Ocho Rios, Jamaica
The disabled cruiser visiting Ocho Rios, Jamaica can encounter some of the biggest disabled access challenges of any of the Caribbean islands. Mountains, steep wheelchair ramps, and rough terrain are a few of challenges that the disabled cruiser will have to deal with on their visit.
Ocho Rios has accessible exits to the cruise pier and cruise port. Accessible taxis at the port transportation hub are equipped with a wheelchair ramp so you won’t have to worry about accessibility details and can spend more time enjoying your accessible Jamaica experiences.
The cruise port is quite small and crowded but there are a few things there. Margaritaville and a small mall are at the pier. The main part of town is a short walk/roll, with shops, restaurants and bars along the way. The local market will be on the right. Don’t enter without expecting to be approached by pushy locals selling their goods. Downtown is a flat and congested. The sidewalks are rough and broken with limited drop curbs.
None of the major tourist attractions are within walking/rolling distance of the port. For the Disabled Cruiser to reach the top attractions in Jamaica, you will need to book private transportation, as there is no accessible public transportation on the island. At the attractions that have wheelchair ramps, these ramps will normally be much steeper than US and Canadian standards. Since Jamaica is one of the most mountainous islands in the Caribbean, most of the popular tourist attractions have steep hills or steep ramps.
Ocho Rios, Jamaica
With its swaying palms, glistening white beaches, and sophisticated resorts, Ocho Rios is a favorite vacation spot. For a splendid view, visit Shaw Park Gardens, overflowing with fragrant flora and refreshing waterfalls, or enjoy a refreshing trek through Dunn’s River Falls one of the most celebrated attractions of the Caribbean.
Ocho Rios is situated between Kingston and Montego Bay, in the north of the island of Jamaica in the Caribbean.
The top attraction here is a visit to the Dunn’s River Falls, the famous waterfalls.
Mystic Mountain is a rainforest adventure park, enjoyed by adults and children alike.
Music lovers can visit the birthplace of Bob Marley, at Nine Mile.
Shopping ranges from haggling at the craft markets, to duty free and souvenir shopping at the Taj Mahal Shopping Center downtown. You may find vendors very persistent. Do not wander alone outside tourist areas. If in doubt, take a pre-booked cruise excursion.
Dolphin Cove and Shaw Park Gardens are also popular attractions.
Harmony Hall is a restored great house and Prospect Plantation is one of the island’s oldest 18th Century estates.
Mahogany Beach is 10 minutes east of the port and features numerous watersports, bar/grill area and nearby shops.
Where You’re Docked
The port has two piers for cruise ships. The Turtle Bay Pier is located next to the town’s restaurants and shops and the James Bond Pier, which is industrial in nature but serves cruise ships, is located farther west.
The piers are right beside the downtown area where shops, restaurants and bars can be found just minutes away on foot.
Taxis are available at the piers.
Good to Know
As with many other ports, and when traveling to foreign places in general, it’s always best to proceed with caution. While in port, be aware of your surroundings, leave valuables and nonessentials on the ship, and take measures to keep yourself and your personal belongings safe. While you’re shopping, merchants might come off as pushy but responding with a respectful “no thanks” should do the trick.
On Foot: You can walk into downtown. If you are docked at the James Bond Pier, take Main Street to the west to get to town — it takes about 10 minutes.
By Taxi: Taxis are readily available at the dock; just make sure you hire a licensed JUTA taxi. Negotiate a price before you go and the time to be picked up; round trip fares are $50 to Dunn’s River Falls from outside the port area. For the Disabled Cruiser, Jamaica Wheelchair Taxi is Jamaica’s best provider of transportation for visitors with limited mobility, special needs/disabled and provider of wheelchair access/handicap vehicles for excursions. They have a fleet of specially designed handicap vehicles fully equipped for accommodating and transporting disabled persons; as well as a team of professional drivers/guides who provide a variety of wheelchair accessible excursions.
The currency in Jamaica is the Jamaican dollar but U.S. dollars are widely accepted. Most shops, restaurants and attractions accept credit cards. ATMs are located at the cruise terminal.
Standard English is spoken in Jamaica but the locals speak an English-based patois with a thick accent.
Haggle in classic Jamaican style at the craft market; you can get good prices on straw items, woodcarvings and souvenirs. Downtown, head for the Taj Mahal Shopping Center and Soni’s Plaza. Both offer shops featuring unique jewelry, clothing and gifts. In the duty-free arena, you can get good buys on jewelry, cameras, china and crystal. Good souvenir choices include the island’s well-known coffees, Blue Mountain (top-shelf) and High Mountain (a less expensive blend); Tia Maria, the made-in-Jamaica coffee liqueur; and Jamaica rum.
