Water view in Ocho Rios, Jamaica (Jamaica Tourist Board)

Beach in Ocho Rios, Jamaica (Digital Vision)

Ocho Rios, Jamaica (iStockphoto)

Sun Rising in Ocho Rios, Jamaica (iStockphoto)

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What to do in Ocho Rios

Ocho Rios, a two-hour drive from Montego Bay, has become a popular cruise port, which means that when the ships are in, the nearby attractions are overloaded with people. Dedicate the days when cruise ships arrive to simply lounging on your resort's beach or exploring in the afternoon, when most "boat people" reboard. Your best bet is to venture out on days when the ships haven't docked.

Even on non-cruise days, popular Dunn's River Falls draws crowds, but it's worth having to deal with the crowds. Cascading 600 feet to the sea, the waterfall tumbles over a series of protruding rock ledges that act like natural stair steps. Following your guide, you climb the falls by joining hands with fellow visitors while winding up the slippery rocks. Wear a bathing suit and sturdy shoes that can get wet. At the summit, be prepared for the onslaught of vendors. Come in the afternoon to avoid the hordes.

At Dolphin Cove, check out the Dolphin Swim, for adults and ages eight and older, where you can attempt the foot push—float face down and the aquatic mammals propel you by pushing the soles of your feet with their noses—or the dorsal pull—positioned between two dolphins grab onto their fins and hang on for a wild ride. Shallow water encounters and touch sessions let young kids get close to these friendly animals. Plan to spend at least an additional hour or so out of the water, exploring Dolphin Cove's Jungle Trail and wading off the small beach. Both areas are included your admission, a perk for families. Along the woodsy path, meet a green-winged macaw named Bob Marley who likes to kiss people, view a tank of nurse sharks, and (if you want) drape a Jamaican yellow boa over your shoulders.

Learn about island rhythms at Reggae Xplosion. This interactive museum chronicles Reggae's roots in mento, ska, and rock steady, and pays homage to Bob Marley and other legends. Plug in your headphones at various spots and hear songs by and interviews with island music greats of the past 50 years. Sway to Jamaican dance hall songs by Buju Banton, Beenie Man, and other stars.

On a Blue Mountain Bicycle tour, a van picks you up at your hotel and drives to the adventure's starting point, high in Jamaica's lush Blue Mountains. Pedal downhill, winding through the rain forest thick with towering trees, blossoms, and ferns, and alongside a coffee plantation. Cool off at the trip's end by splashing in a waterfall. Or, explore the lush countryside on a drive through Fern Gully, south of Ocho Rios. Ferns and feathery trees line the valley road.

Tip: Often the best part of a vacation is meeting the locals. Jamaica's Meet the People program pairs you with a like-minded family. (http://meetthepeople.visitjamaica.com)

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