10 Awesome Things To Do in Ocho Rios with Kids
There is no doubt Jamaica is well known for it’s all-inclusive resorts. It’s certainly a popular honeymoon destination and they even have over-water bungalos now too. But there is so much to see in Jamaica, beyond it’s resorts. We recently returned home from our second visit to the island. You can read here about mine and Will’s first Jamaican vacation, where we explored Negril and the southwest side of the island. This time around, however, we were visiting Ocho Rios with kids. And I wanted to see what the northside of the island had to offer. Turns out, there’s lots.
In October, we spent two weeks in the Tower Isle and Ocho Rios area. We stayed in an incredible Airbnb, explored off-the-beaten path sandy beaches and a plethora of majestic waterfalls. Below are 10 awesome things to do in Ocho Rios with kids.
1. Climb Dunn’s River Falls
Dunn’s River Falls is by far the most visited attraction in Ocho Rios. This means it can get really crowded, especially on days when cruise ships arrive. But we went during the middle of a pandemic. 2020 certainly took a toll on tourism in Jamaica. The bright side for us, we had the majority of these attractions all to ourselves. In fact, we visited Dunn’s River 3 times during our stay. It was just 10 minutes up the road from our Airbnb and it was our favorite attraction. If you were going to enjoy just one of these excursions in Ocho Rios with kids, then climbing these falls is a must!
Tip: Be sure to wear a swim suit and sturdy water shoes (not flip flops). I wore these. There are lockers onsite to store your dry clothes and valuables.
At the top of the falls, there is a splash pad for little ones. Jimmie and Emily loved the slide!
Don’t forget to support the local souvenir and snack shops on your way out. The jerk chicken is delicious!
2. Margaritaville and Beach
Ok, so this is another “touristy” attraction, but the overall vibe is perfect for children. Margaritaville is one of the locations of the franchise created by musician and business tycoon Jimmy Buffett. It is located across from the Ocho Rios Bay Beach in Island Village. So if you are headed to Ocho Rios with kids, the Margaritaville beach is calm and quite shallow making it an excellent stop for families with little non-swimmers.
The beachfront bar and grill offers a wide variety of foods including some Caribbean and American favorites (cheeseburger in paradise, anyone?). For an upcharge, you can sit in the VIP section on the beach, which provides you with butler service to your chairs on the beach, plus access to the water trampoline in the ocean and the pool with a 60-foot water slide. Totally worth it!
3. Konoko Falls and Mini Zoo
Konoko Falls and Park is another majestic cascading waterfall nestled in the tranquil hills of Ocho Rios, Jamaica; approximately 5 minutes away from the Ocho Rios town center. We took the kids mainly for the mini zoo, but climbing the waterfalls was fun too (it’s basically a smaller version of Dunn’s River). You’ll begin your tour by trekking through a lush botanical garden and then taking a steep descent to the beginning of the falls. Alongside the waterfall is an approximately 200 step staircase that leads you to the bottom of the falls where the climb begins. Interspersed along the journey down are little entries where you can enter the falls if you don’t feel like starting at the very bottom.
After your guided climb up the falls, you’ll hit up the bird aviary and mini zoo and museum. It offer visitors a truly interactive experience and the opportunity to learn about the various animals such as turtles, tortoises, crocodile, iguanas, snakes and a wide variety of exotic birds. A great activity in Ocho Rios with kids.
Tip: Bring cash for tipping your tour guide.
4. Pleasant Cove Beach
This is not your over-crowded public beach. Off the beaten path, and recommended to us by a local, we spent a huge chunk of our time at this beach in Ocho Rios. Put “Pleasant Cove Beach Bar and Grill” into your Google maps. You will have to go through a gate and let the gate attendant know you are there to visit the beach bar. You’ll drive down a dirt road with lots of pot holes and pass an old abandoned house before you arrive.
This was a treasure to find. Most of the time, we would have the whole beach to ourselves. The snorkeling was great and the tiny shack restaurant had delicious food. Plus, it was nice having a bar right there on the beach that serving up red stripes and rum punch.
