Shopping in Ocho Rios: 6 Things You Need to Own

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Jamaica has the most distinctive and influential culture in the Caribbean — and you can take it home with you. Authentic flavors, smells, rhythms and handicrafts are there among the touristy trinkets; you just have to know where to find them.

Here are the six things you should buy in Ocho Rios, Jamaica, and exactly where you can find them.

Blue Mountain Coffee
Jablum Blue Mountain Coffee in Ocho Rios
Credit: Jablum Coffee

Reputed to be the best in the world, this high-altitude, low-acidity coffee is mellow and smooth compared to most other coffees. Blue Mountain coffee devotees are known to buy 10 pounds of it for themselves each trip. Some people go so far as to bring a separate suitcase for it.

If it’s important to you that it be 100 percent Blue Mountain, check for the official seal from the Jamaican Coffee Board. However, many people like High Mountain (coffee from the same mountain, lower altitude) even better. It’s all personal taste.

Where to Buy

Closest to the pier and cruiser-friendly is Island Village, where retailers Bluemont and Rum, Roast & Royals sell certified 100% Blue Mountain coffee. You can also find Jablum coffee booths (another brand of Blue Mountain coffee) at most other shopping centers.

Island Spices

Jerk seasoning is an inexpensive way to bring the flavor of Jamaica home. And Scotch bonnet pepper sauce is a great option to create the jerk flavors from Ocho Rios. Sprinkle that on basically anything. It’s so fiery that a small bottle should last a long time.

Where to Buy

If you want the freshest made-from-scratch jerk sauce, try the Ocho Rios Village Jerk Centre (the biggest jerk joint in Ochi). It’s about 12 minutes by car, at 16 DaCosta Dr., but it’s along the route from the cruise terminal to the Blue Hole, so a lot of excursions stop there.

Otherwise, most souvenir stores will have pre-made jerk seasonings and sauces in stock — but savvy shoppers recommend buying them at General Food Supermarket at Ocean Village. You’ll find the brands locals cook with, for lower prices.

Authentic Island Art
Locally made wood carvings in Ocho Rios
Credit: David Amsler/ flckr

A tremendous amount of interesting, soulful and colorful art is made throughout Jamaica. Paintings, drawings, woodcarvings, woven handicrafts, walking sticks … the creative spirit here is strong in every medium. Vendors and galleries display the full spectrum for cruise passengers — from the cheap ’n cheerful to the true fine art pieces.

Where to Buy

Where to buy depends on your style of shopping. If you want the leisurely gallery experience, head to Harmony Hall. If you want the crowded, bargaining-crazed craft market experience head to Ocho Rios Craft Park just a few blocks from the cruise terminal.

Bamboo Products
Cariloha's bamboo products in Ocho Rios
Credit: Cariloha

In the mountains, it’s common to see locals walking down the road with cut bamboo balanced on one shoulder. Large-scale bamboo production is driving and supplying some rather ingenious new bamboo uses — including textile technology. And it might just create the coolest gifts you can find. Skip the corny T-shirts and buy soft, breathable dresses, pants, fitness wear, and all sorts of other wearable bamboo products. You can even buy the coziest sheets and blankets and ultra soft towels.

Where to Buy

Only one store specializes in this: Cariloha Bamboo. The Ocho Rios store was one of the first three Cariloha stores to open; now there are 50 in 14 countries.

Appleton Estate Rum
Appleton Jamaica Rum in Ocho Rios
Credit: Jannes Pockele/ flckr

Though the Appleton Estate distillery is too far for a daytrip from Ochi (sob!), you can buy the world-renowned rum at many shops near the cruise terminal. If you’re a rum fan, make sure to taste the rum from Jamaican sister brand J. Wray & Nephew as well. If you prefer creamier, less-potent drinks, check out rum cream. (Sangsters is a popular brand.)

Where to Buy

Rum, Roast & Royals is obviously an option. But you’ll probably find the best bargains at the local supermarket, not at the touristy shops that charge a premium to cruise passengers.

The Reggae Yard in Ocho Rios
Credit: David E. Waldron/ flickr

Depending on how evolved your appreciation of reggae is, either stick with Bob Marley CDs and t-shirts or expand your base to other artists (Jimmy Cliff and Damian Marley being the two natural branch-outs). Or opt for Rasta-themed wall hangings and a steel drum to Jamaica-ize your rec room back home.

Where to Buy

If you’ve got limited time off the ship, Reggae Yard in the Island Village shopping center is your best bet. Marley’s former producer, Chris Blackwell, owns the complex.

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