While thoughts of Ocho Rios conjure visions of a lush tropical landscape, beaches, nature-made turquoise pools, and sharing smiles with proud and enterprising Jamaicans, this town, like others, has a history all its own.
Before it became one of the island’s main tourism hubs, it was inhabited by the Taino Indians, nearby Dunn’s River Falls is reported to be the site of the final battle between the Spanish and the English, and in more recent history, it was a fishing village, banana port and bauxite export hub.
Staying true to our tagline to “go beyond the beach,” we’re highlighting historical sites for visitors to take a peek at the history of Ocho Rios and nearby towns.
32 Market Street
While in Ocho Rios, take a tour of 32 Market Street, the birthplace of Jamaica’s first national hero, Marcus Mosiah Garvey, in nearby St. Ann’s Bay.
In the early 20th century, this visionary leader and the inspiration of the Garveyism movement established the Universal Negro Improvement Association in Jamaica. When he lived in the United States, he opened another branch of the association, established the Negro Factories Corporation, Negro World newspaper, and the Black Star Line shipping venture that acquired four shipping vessels. Garvey’s speeches and writings also inspired the Rastafari movement in Jamaica.
Until planned restoration of the home, construction of a memorial park, and Garvey Hall of Fame are complete, visitors may visit the property and learn about the man whose accomplishments belie his humble beginnings. Check out Jamaica National Heritage Trust’s Fast Facts to learn about Jamaica’s National Heroes.
Bob Marley Mausoleum
A 27-mile drive from Ocho Rios is all it takes to get to the town of Nine Mile to tour the Bob Marley Mausoleum, the birthplace, early childhood home and final resting place for reggae icon Bob Marley. Visitors can tour the mausoleum, enjoy a vegetarian meal at the onsite restaurant, view family keepsakes and his ‘rock stone’ pillow, and purchase Bob Marley memorabilia. This attraction should not to be confused with the Bob Marley Museum in Kingston, the country’s capital. Check out this video tour of the Bob Marley Mausoleum from D&B Travels.
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Columbus Park Museum
Located approximately 21 miles from Ocho Rios in the town of Discovery Bay is Columbus Park Museum. Discovery Bay was once thought to be the site where Christopher Columbus first came ashore when he landed on the island in 1494. It is now understood that Columbus first landed on the island in what is now St. Ann’s Bay.
The outdoor museum sits on a beautiful three-acre garden dotted with colonial and maritime artifacts, cannons, pre-colonial objects used by the indigenous people of Jamaica, a waterwheel used to power a sugarcane mill, and other historical relics. The park itself overlooks what is considered to be one of the most stunning natural harbors in the world. Recent additions to the site include a bar and an outpost of the popular Scotchies restaurant.
Ocho Rios Fort
Ocho Rios Fort is one of the oldest buildings in Ocho Rios. It was built in the 17th century, augmented in 1780 when it was believed that a French attack was imminent and rebuilt by Reynolds Jamaica with two of its original guns and two additional guns that were used to defend the town of Mammee Bay.
Seville Heritage Park
Seville Heritage Park is a beautiful estate that overlooks the Caribbean Sea and is located in the pre-historic Taino village of Maima. Located just nine miles from Ocho Rios in the town of Priory, the property is designated as a national landmark and managed by Jamaica National Heritage Trust.
It features beautifully landscaped grounds, storyboards, an exhibition that covers the centuries the land was occupied by settlers, guided tours, horseback riding, a gift and refreshment shop, and artifacts from the Tainos, Jamaica’s original inhabitants, Africans and European settlers.
Built in 1745 by the grandson of Captain Hemmings, an officer in the British military, Seville Estate replaced the original home constructed by his grandfather at the end of the 17th century. Seville Heritage Park is on UNESCO’s Tentative List of State Parties after submission by the Jamaican government in 2009.
For the history buff who may also be interested in the macabre, there’s the infamous Edinburgh Castle in the town of Alderton, 20 miles from Ocho Rios. This was the home of Lewis Hutchinson, a Scottish doctor who came to live in Jamaica in the 1760s and is known as Jamaica’s first serial killer. The two-story structure was built with two circular towers and is where 43 watches and a large amount of clothes were reportedly found after a search of his home.
The “mad doctor” as he was known grew increasingly bold in his murderous behavior. It was the shooting of his neighbor and a soldier in the presence of a colonialist that led to his capture after an attempt to escape. He was later tried and hanged at the Spanish Town Gallows in 1773. The exact number of people he murdered is unknown.
Green Grotto Caves
Green Grotto Caves are formed from coastal limestone and served as shelter for the Tainos and a safe haven for runaway slaves. It is also believed that they were used by pirates to hide treasures and that rum runners took advantage of the twists and turns of the underground maze to hide liquor during the Prohibition.
Situated on a 64-acre property in Discovery Bay, the labyrinthine limestone cave system has many rock formations, stalactites, stalagmites, natural bridges and overhead ceiling pockets. The grotto is filled with chambers and light holes and there is also the subterranean Grotto Lake.
In 2017, the caves were the first in the world to receive the prestigious EarthCheck Master Achievement Award for its environmental integrity and for observing the highest principles of sustainability. This designation is given to a select group of sustainable tourism operations.
There are ten Great Houses in the parish of St. Ann. A Great House or plantation house was the residence of a wealthy planter. The architecture of these sprawling estate homes typically reflected the Georgian styles used in Europe and were built using local stone and the hardiest of woods. Many homes also featured wraparound verandahs and other design elements most appropriate for the Caribbean climate.
Great Houses near Ocho Rios are either privately owned or owned by the Jamaican government. For a tour of one of these historical homes, Liberty Hill Great House offers the Liberty Hill Great House Plantation Tour that includes a tour of the home and a historical account of the families that occupied it from the time it was built in 1740.