Saint Ann Parish:
Beaches & Fun Things to Do
Beaches & Fun Things to Do
Saint Ann is full of gorgeous beaches, waterfalls, markets and art galleries, eco-tourist destinations, recreation and other fun things to do. Here are some of the things to do and hidden gems:
- Blue Hole - Hidden gem and nature at its finest! This little piece of paradise can be found in the White River Valley which hugs the borders of both St. Mary and St. Ann. The clear waters of the river wind through hills, forests and villages along their path to the Caribbean Sea. The Blue Hole is about a 30 minute drive away from the cruise pier in Ocho Rios, near Exchange. In this area, the river creates cascades of waterfalls which gush into a pool (“hole”), producing the most beautiful shade of blue! The Blue Hole is about 20 to 25 feet deep and is a great spot for a swim. There are small caves under the falls, Tarzan-type ropes for swinging into the pools, and you can hike along the stream to other falls and pools. The area is unspoiled by tourist traffic as most have no idea it exists, making the Blue Hole a peaceful, private spot. If you go with a driver, he/she will most likely have to wait for you while you enjoy it because this is in the hills of St. Ann and definitely off the beaten path.
- Bob Marley Centre and Mausoleum - See information under Culture & History: NINE MILE.
- Brown's Town Market - If you are on your way to Bob Marley’s Nine Mile via the B3 out of Runaway Bay, be sure to stop in Brown’s Town, particularly on a Monday, Wednesday or Saturday when the market overflows with higglers (what Jamaicans call street vendors) selling their wonderful fresh fruits and vegetables. Brown’s Town is a relatively large Jamaican community about 8 miles up into the Dry Harbour Mountains above Runaway Bay. The market is the most vibrant on Saturday, the main market day, but you will enjoy it anytime. Go to the back of the market to find vendors of clothes, shoes and other things, and definitely buy a delicious beef or cheese patty here! Definitely drive around the area for the scenery, old great houses, and historic churches and buildings. Click here for more on Brown Town's interesting history.
- Calypso Rafting - Located 10 minutes from Ocho Rios, they operate rafting and tubing excursions on the White River. They also can arrange charter boats for deep sea fishing as well as jet-skiing. Their most popular tour is the River Combo which combines tubing on the White River with a climb of Dunn's River Falls. You can book online; click on their name (in red) to visit their website. Phone: 876.974.2527 or 876.974.5199.
- Cardiff Hall Public Beach - (This beach is sometimes called Flavours Beach.) Most of the beaches in Runaway Bay are unfortunately owned by large hotels and resorts and are off-limits to non-guests, but Cardiff Hall Public Beach, on the west end of town, is free and open to the public. The beach is located next to the Franklyn D. Resort and across the road from the Runaway Bay Shell gas station. The popular, casual Flavours Beach Bar & Restaurant sits on this beach and has great food and drinks. They also have live music on some Friday nights.
- Chukka Cove Adventures - Chukka Cove is well known for its world-class polo matches, but this activities center also offers guided horseback trips along the beach and in the mountains. They operate a very popular daily three-hour beach ride for beginners and experienced riders. The trip takes you through Richmond and Llandovery, two of the oldest sugar estates on the island. Shower facilities on the beach are available and free refreshments are served. They also offer dogsled tours, ATV safaris, zipline canopy tours and much, much more!
- Columbus Park - This is situated to the west of Discovery Bay on the Queens Highway. It commemorates Columbus' visits to the island and operates as an open-air museum with sketches of Jamaican history. The park marks the spot where, according to some, Columbus first set foot on Jamaica. The small park is worth a stop if you’re already heading along the North Coast Highway. You can see cannons and maritime artifacts.
- Coyaba River Garden and Museum. The word coyaba comes from an Arawak word for paradise. The word describes the practice of burning herbs on flat stones which put the Indians into a heavenly state, or coyaba. These spectacular tropical gardens also offer a small museum displaying artifacts from the Arawak, Spanish, and colonial English settlements in the area. Not too far from downtown Ocho Rios, this lushly landscaped park and museum were built on the grounds of a historic farm (the Shaw Park Plantation) that dates back to the earliest days of Britain's colonial age in Jamaica. Mahoe Falls, along the Milford River, can be reached from here. For a panoramic video of the Garden, click here.
- Cranbrook Flower Forest & River Head Adventure Trail - This beautiful commercial nursery and eco-tourism destination at Laughlands, not far from Ocho Rios, is a must-see for anyone who wants to experience the lush beauty of Jamaica away from the crowds. Centered around a much-restored watermill built by a British planter in the 18th Century, this 130 acre property welcomes visitors on guided tours of its formal lawns, fountains, lakes, and ponds. The area is the private creation of Ivan Linton, who has pampered the plants of this former plantation for over 20 years. He has cultivated a wide variety of tropical plants to sustain the natural environment. Horseback riding is also available here or you can bird-watch or fish. The grounds are perfect for a picnic and there is a play area for kids. After you eat, hike alongside the Little River. The path climbs high into the hills to a waterfall. The hike can be slippery, so take good walking shoes.
