Dunn's River Falls

Ocho Rios, St Ann Parish, Jamaica

About Dunn’s River Falls


Hiking Distance: almost roadside
Suggested Time:

Date first visited: 2011-12-27
Date last visited: 2011-12-27

Waterfall Latitude: 18.41485
Waterfall Longitude: -77.13445

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Dunns River Falls (or Dunn’s River Falls) has to be hands down the most popular waterfall in Jamaica, and we wonder if it’s also the most popular tourist attraction period.

A reason why we think this is the case is that it’s within a short driving distance from the cruise ship dock in Ocho Rios.

Dunns_River_Falls_022_12272011 - One of the larger tiers of the Dunn's River Falls
One of the larger tiers of the Dunn’s River Falls

You add the thousands of cruise passengers disembarking and enjoying the falls with resort tourists from Ocho Rios and Montego Bay (which itself is within reasonable driving distance for a day excursion) as well as the locals, and it becomes apparent after doing all the math that you’ll have a mass of humanity experiencing this series of waterfalls.

So was it worth the hype?

The Appeal of Dunn’s River Falls

Well even with all the commercialism for the Dunn’s River Falls (which made it feel more like a theme park than a natural attraction), there was no denying the fact that this was clearly one of the most scenic waterfalls that we’ve been to.

Dunns_River_Falls_023_12272011 - The infamous human chain going up the falls
The infamous human chain going up the falls

The falls consisted of multiple tiers of limestone cascades which were steep enough to count as waterfalls but also were not too steep so climbing on them was possible.

The underlying limestone bedrock was what gave the falls its character and scenic appeal, but the hits didn’t stop there.

The lowest tiers of the Dunn’s River Falls tumbled beneath a bridge and eventually joined the Caribbean Sea with its blue-green waters fringed by soft white sand.

Yep, you heard right!

It was one of those waterfalls that you can count as those falling into the ocean!

Dunns_River_Falls_044_12272011 - Looking down over another human chain climbing up the lower drops of Dunn's River Falls as it spilled into the turquoise waters of the Caribbean Sea
Looking down over another human chain climbing up the lower drops of Dunn’s River Falls as it spilled into the turquoise waters of the Caribbean Sea

Add to this that Dunn’s River Falls was also a typical “play” waterfall where you can swim or walk in its waters.

Indeed, just about every tourist that would come here would feel compelled to climb up all the waterfall’s tiers to cool off from the tropical heat, and you have a perfect storm of all the things that would attract visitors to this one place.

So don’t be surprised to see human chains of people holding each others’ hands to facilitate walking up the waterfalls.

It was practically the tourist ritual here.

The Dunn’s River Falls Experience

Dunns_River_Falls_002_12272011 - Julie approaching the entrance to the Dunn's River Falls and Park facility
Julie approaching the entrance to the Dunn’s River Falls and Park facility

As for the specifics of the waterfall experience, here was how we saw it.

After going through the entrance gate (we had to make sure we wore our wrist-strap denoting proof-of-admission), we then followed a wide and paved walkway that made its way alongside the Dunn’s River Falls.

At first, the wide walkway passed by several stands containing crafts, food, water shoe rentals, and even local guides waiting for us to hire them to help with climbing the falls.

Once we were past all the tents and queues for guides, we saw spur paths leading towards the fringe of the river at various sections to catch glimpses of the waterfall’s many cascades.

Dunns_River_Falls_005_12272011 - A big banyan tree within the Dunn's River Falls acting as sort of a landmark for us
A big banyan tree within the Dunn’s River Falls acting as sort of a landmark for us

Such sections also acted as re-entry/exit points to the Dunn’s River itself if we intended to get wet and walk in the river.

There was even a banyan tree in the middle of the paved walk, which kind of served as a bit of a landmark.

Since we were primarily interested in taking photographs of the Dunn’s River Falls, the river-fringing walkways were our best bet to capture the action.

As much as I wanted to get into the river and capture the action from there, I needed to have waterproofing accessories for my DSLR camera, which I didn’t have.

So I couldn’t take the risk.

Dunns_River_Falls_107_12272011 - Context of one of the lookouts allowing us to experience the Dunn's River Falls without getting wet, but you can also see that plenty of people go into the waters for a bit of fun
Context of one of the lookouts allowing us to experience the Dunn’s River Falls without getting wet, but you can also see that plenty of people go into the waters for a bit of fun

Nonetheless, we were still able to see the vast majority of the waterfall’s sections from the safety of those walkways.

However, I did recall there were a few small isolated sections that we couldn’t see unless we went in the river itself.

Once we descended all the way to the bottom of the walkway, we were at the beach.

While the beach alone was a good place to spend time playing and cooling off from the tropical heat, this was merely the starting point for doing the obligatory climb up the Dunns River Falls.

Dunns_River_Falls_099_12272011 - Looking across the bottom of the Dunn's River Falls towards the beach
Looking across the bottom of the Dunn’s River Falls towards the beach

This was where the long human chain (i.e. strangers holding each others’ hands to maybe aid with balance and reassurance) began.

The first section of Dunn’s River Falls (which I’m calling the “bottommost tier”) involved maybe a half-dozen sections of climbing.

It looked daunting when viewed from the top (see photo at the top of this page), but it didn’t seem like that big of a deal when going up.

