Planning a Jamaica family vacation in Ocho Rios
When you think of Jamaica, one of the first words that comes to mind is probably "honeymoon." This bustling, beautiful Caribbean island is one of the top honeymoon destinations in the world. However, there's more to this culture-rich island than romance, like thrilling attractions, brand new luxurious resorts and delicious restaurants and scenic attractions that cater to families! Forget Disney, grab your family and head to Ocho Rios, Jamaica, for your next family getaway.
From hiking up Dunn's River Falls to swimming with the dolphins at Dolphin's Cove to scuba diving in the ocean to having a picnic at Shaw Park Botanical Gardens, there's plenty to do that will satisfy the adventure lover, thrill seeker and lazy beach bum in any family. Plus, there are new hotels, both all-inclusive and not, that are luxurious and extremely family friendly. If you're thinking of a Caribbean vacation for your family, check out these recommended places to eat, play and stay in one of Jamaica's most popular towns, Ocho Rios. You'll have trouble staying away from this culture-rich and indisputably beautiful country because, like they say, "Once you go, you know."
This extremely popular beach town, which is located about an hour-and-a-half from the Montego Bay Airport, is the perfect stop for an adventure-seeking family, since it has more attractions than any other Jamaican city. If you love to explore new sites and try new things (like climbing waterfalls or swimming with marine wildlife) and eat new foods (oxtail is a specialty), Ocho Rios is the place for you!
Where to stay
When you're choosing a hotel that's perfect for your family, you have to be a little pickier on where you go. Luckily in Ocho Rios, there's a great selection of places from which to choose. However, to make your choosing a little easier, we've asked the Jamaica Tourist Board about which family hotels rank the best in price, comfort, food and activity in Ocho Rios, and they've narrowed it down to three: Riu Ocho Rios, Sunset Jamaica Grande and Beaches Boscobel.
Riu Ocho Rios
Riu Ocho Rios is Jamaica's newest all-inclusive hotel that has more than 856 rooms, two swimming pools and world-class dining. Because this hotel is all-inclusive, you don't have to worry about when or where you can eat, since all meals, snacks and drinks are covered. What makes this hotel so great for families is the fact that in addition to pools, jacuzzis and a sparkling beach, Riu Ocho Rios has a children's mini-club and playground and children’s pool with a lifeguard. The rooms go from $101 a night in the off season (April-December) to $250 US+ in prime season (December-April).
More Jamaican all-inclusive hotels >>
Sunset Jamaica Grande
Sunset Jamaica Grande is another great all-inclusive option that is located right along the beautiful beaches of Ocho Rios. This 730-room hotel has five beautiful pools, featuring waterfalls, jacuzzis, swim-up bars and a swing rope! To further entertain your kids, Sunset Jamaica Grande has a new Lighthouse Waterslide, which has two full-body waterslides that are each more than 330 feet in length. In addition to a great outdoor scene, the hotel has six restaurants to choose, eight bars, multiple kids clubs throughout the property and all-inclusive water activities, like scuba diving. Rooms here are a little pricier, especially in prime season, and start at more than $250 US during off season and more than $1,000 US during prime season!
Beaches Boscobel is one of the most popular all-inclusive family hotels in Jamaica and was voted as one of the Top 10 Best Beach Resorts by Parents magazine. This property has more than 22 acres of lush, tropical gardens, private white sand beaches, five luxurious and gourmet restaurants (that have plenty of kid-friendly fare), three swimming pools, a scuba practice pool if you'd like to gain certification while vacationing, and included nonmotorized water sports. In addition to these features, this Beaches has a 27,000 square foot private waterpark, Pirates Island, that overlooks the ocean! In addition, golf is included so dad can escape for a quiet game. Plus, if you book soon, they offer a free catamaran cruise. Prices begin at $600 US a night in the off season and about $682 US in prime season.
Where to play
If the beautiful hotels were not enough reason to escape to Ocho Rios, the attractions will definitely help lure you in! Check out these Jamaica Tourist Board-recommended attractions for families in Ocho Rios. Note, these are just a few! For more great attractions, check out this list by Riu Hotels.
Dunn's River Falls is an astounding waterfall and park located right in Ocho Rios. The main attraction is the 600-foot-long waterfall, which many tourists climb from the beach entrance of the park. The smooth rocks, which are constantly regenerating from deposits of travertine rock, are a result of precipitation of calcium carbonate from the river as it pours over the falls. In order to climb up the falls, you need to rent or bring water shoes (so you don't slip!). This activity is great for kids over the age of 11. If you have younger kids, there are tons of lagoons and small pools to wade in as you wait. The cost to get into the park and climb the waterfall is $20 US for adults and $12 US for kids.
The world-famous Dolphin Cove is one of the most popular destinations in Jamaica. This property, which is made up of 20 acres, gives tourists the chance to swim with the dolphins in their natural habitat and interact with them as well! The cove in Ocho Rios is surrounded by five acres of tropical rainforest so you can explore outside of the water as well. In addition to swimming, you can also feed, hold and pet the dolphins and Caribbean sharks. There are different activities, from the touch encounter to the sea keeper of the day, the most inclusive program. For reservations, visit here.
For a more relaxing adventure, visit the Shaw Park Botanical Gardens, which is situated on a hilltop overlooking the Caribbean and Ocho Rios. The gardens are full of lush tropical plants, flowers indigenous to Jamaica and a beautiful waterfall that cascades down the rocky mountain landscape. There are hundreds of flower and plant species to see, including the heliconia, croton and hibiscus. When you're done touring the property, you can sit down and enjoy a picnic by the natural spring pool. The entrance fee is only $10 US!
Check out this recipe for Jamaica hibiscus punch>>
Where to eat
The national favorite food of Jamaica is jerk chicken, and there are a slew of places you can go for an authentic bite. However, there are two places in Ocho Rios that serve up the best jerk in town, in addition to other native Jamaican fare, like red snapper, bread fruit, passion fruit and plantains. Don't worry, these places also have mild and kid-friendly options so everyone will be satisfied.
This local hot spot is a hidden gem right inside the bustling town of Ocho Rios. This quite little cafe serves up the traditional Jamaican favorites, like jerk chicken, pork, fried plantains and peas and rice. However, they also serve up a delicious, mouthwatering oxtail dish, bammy (a cornbread like side dish), curried goat and chicken and escoveitch fish. For kids, they have fried chicken and specialty burgers, like salmon and veggie. You don't need a reservation to dine here, just show up with a hungry belly! Miss T's is located on 65 Main St., in Ocho Rios, Jamaica.
This Jamaican institution has some of the best jerk chicken, pork and fish in the entire country, according to many locals. Scotchies serves up their jerk chicken on huge wooden grills, cooking the chicken an hour and a half to pure, moist perfection and the pork more than four hours. Although the pork is good, the chicken and fish are the top favorites. Plus, you can't beat $10 US for a filling serving of meat, popular side dishes like bammy, bread fruit, pumpkin rice, roast yam and conch soup. The Ocho Rios location is nestled in a little garden with beautiful flowers and lush landscape. You can find this Scotchies on Drax Hall in Ocho Rios, Jamaica.
There's plenty to see, do and eat in Ocho Rios, so what's stopping you and your family from visiting?