Ocho Rios, today, is Jamaica’s and the Caribbean’s leading cruise ship port and a leading stop-over destination for tourists.

The name Ocho Rios, which is of Spanish origin, translates to Eight Rivers in English and came from a time when the Spanish occupied Jamaica, before being driven off by the English in the mid-1650s.

Fast forward 300 years and by then American bauxite company, Reynolds, had built a pier at the western end of the town to ship alumina to the United States.

For the next three decades, bauxite remained an important money earner not just for Ocho Rios and the parish of St Ann but Jamaica as well.

When Reynolds closed operations in the 1980s it meant a big blow for the economy of the town, which was then forced to rely solely on the tourism sector which, over the years, had been seen as a secondary foreign exchange earner.

While the two sectors, tourism and mining, meant employment for the masses, the skill of fishing which had preceded both and had characterised how Jamaica and the world saw Ocho Rios in the early years, continued as the main source of livelihood for lots of families.

But Ocho Rios, blessed as it is with natural beauty, was seen by many as potentially a top tourist destination. As a result, investments in the tourism product for the town picked up momentum.

The Urban Development Corporation (UDC) through its agency, St Ann Development Company (SADCo), which was established in the 1960s, played a major role in getting the town ready for the development of tourism that was to come in the following decades. Beach land was reclaimed and developed, the harbour dredged and the area zoned for development of hotels and resort apartments.

Hotels that were built decades earlier, such as Jamaica Inn, Silver Seas, Shaw Park and Plantation Inn, among others, were joined by newer properties that improved the tourism landscape.

Some larger properties such as Mallards Beach and Americana (that later merged to form Jamaica Grande and known as of 2016 as Moon Palace Jamaica Grande), meant more tourists to the town.

Local hotel brands such as Sandals, SuperClubs and the pioneering Couples played a pivotal role in helping Ocho Rios attain and maintain worldwide appeal as a tourist destination.

Other smaller properties such as Pineapple Court, Hermosa Cove, Village, Mystic Ridge, Fisherman’s Point, Sand Castles, Rooms, among others, also helped to boost Ocho Rios as a premier tourist destination.

One major development that also played a significant part in catapulting Ocho Rios to the top as a destination was the opening of the Ocho Rios cruise ship pier in the early 1980s.

It meant cruise ships with thousands of passengers could visit the town on a regular basis. It meant too, that there had to be something to attract them, so much more attention was paid to the attractions that were available and new ones developed.

Ocho Rios’ premier attraction, Dunn’s River, had by then garnered world wide appeal and its popularity grew even further with the opening of the pier, as tourists began descending on the attraction in droves.

New attractions such as Dolphin Cove and Mystic Mountain were to come on stream in the ensuing years.

Shopping also developed with several shopping centres catering to the in-bond shopping needs of tourists being built. Today, Ocho Rios boasts plazas such as Soni’s, Taj Mahal, Harbour Shops and Island Village that cater almost exclusively to tourists.

The craft industry, the transportation and banking sectors, farmers and the remaining fisher folks, too, also began benefiting directly from the boost in tourism in Ocho Rios.

The boom also brought in international brands. Of significance, Burger King opened its first restaurant in Jamaica in Ocho Rios in 1985. KFC and Pizza Hut are also in Ocho Rios.

With development came congestion and this forced the government, after lobbying by the St Ann Chamber of Commerce, to build a bypass road for Ocho Rios, which was built in the mid to late 1990s.

Over the past two decades, Ocho Rios has seen significant development that has completely removed the “quiet fishing village” tag to a more appropriate label of leading tourist destination.

BREAKING NEWS!!

Try Ocho Rios’ latest tour package that’s different, exciting and totally fun! Try – “Taste of Jamaica Authentic Tour”

This tour takes you from Ocho Rios, up through the world-renowned Fern Gully, through the beautiful, rolling hills of rural St Ann before ending on the beach in Priory. Enjoy eco sightseeing, tour a working coffee plantation, beach cooking featuring authentic Jamaican cuisine, Jamaican music and dance lessons just for the fun of it!

The Jamaica Gleaner quotes Georgia Black, a vacation planner at Moon Palace Jamaica Grande hotel in Ocho Rios, as saying: “This is the perfect tour, I love it, I love it!” Visit www.tasteofjamaicatours.com for more information.

Apart from the Taste of Jamaica Tour, Ocho Rios is filled with things you can do, things you can see and most of all, places to go. With a plethora of attractions in this resort town, it’s sometimes difficult to decide where to go on any given day. Water attractions, plant life, animals – choose the theme that suits you best on the day and pick from any of the several attractions available. Ocho Rios is the number one cruise port in the Caribbean for a reason! Check this list:

Botanical Gardens: There are several gardens boasting some of the most beautiful flowers you could ever imagine, in Ocho Rios and its outskirts. In Jamaica, they call St Ann parish (where Ocho Rios is located) the Garden Parish because of this natural beauty, among other things.

Golfing: There are two excellent golf courses, just a short ride away from the centre of Ocho Rios, if you feel like a little putting.

Horseback riding: Enjoy the wild outdoors, riding a tame and well-conditioned horse at any of the several stables available on the outskirts of Ocho Rios.

Hotel Day Pass: Buy a one-day pass to an all-inclusive hotel and take in all the fun! Hotels have different rates, so shop around.

Jamaican Craft: Jamaica’s skilled craftsmen have their wares on display at several craft markets across the resort town, chances are, you will find something really nice at any of the outlets that you visit.

Live Reggae Music: If you can’t wait until it’s night to enjoy live reggae music, not to worry, there are several spots in Ocho Rios where you can rock to local reggae bands in broad daylight, with a cold Red Stripe beer just a hand away.

Night Clubs: A really exciting nightlife awaits at any of the several clubs that are open, most nights of the week.

Rafting & River Tubing: On a bamboo raft, meandering through the curves and turns of the river as it flows to the sea; or in an inflated rubber tube, riding the rushing waters of river, it’s always nice enjoying the cool, clear waters of the White River.

Restaurants: Jamaican cuisine tops and you should make sure you experience it while here. But just so you know, you can also get international cuisine right here in Ocho Rios. So we have Jamaican, Indian, Chinese, Italian, French, Japanese and Greek food ready for the taking. And just in case you’re in a hurry we have several fast food outlets, both local and international brands, ready and willing to serve you.

Shopping: Whatever it is you need, you can get it to buy. Seriously. In-bond or otherwise. Gift items to take back for friends and relatives, souvenirs, jewellery, perfume, Jamaican craft items, rum, T-shirts, CDs, a dress or a suit to wear on a special occasion, anything. Tell you driver what you need and he’ll find it for you.

Sightseeing: Irrespective of where your interest lies, you will find beautiful, interesting and maybe even mind boggling sights, when you cruise around this beautiful tourist resort. Your driver can recommend just the right spots for you.

Tours: There are several tours, beginning in Ocho Rios, that will take you to some of the most fascinating places not just in Ocho Rios but as far away as capital city, Kingston.

Watch a Jamaican sunset: On a bright sunny day, which is often in Jamaica, you can relax with an ice-cold Red Stripe beer or jerk chicken, or whatever suits you – and watch the sun sink into the warm Caribbean Sea. It’s breathtakingly beautiful.

Water sports: There are several water sporting activities available in Ocho Rios. If you want to scuba dive, snorkel, sail, ride a go-fast boat, paddle a canoe, swim – the options are endless.