Choosing the perfect Shore Excursion in Falmouth or Ocho Rios, Jamaica

We visited Jamaica as part of our Western Caribbean Cruise with MSC Seascape in April 2024. Out of the 4 islands we docked at, Jamaica was the first one and while we did a mix of pre booking our excursions & DIY tours between the islands we visited, Jamaica is one where we felt we could cover maximum ground in the short period of time with a group/ private excursion.

Is there really a perfect shore excursion in Jamaica…? The jury is still out on that one. Our cruise was originally meant to dock at Ocho Rios port which would’ve been the perfect choice but a few weeks before the sailing, the pier at Ocho Rios was destroyed and our cruise was rerouted to Falmouth, another cruise port about 45 min away from Ocho Rios in Jamaica. At that moment, we were only relived that Jamaica wasn’t cancelled from our itinerary, but it is when we landed in Falmouth, that we realized, it was a disadvantage for us to be rerouted to Falmouth instead of Ocho Rios.

Our MSC Seascape docked at 9 am and departed at 5.30 pm so we had to find an excursion that would bring us back in time for the departure. Most of the best and most exciting things to do in Jamaica are in or close to Ocho Rios. We decided to take a shore excursion offered by a third-party company rather than one from the cruise itself due to better options/ combinations of destinations available and better pricing.

If you’re a group of 4 or more people, I’d recommend going with renting a private car for the whole day (which you can get for $200) which will give you a cost advantage along with the flexibility of exploring the destinations you wish to. Getting a taxi from one destination to another is not the best choice here because you may not be able to find taxis in each of these places and you might just lose time while trying to get from one location to another. Otherwise, if you’re a budget traveller and are looking for cheaper options such as group tours, then I’ll recommend one which worked best for us. Let me start by jotting down the top places to visit so if you have a private car booked, you’ll be able to create your own custom itinerary for yourself.

Dunns River Falls

A cascading waterfall located near Ocho Rios, Dunns River Falls is famous because of its unique feature of giving one the opportunity to climb the terraced limestone cascades all the way from the bottom of the river to the top of the waterfall. Wearing water shoes will give you better grip on the slippery rocks and while you have the option of joining a guided climb for added safety and enjoyment, you can very well do it on your own too! Keep an hour aside for this activity.

Secret Falls & Blue Hole (highly recommended)

The only way to do this activity is with a guide but the cost of that is included in your excursion if you’re doing a group tour or the ticket which you will buy if you plan to take a private car. This is a hidden paradise amidst the lush forests of Ocho Rios, only 15 min away from Dunns Falls; a pristine oasis with turquoise pools and cascading waterfalls. Bring a waterproof camera to capture the stunning scenery and don’t forget to try the rope swings for an exhilarating splash into the refreshing water. The staff at the location will capture photos for you too, should you not want to carry your own camera, and will sell it for $10 (after haggling) at the end of the tour. Keep about 2 hours aside for this activity.

Mystic Mountain Bob Sled (highly recommended)

This is located not too far from Dunns River Falls, and it is very much possible to cover all 3 destinations with a private tour, especially if your cruise docks at Ocho Rios, though it is disappointing that you won’t find a group tour for them. Mystic Mountain offers a thrilling adventure on a gravity-driven bobsled ride through the lush Jamaican rainforest. The bobsled ride was inspired by Jamaica’s Olympic bobsled team, whose underdog story captured the world’s imagination during the 1988 Winter Olympics. The park has other attractions too, including zip-lining and a scenic chairlift ride.

Image credit:

The Bob Marley Museum

This museum is slightly far from Ocho Rios (1 hour) as well as Falmouth (1.5 hrs) and thus, it’ll be impossible to do too many other activities, should you choose to go here. You can combine Dunns River & Nine Mile (Bob Marley Museum) for a full day tour. The museum is housed in the legendary reggae musician’s former home and recording studio. You can take a guided tour to learn about Bob Marley’s life, music, and legacy, and don’t miss the chance to explore the beautiful tropical gardens surrounding the museum. The museum’s collection includes rare memorabilia, such as Marley’s gold and platinum records, his famous guitar, and even his favourite soccer jersey.

Image credit:

Martha Brae River

This is the only attraction located closer to Falmouth. If your cruise is docking at Ocho Rios, it doesn’t make sense to visit this place as you have a lot of other things to do closer by. However, if your cruise in docking in Falmouth, you may very well consider a serene and romantic bamboo rafting experience on the Martha Brae River. Relax and enjoy the tranquil journey down the river as your skilled raft captain navigates the gentle currents and shares fascinating stories about the area’s history and folklore. This is a very relaxed and picturesque experience so if you do not wish to go too far from your cruise, nor looking for an active adventure, this is perfect for you.

Image credit:

Konoko Falls

Less popular than its counterpart (and thus, uncrowded) is Konoko Falls, located in the hills above Ocho Rios. A hidden gem featuring cascading waterfalls, lush gardens, and a rich variety of tropical flora and fauna, Konoko Falls offers guided tours of the gardens and waterfalls to learn about the park’s history and biodiversity, and an opportunity to cool off with a refreshing swim in the natural pools.

Shore Excursions from Ocho Rios or Falmouth, Jamaica

It is nearly impossible to find a group excursion that’ll cover all the above. My top recommended shore excursions in Jamaica that cover 2 or more of the above, depending on your interest, are:

Dunns River & Blue Hole:
Blue Hole & Mystic Mountain Bob Sled:
Dunns River & Bob Marley Museum
Marthe Brae River Rafting:

Some tips for visiting Ocho Rios:

While Jamaica has its own currency (JMD or the Jamaican Dollar), all restaurants, stores, tour companies will accept USD for payment.
Shopping from the local stores is cheaper than shopping from the stores near the cruise terminal despite them claiming to be duty free. Make the most of your visit to the city before returning to the pier.
For your visit to Blue Hole & Dunns River, don’t forget to carry your swimwear, towels, waterproof camera or casing for phone, and water shoes.
Most of the group excursions will include one shopping destination (excursion guides get commissions from these stores for every sale made). Remember to haggle well in Jamaica, even if you are shopping at a proper store with listed prices of the items.
Despite paying for the excursion, the guides will expect a tip from you.
Jamaica is well known for its easy access to marijuana but its not legal! Choose your actions carefully.
Jamaica is famous for its rum and rum cakes! Don’t forget to pick some souvenirs. Banana rum is quite unique, so give that a shot (pun intended)!
For some good seafood, excellent views, and great vibe, I recommend Sharkees, a beachside restaurant on the way from Ochos Rios to Falmouth