heading into the crystal clear water for a refreshing swim!
Begin with a visit to Seville Great House and Heritage Park on Jamaica's north coast, which houses a wealth of artifacts relating to the area's history and culture. Then its time to mount up and visit all the places that you have learnt about, riding by castles and sugar factories dating back nearly 500 years.
Learn about the culture of the Taino Indians, their beliefs, habits and existence, before Columbus landed and the island was colonized under the Spanish flag. Ride through a natural wetland, shaded by almond and coconut trees, and see the excavations carried out by archaeologists, keen to uncover the deep rooted history of this area.
On arrival at the beach, enjoy a taste to local produce in a jungle beach hut, before you strip down to your bathing suit for a dash through the waves on horseback. For your safety, the saddles are left on, so you don't have to worry about staying on! Your return ride takes you along the deserted beach, where herons and other waterbirds fish in the shallow waters. You'll travel through the mangroves, which hide the remains of an eighteenth century warehouse and by an ancient waterwheel which powered the old sugar mill on this former sugar plantation.
A history lesson and beach ride in one! No experience required, suitable for all skill levels.
Jamaican Dogsled Tour – Ochos Rios
Make the most of the Caribbean's fantastic weather on a unique dogsled tour from Ocho Rios. Enjoy the ride as your trusty dogsled team races through the Jamaican countryside with uncontainable energy and excitement - no snow required!
Begin your day with a private tour of the kennels where you'll meet your new canine friends. Have a one-on-one information session and hear the amazing story of the dogs of the Jamaica Dogsled team. Many of the dogs have been rescued from the Jamaica Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals and are now considered "Second Chance Stars". This hands on experience allows you to assist with the harnessing of the team as they eagerly await their favorite ride.
Once onboard the sled, your experienced dogsled team will get you moving through the Jamaican countryside where film history has been made. Ride along Papillion Cove where Steve McQueen starred in Papillion and locations where Return to Treasure Island '85 and Passion and Paradise '88 were filmed. Stop to re-energize with refreshments and use the chance to capture some holiday snaps with your new canine friends.
Return to the kennels to reward your team with treats and plenty of love for a job well done.
Kingston Tour – Kingston
Visit Kingston, Jamaica's capital. Visit the Bob Marley museum, the University of the West Indies, the Governor General's residence and other fascinating attractions in the financial capital of the West Indies. Don't miss out!
Enjoy a scenic ride from Golden Clouds to the nation's bustling capital, Kingston. Drive south through the dense tropical splendor of Fern Gully, home of more than 500 species of ferns.
Climb the winding roads to the Hills of Mount Diablo and enjoy a panoramic view of the island's mountainous interior. Then, journey down to Kingston where you'll be given the option of visiting the Bob Marley Museum, the University of the West Indies, the Governor General's residence and other area attractions in this financial capital of the West Indies.
Mountain Biking – St. Ann's Bay
HIGH HOPE MOUNTAIN BICYCLE ECOTOUR
16 Top Road, St. Ann's Bay
876-972-2997, fax 876-972-1607
Of special interest to ecotourists and those who aren't 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.
Mystic Mountain - Ocho Rios
Rainforest Bobsled Jamaica at Mystic Mountain is a new eco-friendly attraction located in Ochos Rios. Mystic Mountain features a unique Jamaican Bobsled ride through the lush tropical forest, a chairlift journey over the countryside, a zip-line canopy adventure through the treetops (zip-line tours are definitely not eco-friendly), an island culture and heritage center, as well as mountaintop dining and shopping venues (where you will be hounded by the locals to purchase hand crafts). The attraction was developed in coordination with Carnival Cruise Line, who will most certainly offer excursions to the park.
Rainforest Bobsled Jamaica at Mystic Mountain covers an area of more than 100 acres beginning near Ochos Rios and stretching more than 700 feet above sea level at the peak of Mystic Mountain. The site supports a diverse ecosystem of natural springs, tropical foliage, native trees and a variety of native bird species. According to the press release, Mystic Mountain's tours and rides have been designed to have minimal environmental impact and physical footprint.
River Tubing – White River
Discover the best kept secret in Jamaica! Take off on an exciting river tube ride along the White River where you'll be surrounded by beautiful scenery. You'll pass through coconut plantations, bamboo groves and see the locals in their riverside homes! Enjoy the challenging rapids as well as the enchanting and peaceful lagoons!
Drive through the unspoiled hilly interior of Ocho Rios to the 17th Century Landmark 'Spanish Bridge' where your expedition will begin! You will be given a short safety briefing before each passenger is assigned with a river tube, paddle and life vest.
Your experienced tubing guides will take you on a breathtaking 3 mile (4.8km) journey down the White River. This river is not only known for its beauty, but also as the dividing line between two of the most beautiful parishes in Jamaica, St. Mary and St. Ann.
Disembark the river and enter the beautifully landscaped gardens of White River Valley Park where you can browse the gift shop, refresh yourself at the Parrot Bar or indulge in Jamaican cuisine - including sumptuous samples of traditional Jamaican Jerk!
Shaw Park Botanical Gardens – Cutlass Bay
Experience the natural pristine beauty of Jamaica's Shaw Park Botanical Gardens and Waterfalls. Situated high on a hilltop overlooking the azure waters of the Caribbean Sea, the Gardens embrace 25 acres of tropical splendour. A sparkling waterfall cascades down a rocky course with luxurious plant specimens on all sides while lush tropical flowers form bowers filled with flamboyant blossoms every month of the year.
Zip Line – Ochos Rios
Fly like a bird through the trees and jungle canopy on this zipline adventure in Jamaica! Safely in your harness, you'll soar through a series of horizontal traverses. Enjoy a bird's eye view and marvel at the beautiful scenery from above! At some parts of the tour, you'll catch a glimpse of the Caribbean Sea. Your experienced and informed guides will ensure you learn everything possible about the surrounding areas!
Soar over the spectacular jungle canopy of Cranbrook Flower Forest on nine thrilling zip-line traverses. This exhilarating adventure includes a nature walk through a lush jungle of flowering trees and an adrenaline-fueled trip across the canopy!
After instruction from extensively trained guides, you'll take a short nature walk to the first traverse platform nestled on the hillside overlooking the treetops and jungle canopy. You'll then soar through the trees on an intricate system of harnesses, pulleys and carabiners on horizontal traverses.
Nine traverses, from 105 feet to 660 feet (31 to 200 meters) apart, have you swinging through the Laughlands River Gorge, a giant valley carved from the surrounding mountain by ancient rivers.
From your bird's-eye view, you'll survey the flora and fauna of this magnificent landscape and learn interesting facts about the surrounding plant life from your well-informed guide. At different points in the tour, you'll even catch a glimpse of the Caribbean Sea.
After leaving the valley, you'll really fly, embarking on a series of long throws, with the last traverse being 600 feet (180 meters) long. Here, after removing your equipment, you can unwind from your exhilarating adventure with a walk through the flowering trees of Cranbrook Forest.