Dunn’s River Falls is unique, and just like Reggae, the 180 foot high and 600 foot long landmark is world famous. It stands as a living testament to Jamaica’s natural beauty and is the most popular of all the Jamaican falls, attracting millions of the world’s visitors each year.
A brisk 1 hour and 30 minute hike will take you on an exhilarating adventure through lush surroundings, with pools you can swim in dotting the way to the summit.
At the base of the waterfall, you will find both its defining feature, and what makes it so unique. The falls empty into the sea at Little Dunn’s River Beach, making Dunn’s River Falls one of the few travertine waterfalls in the entire world!
In this article on the Sandals Blog:
The history of Dunn's River Falls.
Climbing the Falls: What to expect.
Who can climb Dunn's River Falls?
Other things to do at Dunn's River Falls.
The best time to visit the Falls.
How to get there?
What to pack?
This tourist attraction is said to be the scene of the legendary historic battle of the “Las Chorreras”. A battle fought in the year 1657 between the Spanish and the English for ownership of the land. The Spanish were defeated.
In England’s triumph over Spain, the name of the island seemed to be lost in translation and was somehow reduced to the Spanish name Ocho Rios meaning “Eight Rivers”, changing it from “Las Chorreras”. The irony is that there aren’t eight rivers in Ocho Rios, there are only four.
If this history lesson doesn’t ring any bells, you would’ve surely seen the beauty of the region in the James Bond film Dr. No, or beach scenes from Cocktail with Tom Cruise, and in more recent years a fashionista’s paradise in an episode of America's Next Top Model.
Dunns River Park offers two climbs; a wet climb and a dry climb. If you are not a fan of getting wet, then the dry climb would be best suited for you. The wet climb entails walking within the falls, and through the water, so a swimsuit or anything that will dry quickly are suitable for the climb. The dry climb involves a walking trail alongside the falls. Both trails are equally as fun, but only the wet climb will take you to the summit.
Proceed with caution when approaching the top of the falls, as it can be slippery along the rocks. Climbing the falls without a tour guide is not permitted, so feel free to ask your guide to help you navigate your way. For the dry climbers, look out for the handrails on the sidewalk, should you feel unsteady at any time.
Insider tip: There are plenty of tour companies in Jamaica and it’s difficult to know which one to choose. Try the Dunn's River Falls Tour by Island Routes, this tour includes a Catamaran cruise as well! Island Routes is Sandals' preferred partner for good reason.
Don’t forget to pack a pair of anti-slip sneakers or water shoes. You’ll definitely need them as you make your way up and down the falls. Another safety precaution, which may help when the falls are crowded, is to join a human chain of people holding each other’s hands as they make their way up and down the falls. A common occurrence seen on the falls. It is practically the tourist ritual there.
Insider tip: Buy and bring your own water shoes. You’ll get them for the same price as you rent them on your vacation, except, you’ll have them for life.
If want to take a dip into the water while doing the dry climb, there are several points along the path where you can easily access the river, if you wish. The cool water will wash over you as it cascades down the fall, which is very refreshing.
Though Dunns River Falls are not a man-made, some of the terraces incorporate man-made improvements. Several small lagoons are interspersed among the vertical sections of the falls, purely for your relaxation and pleasure.
Insider tip: Bring a change of clothes for post-climb, if you want to get dry quickly. Dunn’s River Falls Park provides locker rooms, where you can store your belongings securely. They cost $10, of which $5 will be returned to you when you collect your belongings.
If you decide to make your own way by taxi to the falls the admission rates (as of April 2019) are as follows:
Residents will have to show a valid Jamaican driver’s license or ID card.
All tickets include a tour guide. It is not possible to visit the Falls without one. You can pay with USD, local Jamaican dollars (JMD), or credit card. Bring a little extra cash as there is a souvenir market and snacks available.
There are no height restrictions for this climb, but it is not advised to bring along small children or vacationers who are not strong enough to swim at the foot of the falls. Fear not, as there are plenty of other attractions nearby by to keep the family entertained for the entire day, or simply during your climb.
People recommended to not climb:
Chasing waterfalls isn’t for everybody, so if a simple happy snap with the backdrop of the cascades is all you need, then so be it. There is a multitude of alternative activities to keep you entertained while waiting for your fellow vacation buddies to climb the falls.
Complete with three lush gardens, waterslide, and a splash pad as its center, the rustic space boasts 12 wood-overlaid kiosks as commercial outlets for Dunn’s River Falls Park branded merchandise, a photo shop where you can collect insta-memories of the falls, ice-cream, pizza and host of other commodities.
