Jamaica’s best-loved waterfall and a staple of tour brochures, Dunn’s River Falls are overdeveloped but still breathtaking, and remain the island’s major tourist honeypot. Masked from the road by restaurants, craft shops and car parks, the wide and magnificent 600ft waterfall cascades over rocks down to a pretty tree-fringed white-sand beach that’s far cleaner than the one in town. There’s a lively reef within swimming distance, and snorkel gear is available to rent from several touts.
Impressively proportioned, with water running so fast you can hear it from the road below, the falls are surrounded by dripping foliage and more than live up to their reputation, despite the concrete and commerciality. The main activity is climbing up the cascade, a wet but easily navigable hour-long clamber. The step-like rocks are regularly scraped to remove slippery algae, and the thing to prevent a stumble is to form a hand-holding chain led by one of the very experienced guides. It’s thoroughly exhilarating, as you’re showered with cool, clear water all the way up – wear a bathing suit. There’s a restaurant and bar, and full changing facilities at the beach and at the top of the falls. Hundred-strong queues frequently form along the beach; to avoid the crowds arrive at opening time or late in the afternoon (last climb at 4pm), when cruise passengers are already aboard their ships.
Upper Dunn’s River
An alternative to the crowds and the admission price of Dunn’s River Falls are the unmaintained waterfalls above the enclosure. To get there, take the main route to Dunn’s River but carry on up past the car park to where the tarmac ends. Follow the dirt path into the bush to your right for five minutes, and there are several more waterfalls higher up the road. You may well need a local guide to find them; local ranger “Brother Mike” from Sun Venture Tours is the ideal candidate (US$70/person, min 4 people).