5. James Bond Beach
Hopefully by the time you visit, the road leading to this beach will be repaired. At one point, I was certain we were going to need to be towed. The local town of Oracabessa was once the home of Ian Flemming, who is rumored to have written a number of his Bond novels while at this little beach. It was also the location for the scene in the movie Dr. No when Ursala Andress emerges from the water in her white bikini to meet James Bond. There is some decent snorkeling that can be done from the shore near the rocks on the eastern side. Entrance to this rustic beach is $5pp.
When we visited, the bar and restaurant were closed due to the pandemic, but we were able to lounge on the beach which had an incredible view. I loved all the crabs everywhere! Bring some beach towels and toys for the kids for a nice day on the beach.
6. Blue Hole (or Island Gully Falls)
Blue Hole is in the mountains behind Ocho Rios (approximately 15 to 20 minute drive from the Ocho Rios town). The road leading up to the Blue Hole is not very well marked, but the Google pin location will take you right to the location (if you are driving yourself). There is a sign saying “Island Gully Falls” at the entrance.
The Blue Hole Jamaica is a natural series of waterfalls and swimming holes. While there are some small facilities (bathroom, little shop, a few handrails) it is very much an outdoor adventure. So, be prepared to get wet and walk through the jungle.
The Entrance Fee is $10USD and then you have to have a guide to take you on the hike, which will cost an additional tip amount at your discretion.
Our guides held onto our belongings for the entire tour and took photos with our iPhone (and videos), plus helped lug along the kids. Super helpful!
7. Ocho Rios with Kids – Dolphin Cove
Dolphin Cove is a great excursion if you’re visiting Ocho Rios with kids. While we didn’t swim with the dolphins, it was fun letting the kids watch the dolphins do tricks, plus we got access to the 100 ft waterslide. Dolphin Cove offers dolphin interactions that take place in a natural cove rather than an artificial pool.
A variety of different dolphin interaction experiences are available to choose from, as well as up close and personal shark encounter. Family members who do not want to purchase an encounter are able to pay an entrance fee in order to accompany family on their adventure. Entrance to Dolphin Cove includes beach access, pool access, a Jungle Trail walk with a mini zoo, and snorkeling with stingrays. Lunch is available on site for additional purchase.
8. Ocho Rios Bay Beach
This is a public beach within minutes from the Cruise port. Ocho Rios Bay Beach lies just to the East as you exit the cruise port. A quick 15-minute walk and a $3pp entrance fee grants you access to this secure and serene little beach. The water is calm and quite shallow making it an excellent stop for families with little non-swimmers. Since the cruise pier is to the East of the port, Ocho Rios Bay Beach is the perfect spot for photos of you or your family standing on the beach with the cruise ship majestically in the background.
9. Green Grotto Caves
These famous Jamaican caves take their name from the green algae that covers their walls. The Arawak Indians were the first known inhabitants of these limestone caves. They were also used as a refuge by escaped slaves, when they became known as the Runaway Caves. You might also recognize the caves from the James Bond film Live and Let Die, when they were evil Doctor Kananga’s lair. Trekking along an underground river, your expert tour guide will point out the many stalactites and stalagmites. Wear comfortable shoes as there is a bit of walking on uneven surfaces.
10. White River Tubing
Located near the Blue Hole, water adventure enthusiasts will have a fantastic time floating in tubes down the White River. The journey is a nice combination of tranquil floating to take in the lush forest and tiny, yet exhilarating, little river rapids that both adults and children will enjoy. Life jackets are provided but where the tubing takes place, the river is quite shallow. Guides often walk along next to the tubes keeping them toward the center of the river. River tubing along the White River is a good activity to combine with a trip to The Blue Hole due to their proximity.
Final Thoughts: Ocho Rios with Kids
A beach vacation will always be one of your more relaxed vacations when it comes to traveling with kids. Ocho Rios Jamaica was the perfect destination that provided both adventurous activities plus plenty of opportunities to lounge on a prestine beach with a rum punch in hand. I highly recommend visiting Ocho Rios with your family.