Ocho Rios vs Montego Bay Jamaica

Ocho Rios vs Montego Bay – Two Jamaican Paradises (2024)

Ocho Rios and Montego Bay are both popular holiday destinations for a Jamaican vacation, a perfect Caribbean island for it. So no wonder you look for information about Ocho Rios vs Montego Bay as a holiday destination when it is time to choose!

I traveled around Jamaica on my own for over a month and visited all the most popular places, including Ocho Rios and Montego Bay. Here is my best advice on the matter.

Both of them are situated along the northern shores of Jamaica facing the Atlantic Ocean and not the Caribbean tucked away down south, but that is about it when it comes to similarities. Read on to find out why!

Affiliate disclosure: I only recommend tours, services and purchases I know and love on this website.

Up Front: Favorite Tour!

Dunns River Falls

My top recommendation for tours on the northern shores is Dunns River Falls!

Travel there both from Ocho Rios and Montego Bay. Climb the beautiful pools and terraces all the way from the beach to the top!

Ocho Rios vs Montego Bay

Ocho Rios vs Montego Bay: this is the beautifully lit cruise port in Ocho Rios at night seen from the hills above the town.

Let us start with distances; the distance from Ocho Rios to Montego Bay, and vice versa, is around 100 km (62 miles). It takes around two hours to drive along the Jamaican A1 highway’ish road along the northern shores.

The road is not really a highway, more like a countryside road along the sea. It is safe to drive, so don’t worry.

Remember that you will be driving on the left side of the road (like in the UK and Australia) if you are not used to that!

Your key takeaway is that whichever destination you choose, activities and fun things in the other destination are only a couple of hours, possibly a day trip, away!

In both Ocho Rios and Montego Bay, you will find evening entertainment, live music, bars, and restaurants. Both also have great resorts with pampering amenities like swim-up bars, pristine beaches with turquoise waters, scuba diving, and snorkeling.

Almost every destination in Jamaica has a variety of tourist attractions to offer, plenty of activities, and a “hip strip”, often with music, a bar & restaurant, and even a water park!

Map of Jamaicas North Coast

This map was made with Wanderlog, a road trip planner app on iOS and Android

As you see, the distances between Jamaica’s most iconic attractions are not very long.

Cruise Ship Village Ocho Rios

Two large cruise ships docked in Ocho Rios on the blue water, a hot summer day with blue skies and light white clouds.

Ocho Rios is a small town with almost a villagy feel situated almost straight north of Kingston town, in a little bay, around three hours to drive by bus, less with a car or taxi.

What is special about Ocho Rios is not really the town, but that it has a large cruise port and that it is home to some spectacular nature experiences around the actual town area.

If you either dock in Ocho Rios with a cruise ship or choose to stay here for your holiday, you will be close to the Blue Hole and the iconic Dunn’s River Falls, as well as Mystic Mountain.

Tours In Ocho Rios

You will find that Ocho Rios is a great starting point for a lot of tours along the northern coast, including a variety of water sports and water activities, and jungle explorations a short drive away!

Ocho Rios Blue Hole And Dunns River Falls

The starting point of Dunns River falls in Jamaica, you start climbing from the beach. The falls end here, right at the beach!

Starting with the latter experience, climbing the Dunns River Falls, you start from the beach and climb the levels and terraces of the waterfall step by step all the way to the top.

A beautiful experience, although expect that you will not be alone climbing the waters!

You can visit the Dunns River Falls as a one-off tour, or you can do it as part of a catamaran day trip.

Or a multi-activity tour around Ocho Rios; this tour is often done as a combination of Dunns River Falls and The Blue Hole which has lots of top scores (I did that one, great fun, and value).

Me jumping into the Blue Hole in front of the whitewater waterfall in Jamaica from the ramp, doing a salto!
Yours truly remembering old skills in the Blue Hole

The Blue Hole is also a famous pond in the river where you get to jump from cliffs and throw yourself off with ropes and into the river below!

Both are fun, although a bit touristy experiences (because things are really regulated in Jamaica), as you do everything in a kind of a theme park, with guides all around.

Still, an organized tour is a great option for any solo travelers out there, like myself; the adrenaline really got the conversation going with other travelers in the small group tour!

Ocho Rios Mystic Mountain

The cable car up the Mystic Mountain outside Ocho Rios. This is a wooden platform halfway up, which is the end point of the Mystic Mountain zipline, in the middle of the lush green forest.

