Paris Permenter & John Bigley's
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Family-Friendly Activities in Ocho Rios

Jamaica's most recognized attraction is Dunn’s River Falls. This waterfall is actually a series of falls that cascade from the mountains to the sea. You can climb up the cascading water. Led by a sure-footed Jamaican guide, groups work their way up the falls hand-in-hand like a human daisy chain.

Or how would your family like the chance to swim with dolphins? Dolphin Cove at Treasure Reef, near Dunn's River Falls, offers (very expensive) dolphin swims as well as lower-priced dolphin encounters for ages 8 and up, dolphin touch programs for ages 6 and over. We did the dolphin swim; it lasts about half an hour and is exhilarating. Advance reservations are required (and these slots really fill up so make your plans early and reserve before your trip).

The cheapest option is simple admission the grounds, which also include a short nature walk. Thrill seekers can also swim with sharks; there's a minimum age of 8 for this and kids age 8-12 have to be accompanied by an adult. Your grounds admission to Dolphin Cove also includes the opportunity to swim with stingrays, snorkel on their beach, use small paddleboats, and more.

An excellent stop in Ocho Rios for families looking to get off the beaten path is Cranbrook Flower Forest, west of Ocho Rios at Laughlands. This beautiful park, a recent addition to this area’s tourist offerings, is a must-see for anyone who wants to experience the lush beauty away from the crowds. The park is the private creation of Ivan Linton, who has pampered the plants of this former plantation for over two decades. The day we journeyed here, children were playing in the river as their mothers did the weeks’ laundry in the shallow water of the river. Other activities include bird watching, pond fishing, croquet, donkey rides and volleyball. (Be sure to wear good walking shoes for the hike at Cranbrook. On our recent visit, we hiked up to the waterfalls over very slippery rocks. It’s well worth the hike.) Kids can fish in the park’s ponds or even take donkey rides.

If you’re serious about horseback riding, check out the Chukka Cove Equestrian Centre, between Runaway Bay and Ocho Rios. Well known for its world-class polo matches, the center also offers guided horseback trips along the beach and in the mountains. The polo horses were exercised in the sea, an activity the tourists saw and wanted to take part in so today visitors can ride on horseback right into the sea.

Chukka Cove Adventure Tours also offers a half-day bike tour through St. Ann and the village of Mt. Zion with several stops and even snorkeling at the end. They also offer an ATV tour. There's a minimum age of six for biking, 16 for ATVs. Chukka Cove also offers new dogsled tours; instead of ice, the dogs race across the grass, towing the sled behind them.

For something a little quieter, Coyaba River Garden and Museum is a good place to bring your young history buff. Exhibits start with pre-Columbian history and follow through the development of the island.

Just east of Ocho Rios, Prospect Plantation is a good introduction for kids to the flora and fauna of the island. Travelers board an open-air jitney pulled by a tractor for a guided tour of the plantation. You'll make a stop and watch demonstration on climbing a coconut tree and have the opportunity to look at and sample many local fruits. The plantation also has a small walk-through butterfly aviary and it offers both horseback and camel riding tours (make reservations in advance for the horse and camel tours.) Call 876-994-1058 for reservations for the rides.

Back to Jamaica with Kids


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