Cool places to visit
As if a ride in a Jamaican minibus wasn’t thrilling enough, we present more plum experiences to ‘big up’ your Ochi and St Ann sojourn.
With a bit of time to spare there are plenty adventures and astonishing hands-on-hips moments to be had within St Ann’s “garden parish”. Hilly vistas and lush rainforest to marvel at, tropical parks of wonder to get lost in, white beaches for some eager piña colading, and the Nine Mile birthplace of His Royal Bobness just a rattling, winding trip away.
A shrewd choice of 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.
The Caribbean Sea retains a pleasant warmth all year round so you can plodge and doggy paddle in comfort, but watch out for any spiny, bitey things on the prowl. Some beaches are ‘private’ for the use of hotels and resorts — though the law is a bit vague on this.
TURTLE BEACH (pictured above top) is open daily to the public and for a couple hundred bills you can enjoy immaculate, clean white sand. 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 could give better value, so you might want to bring your own drinks and snacks.
MAHOGANY BEACH (pictured above left) is slightly to the east of Ochi and, 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 but blissful again when that noisy bunch sail off.
MARGARITAVILLE BEACH is all exotic and t’ing and like its next-door neighbour the FISHERMAN’S BEACH, free to enter but, not unreasonably, very beer-belly busy whenever the big daily cruise ships come a-steaming in.
For something less fancy, 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.
A natural cove with the opportunity to get up close, interact and have a splash about with these gentle delphine cuties (pictured below). As for any sharks and stingrays lurking about — it’s all part of the show. The related Jungle Trail is a gentle romp through a rainforest heaven of birds, snakes, iguanas and a camel! See more at the official Website.
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 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 ponds of koi and lilies.
A bumpy ride to the hills on the eastern edge of St Ann. The relatively secret and 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 (pictured below). There are small (and a bit scary if we’re honest) hidden cave passages for the non-squeamish to squeeze through into a space behind the waterfall. No sah!
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, 700 feet 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 trees and bushes on a twisty-turny metal track. One of Ochi’s top attractions, you can pretend you are part of the Jamaican Olympic bobsled team (but in a warmer setting).
More leg-dangling fun, the ZIP LINES effortlessly and safely glide you along several wires way up in the rainforest, teasing your curls between 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 above), before taking the Sky Explorer gently back down to sea level. See more on their official Website.
Overshadowed by dense tree growth, almost 5 kilometres of former river bed was paved over long ago to make the familiar winding Fern Gully Highway (pictured below). An estimated 500 species of ferns thrive here, and guided walks are available for exploring this tropical, verdant gorge.
After a bounceful ride up knobbly mountain roads, 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 into a large inner tube (fitted with a base to protect your bottom from any 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 & WATERFALLS
High on the hills overlooking Ochi are 25 acres of exquisite botanical park, gardens and foaming cascades — a sort of natural but well-groomed setting of tropical flowers and stunning views. Just a short but red-faced-and-sweaty walk from the centre of town, given its situation hillside at 900 metres above sea level. Guides are on hand to show off their impressive plant identifying skills. Sadly those bold-looking cannons pointing out to sea are purely ornamental so no firing watermelons at the cruise ships.
DUNN’S RIVER FALLS
Jamaica’s most famous waterfall (pictured above) is another must-do, go-to attraction. Climb up through the exhilarating whoosh of the tiered falls, hand-in-hand in a 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 ‘water shoes’ for sale (recommended) to ease your ascent, and a wooden walkway for the wobbly-of-foot. It would be wise too to keep cameras and things in a waterproof pouch. For more info visit the official Website.
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 right).
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 matters Bob, and offer some insight into the Rastafari religion.
GREEN GROTTO CAVES
If you’ve had your fill of rainforest and waterfalls, head several kilometres east of Runaway Bay to this spellbinding labyrinth of dark underground caverns (pictured left). Once inhabited by Arawak-Taino natives, the caves are now the realm of bats, snakes and ghosts as your affable guide will tell you. (Ladies: if the guide touches your hair in the dark with a stick, pretending it’s a snake, don’t give him a tip.) Visit the official Website.
“Mi name’s Bond, mon… James Bond”
The first James Bond movie, 1962’s ‘Dr No’, featured the bauxite works (pictured right) west of Fisherman’s Beach as ‘Crab Cay’, the sinister HQ of the eponymous ‘doctor’. Thus Reynolds Pier here is also known as James Bond Pier.
The iconic scene in which Honey Ryder emerges from the Caribbean Sea in bikini and knife belt, and the frightful scene with the “Dragon that runs on diesel fuel” (well it frightened us) was filmed at the private Laughing Waters at Roaring River, 5 km west of Ochi. You could always sneak in, much like they did in the movie.
Should you wish to re-enact the ‘Dr No’ waterfall scene in which 007 and Honey take a shower, just head for Dunn’s River Falls, wade right in 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 amongst you might like to visit the exclusive resort of Goldeneye just up the road at Oracabessa, the former home of author Ian Fleming where all of the classic Bond books were written — his desk is still in its place.
The press announcement of Bond 25 took place at Goldeneye in April 2019 with producers and stars of the movie present.