Nestled in the heart of Jamaica’s North Coast region, the magnificent flora, cascading waterfalls, and sun-swept beaches define Ocho Rios’ legendary beauty. The name of the city translates from Spanish into eight rivers, but since these don’t exist, it’s more likely derived from a translation from the spouts, a name given to the village because of several nearby waterfalls. Ocho Rios is surrounded by beautiful green mountains and stunning views, quite a bit of which is accessible for wheelchair users.
Once your cruise ship docks in Ocho Rios, you will disembark onto a long pier that connects to the small terminal area. If you have prearranged a tour, either through your cruise line or independently, you will speak to one of the staff members at the terminal first. They have a handwritten log of everyone disembarking and the tours they have booked. You will need to check in with them, and then they will direct you to where you need to wait for your tour guide. In my case, I prearranged a wheelchair accessible tour with Ken’s Wheelchair Service, and of the terminal staff contacted my driver as soon as I arrived.
Although I did not personally venture outside of the port area into Ocho Rios, I paid close attention to the streets and the sidewalks when my van pulled out of the parking area. I was pleasantly surprised to notice that for the most part, the sidewalks were in good repair and there were curb drops everywhere. There are some restaurants and shops, including a craft market, within easy rolling distance of the terminal. However, I can’t comment on the level of safety in Ocho Rios and can’t recommend for or against heading outside of the port area on your own. I can only say that the accessibility looks pretty good if you choose to do so, and certainly much better than I anticipated.
Unfortunately, many of the activities in Ocho Rios are geared towards more active travelers. Dunn’s River Falls is the most popular attraction, where visitors walk across and climb a beautiful rock waterfall. The park is accessible to a brief point, but it’s even if you pay to enter, there’s no place to even see the waterfall. Instead, we took a lovely drive up and down Fern Gully, which is a winding mountain road lined on both sides by rain forest ferns and flowers. Then we spent a considerable amount of time at the beautiful and wheelchair accessible KonoKo Falls and botanical gardens, which was filled with small waterfalls, beautiful plants and flowers, and a variety of birds and small animals.
Beware of your return from a tour to the terminal. The sidewalks are lined with souvenir vendors who are the most aggressive I have seen anywhere in the world. They will not leave you alone for one second, and will push souvenir after souvenir upon you. They will give you small free trinkets in an attempt to guilt you into buying something from them. If you don’t buy something, they often get upset. Even after you leave their kiosk, they will follow you down the sidewalk. I got so frustrated and eager to get away from the vendors that I just accepted the loss of roughly $15 worth in Jamaican money and headed for the ship. It just wasn’t worth the aggravation. Even though you will probably pay more, you are better off buying a souvenir in a more formal gift shop if you visit a larger attraction.
Are you ready to book a cruise to the Caribbean that stops in Ocho Rios, Jamaica? Contact me at Spin the Globe/Travel so we can start planning!