Eight exciting things to do with kids in Ocho Rios, Jamaica.
A short history of Ocho Rios
Ocho Rios' unique mixture of natural beauty and history makes it an exciting and educational place for kids and adults to explore. The tropical paradise was first inhabited by a native Indian tribe called the Tainos, who led a simple life coexisting peacefully with each other and living in harmony with nature. In the late 15th century, Spanish explorer Christopher Columbus landed off the coast of Ocho Rios, and Jamaica began its journey into colonization. The Spanish architecture of the area and the spanish names like Ocho Rios (spanish for eight rivers) has its genesis in this period. In the 16th century, the English wrenched control of Jamaica from the Spanish and developed commercial plantations powered by slaves from Africa. Under British rule, Ocho Rios gradually became recognized as a vacation spot for the wealthy who traveled from Europe to enjoy its many beaches. This has continued to the present time, and today Ocho Rios has a reputation as a first class beach resort. Families visiting the coastal town, will find that Ocho Rios has a lot more than the beach to offer. From a traditional plantation tour to swimming on horseback, here are the most exciting things to do with children in Ocho Rios.
Kids (even toddlers) will enjoy exploring the ocean and forests of Ocho Rios
Tour a real working planation-- Prospect Plantation
Plantations began in the British part of Jamaica's history. Historically, plantations were used for growing sugarcane. Tour the more than 1,000 acres of Prospect plantation for a feel of what plantation life must have been like and for amazing views of the ocean.The plantation is like a compound divided into different areas all dedicated to something specific.Point out the rows and rows of sugarcane, cocoa and coffee while teaching your kids that all foods, including chocolate start from the earth. Expect to learn about new tropical foods like breadfruit, and to see how limes and pineapples grow. Listen out for the famous people who have visited and planted trees on the plantation. Drew Barrymore and Winston Churchill are just a few! After the tour, take the kids for a short game of mini golf on the planation's grounds. Adults may also take a horseback ride around the property ($70 per adult). Tours are free for children under 6,USD$15 for children over 6, and $33 for adults. Check with your hotel to arrange a tour.
Swim with the dolphins at Dolphin Cove
This popular place brims with excitement. Take the kids for an up close encounter with one of nature's most beloved creatures. Different packages are offered from the basic swim with the dolphin package to a package where kids can actually take care of and help train a dolphin. Also offered are educational programs on the Caribbean shark and stingrays. As if this place wasn't exciting enough, there is also a hike through tropical habitats for toddlers and the very young who can't swim with the dolphins. The hike which is doable with a toddler offers sightings of iguanas, parrots, bright tropical plants and more. If your travel plans to Jamaica includes a toddler, my article on things to do with toddlers in Jamaica gives plenty of ideas suitable for toddlers. For more information on visiting Dolphin Cove, www.dolphincoveja.com
Experience history at Columbus Park Museum
If your kids have an insatiable appetite for knowledge, take them to visit Columbus Park Museum. The museum is filled with opportunities to learn about the Spanish and Taino period of Jamaican history. Located on the very spot where Christopher Columbus landed in 1494, this ocean side museum is filled with artifacts from the indigenous Tainos who inhabited Jamaica when Columbus landed and examples of Spanish style architecture. See the primitive tools that the Tainos used, and learn about how both the Tainos and Spanish lived hundreds of years ago. The museum's compact size also makes it a perfect experience for toddlers and younger kids. Entrance free, but your hotel will charge a price for arranging a tour of the museum
Eat like a local at Faiths Pen
No visit to Jamaica is complete without eating some authentic Jamaican food with the local people. Luckily, Ocho Rios is home to the favorite place for local Jamaicans to hang out and have a delicious Jamaican meal--- Faiths Pen.
This roadside eatery is really just an aromatic collection of colorful shacks bursting with Jamaican culture. Take your kids to experience an authentic Jamaican scene: the smell of the enticing aromas of well spiced Jamaican Jerk chicken and pork, while the fast paced reggae music pulsates in the background and Jamaican families stop by to inspect then buy the roasting or steaming foods on open air pits. To visit Faith's Pen, arrange a tour through your hotel.
Zip line through Cranbrook Flower Forest
The interior of Ocho Rios is dense, green rainforest. Deep inside the forest, sits this 130 acres of tropical paradise that has been designed especially for families. Cranbrook Flower Forest is perfect for spending a day making memories with the whole family. Take the younger toddlers to play on the swings and see saw in the playground, while the older ones enjoy an exhilarating zip line adventure over colorful flowerbeds and green treetops.
After zip lining, take the whole family on a tour of the Taino village on the grounds to see how the indigenous peoples of Jamaica lived thousands of years ago. Also, make sure to tour the extensive flower gardens to learn about new exotic plants and flowers.
For something out of the ordinary, arrange a donkey ride for the kids. If they are lucky they may hear these noisy animals bray. Other activities offered, include easy hikes(doable with toddlers), and swimming in the river that runs through the gardens.
Entrance to the Flower Forest is free if you go on your own, but if you go as part of a tour there will be a charge. Check with your hotel for more information. Zip lining can be arranged at www.chukka.com, or as part of a package through your hotel.
Climb Dunns River Waterfalls
For its natural beauty, and 'climbability,' Dunns River Falls is a favorite with every visitor to Ocho Rios. The natural waterfall is 1000 feet high and cascades down into the ocean, falling over naturally formed steps before making reflective ripples in the ocean. Older kids (maybe older than 6 depending on balance) can easily follow a tour up into the waterfall to become part of the waterfall while younger kids can experience the base of the waterfall with its many cool pools of water for splashing. Toddlers who cannot climb but want to experience the waterfall, can go to the extensive viewing area that have been made safe with safety rails and offer close up views of the majestic falls.
The beach below the waterfall is perfect for the whole family. With shallow waters and sands perfect for making sandcastles, a trip here will be a whole day affair. Entrance is $20/adult and $12/kids. http://www.dunnsriverfallsja.com,for more information.
Swim on Horseback
Forget about the traditional horseback ride. Take your kids on an exciting horseback ride in the ocean. The ride and swim horseback rides offered by a company called Chukka tours combine the traditional horseback ride with time spent on horseback in the ocean. Listen to your kids squeal with delight when their horse starts swimming in the warm Caribbean sea with them in tow. Although riding experience is unnecessary, kids have to be 6 years old or older to ride. for more information, www.chukka.com
Take a river raft through Ocho Rios' countryside
For an hour of relaxing time with the kids, take this tour down the calm waters of the White River. The White River, flows through the countryside of Ocho Rios, so expect to see glimpses of how rural Jamaicans live while experiencing the calm of the gentle river. Life Jackets are provided, and there is a stop for shopping and for grabbing a picnic. For more information, check with your hotel.
Jamaica is a small island with lots of other things to do with kids. If you want to explore the rest of the island, click here for my article on the best things to do in Jamaica (this article may include things in Ocho Rios)
Ocho Rios Things to do by Kids' Ages
For Young Kids and toddlers
For tweens, teens
For the whole Family
Cranbrook Flower Forest-- the playgound
Swimming with dolphins- Dolphin Cove
Tour of Prospect Plantation
Dunns River Falls and Beach
Zip lining through Cranbrook Forest
Dunns River Falls hike and beach
Explore history at Columbus Park Museum
Chukka's horseback ride and swim
Cranbrook Flower Forest tour
Anxious about the airplane ride with the little ones? this best things to keep kids entertained on an airplane article may help ease your worries. Or check out Jamaica's Best Beaches for even more helpful information on Jamaica.