Situated on Jamaica's northeast coast, the resort areas of Port Antonio, Runaway Bay, and Ocho Rios helped to launch large-scale tourism in Jamaica. Known for its abundant rainfall, verdant landscapes, rolling hills, and jagged estuaries, this region was once the preferred hangout for Noël Coward, Errol Flynn, and a host of British and American literati. Ian Fleming, creator of the James Bond spy thrillers, lived at Goldeneye near Ocho Rios.

Some 31km (19 miles) west lies its chief rival, the resort of Runaway Bay -- more secluded than Ocho Rios, and without the vendors or cruise ship arrivals. There's no real town here; it's mainly just a beachfront strip of hotels.

Just 8km (5 miles) to the west of Runaway Beach is Discovery Bay, whose name refers to the belief that Columbus first landed here in 1494.

A 2-hour drive east from Montego Bay, Ocho Rios was once a small banana and fishing port, but tourism long ago became its leading industry. Now Jamaica's cruise ship capital, the bay is dominated by an ore terminal and hotels with sandy beaches fringed by palm trees. The place is fine for a lazy beach vacation, but it's definitely not for anyone seeking a remote hideaway.

Ocho Rios is far lusher than Montego Bay, and many of its resort hotels boast private sandy beaches. On the other hand, golfing and nightlife are better in Montego Bay; if you want hedonism, head for Negril. Ocho Rios? It's more tranquil (some say blander) than either of them.