Ocho Rios and the Central North Coast


St. Ann is full of rivers and gardens, thus its well-deserved nickname, “the garden parish.” Locals will pronounce Ocho Rios as any incarnation from oh-cho ree-os to oh-cho ryhas or, most commonly, simply “Ochi.” Ochi is the biggest town in St. Ann; its name is a creative derivation of the Spanish name for the area, Las Chorreras (Cascades), in reference to the abundance of waterfalls. Before the Spanish conquest, the area was known as Maguana by the Tainos. There are indeed several rivers in the vicinity, but not necessarily eight as a literal translation of the Spanish name might suggest. Four major waterways flow through the town area of Ocho Rios: Turtle River, Milford River, Russell Hall River, and Dairy Spring River. Just east of town are Salt River and White River, the latter forming the border with St. Mary, and to the west is the famous Dunn’s River, Jamaica's top tourist attraction.

Tourism became important in Ocho Rios in the late 1970s, taking over for bauxite as the area’s chief earner. The old Reynolds Pier just west of town is now used to export limestone aggregates, the industrial wharf sharing a small bay with the town’s cruise ship terminal. The cruise ship industry has been a key component of the city’s tourism boom, bringing mixed results. The steady income is appreciated by many businesses, especially those concentrated around the pier, but the enormous volume of passengers flowing through each day creates a huge demand for services that has not been met with adequate housing for the thousands who have arrived to work the tourism sector over the past few decades. Many of these arrivals are professionals who have been given little choice but to resort to living in squatter settlements. Still others come to Ochi with few credentials and earn their living hustling any way they can, making harassment of tourists a widespread problem.

Just west of Ocho Rios is St. Ann’s Bay, on the outskirts of which the first Spanish capital was established at Sevilla la Nueva, or New Seville. Today Seville is an archeological site and Great House complex where several heritage events are held throughout the year. Farther west along the coast are the communities of Runaway Bay and Discovery Bay. Runaway Bay is a small town with a golf course, a few resorts, and a small commercial strip along the highway, whereas Discovery Bay is likely Jamaica’s most exclusive villa enclave—where rentals go for upwards of US$10,000 per week. Again the tourism offering stands in the shadow of one of the island's largest bauxite terminals operated by US-based Noranda. The large domed storage facility attached to the wharf by a conveyor belt was cast as Dr. No's lair in Ian Fleming's first James Bond film.


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Lighthouse Lounge & Grill

Runaway Bay has a down-to-earth bar scene with a few options for late night drinks and occasional dances. Light House Lounge & Grill (11am-4am daily) hosts dances in the open- air yard every other weekend on Friday or Saturday. Inside the bar, two billiards tables and karaoke on Wednesday entertain patrons. It’s on the left when you’re heading west, just past the stoplight as you enter Runaway Bay.

In: Entertainment

Milestone Sports Bar & Grill

Milestone Sports Bar & Grill (Salem, next door to Tru-Look, 11am-11pm Sun.-Thurs., 11am- midnight Fri.-Sat.) is on the second level of a modern built-to-purpose plaza. Openers include chicken wings, kebabs, or shrimp cocktail, while mains are pasta alfredo (US$12), chicken cordon bleu, grouper fillet, and lobster curried, grilled, or in garlic sauce (US$25). Specializing in, you guessed it, jerk chicken and pork.


In: Bars

A Mi FI Tell Yuh Bar

A Mi Fi Tell Yuh (next door to Jewel Runaway Bay, noon-midnight daily) is an alfresco bar and grill where regulars gather in the evenings for a few drinks. Proprietor Robert Taylor can always be found on-site manning the bar or preparing steam fish with crackers. Diners require a reservation. 


In: Bars

8 Rivaz Ultra Lounge

8 Rivaz Ultra Lounge (Sun-Thurs 5pm-2am, Fri/Sat 5pm-4am, admission free weekdays, US$5 on weekends) is a modern club with an outdoor deck / hookah lounge located on the top floor of Bheecham Plaza overlooking Main Street Ocho Rios. Ladies night on Tuesdays features free shots and specials all night, with R&B on Wednesdays and Dancehall on Thursdays. Glo Fridays has patrons dancing with glow sticks and international night on Saturdays features in-house and guest DJs spinning a mix of dancehall, reggae, hip hop and pop.

In: Nightclubs

Beach Jouvert

Beach j’ouvert, part of the carnival season’s festivi- ties, is held at James Bond Beach in Oracabessa in early April, where revelers whine out to soca and throw paint on each other, with after-par- ties spilling into Ocho Rios.


In: Entertainment

Amnesia Nightclub

Amnesia (US$3–7, cash only) is Ochi's most authentic, down-market Jamaican nightclub. Thursday is Ladies' Night and gets quite busy, with a regular after-work jam and occasional deejay performances on Fridays. Muddy Mondays features mud wrestling.

In: Nightclubs

Margaritaville Ocho Rios

Margaritaville (9 a.m.–4 a.m. on club nights Mon., Wed., and Sat. and 9 a.m.–10 p.m. on Sun., Tues., Thurs., and Fri.) is Ochi's most popular club with the tourist crowd. This is one of Jimmy Buffet's chains, and it sees a lot of debauchery--the pool party on Wednesdays attracts a large crowd. It's also a venu for Fame FM's annual road party, which takes radio disc jocks to various venues around the island over the course of several weeks.

In: Food, Jamaican, Bars, Nightclubs

The Runaways Sports Bar and Grill

The Runaways Sports Bar & Grill (7am-3am daily, US$9-36) is a cool local joint on top of a four-story no-frills hotel in the easternmost of Runaway Bay's little shopping plazas in Salem district . The roof has a small swimming pool, two billiards tables, and flat-screen TVs airing major sports broadcasts. The bar serves domestic beers and mixed drinks, with the kitchen serving breakfast items like ackee and saltfish and Jamaican dishes like fried chicken and steam fish. A budget hotel downstairs has no-frills accommodations with kitchenettes.

In: Bars