At the top of this first section of the waterfall, the human chain then traversed beneath a bridge (which I believed was a road bridge).

Dunns_River_Falls_068_12272011 - The human chain starting at the bottommost tier of Dunn's River Falls
The human chain starting at the bottommost tier of Dunn’s River Falls

On the other side of the bridge, the river leveled out and was pretty flat except for a few sparse tiny cascades.

After rounding a bend and going up a few more tiny cascades, then the human chain entered what I considered to be the main section of the Dunn’s River Falls.

This was where the Dunn’s River spread out and flowed over a tall and wide limestone slope that was easily the most photographed spot.

In fact, they had plenty of viewing areas up part of the profile of the falls to ensure there was no shortage of photo opportunities.

Once at the top of this main section, the stream briefly flattened out over a few more smaller cascades before hitting a fork in the river (where the river had a convergence of segments or tributaries).

Dunns_River_Falls_037_12272011 - Context of people climbing the Dunn's River Falls with lots of spectators at the overlooks trying to photograph the action
Context of people climbing the Dunn’s River Falls with lots of spectators at the overlooks trying to photograph the action

The left side looked like it flowed over a trio of steeper cascades and it didn’t appear that anyone was going up that way.

The right side looked like it flowed over a few more gentler sloping cascades and this was the way we saw most tourists take.

This part of the stream also became hidden away from those not willing to go into the water.

Since I didn’t risk bringing my DSLR camera with me into the water here, I didn’t capture any more additional photos about that section.

Eventually after this last section, the stream bent back towards the walkway where there was the uppermost exit.

Dunns_River_Falls_109_12272011 - Fork in the Dunn's River where most of the tourists kept to the right as they climbed the uppermost sections of the Dunn's River Falls
Fork in the Dunn’s River where most of the tourists kept to the right as they climbed the uppermost sections of the Dunn’s River Falls

That concluded the typical “get wet” tour, and that was where participants would rejoin the paved walkway and dry off.

The stream really flattened out further upstream of this point so it was pretty much the end of the most interesting part of the climb.

We saw a handful of people stay in the water and keep going upstream, but it didn’t look like there was much more to see up there from what we could tell.

Authorities

Dunn’s River Falls resides near Ocho Rios. It is privately owned by the Dunn’s River Falls and Park. For information or inquiries about the area as well as current conditions, you can try to visit their website.

Dunns_River_Falls_001_12272011 - Julie approaching the entrance to the Dunn's River Falls and Park
Dunns_River_Falls_004_12272011 - Julie descending steps alongside the drops of the Dunn's River Falls
Dunns_River_Falls_010_12272011 - Looking towards the main section of the Dunn's River Falls when it was in a rare state - i.e. not covered with people
Dunns_River_Falls_012_12272011 - The main section of the Dunn's River Falls before the arrival of the tourist crush
Dunns_River_Falls_018_12272011 - More angled view of the main section of Dunn's River Falls
Dunns_River_Falls_033_12272011 - Some tourists climbing up the main section of Dunn's River Falls in a human chain
Dunns_River_Falls_035_12272011 - This is how busy it can get here at the Dunn's River Falls. Note the steps on the topright of this photograph, which shows you how you can easily get in and out of the Dunn's River at various spots
Dunns_River_Falls_046_12272011 - Looking down the lowermost sections of Dunns River Falls towards the Caribbean Sea
Dunns_River_Falls_049_12272011 - Starting the climb up the Dunns River Falls from the beach at the bottom of the waterfall
Dunns_River_Falls_061_12272011 - Looking up towards the upper parts of the lowermost tiers of Dunn's River Falls, where the human chain was up to the underside of the road bridge
Dunns_River_Falls_095_12272011 - Looking down across the bottom of the Dunn's River Falls revealing the attractive beach
Dunns_River_Falls_104_12272011 - Sign explaining the historical significance of the Dunn's River Falls
Dunns_River_Falls_106_12272011 - The human chain about to climb the main part of the Dunn's River Falls
Dunns_River_Falls_111_12272011 - The steeper left side of the fork near the very top or end of the Dunn's River Falls waterfall climb adventure

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The turnoff for Dunns River Falls is right off the main highway (A3) about 4km west of Ocho Rios.

It took us roughly 15 minutes to ride from the Sandals in Ocho Rios to get here. Ocho Rios was about 100km east of Montego Bay (Mo Bay).

The admission price at the time of our visit in late 2011 was $20 USD per person not including transportation costs.

Left to right sweep of the main section of the Dunns River Falls with tourists in a human-chain ascending it


Right to left sweep of the main section of the falls


Right to left sweep showing just how busy it can be at these falls


Left to right sweep from the top of the lowermost tiers ending at the Caribbean Sea


Left to right sweep starting from the base of the falls but ending up looking outwards towards the Caribbean Sea


Right to left circular sweep starting from the beach fringing the Caribbean Sea and ending at the base of the falls with a final zoom-in on the climbers almost making it to the top of this section


Right to left sweep of the uppermost tiers of the falls that you can see without getting your camera wet


Left to right sweep starting at the base of the falls and ending at the Caribbean Sea. This movie was taken before the tourist crush when it was pretty peaceful

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Tagged with: ocho rios, st ann, saint ann, jamaica, waterfall, caribbean, human chain, walk up waterfall, swim, swimming, dunns river



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