One great cruise port: Ocho Rios, Jamaica

In the Caribbean, many ports of call feature turquoise-blue water, sandy beaches and a year-round temperature that makes traveling there attractive, especially in the Winter months from cold-weather climates. Some islands are better than others for scuba-diving or snorkeling, some have more history-related features than others and some are known for specific attractions that only they have. Ocho Rios, Jamaica is one of those ports that has it all.

Starting with Ferngully, the rainforest within driving range of the cruise port, Ocho Rios has some of the most lush, tropical foliage of any island. Jamaica has more than 500 species of ferns. 300 of them can bee seen in Ferngully, the dark and shaded gorge that is about 3 miles long.

It’s on Jamaica that we’ll find Dunns River Falls, one of the signature Caribbean attractions. Many visitors climb the waterfalls from the beach to the top stopping along the way to enjoy one of the plunge pools that form naturally in the surrounding rock.

Repeat visitors know that one of the best parts of doing Jamaica is doing nothing at all. A fortunate few are able to kick back and enjoy the island lifestyle. Cruise passengers often miss that part by taking busy shore excursions. While safety is a concern and ship-sponsored shore excursions are a smart bet to effectively keep you out of trouble, other independent tour options are available that can make for a truly memorable on-shore experience.

A private tour by cab is a popular and cost-effective option that allows customization if time ashore is short. Tip: Don’t go home without some Jamaican Blue Mountain Coffee, available at most gift shops on the island.