Info Runaway Bay
Runaway Bay is a town in Saint Ann Parish on the northern coast of Jamaica and is considered one of the most naturally beautiful places on the island. It is a notable tourist destination located 16 km (9.9 mi) west of Ocho Rios, and slightly east of Discovery Bay, where Christopher Columbus landed in 1494. Ocean View Beach is a private beach situated at Runaway Bay. It consists of a series of hotel resort complexes and beaches.
The name derives from its having been an escape route for runaway slaves. Arawaks were the first native settlers, but they were eventually overpowered by Spanish explorers.
The population according to the 2011 census was 8,640, roughly eight times the population of 1,116 determined in the 1970 census.
Notable people born in the town include Canadian actress Samantha Kaine, who appeared in the 2002 film Confessions of a Dangerous Mind. British composer and actor Noel Coward lived in nearby Port Maria and is buried there. Also, Ian Fleming lived in a house in nearby Oracabessa. Not far inland, in the hills south of Runaway Bay, is the village of Nine Mile, which is where Bob Marley was born and spent his childhood.
Reef areas such as the Canyon and Ricky’s Reef can be visited through organized dives offered at most hotels. Its fine offshore diving and snorkeling opportunities are said to be the best in Jamaica. Runaway Bay is a resort community with a good offshore reef, popular with snorkelers and divers. A couple of wrecked aircraft can also be seen in a dive site now known as Ganja Planes.
Runaway Bay is home to an eighteen-hole golf course at Breezes Runaway Bay Resort & Golf Club which has hosted a variety of championship events.
The town is named after the African slaves who fled from Jamaica to Cuba from Runaway Bay.
Other sources claim the area is named so as it was where Spanish governor Ysasi fled to Cuba when the British invaders closed in.
Runaway Bay was the site of the first Spanish settlement on Jamaica and also the point of departure of the last Spanish troops after their 1670 defeat by the British.
Runaway Bay was first developed for tourism in the 1960s with the opening of Cardiff Hall, which is now a housing estate.
On Christmas Day, 1957, the town was the site of a deadly explosion of a tanker loaded with aviation fuel. The tanker had been bound for Sangster International Airport in St. James Parish. A man who had earlier been reprimanded for trying to light a cigarette by constable Joseph Pennant again did so, causing the explosion, which killed 23 people and left a further 70 in hospital in critical condition.
Between Falmouth and Ochos Rios are two small mini-resorts: Discovery Bay and Runaway Bay. Runaway Bay is dominated by all-inclusive resorts and the more developed of the two bays. Runaway Bay is the smallest of Jamaica’s resort areas. It is 12 miles west of Ochos Rios and 50 miles east of Montego Bay. The one-street village of Runaway Bay is lined with all-inclusive resorts and stretches along the A1 for 3 km, merging with the neighboring community of Salem in the east. The east end of Runaway Bay is referred to as Salem and there is no clear boundary between the villages of Runaway Bay and Salem.
Several small beaches are supposedly public, although most are the backyards of a few all-inclusive resorts. If you’re hankering for a dip in the big blue, head to the white-sand Cardiff Hall Public Beach, opposite the Shell gas station. There is a livelier (but littered) fishers' beach in Salem, where the occasional sound-system party is staged on the weekend.
Runaway Bay has excellent diving. There’s a wreck in shallow water in front of Club Ambiance, plus two cars and a plane offshore from Club Caribbean. A reef complex called Ricky’s Reef is renowned for its sponges. More experienced divers might try the eponymous Canyon. Here, too, is the Reggae Queen, a 30m-long sunken tugboat.
Resort Divers is the longest-running dive operator along this stretch of coast, followed by Jamaica Scuba Divers.
Drinking & Nightlife
Most fun-hungry visitors make the short journey to Ocho Rios for their after-hours kicks or settle for what’s on at their resort. Local entertainment consists of bars and rum shops.
Best time to visit Runaway Bay
Jamaica’s middle-of-the-Caribbean location means it enjoys balmy temperatures all year round. The summer months are the hottest, with temperatures topping 30 degrees. Winter is a bit cooler, but still toasty by UK standards – expect the mercury to hover in the mid to high 20s. This is the driest time to visit – most of the island’s rain falls in summer and autumn. Hurricane season is from June to November, with August and September being the peak months. Severe storms are pretty rare, though.