So you've just booked a Caribbean cruise, and you're thrilled to see your first port of call is Ocho Rios, Jamaica. Reggae, rum, and rastas - who could ask for more? But how, you wonder, can you take in the essence of Jamaica in a mere 24 hours? Where do you start?
When visiting Ocho Rios, there are three attractions that simply cannot be missed.
First, and most important, is Dunn's River Falls. This 600-foot, multi-tiered waterfall is not only a beautiful sight, it's also the home of a once in a lifetime experience -- climbing a waterfall. With the aid of a $5 -- $8 Jamaican guide, you can take a 45- to 60-minute climb to the top of the falls. The cool, rushing water and the incredible scenery make this the experience of a lifetime. From the ship, taxi to the falls just five miles out of town. Bring your camera, a swimsuit, a towel, and a pair of waterproof climbing shoes.
If you enjoy getting out on the water and would like to snorkel just a bit, take the Red Stripe Cruise to the falls. This large catamaran-style boat docks in downtown Ocho Rios. For approximately $35, the boat takes you on a reggae-filled ride to the falls. Admission to the falls and the price of your guide are included. After you climb the falls, the boat stops for snorkeling (gear is included) near a small reef just below the falls. Finally, you return to the dock with free Red Stripe beer during the rockin' ride. It's a fabulous way to visit the falls, to get out on and into the water, and to try some Red Stripe as well. Book the tour with your cruise line, or call (876) 974-2446 for reservations. The entire trip takes approximately 3-4 hours, so you have 20 more hours to go!
The second "must see" is a trip to Prospect Plantation. Located just three miles out of town, this working agricultural property provides a tour with a broad historical and cultural background of the entire island. As you tour the plantation in an open jitney, your hilarious guide provides a wealth of information regarding the plantation and Jamaica's fruit products and rich history. Along the tour route you'll catch spectacular views of the White River Gorge and Sir Harold's Viewpoint. In addition, you'll sample fruit, and you'll be thoroughly entertained by your hosts. Taxi out to the plantation for about $8, but check the tour times at (876) 974-2058 before departing. Bring a camera and a good sense of humor. The tour of the plantation takes about 2 hours, so you have 18 hours left to enjoy!
The third "must see" is a trip to Chukka Cove. Located approximately 20 miles east of Ocho Rios, this non-working plantation is the point of departure for a fabulous horseback ride that winds its way from the old great house, through old sugar cane fields, and down to the ocean. After the 90-minute ride filled with history and humor, you and your horse head straight for the surf. Horseback riding in the ocean is another once-in-a-lifetime experience. It's you, the raw force of the animal beneath you, and the unending power of the ocean. This invigorating experience will keep your mind and body light on the 30 min. ride back to the great house. Call Chukka Cove upon arrival at (876) 972-2506, or book a tour with your cruise line. Bring your camera, a swimsuit, and a towel. With this 4-hour tour and ride, you're down to 14 hours, but you're re-energized now, and there are plenty of things left to do!
The rest of your time should revolve around your own special interests. Jamaica has a wealth of beautiful and entertaining things to see and do, but each person needs to seek out what suits his or her own interests. Due to the condition of the highways and the location of your ship, activities are mildly limited. That is, although Negril and Kingston have wonderful attractions, the 4- and 5-hour one-way rides simply don't make sense during a 24-hour stay. Rather, try some of the following activities for your remaining 13 hours:
Visit the downtown craft market for handmade Jamaican wares. Be ready to haggle for prices, and bring a sense of humor. Check out any of the small shopping centers along the main road. Blue Mountain coffee and jewelry are considered wise purchases.
Shaw Park Botanical Gardens
Jamaica's most celebrated botanical garden is a peaceful escape filled with waterfalls and colorful, feathered wildlife. Admission is approximately $4. (876) 974-2723
This company specializes in Jeep tours through some of the more remote areas of the island. Ask your cruise line to book your tour in advance.
You really must hear some real reggae before you reboard the ship! Try The Roof nightclub, Silks, or the Acropolis for music and dance.
This beautiful all-inclusive hotel is open to the public for 1-day passes and water sport equipment rental. Located near the ship docking area, this hotel rents jet skis and wind surfing and snorkeling equipment. It also offers parasailing and glass bottom boat tours. This hotel is a wonderful place to simply relax. You can buy an all-day pass to utilize the hotel, or you can simply dine or have a few cocktails with a cash transaction.
Your day should be complete and every minute of your 24 hours fully put to good use. These activities and an open mind to new people and things will provide you with not only 24 hours of unbelievable experiences, they will also provide you with a true sense of Jamaica and its beautiful culture and people.
Linda Armstrong, a previous tour director who has spent many months in Jamaica, currently writes a bi-weekly travel article for the Caribbean Travel and Culture topic at Suite 101, an internet travel site. Linda can be reached for questions or comment at: firstname.lastname@example.org.
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