Caribbean Cascades: Dunn’s River Falls, Ocho Rios, Jamaica


The falls at Dunn’s River are as ubiquitous to Jamaica’s national identity as Red Stripe beer, jerk chicken and reggae. It’s one of the most popular attractions on the island and the climb should be on everyone’s bucket list.

The Spaniards originally called the area “Las Chorreras” meaning waterfalls or springs. The name later evolved to Ocho Rios—eight rivers—although there actually only four in the area. Dunn’s River Falls is situated in the island’s north-central coast three miles west of the town of Ocho Rios. Backed by lowlands and rolling hills and fronted by glistening beaches, the falls provide a cool place to take a break from the island heat.

In addition to flowing into the sea, its described as a living falls, constantly regenerating itself by rebuilding the limestone face of the cataract with particles of calcium carbonate deposited by the flowing water.

Plan on spending at least two hours climbing from bottom to top, stopping for a dip in the pools of clear mountain waters tucked within the falls. Guides are available to make your trip go easier, often initiating a handholding chain of visitors who work their way up the 600-foot face. Some prefer to balance on the slippery rocks on their own but shoes with a griping sole are essential in either case.

It’s rare to find the Dunn’s River Falls void of crowds. And, when there is a cruise in town it’s almost impossible. Head there early in the day or time your visit when cruisers are in another port.