The most idyllic sands are at the often-overcrowded Mallards Beach, in the center of Ocho Rios and shared by hotel guests and cruise ship passengers. Locals may steer you to the white sands of Turtle Beach, which is smaller, more desirable, and not as overcrowded as Mallards.
The most popular spot (stay away when cruise ships are in port!) is Dunn's River Beach, located below the famous falls. Another great spot is Jamaica Grande's Beach, which is open to the public. Parasailing is a favorite sport here.
Our favorite beach is at Goldeneye, writer Ian Fleming's former home, now a hotel. Follow the trail of 007 and head for James Bond Beach (tel. 876/726-1630), east of Ocho Rios at Oracabessa Beach. For US$5 adults, US$3 children, nonguests can enjoy its sand strip any day except Monday. There's a watersports rental center here as well.
Puerto Seco Beach lies on the eastern side of Discovery Bay, just an 8km (5-mile) drive west of Runaway Bay. On the far western side of the bay is its major attraction, Columbus Park Museum. Jamaicans who live in the hills nearby flock here on Sundays for a jivin' good time. The smoke from jerk chicken and a few ganja smokers fills the air, as do the sounds of Bob Marley and all his dozens of reggae imitators.
You might also escape the crowds at Ocho Rios and head to the lovely beach at nearby Runaway Bay.