Jamaican food tends to be on the spicy side, especially such iconic dishes as jerk chicken and beef patties. Seafood figures heavily into the diet but at local joints you will also find curried goat, oxtail and the national dish called ackee and saltfish — a local fruit with a texture like avocado, sauteed with onions, hot peppers and salted codfish.
Rum, Blue Mountain coffee and coffee-flavored Tia Maria liqueur are all island-produced beverages with worldwide reputations for top quality. The Hummingbird is a Jamaican classic cocktail made with coffee liqueur, rum cream liqueur, milk, strawberry syrup and bananas and then blended with ice to a smooth, frozen consistency.
Points of Interest
- Dunn’s River Falls – Jamaica’s world-famous waterfall cascades 600 feet down a giant rock staircase to the Caribbean Sea. Climb to the top or use the adjacent walkways if you prefer not to get wet. The Disabled Cruiser visiting the falls will find the pavement is rough and patched with noticeable bumpy gutters right out of the parking lot. The entire trip to the falls is downhill, which means you have to ascend to leave. There is a viewing area of the falls, maybe 500 feet down the path, which is the closest you can go in a wheelchair.
- Konoko Gardens – Explore the lush tropical jungles, waterfalls and sparkling pools of this beautifully landscaped garden and adjacent historical museum built on grounds dating back to British colonial times. For the Disabled Cruiser it’s an easy walk and most of it is wheelchair accessible.
- Jamaican Estates – Venture away from commercial areas for a tour of one of Jamaica’s historic Great Houses or plantation estates, where bananas, sugarcane, coffee and allspice are still cultivated today.
- Mystic Mountain – The exciting attraction which opened in 2008 serves up incredible views, and features the Sky Explorer Chairlift, Jamaican Bobsled ride, interesting displays, an infinity pool and a value-priced restaurant.
- River Rafting – This is an attraction not to be missed. Enjoy a journey along Jamaica’s scenic coastline to the historic Martha Brae River where your 30-foot, two-seater bamboo raft is waiting. For the Disabled Cruiser this activity is listed as handicapped accessible. It is, but only because the rafters are more than willing to provide physical assistance to people with limited mobility who can walk a few steps. The workers are willing to physically assist anyone in a wheelchair down the pathway (the path has several landings with steps) to the river’s edge and help board the raft. The workers are very proud that they “have not lost anyone yet”.
- Dolphin Encounter – Don’t miss an unforgettable opportunity to interact with bottlenose dolphins at Dolphin Cove, a magnificent ocean-themed property. Interact with these playful mammals, learn training secrets and enjoy a host of water-related activities. While the Disabled Cruiser might be able to swim with the dolphins in Jamaica, it’s not as wheelchair friendly as other Caribbean Ports.
- Beaches – Shimmering turquoise waters, soft white sands and postcard-perfect views make the tranquil beaches of Ocho Rios some of the most sought-after sites on the island.
Ocho Rios Accessible Excursions
With its swaying palms, and glistening white beaches, Ocho Rios is a favorite vacation spot. For a splendid view, visit Shaw Park Gardens, overflowing with fragrant flora and refreshing waterfalls, or enjoy a refreshing trek through Dunn’s River Falls one of the most celebrated attractions of the Caribbean.
Highlights of Ocho Rios Accessible Private Driving Tour
This 6 hour accessible tour begins with your English-speaking driver/guide meeting you at the cruise dock in a comfortable, air-conditioned accessible van. The tour guide is knowledgeable and has plenty of experience touring with wheelchair users, mobility scooter users, or senior cruisers that simply want to take it slow.
The Highlights of Ocho Rios Accessible Private Driving Tour starts with a leisurely, scenic drive that includes beautiful tropic views. You’ll then have the opportunity to visit Columbus Park, an open air museum overlooking the harbor at Discovery Bay where Columbus first trod upon Jamaican soil. You’ll then have a chance to visit the unique Dunn’s River Falls. Limited mobility participants can watch from a wheelchair accessible, lush, and shaded viewing area while others hike the falls. This Accessible Private Driving Tour can also include Konoko Falls, which boasts beautiful botanical gardens located in the hills above Ocho Rios. You’ll meander through Fern Gully, which is quite an experience while the tour guide explains how the roadway was established.
Your experienced tour guide will direct you to accessible entrances, follow accessible routes, and point you in the right direction for accessible shopping, accessible restaurants and bar locations near the beach, and more.