Monday, 14 November 2011

Ocho Rios, Coyaba, Mahoe Falls & Shaw Park

Home on Sunday evening from a very good weekend getaway to Ocho Rios. Friends Irina, Sats, Alex and I left Kingston on the Knutsford Express, arriving in Ocho Rios about 4:30 pm on Friday. The Knutsford Express is a great service with large, greyhound type buses that run Kingston-Ocho Rios-Montego Bay, with online booking and they usually run on time! It is about 2 to 2 1/2 hours from Kingston to Ocho Rios. 

I had chosen the hotel after quite a bit of online searching. We wanted something central in Ochi, but also that would suit our volunteer budgets.  After reading reviews, etc. we settled on the Silver Seas hotel at $55 US plus taxes per night for a double room. We were a little concerned that for this price we might arrive at either a hotel that wasn't there or at a hotel that rented rooms by the hour. 

After a 20 minute walk, dragging our suitcases, from the bus stop at the Ocho Rios Jerk Centre through the crowded, busy streets, we were pleasantly surprised to find the Silver Seas perched beautifully right on the beach and reminiscent of old grandeur and with just the right amount of tat. In its hey-day of the 50's, 60's and 70's, before the advent of all-inclusives out of town, it must have been magnificent. The rooms were large with two double beds and the balconies and patios were about the same size of the rooms! Certainly, it could use a bit of upgrading but it was clean and the staff were helpful and friendly. Hey, Irina and I shared a room so we each paid $55 plus taxes total for two wonderful days.

I had bought my own snorkel and fins and was so glad I did. The private beach was small, but we were the only people on it.  And the swimming off the beach was clean and beautiful, with the Ocho Rios reef about 100 metres offshore with coral formations and tropical fish on smaller formations a few metres from the beach. Sats and Irina borrowed my gear to try it out, with Irina renting her own gear on Sunday morning and we went for a long swim and snorkel - this was her first time and she was excellent. We had trouble getting her out of the water to come home to Kingston!

On Saturday we hired a driver, Super (yes, that is really his name) for a half-day to take us to Coyaba Gardens & Mahoe Falls and then to Shaw Park.  This was a really good idea!  It is not tourist season (i.e. cruise ship season) there yet, so all the drivers (vans, taxis, buses) don't have much business. So for about $35 US, Super took three of us around, waited while we explored and even took us to a craft market.  I say three of us, because Alex is taking Spanish classes from the Venezuelan consulate and has three exams upcoming, so he chose to linger on the hotel patio  and study. Alex missed a great day. 

We eschewed Dunn's River Falls, which is overrated and a tourist trap from all we hear. Coyaba Gardens & Mahoe Falls and the falls in Shaw Park were spectacular and the views were stunning. We also learned a lot of the flora of Jamaica from our tour guide, Rainford, at Coyaba. Again, being "Jamaican" had is advantages as we were quoted $,1000J admission (about $10 US), but when showed Jamaican ID were got in for $400 J and $500 J respectively. Well worth it and really good  to know that residents can visit these places at a reasonable cost. 

Saturday night we had a very nice seafood dinner at Spring Garden restaurant, joined by our new found friends at the hotel (and from Ontario), Melissa and Paul, and Alex's friend, Joyce who lives in nearby St. Ann's.  Fortuitously, it was "restaurant week" in Jamaica (local version of Dine Out Vancouver) and there was an incredible prix fixe menu that even included cocktails.  Everyone had delicious fresh seafood - I had the calamari starter followed by sauteed prawns - and the restaurant was beautiful. It was the nicest restaurant I have been to since I arrived in Jamaica. Again, we hired Super to take us, wait, and bring us back. I don't have pictures of this, but Melissa promises to email pictures when they get back to Canada. 

This is getting very long, so let's get to the pictures - there's a lot of them! No pictures of me, however Irina and Sats will email some and I will add to the album later.

Will definitely go back here. In fact, Sats has already booked a week after Christmas for he and his partner who will be visiting from Canada. 

The Silver Seas

View from the lobby patio

Sats and Irina on the lobby patio, with pool in background

This is where we drank many cups of Blue Mountain coffee early in the morning, followed by callaloo omlettes. 

View from the patio of our hotel room. 

Coyaba Gardens

Rainford, who has been a guide there for 25 years, explaining to Irina and Sats

Mahoe Falls

Ocho Rios from Mahoe Falls

From Mahoe Falls

Falls in Shaw Park

Shaw Park

Setting up for a wedding on Saturday afternoon, poolside at the Silver Seas

The groom, in white, his groomsmen and the rasta pastor came down to the beach for some ganja to calm their nerves before the ceremony. Sats, as always, was making new friends

Local kids spear fishing and jumping off the old dock at the Silver Seas

Our beach at the Silver Seas. Doesn't get much better than this

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