- Dolphin Cove - Three levels of dolphin interaction are offered here: petting the playful creatures, playing with them in the water, and actually swimming with them. Prices increase with the level of interaction. They also offer a tropical aquarium and jungle trail. Many tourists rave about the experience in spite of the hefty price tag.
- Dunn’s River Falls: Dunn's River Falls is a series of tiered waterfalls that drop 600 feet to the beach along the Dunn’s River, the largest of Ocho Rios’ eight rivers. When the cruise ships are in, a steady stream of tourists holds hands as they climb the slippery rocks with the help of guides. It is one of Jamaica's most popular attractions. Visit on a Sunday though, the one day off from ship arrivals, and there will be far fewer people enjoying the swirling water. If you're planning to climb the falls, wear sneakers or water shoes to protect your feet from the sharp rocks and to prevent slipping. You can also just relax on the beach or stroll along the stairways, terraces and decks to see the falls. You can enjoy them without the climb. To view a panoramic video of Dunn's River Falls, click here.
- Dunn's River Beach is a beautiful small beach located just below the town's famous waterfalls. Watersports are all available here. Or bring some snorkeling gear and head to the reef located just off shore.
- Eden Falls (a.k.a. The Ruins at the Falls) - The 40-foot natural Eden Falls are a lesser-known attraction in Ocho Rios and are part of The Ruins, as this site is called. Originally part of a larger property called "Eden Bower" which was owned by the Geddes Family in 1907, it was divided and sold off over the years. The Ruins came into existence in the mid-1950s, when a retired American Doctor, Robert Page, was inspired to re-create his own replica of plantation building ruins. Future owners expanded. Today they offer historic and garden tours of the tropical property. Jamaican arts and crafts are available at The Ruins Art Gallery and Gift Shoppe. A restaurant is highlighted by the illuminated falls that cascade into the Caribbean Sea.
- Enchanted Gardens and Aviary - Hundreds of people have wonderful memories of the old Enchanted Gardens Resort (lots of honeymoons there!!) which fell into disrepair and closed shortly after September 11, 2001 because of debt and tax issues. The property has been for sale for years and the hotel is still closed. HOWEVER, the property has been refurbished and is NOW OPEN for garden tours, special events, weddings and lunch! This tropical paradise and rainforest is 20 acres with 14 natural waterfalls, meandering streams and natural spring-fed pools; offering a nature walk replete with a wide variety of flowers, fruit trees and a large Japanese Koi pond. The property also includes the largest walk-in bird aviary in the Caribbean with a wide variety of exotic birds. It is truly spectacular! There is a nominal admission fee for the garden tour (about US$12 and about $500J for residents), which helps with the upkeep of the gardens and the aviary. Carnival Cruise Lines offers an excursion tour of the gardens or you can visit on your own as well. On Eden Bower Road in the hills of Ocho Rios. Open daily 8am to 5pm. Phone: 876.974.7720.
- Faith's Pen - The A1 Highway is the longest in Jamaica, running all the way from Kingston to Negril. If you’re crossing the mountain on it between Ocho Rios and the south side of the island, Faith’s Pen is about halfway between Ochi and Kingston. This is roadside dining at its finest and the perfect spot to stop for a snack! From Ocho Rios, go about 12 miles south on A3 to the intersection of A1, then continue south about 4 miles past Moneague. Along a curve in the road you will find a neat row of about 15 to 20 roadside huts selling all your Jamaican favorites – jerk chicken, roast corn, festival, bammy, steamed fish – and traditional dishes like ackee & salt fish, cow cod soup and mannish water. Facilities are bare-bones. Stop, meet the people and enjoy the Jamaican hospitality. As with any place where vendors compete with each other, there will always be a few bad apples that spoil it for the whole bunch by overcharging. Make sure to negotiate and know your price in advance. Check out Faith’s Pen on video.
- Fern Gully: Fern Gully is a National Park of Jamaica. It is a stretch of Highway A3 that winds south just outside of Ocho Rios on the road to Moneague. For three miles, the road is lined with lush ferns and innumerable plants; well worth a drive even if you’re not headed that way. The road goes through a canyon that was an old river bed and was called Ocho Rios Gully until flash floods rushed through it, causing an abundance of ferns to sprout. In about 1880 it was planted with about 200 more species of fern. Succeeding hurricanes have damaged it and the fumes of passing cars are also causing damage. It still remains attractive with its banks of ferns and other plants, canopy of trees and filtered sunlight. You can walk the Gully if you prefer and, depending on the time of day you go, there are usually local craft sellers along the road. In this gully, there are reportedly more varieties of ferns than exist on the whole North American Continent. Take a 10-minute video tour of Fern Gully.
