YS Falls has to be one of the prettiest waterfalls in Jamaica. In fact, we’d argue it’s pretty close to Dunn’s River Falls in terms of scenic allure. According to the signs here, the falls consist of seven main tiers almost all in close succession (which was why we thought it was so pretty).
We spotted an additional waterfall further upstream from what was shown on the map sign near the main play area, but the trail past that waterfall was closed. Thus, I’m sure there were probably more falls further upstream. However, as far as the main waterfall area was concerned, it was said to have a cumulative drop of 36m over the seven or so drops.
In addition to its scenic allure, what really struck us during our visit here was the fun atmosphere of the place. We saw people taking their pick of which swimming hole to choose from (as each waterfall tier seemed to have pools conducive to swimming both above and below it), we witnessed others plunging off rope swings into some of the deeper pools, and all this was happening while we heard zipliners screaming in excitement above us as they were zooming by us from the top to the bottom of the main waterfalls.
Even though each of the waterfalls on YS Falls were too steep to safely climb in the way Dunn’s River Falls allowed, it didn’t seem to matter here. Thus, we were totally able to see why it was pretty crowded here, but it wasn’t quite as overwhelming as Dunn’s River probably in large part because of YS Falls’ more distant location (see directions below).
I wasn’t sure whether to laugh at this theme-park-like atmosphere (which seemed to be the norm amongst Jamaica’s major waterfalls), but I had to admit that there was a certain fun energy buzzing about this place. Of course, the falls itself still retained its character and the place wasn’t so built-up that we would have forgetten we were still in Nature.
By the way, in case you’re wondering (like us) what the letters YS mean, they apparently came from the names of the original landowners John Yates and Richard Scott.
The way we experienced this waterfall began with a tram ride that consisted of Disneyland-like tram trailers with seats except they were being pulled by tractors (as this place was fronted by a farm). After a few minutes on this tram ride, we were then dropped off at what I’m calling the start of the play area. Here, there was a gift shop, a waiting area for the return tram, changing rooms, and an artificial swimming pool. There were also other footpaths that went away from the waterfall towards other parts of the complex for other activities.
Anyways, we followed a pretty obvious walking path that led past the artificial swimming pool and then a pretty extensive lawn area where there were picnic tables and even booths for booking the zipline ride as well as more curio shops. Beyond the lawn area, there were a few small cascades and swimming holes to already start cooling off from the tropical heat.
Next, the walkway then became stairs as it flanked the right side of the stream. Along this section of the walk, we were able to see most of the main sections of YS Falls both directly and at various angles. There were also multiple exit points where we could take a detour towards each cascade for the opportunity to take more photos, go for a swim, or even wait in line to plunge off some rope swings (not sure if that costed extra). This walkway also allowed us to capture all the action without getting wet (a good thing for taking pictures without the risk of destroying our camera).
Eventually, I was able to go up to a wide waterfall just past the starting point for the zipline (which I believed was called the Chukka Canopy Tour during our December 2011 visit). That was when I encountered a closure sign that prevented further progress upstream. If I wanted to, I could’ve gone swimming in the plunge pool right in front of that wide waterfall as I would’ve been the only one here.
When we had our fill of the falls, we returned to the main lawn area to chill out and soak in a little more of the atmosphere. That was when we realized that there were even more activities on offer here such as river tubing further downstream of YS Falls as well as more walking trails to explore a little more of this pretty extensive complex. Needless to say, we could’ve easily spent an entire day here, and it was no wonder why YS Falls was as popular as it was on this quieter side of Jamaica.
Since we hired a driver, we can’t give specific directions on how to get to YS Falls from say the Sandals Resort in Negril. However, we can say that it’s roughly a 90-minute drive from Negril to the falls.
We actually did this waterfall as part of packaged tour with the Black River Safari, which gave us the opportunity to spot American Crocodiles (or are they alligators?) in the Black River wetlands about 20 minutes south of YS Falls from the town of Black River.
Once we were at the car park for the falls and we paid for our admission, we then boarded a tractor-pulling jitney which took groups of people across the YS Plantation (roughly a 10-minute ride) to the main waterfall area. The jitneys generally show up it seemed every 10-15 minutes or so.
The admission price as of our visit in December 2011 was $15.50 USD per person. However, the packaged deal with Black River was about $35.50 per person, and with lunch it was $39 per person.
One thing worth noting is that even though there were a handful of change rooms, there weren’t lockers. Basically Julie kept an eye on our stuff when I took a dip since she didn’t want to go in the water.
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