Get sucked into the competitive world of craft markets in Ocho Rios. Crafts markets are in abundance, but with Dunn’s River Falls being the biggest attraction, it’s safe to say the craft market at the Dunn’s River Falls Park has some of the best souvenirs.
Located at the base of the Falls, Dunn's River Falls beach has a spectacular view of the cascading waterfalls. All-day beach access is included in your falls adventure, so take a run on the beach, take a stroll while admiring the flora near the falls (including tropical flora like bamboo, crotons, ferns, ginger lilies, orchids, and a variety of palm and breadfruit trees), or simply watch the sunset while relaxing on the beach at the foot of decent.
For a true Jamaican culinary experience, head over to the cafeteria which serves jerk chicken, pork, fish, and a variety of snacks. For a lovely day out with friends and family, pack your own picnic, and cook your favorites on grills scattered around the park.
Dubbed a living phenomenon, Dunn’s River Falls has become a prominent feature on bucket lists all over the world.
Needless to say, crowds are something to be cognizance of, especially when cruise ships are concerned. Crowds can easily be avoided if you know the correct times to visit. Check the Ocho Rios cruise ship port schedule, for the days you are planning to book your tickets or tour. If you are booking a tour, your tour operator should be able to provide you with the best advice.
The Dunn’s River daily operating hours (Monday - Sunday):
Insider tip: Try to avoid Wednesdays. Wednesdays are busy cruise ship days. Saturdays and Sundays are great days to visit the falls, but also busy days as this is the weekend for local tourists.
We would also suggest you tackle the falls either first thing in the morning or last thing in the afternoon. That way you’ll miss the day-time crowds.
The climb will take you anything between 35 minutes to 1 hour and 30 minutes. So, the sooner you get moving, the longer you’ll have to take it all in, with limited interruptions.
Insider tip: Read our in-depth guide on when it's the best time to visit Jamaica. It includes the temperature and rainfall in the different Jamaican destinations, plus an overview of annual events taking place in Jamaica.
The water temperature at the Falls is pretty consistent year-round. On rainy days expect the water to be a bit cold. Similarly, on hot sunny days, the water temperature at Dunn’s River Falls is less likely to be cold, but cool and refreshing.
Only a stone’s throw away from Ocho Rios, on the northern coast of Jamaica, sits the giant natural staircase. Visitors can take a 5-minute drive on land or arrive by water from any one of the Sandals resorts, including Sandals Ochi (all-inclusive couples-only resort), Beaches Ocho Rios (family-friendly all-inclusive resort) and Sandals Royal Plantation (luxurious beachfront butler suites).
If the surrounding cities have piqued your interests, note that Dunn’s River Falls will be anything between 1 and 3 hours drive away, depending on your location.
From Falmouth to Ocho Rios: 1 hour, 10 minutes’ drive.
From Kingston to Ocho Rios: 1 hour, 15 minutes’ drive.
From Montego Bay to Ocho Rios: 1 hour, 45 minutes’ drive.
From Port Antonio to Ocho Rios: 2 hours’ drive.
From Negril to Ocho Rios: 3 hours’ drive.
Cruisers docking at Ocho Rios will have plenty of time to climb the falls. A 10-minute drive from the port and your adventure is underway.
If you’re docking at Montego Bay, Port Antonio, or Falmouth ports completing the climb is still possible. However, your commute will be slightly longer, so be sure to budget additional time into your schedule.
Whether you’re passing through Jamaica on a cruise liner, or staying at your favorite Jamaican all-inclusive resort, there are a few items you should pack to ensure a relaxed day on your Dunn’s Fall River escapade.
Capturing the moment is what allows memories to live on, however, we wouldn’t advise you to bring along a fancy digital single-lens reflex camera. It will likely get wet and damaged. A simple point and shoot HD waterproof camera will do the trick. These will allow you to create stress-free happy-snaps along the way, but If you didn’t get around to arranging a camera, it’s not a lost opportunity. Be sure to don your best smile at all times, as you never know when a falls employed photographer may cross your path. Be warned, they will charge you a small fee for the photograph should you want copies.
Who knew that waterfalls were so fascinating and provide hours of entertainment at the same time? Ocho Rios is full of surprises. More than just luxurious beaches, crystal clear ocean waters, and sunny days filled with rum punch, Dunn’s River Falls is definitely not to be missed on your next trip to Jamaica.