- Firewater Pond - Located in the hills above St. Ann’s Bay in a small rasta community, this is another hidden gem! The pond contains natural gases which, when mixed with the naturally-occurring sulfur, create gentle flames that float on the water! Firewater was reportedly discovered more than 80 years ago by Granny May (Mehala Smith) who took shortcuts from the hillside community to her job at Drax Hall estate and one day discovered salty bubbling water at the base of a cotton tree. The water eventually became a pool and, when attempting to burn a wasp nest from the cotton tree, her torch fell into the water and flames spread on the water. She claims a voice told her that the spring had healing powers and locals claim the springs can cure cataracts, arthritis, skin problems and a variety of other ailments. Today, a group of local rasta “masseurs” work at the pond, heating towels over the flames, applying them to achy joints and giving massages as a source of income (donations accepted). The money helps to buy clothing, school supplies and food for the struggling families in the community. They’ve erected a crude bamboo fence with tarps to provide a bit of privacy. The waters are let out of the pool and allowed to replenish after every group leaves. Firewater can be difficult to locate but is worth the trip! Just outside the Runaway Bay roundabout (about 30 minutes from Ocho Rios), find a very narrow dirt road behind the Norman Manley Training Grounds, and follow it as it narrows further along the edge of a cliff, until you reach a small town where the rastas will guide you to the parking area. Read a friend’s blog post about her adventure to Firewater.
- Green Grotto Caves - Formed of coastal limestone, these caves were a haven for runaway slaves and pirates. The Tainos left drawings on the walls. The mammoth cave is full of rock formations, stalagmites, and stalactites, and is nearly one mile long and 40 feet deep. At the bottom of the cave lies eerie Grotto Lake, 120 feet down, where you can see the stalagmites growing from the bottom. The price of admission includes a 45-minute tour of this well-lit cave. At one time, a nightclub operated here, and tours included a boat ride across the Green Lake. Tourists were even allowed to take a swim in the fragile ecosystem. Preservationists will be glad to know that when the government took ownership of this fragile resource, they discontinued these damaging activities. This is a good destination for those who want to see caves without really going off the beaten path. The Green Grotto Caves (also known as Runaway Bay Caves, Cave Hall Caves, Discovery Bay Caves, Dry Harbour Caves, Hopewell Caves, Rum Caves and Dairy Caves) are situated about two miles east of Discovery Bay. They are usually open daily.
- Hooves Jamaica - See the rural side of Jamaica on horseback! The "Beach Ride" takes you on a visit to the Seville Great House Museum, which houses artifacts found on this fascinating property. Then, you're off on a 2-hour ride through the woods and wetlands to the beach, where you'll ride in the waves! Along the way, you'll learn the interesting history of the area's Taino and sugar plantation history. They also offer the "Rainforest River Ride", "Bush Doctor Ride", and several other options. The owners also participate in a rescue program and rehabilitate horses that are found abandoned or abused. (Bravo!) Phone: 876.972.0905.
- Irie Beach - Irie Beach is located in the hills of Ocho Rios on the White River. It’s not really a beach; it’s a river where you can swim. Sparkling water cascades over rock slides, forming emerald pools perfect for swimming. This area is beautifully overgrown (its natural state) and relatively secluded. Irie Beach had closed but rumors have it they have plans for reopening soon for our enjoyment. (Locals slip in through the fence for a swim.) Visit them on Facebook. Hidden gem!
- Island Village and Island Village Shopping Center – A little bit like a theme park, this exotic looking village opened in 2002. There are some nice shops, restaurants, bars, movie theaters, and reggae-themed attractions scattered over 4 acres on a beachfront within a few steps of the Ocho Rios cruise ship terminal. There is a branch of Margaritaville here (they have a great waterslide!), along with shops selling all sorts of clothing, souvenirs, books, music, fine jewelry and coffee. And Reggae Explosion is here, a museum dedicated to the origins of Jamaica’s music.
- Island Village Beach - If you walk to the end of the boardwalk at the Island Village Shopping Centre in Ocho Rios you will find Island Village Beach. This is a smaller and more intimate beach than some of the others in Ocho Rios. Watersports are all available here and you can also rent chairs and umbrellas. The beach also has a volleyball court and easy access to Margaritaville for drinks.