Just a mile outside the town center is also the chair lift taking you up to Mystic Mountain! I did go there, and it probably is the best place for exceptional views of Ocho Rios, but it is also touristy, so be prepared.

The chair lift ride up is really quiet and beautiful, but once up there, you enter the tourist machine.

The activities you can do are a pool slide, a bobsled, a zipline, a restaurant, spider web climbing, and lots of tourist shops.

If you choose to go here, I would suggest you do it as part of an organized multi-activity tour that takes you to several attractions in one day, where you have various options included, to make the most of your time and money.

You can go here on your own too (like I did), but it is not going to save you anything, rather the opposite – and you will be annoyed that every detail is “extra”.

Places To Eat Ocho Rios

The colorful charming interior at Miss T restaurant in Ocho Rios, Jamaica.

The town center really is very small, but there are some great dining options, like charming Miss T’s Kitchen (I loved it there)!

Other options are Evitas (super reviews but CLOSED the Monday I went!), and Margaritaville Ocho Rios (high party vibe and nice food, too).

Where To Stay In Ocho Rios?

You will also find super nice hotel rooms holiday homes in Ocho Rios (some in the hills with great views), and a few all-inclusive resorts as well, sitting steps from the sandy city beach.

I stayed up in Columbus Heights in a super elegant apartment with a huge terrace with the magic views you can see below!

Pool area at the Sandcastle Resort in Ocho Rios after sunset.

There are also a variety of apartment hotels, typical resort hotels, as holiday homes along the city beach in Ocho Rios with easy access to the sands.

Check out the top-rated Moon Palace at the very end of the beach or the more budget-friendly Sandcastle, also by the beach but a little more to the middle!

Ocho Rios City Beach

Ocho Rios city beach on a hot and clear summer day. You see the sea through the scattered palm trees behind the golden sand.

The city beach in Ocho Rios is a gated and guarded beach where you need to pay a fee to get in, and that closes in the evening, like a lot of things all over Jamaica.

As the crime rate in Jamaica is among the highest in the region, you will experience that there are rarely things like beautiful beaches accessible 24/7.

The best beaches actually have opening and closing hours (apart from the 7 Mile Beach in Negril!).

Also, FYI, all along the coastline between Ocho Rios and Montego Bay are scattered dozens of 5-star holiday resorts!

So you don’t really need to stay in either-or, but you can choose to be pampered in between!

City Vibes In Montego Bay

Me swimming in the dark water surrounded by bright blue light on a bioluminescence tour

Around two hours to the west of Ocho Rios is Montego Bay, a city stretching out along the Jamaica Atlantic shoreline like a long city snake!

In Montego Bay, which is actually a city, there are lots of shopping and dining options; there is the open public beach park called Harmony, as well as gated private beach clubs.

Harmony Beach Park in Montego Bay Jamaica
Harmony Beach Park in Montego Bay Jamaica

In the beach clubs, you pay to get in (or you are a member) along the downtown city beach (which is actually quite stunning).

So if you like to surround yourself with the city ambiance (like myself), Montego Bay is a great place to explore both in the daytime and at night.

Also, FYI, there is a cruise port in Montego Bay as well (so if that is your pleasure, you can visit via the blue waves) – but as the city is bigger, the port is not so dominant.

Jamaica Tours Montego Bay

Although it is a bit longer distance, you can also reach both the Dunns River Falls and Blue Hole from Montego Bay. Dunns River Falls is a major tourist destination in Jamaica.

It starts from the white sandy beaches (you can combine a visit here with a boat trip), from where you climb the beautiful waterfalls and terraces for a few hundred yards and some altitude meters!

Like I said, it really is only about two hours away! This tour also gets almost exclusively 5-star ratings, so it should be a safe bet!

Combo-Tour ATV, Horseback Riding & Zip Line

Horsebackriding on the beach outside Montego Bay, here about to go swimming with the horses in the bluish green water.

I did this top-rated top-rated combo tour from Montego Bay, and I really enjoyed it!

Although I skipped the ATV part (my own choice), I LOVED horseback riding or, more like, horseback swimming from the beach!

I also loved the zip lining, and for anyone slightly worried about height and speed, there is really nothing to worry about.

It is not that high, the security is first-class and a priority, and the guides are fun and super-skilled. YOLO, right?

Places To Eat Montego Bay

The colorful vibrant Margaritaville bar in Montego Bay
High Party Vibe at Margaritaville Bar Restaurant in Montego Bay

And like all Jamaican places with some level of self-respect, there is a Margaritaville Bar & Restaurant here as well.

