My hubby and I are headed to CTI for the first time in September (been to CSA twice and are giving the other side of the island a try)! We really dislike doing touristy excursions. Did YS Falls, Black River and Appleton Estate from CSA on our first trip and while it was fine, we really didn't like being shuttled and herded around. I'm afraid that would probably be the case at Dunn's River as well so we're fine with skipping it. We've never bothered with Rick's (view from the catamaran was sufficient) and wouldn't step foot in Margaritaville. However, we LOVE, LOVE, LOVE visiting the little, hidden gems that the locals frequent. We've had several lunches at Best in the West and ventured to Three Dives on the cliffs last time (which had amazing jerk chicken and views!)
Can any of the repeaters recommend some great local gems in Ocho Rios that we should venture to rather than the typical tourist spots? I know I definitely want to go to Lobster Dave's and have also heard others mention Scotchies. Any others? They don't have to revolve around food. Adventures, hikes, tours that might be more off the beaten path (but still safe) would be great, too!
I would rethink the trip to Dunns River Falls if I were you....you have to climb the falls at least once when you are staying in OCHI, we have done it 4 times so far and I would be happy to do it again and again. It is something you just have to see and experience at least once. Avoid stopping in the craft market on your way out, just follow the exit signs, don't stop and you will be fine. The bus leaves CTI at 9am and returns before noon... And I may rethink Lobster Dave's as well, it is a pretty sketchy place, we were very, very uncomfortable- you WILL deal with people hassling you, trust me on this (we were there a few weeks ago). Jamaican police haunt that area pretty regularly (with police dogs)- and I saw a man on the beach take all his clothes off, jump in the ocean for a swim and then back out, right in front of us, so if you are adventurous, go for it, but be careful. (and I say all this as a regular traveller to Jamaica- 10 previous trips to Negril, MoBay and OCHI). We really enjoyed going to June Plum (at Mystic Ridge Resort in OCHI) for dinner one evening. The Chef (Dwight) drove to CTI to pick us up (no charge), told us about the specials for the evening, escorted us to our table and checked on us throughout our meal. They serve Jamaican fare, steak, seafood, pasta etc.... We had a terrific meal (conch ceviche, jerk pork bruschetta, Lobster tails with garlic sauce, tenderloin with a blue mountin coffee glaze and a delicious slice of cheesecake for dessert. After dinner, Chef Dwight took us back to CTI (again no charge)- the meal with 2 drinks each (2 Grey Goose dirty Martini's and 2 red stripes) and tip cost about $90US. From CTI it normally costs $20US each way just to get into town- so with the free ride, the incredible service and food, we will definitely return again.
This December will be our 6th trip to CSS and we love Ochi! One of our favorite places is Lobster Daves. Granted, it is not a Four Season's restaurant, and YES it is frequented by LOCALS! But that is the charm of the place! Dave's sister-in-law, Jennifer, who will most likely be your waitress too, will offer to sell you some of the necklaces she makes---they are very nice--but if you are not interested--a polite no witll do the trick. We have been to Dave's 3 times, and have seen the police once--when about six of them came into the restaurant for lunch! We have never felt unsafe, but its like traveling anywhere, just don't do anything stupid.
We also took a trip to Coyaba Gardens last time. The gardens are lovely and you are assigned your own guide to take you throught the gardens. They know tons of info about the plants and flowers and the history of the gardens and Shaw Park. Also as part of this trip, we went to Mahoe Falls--smaller than Dunns River Falls, but beautiful. The morning we were there we were the only folks there. We went with our private driver that we use all the time. It was a lovely morning trip and then we headed to Scotchies for lunch before going home to CSS.
I agree that you should go to Dunn's River Falls. It's beautiful and there are many great photos you can take there. Just go to the falls on a non-cruise day and it would seem so bad. Enjoy CTI! It's way different than CSA.
Thanks, everyone! We have had many good experiences at local spots. I read a lot about Lobster Dave's and it seems right up our alley. It's not people talking to us or trying to sell us things that's the problem. We're not easily intimidated or offended and usually make quick friends. I just don't like being herded through the regular tourist traps where your given a time-frame and told what to do. We like to stroll and hang out at our own pace.
SuzQ: The Gardens and Mahoe Falls sound nice. Could you share the name/number of the driver you usually use?
We might still consider Dunn's. It's just that my hubby likes to scuba in the mornings so those excursions usually don't work for us. If he can plan an afternoon dive one day then maybe we'll give it a try.
I would be happy to send you our driver's info, but I don't think I'm supposed to use the MB for that. Just email me at: firstname.lastname@example.org and will send you the info.
As for Coyoba Gardens and Mahoe Falls, when we took the tour, hubby and I had a tour guide all to ourselves (they didn't force you to join a group tour with other visitors) and she was awesome! She knew sooo much information. There was one point during the Garden tour that a photographer stopped us and took a picture--your option to purchase or not. There is also a small Arawak museum on the property that's pretty interesting, as well as a nice gift shop. As for Mahoe Falls, you walk to the otherside of the property and then you are at the falls--there is also a nice look out point over all of Ochi too. We took some great pictures!
At Lobster Dave's of course try the lobster, but the fried fish was amazing too! So were the fried plantains and rice and peas! My mouth is starting to water just thinking about it!
We have been to ochi 12 times. Here are some things we do regularly:
If you go into Ochi there is a park with a turtle pond. The entrance is between the two main plazas. Its a nice place for a walk. We also go shopping and do it on our own (although we take the shuttle to get there and back). Whichever plaza they drop us at, we will visit the other plazas as well. We don`t do the markets.
Also I suggest the inner tubing or rafting down the river. Rafting is on bamboo rafts and very relaxing. The inner tubing or even kayaking you get wet and is a bit more energetic. Depending on you tastes I recommend either. We have done both and the scenery is magnificant.
Whatever you do will be a new experience - enjoy.
If you want to avoid tourist traps, then you are probably fine avoiding Dunn's especially since you have been to YS falls already. Yes, it's a little unique to say you've literally walked up a waterfall, but you can do this because it's a man-made waterfall. If I'm going to see a nature attraction I prefer that it be natural, not something specifically built for tourism.
We were a bit turned off because we were hit up for tips incessantly the whole time there - the shuttle driver, the tour guide who just escorted us from the shuttle to the entrance, etc. and then they were very "grabby" in the straw market that you are herded through at the end in order to get to the exit. We don't mind tipping but it was a little ridiculous - we tipped the most money to the guys on the falls who held our camera for us and took some pictures and didn't demand a tip.
I'm with you on the touristy things- not a huge fan. We did the falls and kind of broke away from the crowd. It was fine and free, but I wouldn't go again or truly recommend it. Up to you.
Have a great trip! The best place we visited was the island