- Mahoe Falls - The falls are part of the river system, accessed through Coyaba River Garden (see above), that rises in the gardens via three natural springs. The owner has thoughtfully installed nicely designed ramps and rails to make the 100-foot drop waterfalls accessible via an easy stroll down to the swimming hole at the base of the falls. Visitors describe it as a mini-Dunn’s River Falls but with fewer people, no human chains and no slippery rocks. Hidden gem! Enjoy a little video tour of the falls.
- Mahogany Beach is situated off of Main Street on a small cove at the east end of Ocho Rios. If you are on foot, walk east from town and make a left after you pass Bibibip’s Bar & Grill. The beach has a roped-off swimming area to prevent boats from bothering swimmers. There is a reef for snorkeling and a mineral spring. This public beach can get crowded on cruise ship days. All of the water sports are available here along with a bar and restaurant on the beach. There is no entry fee.
- Mallard's Beach is on Mallard’s Bay in the center of Ocho Rios and gets quite crowded when the cruise ships are in port. There are lots of activities and water sports available here so this beach is a good mix of people-watching and fun.
- Ocho Rios Marine Protected Area - In 1966, a small area of the coast of Ocho Rios was declared a protected area. After years of lobbying by Friends of the Sea-Jamaica, the boundaries of this protected area were expanded in November 1999 to cover a much larger area. The boundaries extend from the shoreline of Mammee Bay and Drax Hall in the west, to Frankfort Point in the east and north to a depth of about 3,200 feet. There is some excellent scuba diving offshore here with beautiful coral formations that are due to be incorporated in the Ocho Rios Marine Park, which has not yet been developed.
- Paradise Beach (a.k.a. Salem Paradise Beach) in Runaway Bay has some of the best snorkeling in the area. Beach location is very near the Hedonism III resort. Has changing rooms and a beach bar. For a panoramic video of the beach, click here.
- Pineapple Place Shopping Center - You can find just about any craft or souvenir you may want here in this outdoor village. And the vendors are always happy to strike a fair bargain with you. For a panoramic video of the craft village, click here.
- Priory Beach can be found a little west of St. Ann’s Bay going toward Runaway Bay. They have a popular late Sunday night beach party here with good music and dancing.
- Prospect Plantation Tours - Prospect is one of Jamaica's oldest great houses, built in the early 18th Century. You can see bananas, cassava, sugarcane, coffee, allspice and many other crops at this 1,000 acre working plantation. Prospect is very close to Ocho Rios but actually located in the parish of Saint Mary. See the details on our Saint Mary activities page.
- Puerto Seco Beach in Runaway Bay. This long stretch of white sand public beach looks out on Discovery Bay, the location where, according to tradition, Christopher Columbus first came ashore on Jamaica. He sailed in search of freshwater but found none, naming the stretch of sand Puerto Seco, or "dry port". Today the beach is anything but dry; concession stands sell Red Stripe and local food to primarily a local beach crowd. It is nicely maintained and has changing rooms and toilets.
- Reggae Beach - A favorite beach of many who visit the area, beautiful Reggae Beach is located just east of Ocho Rios, near Prospect Plantation. Expect to relax in the shade, swim, and get a drink from the bar and a bite of local food to eat. This is a quiet, laid-back beach. In fact, on a weekday you may have it entirely to yourself. If you are looking for water sports and activities, this is probably not your best choice. There are bathrooms and outdoor showers. There is also a beach bar and cafe here. No chairs, so bring your own!
- Shaw Park Gardens – see Coyaba River Garden and Museum
- Skydive Jamaica - This new and exciting adventure operates out of Boscobel Aerodrome in Saint Mary, but is easily reached from the Ocho Rios area. Visit this page for more information.
- Turtle Beach is the main public beach adjacent to the Ocho Rios cruise ship pier. Expect crowds when a ship is in port. The mile-and-a-half long white sand beach draws both locals and tourists but there is usually plenty of space to stretch out and relax. The swimming is good but the water can be a little grassy.
- Wassi Art Pottery Works - Another interesting stop is Wassi Art Pottery Works, on Back Street in the community of Great Pond (on the east side of Ocho Rios). This shop offers a tour of its factory. The pottery is made of clay from Castleton, a small town in the mountains of northeast Jamaica. The clay is worked into a variety of objects – tiles, sculptures, plates, candlesticks – and sold at the store and at fine boutiques island-wide. They have some spectacular pottery!
- White River Bamboo Rafting - A quiet raft trip down the shaded and tranquil White River is a relaxing alternative to more strenuous activities. Sounds good to me! Go on your own or arrange it through ChukkaCaribbean. Chukka offers white-water tubing on the White River. No previous rafting experience is required. Rafters travel in a convoy along the river and through some gentle rapids. They also offer kayaking through the rapids and lagoons along the lush tropical vegetation and beautiful bamboo groves.
For Saint Ann's cultural and historical building and sites, click here.