“ Ocho Rios / St Ann / Jamaica „
Dunns River Falls excursion in Jamaica.
This is something that I did on my honeymoon and quite openly brag about climbing to the top of the waterfall.
It was done as an excursion so there is a fee for this.
Although you can climb the waterfall without the aid of a guide, it is recommended that you use the guide facility as they are used to climbing this and will shout out where you are going to "drop" in the water. This is okay if you are at the front of the group but the message takes so long to be passed down the chain of people you find out for yourself anyway. You stand on rocks to work your way up the 600ft waterfall. Although the water is clear you there are places where you have to reach a rock by wading through some water or the rock will look bigger than it actually is so you end up waist high in water unintentionally.
The current from the waterfall is quite fast moving, not enough to knock you over, but enough to take your shoes off your feet if your footwear is not adequate. I would recommend a pair of soft pumps or trainers.
The climb itself takes at least 40 minutes if you do not stop on the way, which is not something that can be done if there is a large party of peope. Once you reach the top of the waterfall there is a small market where you can buy souveniers about your experience, traditional wooden carvings, straw ornaments.
If you do not want to climb the waterfall there are a number of options available:
You can stay at the bottom of the waterfall where there is a small place to sit and buy a drink, ice cream etc
You can climb the steps, which are very steep, at the same time as the group and generally laugh at the number of people who fall waist deep in water to be told a few seconds afterwards there is a drop
Climb the steps before the climb begins, again there is somewhere to sit, have a drink etc and watch from up there.
The climb is hard work and they have catered for people being hungry afterwards by offering a cafe which serves food including pork or fish spicy jerked chicken, and curried goat or snacks. If you want to take your own food you can and there are a number of barbecue points around the resort which are free to use.
If you are going as an excursion, organised through your travel company, you are obviously limited with the amount of time there, however if you go there yourself, there is the beach which is where the river meets the caribbean sea.
If you wanted to make a day out within the area then Dolphin Cave is just next door and worth a visit.
I was in Jamaica on a work trip just under two years ago now and whilst we were there we had an organised trip to the Dunn's river falls included. Because it was pre organised everything was arranged prior to our arrival. However, the Dunn's River falls and park, where it is situated, seems to be the same from the main website so I will give you my opinion on this place as it is one of Jamaica's top attractions that you simply must visit if going on a trip to Jamaica!
What is it?
Dunn's River falls and park is located in Ocho Rios and is a park area that surrounds the Dunn' river and the falls that are at the end of the river which eventually leads right into the ocean at the bottom on the beach. The fall section is quite mild really and not a huge falls. There are plenty of rocks near to the surface and no part of it is too deep which is what makes it ideal for climbing.
The park surrounding the falls itself have many areas to enjoy a picnic and there is an onsite cafe and gift shop.
How do I get there?
Getting to Dunns River falls is relatively simple. If you are staying in Ocho Rios then it is only minutes away with the nearest other tourist resort being Montego Bay. It is probably easier to get a taxi if you haven't booked it as a tour and these can pick up from any hotel. Alternatively you can always catch the local bus which is a cheaper alternative!
How do I book it?
If you pre book it as a tour through your hotel you would simply get it booked through the hotel and pay either upfront or when being picked up. You'll probably find you'll pay more as you're also paying for the transport back and forth and also the convenience but if you make your own way all you do is simply turn up and pay to get in.
The park has two set prices - one for residents of Jamaica and one for non residents. The following prices are taken from the website -
Adult - JMD 300
Child - JMD150
Adult - $15
Child - $12
There is quite a difference between the two as the residents prices work out to approximately £2.40 to an adult whereas the non resident's prices work out at around £8.60 per adult. My best advice would be to pay in JMD if you can as they will generally work it out to be slightly lower than if paying in USD. It can work out a bit of a saving if you have a family going in!
The park is open every day however, on days when the cruise ships are in it is open earlier. Cruise ship days are Wednesday, Thursday and Friday and on these days the park opens at 7am and closes at 4pm. On all other days the park opens at 8.30am and closes at 4pm.
What is it like?
Well when we arrived we got a guide who then took our group to the bottom of the falls on the beach. He first explains how we will climb it and tells us of points up the falls where if we are struggling we can get off. In our group there were 10 of us and he explained how we all had to hold hands and climb the falls in a line. This is the easiest way for everyone as then it helps to stop people from falling and also helps as a way of pulling somebody up a particularly steep bit. I was a bit dubious about that at first as if you have no hands to use surely it is more difficult? However I needn't have worried as most bits are not too steep and within easy step!
Once you start to climb it's actually a lot easier than it looks from the bottom and before you know it you're actually pretty high! The falls do bend so once you reach a certain point you can't actually see the beach anymore. It's also quite fun seeing so many people all climbing in one go too! The water is not warm so when you do get to a bit where it is splashing around you it is a bit of a shock at first although you soon get used to that!
Also as you climb the falls there is a photographer who goes with each group who will get pictures at certain points. The main one they ask you pose is where they get the whole group to line up and take it in turns to get a picture under a small waterfall section. You can have this done on your own or with others if you are travelling as part of a group. The water is really strong here and they say it is meant to be good for your back although surely if you had a bad back you wouldn't be climbing the falls in the first place!!
There are also viewing platforms along the way where you can watch your family of friends if you are not climbing and it is also quite funny to watch others when you come off of the falls yourself. At the very top of the falls there is an area where the water is quite calm and everybody likes to sit in this and relax after the long climb watching the others coming up the falls. Once you reach the top it is nice to tip the guide as officially you can climb without one so if you decided to use their services, you should be polite enough to tip them as this is how they make a living. Most in our group tipped him 200JMD which across the ten of us was adequate enough - of course you can always tip him more if you want to! The photographer who has taken the photos actually comes off of the falls after the last photo and so by the time you reach the top they are ready to buy. I paid $15 dollars for my photo which is which is obviously not cheap but, it came with a frame around stating where it was and to be honest there was no other way I would have had a picture on the falls that day as nobody had a waterproof camera with them so it was worth it in my eyes! Of course if you are travelling as a family you could just buy the one which makes it more of a bargain.
The falls are a must for those that are able to climb them especially if you are not too far away from them. It is fun and something different and if I had more time I would love to have had something to eat whilst there too and spend some time walking around the gardens. I t is advisable to bring some water shows to wear as they will make it easier to climb the falls. If you don't have any or just generally prefer to then there is a stall at the top of the falls before you go down to the beach where you can either buy a pair of water shoes or rent them. I rented mine and it cost me 5USD so not too expensive - to buy new ones it will cost you around 2USD which I wasn't bothered about doing even though inexpensive as this would be the only time I would use them!
I highly recommend this place and think you'll be surprised at how much fun it actually is!
Enjoy the sandy beach and bask in the sun or stroll through the tropical foilage and take in the beauty of mother nature. Dont forget to pick up a souvenir at one of the park's gift shops!