Tacky Falls, of all the waterfalls in Jamaica, was the only one that we felt was truly non-commercialized and back-to-nature. In other words, there were no tourist crush, no facilities, no souvenir shops and food stands, and no climbing the falls. However, that also meant that we had to be prepared as there were no signs, no formal path, and plenty of hazards on the way to even reach this pretty obscure 60m tall (or higher) waterfall. Indeed, it was only this falls in raw and natural settings.
Actually, what’s pictured in this page was only the upper tier of the falls. There was also a lower tier, but the local guide told us that it was very difficult and unsafe to reach the bottom to even get the full view of that lower drop (let alone both falls).
In order for us to see this waterfall (upper tier only), we had to come prepared with decent shoes (the better the grip, the lesser the chances of taking a potentially fatal spill) and some hiking attire that we didn’t mind brushing up against foliage, branches, and stumps.
The way we managed to see the falls involved going through a tour company who had enough connections to figure out how to get to the right place to start the hike. In our case, only the driver had been to the falls before. Our guide had never been to Tacky Falls.
Once we got to the beginning of the hike, which started at a pretty ordinary-looking residence (and was also blaring dancehall reggae music) with some surrounding subsistence farming plots, we followed a local guide familiar with the area. He promptly led us down a very slippery and muddy path to the stream on which the falls was on, then we continued on the trail-of-use path to the top of the falls.
From there, the guide led us onto a very narrow path on a ledge where it was best to hold onto sturdy vines and trunks on the left while trying not to pay too much attention to the dropoff on the right. A fall here would’ve most certainly been fatal.
Then, we descended another steep and muddy path while holding onto trunks whenever possible until we made it to the base of the upper falls. This was the end of what was probably the longest 15-20 minutes of hiking we can recall doing in recent memory.
Still, we found ourselves right in front of this impressively tall and nearly vertical waterfall that was totally different than any of the other waterfalls we would end up seeing during our stay in Jamaica. The only bad thing was the high noon sun was right on top of the falls, which made photography difficult. We basically waited and hoped for the clouds to block the sun before we proceeded to snap away.
The footing here was very slippery (almost like walking on ice) thanks to persistent algae growing on the bedrock continually wet by the flow of the falls. The local guide showed us where it wasn’t as slippery so we could get to other spots around this relatively flat area in between the two tiers of the Tacky Falls. He even led me to the very brink of the lower falls but I really had to be wary of getting too close to the edge since it was a long plunge from up here.
Once we had our fill of this pristine and isolated spot, we returned back the way we came. Although it was much easier to go up, the muddy and slippery sections (not to mention the narrow ledge section) still made things tricky while also requiring a good deal of concentration.
Since we hired a driver and guide, we can’t give specific directions on how to get to Tacky Falls from say the Sandals Resort in Ocho Rios. However, we can say that it took us roughly 60 minutes of driving east of Ocho Rios veering off the main road (A3) at Port Maria. From there, we followed a maze of local streets before getting onto a rural road surrounded by land that was more typical of Jamaica’s countryside. The road had a few potholes here and there, but by and large, the road to get here was pretty tame compared to other parts of Jamaica (especially in the southwest part of the island).
There was no entrance fee so do tip the local guide generously given how non-trivial it is to reach Tacky Falls. We were told by our tour operator and driver that the locals here generally turn away folks who manage to come here on their own (which would be quite a feat). So it was fortunate that we came with Jamaicans who they approved of.
Lastly, if you’re reading the 6th edition of Lonely Planet, you’ll note that our way of getting here was very different from what the authors used, which involved boating from Robin’s Bay before catching additional transport. We can’t say anything more about it since we took perhaps the shortest approach from Ocho Rios.
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