We visited Ocho Rios during our Carnival Cruise in September 2017. We weren’t originally going to Jamaica but at the time there were a number of hurricanes in the area, so our itinerary had changed about three times. No complaints though, none of us had been to Jamaica before & we were excited to check it out. Plus I was hoping this could be my chance to finally run into Usain Bolt haha
Having only a couple of days notice that we were going to Ocho Rios, we hadn’t planned on how we wanted to spend the day. There were six of us on the cruise & all agreed we didn’t want to join one of the over-priced tours that Carnival was selling. We had a quick look online at blogs and trip advisor and decided we wanted to visit the blue hole and one of the many beaches. We figured with 6 people we could get a good deal on transport and all just spilt the cost.
On board you could purchase a tour offering Tubing and the Blue Hole for $105USD per person, so we knew we’d get it for way under that.
Walking off the boats it wasn’t long before there were heaps of locals offering transport and tours. There was also a large banner displaying attractions and prices, I liked that because it gave us an idea of pricing and this way they couldn’t completely rip us off. The further away we walked from the boat the cheaper things were getting.
It didn’t take long for us to agree on $20 per person to blue hole and return to the ship later in the day. It was mentioned that we might go shopping or to the beach afterwards as well. Then after the Blue Hole he said it would be an extra $10 per person to stop anywhere else. Kind of annoying that part wasn’t mentioned earlier, so basically we paid in total $180USD for 7 hours van hire with driver. I’m sure any other tourist in Jamaica wouldn’t pay that much but unfortunately we had cruise boat written all over us.
After the blue hole we spent the afternoon at the beach, the driver then took us back to the ship.
Tips for transport:
- Agree on prices and a specific itinerary for the day before getting in the car.
- Have small change so you can give them the exact amount, they possibly won’t have change.
- They’ll expect a tip
- The further away from the boat you go, the cheaper things become.
- Have an idea of what you want to do before you get off the boat, if not they’ll be throwing prices and places at you and it could get confusing.
I was really excited for this and it didn’t disappoint. Once we arrived we got two guides that would be taking us around. Entry was $10US per person and there are lockers you can use for $5 to keep all your belongings in.
There were about 5 or 6 pools we stopped at, walking through the jungle between each one (it had been raining recently so parts were a bit muddy). At each pool our guides would tell us where the deep part to jump into was. The heights of the jumps varied, some were small and some super scary. Also at one we could swim under a small waterfall into a cave, which was really cool. Our guides were really good, taking our hand if we needed assistance over the rocks and always happy to take photos for us. The water was cold but not freezing, it was actually really refreshing after walking around in the heat. It wasn’t very clear like what we had seen in some photos but it was running water so not at all dirty.
We were there for about an hour and a half and at times I did feel a bit rushed, jump in – swim there – ok next hole. We weren’t given very much time to just swim around. I did have a great morning though, definitely worth visiting.
If you can, look at what time the cruise tour arrives here and try to avoid that. It started to get very busy and you wouldn’t want to have to wait in line to jump in or anything.
At the end of the tour our guides asked for a tip, which is completely fine but coming from Australia we never really know what a good tip is. We gave them $15USD each and for an hour and half of work we thought that was ok! Straight up we got the impression they weren’t happy with that, never said thank you or goodbye and looked really annoyed. We didn’t mean to offend and thought they were great but a thanks would be nice.
Is that a terrible tip? Because they were certainly pissed off about it. Ekkk sorry guys!
We wanted to go to the beach after the blue hole and decided on Bamboo Blu. This beach didn’t cost anything to visit but some in the area charge around $11 per person.
Bamboo Blu was beautiful, clear blue water and not overrun with boat people. You could also snorkelling right off the beach, it wasn’t the brightest coral but still plenty of fish.
There were a restaurant on the beach and the waitress was walking along the sand all afternoon taking orders, we didn’t have to get up once. Food ranged from around $8-$14 and drinks were $7-9.
There were resorts along the beach but it really seemed to be only cruise people around, maybe due to the hurricanes. We stayed at the beach as long as we could and by the end of the day the beach was empty. It was amazing having a perfect beach to ourselves before getting back onto our busy ship.
Although I was disappointed I didn’t find Usain Bolt, I did love Ocho Rios, with the colourful buildings and the locals easy going “Yeah Mon” attitude, even though I did feel they’d rip you off the first chance they got. I definitely think coming off a cruise boat puts a bit of a target on your back for price hikes.
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