Thursday, April 25, 2013

There's Some Little Things That Make Ocho Rios Worth Checking Out

Every fool in the universe knows that Jamaica is a beautiful spot in the world.  Everyone knows that the beaches are beautiful, the music is Reggae, and the food is excellent.  It is the quintessential Caribbean vacation.  We know that.  What don't we know?  That is the question.
I turn to the north side of the Island, to the area of Ocho Rios.  This is a beautiful area, complete with awesome beaches and great water activities, but there's more here than the norm.

Dunn's River Falls is one of the best known spots in the Ocho Rios area.  It's beautiful.  Everyone should stop there, because not only can you view it, photograph it, and swim in it; It's a great place to do some climbing up the rocks.  It's a unique experience, because it's not every waterfall that you can climb.  It's a beautiful place and should be on your list.

Not far away, we get into more off the beaten path attractions.  Discovery Bay isn't far from Ocho Rios.  It's in St. Ann, and it's more than just a bay with beaches and such.  This is where many locals will argue that Columbus first made landfall on this island.  There is a new park there, called Columbus Park that's full of artifacts from the time period.  They even have cannons.  Who doesn't love cannons?  Most things are out in the open where you can touch them and get a real idea of what they were.  Did Columbus really land there first?  Who knows, but it's a great little park, and since it's right on the bay, there are still great views.

Another little gem will be found just outside of Montego Bay.  They have a local Rastafari Indigenous Village that is open to the public for tours.  If you've ever wondered what the Rastafari were about, and believed that it had to have more to it than smoking pot and growing dreadlocks, then you should take the time to stop by.  They will guide you to their village, show you their lifestyle, take you to their farm and herb garden, introduce you to their music, tell you about their beliefs of how to make the world a better place, and cook their food for you.  They also have hand made arts and crafts to sell, and in general, give you a view into their world.  It's something that you won't get to do anywhere else, and it's a window to another world for anyone to look through.  It's a great experience with good food and music, and time spent with a colorful people that you won't soon forget.
Now, the village is one aspect, Columbus Park is another.  It exemplifies the diversity of this small island nation within a few miles.  Now, if you're looking for more traditional Jamaican experiences, there's always the beach.  On the other side of the island you can visit plantations and see where the pirates used to come ashore at Port Royal.  It's a beautiful island with resorts and beaches and cities and mountains.  It's something that you won't soon forget.

But, I think that bamboo rafting on the Martha Brae River is one of the most unique things that I could have hoped to see in Jamaica.  This is one of those rare experiences that everyone should make sure they get to before the leave Jamaica.
This three mile trip is normally a romantic interlude, but anyone can enjoy it.  Many Celebrities have enjoyed this trip from Queen Elizabeth II to Johnny Cash.  It only lasts about an hour, but it's so memorable.  From the moment you start at Rafter's Village where you can enjoy snacks, souvenirs and a full service bar, you will love the experience.  It's like the Jamaican gondola experience, complete with legends.
The Martha Brae legend tells of a witch who outwitted the Spanish in their search for gold.  It's a great tale, and you shouldn't miss it.  The story of how the witch pretended to take the Spaniards to where the gold was in a cave up the river, and left them there to drown.  It's quite something, but the guides will tell the story way better than me.
There are so many things to do in Jamaica.  It's not a sedentary vacation.  You can go white water rafting, zip lining, ATV riding and so much more.  You can go on a pirate cruise, you can visit Margaritaville.  It's all great.
But, when on the north side of the island, take a little time to try out the less obvious.  Check out where Columbus may have first landed.  See what it's like to be a Rastafarian.  And don't miss out on the legend of the Martha Brae and the bamboo rafting experience.  It's a great way to enjoy a wonderful island nation, and it's a great way to get out of the resort hotel for just a little while and see more than just the seafood buffet.

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