Info Ocho Rios
Ocho Rios (Spanish for "Eight Rivers") is a town in the parish of Saint Ann on the north coast of Jamaica and is more widely referred to as Ochi by the locals. Beginning as a sleepy fishing village, Ocho Rios has seen explosive growth in the last decade to become a popular tourist destination featuring duty-free shopping, a cruise-ship terminal, world-renown tourist attractions and several beaches and acclaimed resorts. In addition to being a port of call for cruise ships, Ocho Rios also hosts cargo ships at the Reynolds Pier for the exportation of sugar, limestone, and in the past, bauxite. The estimated population of the town in 2011 was 16 671, which is nearly 10% of the total population of St. Ann. The town is served by both the Donald Sangster International Airport (97 km west of Ocho Rios) and the Ian Fleming International Airport (17 km east of Ocho Rios). Scuba diving and other water sports are offered in the town's vicinity.
The name "Ocho Rios" is a possibly misnomer, as there are not currently eight rivers in the area. It could be a British corruption of the original Spanish name "Las Chorreras" ("the waterfalls"), a name given to the village because of the nearby Dunn's River Falls.
The North Coast Highway from the Sangster International Airport at Montego Bay to Ocho Rios has been improved since 2007 and the journey is now an hour and forty five minutes drive. On 26 August 2011, the Jamaican government announced a $21 million revitalization plan for the resort area. Since March 2016, with the opening of the North-South portion of Highway 2000 (whose North terminus is located at Mammee Bay, a suburb of Ocho Rios), driving and commute times into the nation's capital, Kingston, have gone from over 2 hours to a little under an hour. The opening of this highway has reduced traffic on the old route between Jamaica's two cities (through the town and onto Fern Gully) immensely.
The town has several restaurants and nightclubs, such as Margaritaville, as well as Dolphin Cove, where tourists can swim and interact with dolphins. Another major point of interest is Fern Gully, which was formed from a 1907 earthquake that destroyed one of the river beds in the area. Fern Gully stretches about 3 miles of great rocky gorge where travellers can see over 540 variety of ferns. In 1907, the British government paved over the destroyed river bed to create what is currently known as The Fern Gully Highway.
Ocho Rios was originally settled by the a tribe of Arawak Indians called Taino, who had settled in Jamaica at around 1,000 BC and called the land Xamayca, meaning land of wood and water. After Christopher Columbus landed in 1494 and claimed the island for Spain, Ocho Rios was names Chorreros meaning rapid rivers. The Tainos were ultimately obliterated by disease, slavery and war. Some also committed suicide, presumably to escape their conditions as slaves. Spain brought the first African slaves to Jamaica in 1517 as labourers to work on plantations throughout Jamaica, including Ocho Rios.
In May 1655, British forces seized the island from the Spanish. The English misunderstood, misinterpreted and mispronounced the Spanish name Chorreros and called the town Ocho Rios, which sounded close enough. In 1657 and 1658 the Spanish, sailing from Cuba, failed to retake the island in fierce battles in and around Ocho Rios known as the Battle of Las Chorreras.
Historically, Ocho Rios had never acquired any prominent role to either the English or the Spanish. It was, however, utilised by pirates who along with Port Royal, regarded it as a perfect base of operations. When slavery was officially abolished on Jamaica in the year of 1834, the town entered a period of poverty and rebirth. With colonial interests removed, the history of Ocho Rios was crafted by the newly freed slaves, who embraced their new-found freedom and slowly turned the town into a stable and peaceful fishing village.
Although plantations developed during colonial times, Ocho Rios never evolved as a fruit-shipping port of any consequence. Things began to change in the 1940s when Reynolds Jamaica Mines built the deep-water Reynolds Pier west of town. An overhead conveyor belt still carries bauxite ore 10km from the Reynolds open-cast mines at Lydford, in the hills south of town.
Nonetheless, Ocho Rios was still just a quiet village in the 1960s when the Jamaican government formed the St Ann Development Company (SADCo), under the direction of the Urban Development Corporation (UDC), and then launched a systematic development. It dredged the harbor and built a small marina, reclaimed the shore, brought in sand for Turtle Beach, and built shopping complexes and housing schemes. By the early 1980s, Ocho Rios’ character had been established: a meld of American-style fast-food franchises, nondescript shopping malls, an enclave of mediocre hotels in town, and more tasteful, upscale English-style hotels a discrete distance east. The construction of Island Village, a major shopping and entertainment complex has spruced up ‘Ochi.’
Today, Ocho Rios extends four miles between Dunn's River Falls, two miles to the west of the town centre and the White River, two miles to the east. Almost all the development outside the centre is to the east.