While staying at the Sandals Grande Riviera in Ocho Rios, Jamaica, my new wife and I made a quick day trip out to the famous Dunn’s River Falls just a few miles west of our resort. Dunn’s River Falls is one of the most famous tourist destinations in the Caribbean and with good reason. It is a one-of-a-kind waterfall that rises almost one thousand feet out of the crystal blue waters of the Caribbean Sea. Residents and tourists alike can scale these cascades for an unforgettable day trip in a tropical paradise.
Dunn’s River Falls is unique in both its history and its geology. In 1657, it is said to be the site of a famous war between the English and the Spanish who fought over possession of the island of Jamaica. The English won the battle for the island and possession of the famous waterfalls fell to a noble Englishman. In 1972, the Jamaican government eventually purchased the land and began to develop it into the preserved natural park that it is today.
The falls at Ocho Rios are said to be a geological phenomenon in a state of constant change. Over time, mineral deposits from upriver make their way to the falls and cause the rock forms to change over time. This makes Dunn’s River Falls truly a “living” attraction. The falls also stand out as one of, if not the only, waterfall that discharges directly into an ocean.
Finding a Guide
Since Dunn’s River Falls is a tourist attraction at its heart, it is not difficult to find a good tour guide to lead you safely up the falls. However, the easiest way to find a reputable guide is to simply sign up for a trip from your resort. There is less planning on your part, and you know your hotel will only contract with good guides. It is also worth noting that guests can ascend the falls unassisted—it is not recommended, but it is an option.
It is certainly a wise decision to scale the falls with a guide. It is the safest, and they will show you some special treats along the way (like a natural water slide). After you meet your guide but before you begin your ascent up the falls, a videographer will give you quick sales pitch to purchase a movie that he or she will be taping while you climb the falls. When I ascended the falls, the cost was $40 for the DVD, which I purchased. The DVD works just fine and has the quality of a typical digital video camera. The price was certainly expensive, but both my wife and I knew it would be fun to one day show our children our little adventure in Jamaica.
Finally, right before you begin your ascent, your tour guide will give you a quick safety talk. While the falls are not dangerous, it is recommended that you create a human chain to better climb through the cascading water.
Climbing the Falls
After your first few steps up the falls, you will quickly realize why you have been asked to form a human chain. The rocks are slick and the water is rushing at a torrid space. Your human chain will keep you standing and will help pull you up some of the more difficult steps. Do not be afraid though. While the falls can be somewhat dangerous, many young children have traveled up the falls before. On my trip to the falls, there was a four-year-old child with my group. We gave him some extra help, but he was able to make it up unscathed.
If you have a group of any substantial size, the walk up the falls will probably be slow. Try to take your time and enjoy the lush scenery surrounding the river. This is an experience unlike any other.
At numerous points on your ascent up the falls, guides will step aside to take photos for the group. The guides also make sure to bring their group to a few fun features on the falls including a natural water slide and a great pool to flop into the cool and refreshing water. During your entire ascent, a videographer will shadow your group. It is pretty amazing to watch them jump across rocks and keep their expensive piece of electronic equipment out of the water. Be sure to wave at the camera if you intend to purchase a DVD.
Once you get to the top…
At the top of the falls guests will walk on a path that travels through a little market full of vendors who are trying to sell their wares to tourists. Some of the items are very nice, but beware, some of the vendors can be kind of pushy. Stop and take a look if you have some extra money to spend or need a knickknack to take home.
Food and spa facilities are also on the Dunn’s River Falls property.
For the Less Brave… Watch the Climb
For those who cannot or do not want to ascend Dunn’s River Falls, there are numerous viewing platforms above the river. These platforms also provide good vantage points to take photos of friends and family far below.
Cost of a trip to Dunn’s River can vary, especially if you book your adventure through your hotel or resort. Admission to the park itself is $15 per adult and $12 for children. Additional costs will be incurred for your transportation to the park, which is organized at most resorts.
Water shoes are available for rental by numerous vendors surrounding Dunn’s River at a cost of seven to ten dollars a pair. These are highly recommended for everyone who climbs the falls. Water shoes give you extra traction on the rocks and protect your feet from the rocks and pebbles beneath you.
If you want, you can also purchase a disposable waterproof camera for your trip. You can bring your personal digital camera to the falls, but you will do so at your own risk. It is quite easy to trip and fall into the water during your climb.
For accomodations near Ocho Rios, be sure to read this Sandals Ocho Rios Review by the author of this article.