Personally, I prefer the somewhat calmer ambiance, at least for a meal that is going to last a while and for a decent conversation.

Some of the beach clubs and hotels downtown are great for that zen ambiance, stunning views, and a more elegant vibe!

The beach club bars in Montego Bay is the perfect place for especially young adults to chill, chat, have a mojito, dine, and watch the sunset!
The beach club bars in Montego Bay with a calm vibe

Other top-rated places are the really cool floating restaurant, the Houseboat Grill, authentic Jamaican Scotchie’s Grill, or Marguerites Seafood (yes, with top-notch seafood) by the sea!

Places To Stay Montego Bay

In the high-end and adults-only segment, the Hyatt Zilara Rose Hall has tons of excellent reviews, an all-inclusive heaven for those who like to live well at the end of the day!

In the budget segment, but still with a gorgeous pool, wonderful views of the cruise port, and great reviews (and breakfast!) is the Polkerris Bed & Breakfast.

Wrap-Up Ocho Rios vs Montego Bay

Bright green canopy over the quiet tranquil Marta Brea River in Jamaica

The main difference between Ocho Rios and Montego Bay is that Montego Bay is actually a city, with a city vibe!

Meanwhile, Ocho Rios is more of a sleepy village, where not a lot is going on, neither in the daytime nor the evening; it is all very quiet.

The beach in Ocho Rios is closed off with security, and there is not a lot going on there either – unless you are staying in one of the hotels, you can not go find a beach bar by the beach, so you need to bring everything.

In Montego Bay, the city beach park is open through the day free of charge, and there are shops and cafes things going on, but the park still closes in the evening.

The beach outside Montego Beach beach clubs in downtown Montego Bay, where the whole area stretches out for miles.

You can also choose to go for the day to a private beach club beach where you pay a fee to be, and where there is service and towels included and a bit of pampering!

You can reach the most famous places and activities from both places, so it comes down to whether you like the city or the village vibe!

Or simply the resort life, in which case there is a myriad to choose from in between!

FAQs Northern Shores Jamaica!

How Far Is Ocho Rios From Sangster International Airport in Montego Bay

Ocho Rios is around 100 km (62 miles) from Montego Bay Airport, called Sangster International Airport.

However, the Ian Fleming International Airport is closer to Ocho Rios, only about ten miles to the west of the town. You can book airport transfers from either one

Ocho Rios vs Negril

The short answer is that Ocho Rios is a village by a bay with a cruise port, always one or two cruise ships docking here, and there are nice adventures close by.

Negril is a long village by the 7-mile beach (no city vibe here either), BUT Negril has the extra perk of the West End!

The West End is the famous part where you find steep high gorgeous cliffs that you can jump off, or just enjoy from a table with a mojito or lunch or something. I love the West End!

How To Travel From Kingston To Ocho Rios

Traveling from Kingston to Ocho Rios is very easy; you can rent a car, take the bus (super cheap, too), book a private transfer, or join a tour!

Travel time from Kingston to Ocho Rios with a rental car is around one hour.

Montego Bay vs Negril

Negril is a village, while Montego Bay is a city!

Both places have rather a long beach, but the 7-Mile beach in Negril is on level STUNNING, while the beach in Montego Bay is on level nice – in my humble opinion.

Throw in the factor of the amazing West End cliffs in Negril, and say this is a competition, I will go for Negril every time.

Is It Safe To Drive From Montego Bay To Ocho Rios

Yes, it is safe to drive from Montego Bay to Ocho Rios; the traffic is not very heavy nor are there super high-speed areas.

However, remember the thing about driving on the left side of the road!

Ocho Rios To Negril

The distance from Ocho Rios to Negril, Jamaica is around 177 km, or 110 miles, probably just under 3 hours to drive.

Beaches Negril vs Beaches Ocho Rios

Lots of things to do on 7 mile beach in Negril - the most stunning beach in Jamaica!

Well, the beach in Negril is ENDLESS, while the beach in Ocho Rios is not very long, very guarded, and a bit boring in comparison.

The 7-mile beach in Negril is beautiful, white, and sandy, with lots of activities, restaurants, bars, and hotels all along the sands.

Now, I know that I do not represent a statistically representative number, but the winner here (in fact, for the whole of Jamaica) – is Negril and the 7-mile beach.

And get a massage wherever you want, too, if that’s your thing!

Similar Posts

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *