The beach outside Montego Beach beach clubs in downtown Montego Bay, where the whole area stretches out for miles.

Ocho Rios and Montego Bay are both popular holiday destinations in Jamaica and lots of people look for information about Ocho Rios vs Montego Bay as a holiday destination when it is time to choose!

I traveled to Jamaica for over a month in late 2022, and here is my best advice on the matter!

Both of them are situated along the northern shores of Jamaica facing the Atlantic Ocean and not the Caribbean tucked away down south, but that is about it when it comes to similarities. Read on to find out why!

This article contains affiliate links! If you like this free content and use my links to do your bookings I get a small commission at no extra cost to you! Thank You!

Up Front: Favorite Tour!

My top recommendation for tours in these northern shores is that you one way or the other go to Dunns River Falls! Climb the pools and terraces all the way from the beach to the top! It is stunning!

Ocho Rios vs Montego Bay

In the Ocho Rios vs Montego Bay series, here is the small Ocho Rios bay and Cruise Port at night!
Ocho Rios Bay and Cruise Port at night

Let us start with distances; the distance from Ocho Rios to Montego Bay, and vice versa, is around 100 km (62 miles), and take around two hours to drive along the Jamaican A1 highway’ish road along the northern shores.

The road is not really a highway, more like a countryside road along the sea. It is safe to drive, but you need to take into account that you will be driving on the left side of the road (like in the UK and Australia) if you are not used to that!

Your key takeaway from the information about distance is that whichever destination you choose, activities and fun things in the other destination are only a couple of hours, possibly a day trip, away!

Map of Jamaica Northern Shores

This map was made with Wanderlog, a road trip planner app on iOS and Android

As you see, the distances between the most famous and popular destinations in Jamaica are not very long!

Cruise Ship Village Ocho Rios

View from the hills of Ocho Rios down to the cruise port
View from the hills of Ocho Rios down to the cruise port

Ocho Rios is a small town with almost a villagy feel situated almost straight north of Kingston town, in a little bay, around three hours to drive by bus, less with a car or taxi.

What is special about Ocho Rios, is not really the town, but that it has a large cruise port, and that it is home to some spectacular nature experiences around the actual town area.

If you either dock in Ocho Rios with a cruise ship or choose to stay here for your holiday, you will be close to the Blue Hole and the famous Dunns River Falls, as well as Mystic Mountain.

Tours In Ocho Rios

You will find that Ocho Rios is a great starting point for a lot of tours along the northern coast, including water activities and jungle explorations!

Blue Hole And Dunns River Falls

Walking the Dunns River Falls from the beach to the top!
Walking the Dunns River Falls from the beach to the top!

Starting with the latter experience, climbing the Dunns River Falls you start from the beach and climb the levels and terraces of the waterfall step by step all the way to the top.

A wonderfully beautiful experience, although expect that you will not be alone climbing the waters!

You can visit the Dunns River Falls as a one-off tour, or you can do it as part of a catamaran day trip, or a multi-activity tour around Ocho Rios; this tour is often done as a combination of Dunns River Falls and The Blue Hole which has lots of top scores (I did that one, great fun, and value).

Old tricks in the Blue Hole, Ocho Rios, Jamaica!
Old tricks in the Blue Hole, Ocho Rios, Jamaica!

The Blue Hole is also a famous pond in the river where you get to jump from cliffs and throw yourself off with ropes and into the river below!

Both are fun, although a bit touristy experiences (because things are really regulated in Jamaica), as you do everything in a kind of a theme park, with guides all around.

Still, an organized tour is a great option for any solo travelers out there, like myself, the adrenaline really got the conversation going with other travelers in the small group tour!

Ocho Rios Mystic Mountain

The chair lift arrival to Magic Mountain outside Ocho Rios in Jamaica.
The Magic Mountain Chair Lift

Just a mile outside the town center is also the chair lift taking you up to Mystic Mountain! I did go there, and that is a place that is beyond touristy, so be prepared.

The chair lift ride up is really quiet and beautiful, but once up there you enter the tourist machine. The activities you can do are a pool slide, a bobsled, a zipline, a restaurant, spider web climbing, and lots of tourist shops.

If you choose to go here, I would suggest you do it as part of an organized multi-activity tour that takes you to several attractions in one day, where you have various options included, to make the most of your time and money.

You can go here on your own too (like I did), but it is not going to save you anything, rather the opposite – and you will be annoyed that every detail is “extra”.

Places To Eat Ocho Rios

Charming Miss T restaurant in Ocho Rios

The town center really is very small, but there are some great dining options like charming Miss T’s Kitchen (I loved it there)!

Other options are Evitas (super reviews but CLOSED the Monday I went!), and Margaritaville Ocho Rios (high party vibe, and nice food too).

Where To Stay In Ocho Rios?

You will also find super nice holiday homes in Ocho Rios (some in the hills with great views) and a few resorts as well, sitting steps from the sandy city beach.

I stayed up in Columbus Heights, in a super elegant apartment with a huge terrace with the magic views you can see below!

My VRBO apartment in Columbus Heights
My VRBO apartment in Columbus Heights

There are also a variety of apartment hotels, typical resort hotels as well as holiday homes along the city beach in Ocho Rios.

Check out the top-rated Moon Palace at the very end of the beach, or the more budget-friendly Sandcastle, also by the beach but a little more to the middle!

Ocho Rios City Beach

The city beach in Ocho Rios is a gated and guarded beach where you need to pay a fee to get in, and that closes in the evening, like a lot of things all over Jamaica.

the city beach in Ocho Rios (a gated beach with security)
The city beach in Ocho Rios a gated beach with security

As the crime rate in Jamaica is among the highest in the region, you will experience that there are rarely things like accessible public beaches 24/7 (apart from the 7 Mile Beach in Negril!).

Also, FYI, all along the coastline between Ocho Rios and Montego Bay are scattered dozens of 5-star holiday resorts!

So you don’t really need to stay in either-or, but you can choose to be pampered in between!

City Vibes In Montego Bay

A Beach Club restaurant in downtown Montego Bay
A Beach Club restaurant in downtown Montego Bay

Around two hours to the west of Ocho Rios is Montego Bay, a city stretching out along the Jamaica Atlantic shoreline like a long city snake!

In Montego Bay, which is actually a city, there are lots of shopping and dining options, there is the open public beach park called Harmony, as well as gated private beach clubs.

Harmony Beach Park in Montego Bay Jamaica
Harmony Beach Park in Montego Bay Jamaica

In the beach clubs you pay to get in (or you are a member) along the downtown city beach (which is actually quite stunning).

So if you like to surround yourself with the city ambiance (like myself), Montego Bay is a great place to explore both in the daytime and at night.

Also, FYI, there is a cruise port in Montego Bay as well (so if that is your pleasure, you can visit via the blue waves) – but as the city is bigger the port is not so dominant.

Jamaica Tours Montego Bay

Although a bit longer distance, you can also reach the Dunns River Falls and Blue Hole from Montego Bay, like I said – it really only is about two hours away! This tour also gets almost exclusively 5-star ratings, so it should be a safe bet!

Combo-Tour ATV, Horseback Riding & Zip Line

I did this top-rated top-rated combo tour from Montego Bay, and I really enjoyed it!

Although I skipped the ATV part (my own choice), I LOVED horseback riding or more like horseback swimming from the beach!

Horseback riding in Montego Bay here swimming with the horses at the Chukka adventure tour!
Once in your life, you should swim with a horse!

I also loved the zip lining, and for anyone slightly worried about height and speed, there is nothing to worry about!

It is not that high, the security is first-class and a priority, and the guides are fun and super-skilled. YOLO, right?

Places To Eat Montego Bay

Margaritaville bar in Montego Bay
High Party Vibe at Margaritaville Bar Restaurant in Montego Bay

And like all Jamaican places with some level of self-respect, there is a Margaritaville Bar & Restaurant here as well.

Personally, I prefer the somewhat calmer ambiance, at least for a meal that is going to last a while, and for a decent conversation.

Some of the beach clubs and hotels downtown are great for that, zen ambiance, stunning views, and a more elegant vibe!

The beach club bars in Montego Bay is a geat place to chill, chat, have a mojito, dine, and watch the sunset!
The beach club bars in Montego Bay with a calm vibe

Other top-rated places are the really cool floating restaurant the Houseboat Grill, authentic Jamaican Scotchie’s Grill, or Marguerites Seafood (yes, with top-notch seafood) by the sea!

Places To Stay Montego Bay

In the high-end and adults-only segment, the Hyatt Zilara Rose Hall has tons of excellent reviews, an all-inclusive heaven for those who like to live well at the end of the day!

In the budget segment, but still with a gorgeous pool, wonderful views of the cruise port, and great reviews (and breakfast!) is the Polkerris Bed & Breakfast.

Wrap-Up Ocho Rios vs Montego Bay

River rafting is popular to do from both Ocho Rios and Montego Bay!
You can do river rafting tours from both Montego Bay and Ocho Rios

The main difference between Ocho Rios and Montego Bay is that Montego Bay is actually a city, with a city vibe!

While Ocho Rios is more of a sleepy village, where not a lot is going on neither in the daytime nor the evening, it is all very quiet.

The beach in Ocho Rios is closed off with security, and there is not a lot going on there either – unless you are staying in one of the hotels you can not go find a beach bar by the beach so you need to bring everything.

In Montego Bay, the city beach park is open through the day free of charge, and there are shops and cafes things going on, but the park still closes in the evening.

The start of the Dunns River Falls walk/hike/climb or whatever it is suitable to call it!
The start of the Dunns River falls climb by the beach

You can also choose to go for the day to a private beach club beach where you pay a fee to be, and where there is service and towels included and a bit of pampering!

You can reach the most famous places and activities from both places, so it comes down to whether you like the city or the village vibe!

Or simply the resort life, in which case there is a myriad to choose from in between!

FAQs Northern Shores Jamaica!

How Far Is Ocho Rios From Montego Bay Airport

Ocho Rios is around 100 km (62 miles) from Montego Bay Airport.

Ocho Rios vs Negril

The short answer is that Ocho Rios is a village by a bay with a cruise port and nice adventures close by.

Negril is a long village by the 7-mile beach (no city vibe here either), BUT Negril has the extra perk of the West End!

The West End is the famous part where you find steep high gorgeous cliffs, that you can jump off, or just enjoy from a table with a mojito or lunch or something. I love the West End!

How To Travel From Kingsto To Ocho Rios

Traveling from Kingston to Ocho Rios in 2023 is very easy, you can rent a car, take the bus, book a private transfer, or join a tour!

Read all about how to do that journey in this article!

Montego Bay vs Negril

Negril is a village, while Montego Bay is a city!

Both places have rather a long beach, but the 7-Mile beach in Negril is on level STUNNING, while the beach in Montego Bay is on level nice – in my humble opinion.

Throw in the factor of the amazing West End cliffs in Negril, and say this is a competition, I will go for Negril every time.

Is It Safe To Drive From Montego Bay To Ocho Rios

Yes, it is safe to drive from Montego Bay to Ocho Rios, the traffic is not very heavy nor are there super high-speed areas.

However, remember the thing about driving on the left side of the road!

Ocho Rios To Negril

The distance from Ocho Rios to Negril Jamaica is around 177 km, or 110 miles, probably just under 3 hours to drive.

Beaches Negril vs Beaches Ocho Rios

Lots of things to do on 7 mile beach in Negril - the most stunning beach in Jamaica!

Well, the beach in Negril is ENDLESS, while the beach in Ocho Rios is not very long, very guarded, and a bit boring in comparison.

The 7-mile beach in Negril is STUNNING, white, and sandy with lots of activities, restaurants and bars, and hotels all along the sands.

Now, I know that I do not represent a statistically representative number, but the winner here (in fact, for the whole of Jamaica) – is Negril and the 7-mile beach.

And get a massage wherever you want too, if that’s your thing!

Related blog posts:

13+ Awesome Kingston Jamaica Tours And Attractions! (2023)

Smooth Travel Options From Montego Bay To Kingston Jamaica (2023)!

Vibing Jamaica Holidays 2023!

Easy Booking & Pick-Up Car Rental In Montego Bay Airport! (2023)

How To Get From Montego Bay To Kingston (2023)

My Resource Go-To List For Best Travel Booking Deals!

Best Airfare bookings: Skyscanner, Wayaway,

Best tour companies: Civitatis (for Cuba), Viator

Best Hotel Bookings: Booking, Expedia

Travel Insurance: IMG Medical Travel Insurance

VPN Secure Internet: ExpressVPN

Cuba Visa Online: Easy Tourist Card

Car Rentals Online: Discover Cars

Similar Posts