Cameron in Jamaica

I made my most recent trip to Ocho Rios, Jamaica in late July 2008. I began planning my trip in early May and at the time I started to decide where I wanted to stay and what I wanted to do. Since I’ve been there before, I had a more specific agenda and itinerary. Most of my family couldn’t make the trip because of work and school-related issues, except my brother who was jobless at the time. After the trip, I realized I actually enjoyed not traveling with a lot of people. Less worry about tracking down others and the sorts. So it was a nice change of pace just traveling with only one other person rather than an entire family and sometimes extended family.

Located on Jamaica’s northern coast, Ocho Rios is a tropical tourist destination that has gained enormous popularity over the years. It’s a fascinating place that offers many places to lodge, enjoy yourself and get some sun.

Several hotels and resorts are home to Ocho Rios, or referred to Ochie by locals, including the Sunset Grande Jamaica Resort, Sandals, Jamaica Inn, Royal Plantation, Spanish-based resort chain, ClubHotel Riu and many others. When I visit Ocho Rios, which has a population of more than 6,000 people, I stay at ClubHotel Riu. It’s a newer hotel with a vast, open-air lobby that faces northward to the Caribbean Sea.

There are many traditional tourists attractions in and around Ocho Rios, including the famous Dunn’s River Falls, where nearly 600 feet of water cascades into the sea. Tourists hike the falls to get a picture showing their accomplishment once they reach the summit. Another common attraction, Dolphin Cove, gives tourists the opportunity to swim with dolphins. An hour-plus tour of the Green Grotto provides tourists a lesson on Jamaican history. The Green Grotto is a cave and served as protection for the Arawaks, the indigenous people of the island, hundreds of years ago. The Green Grotto is in Discovery Bay in Saint Ann’s parish. Jamaica’s Fern Gully, also in Ocho Rios, is three miles of country road lined with island-native vegetation; it’s an ideal destination for a postcard photo home. There are also the typical tourist things like shopping, deep-sea fishing, horseback riding and scuba diving. Speaking of scuba diving, for scuba-interested folks, there’s a PADI center at ClubHotel Riu. My brother got his certification here in July 2008.

I book my vacations through a travel agent based in southern California. I’ve gone both with Air Jamaica Vacations and Apple Vacations. Both seemed OK. Air Jamaica, the airline I fly, has no direct flight from Phoenix’s Sky Harbor to any Jamaican airport, so I fly into Los Angeles International airport (LAX) and then from there I take an overnight flight to Sangster International Airport in Montego Bay*. The flight usually departs from L.A. at about 11 p.m. and arrives in Montego Bay at about 6 a.m. local time the next day. It’s a long flight, but because it’s overnight, it’s a bit more bearable. Plus, Air Jamaica serves meals on many of their flights. Air Jamaica is a decent airline and the flight attendants always look nice. The only bad experience I’ve had with them was back in the late ’90s. I was returning to Fort Lauderdale Fla. from Kingston and they lost my luggage. They found it and delivered it about a week later and everything was intact.

*Effective February 26, 2009, Air Jamaica eliminated its service from Los Angeles International Airport. Effective May 1, 2009, Air Jamaica eliminated complimentary meal service to economy class passengers and instead will offer a snack service.

Though it may seem that vacationing in Jamaica is overrated, it’s truly a great place to visit. There’s much to do and the weather is incredible.

On a side note: While there are many things to do in Ocho Rios, I think the best part is the food. Because ClubHotel Riu is all-inclusive, I ate a lot. There are several restaurants in the resort and many buffet-style cafes. And while there is an assortment of cuisine from around the world, I typically stick to traditional Jamaican fare.

· Jerk chicken from the Riu’s Jerk Hut, which sits right near the ocean.

· Curry chicken.

· Brown-stew chicken.

· Escovitch fish.

· Jamaican patties.

· Rice and peas.

· Fried plantain.

· Bammy.

· Johnny cake.

· and of course, Red Stripe.

So if you decide to visit, be sure to try some of the native food. It’s good stuff.

Jamaica quick facts:
Prime Minister: Bruce Golding
Population: 2.8 million (July 2008)
Independence Day: Aug. 6, 1962
Capital: Kingston
Language: English (official), Jamaican patois (recognized)
Climate: Tropical
Major cities: Montego Bay, Mandeville, Spanish Town, Ocho Rios, Negril, Port Antonio
Ethnic groups: Black 90.9 percent, mixed 7.3 percent, East Indian 1.3 percent, White 0.2 percent, Chinese 0.2 percent
Average rainfall: 78 inches annually
Exchange rate (as of April 21, 2009): 1 USD = 87 JMD


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