Moon Author's Review
Dunn's River Falls (8:30 a.m.–4 p.m. daily, from 7 a.m. on cruise ship days, US$20 adults, US$12 children 2–11, J$600/300 residents) is by far the most visited tourist attraction in Jamaica, if not the Caribbean. The site is owned by the Urban Development Corporation (UDC) and receives over 300,000 visitors a year who come to climb the waterfalls starting from the mouth of the river where it tumbles down to meet the sea in the middle of a fine, golden sand beach. The river pours cool spring water into the warm Caribbean making for an exhilerating swim. The falls themselves are climbed by children (3 ft and up) and seniors and everybody in between. As long as you're steady on your feet, it's not too much of a challenge, provided the water level isn't too high. Hand rails have been installed at the most challenging gushing stretch just before the underpass beneath the road.
To avoid crowds scrambling up the cascades, Dunn's River is best visited on days when there's no cruise ship in the port of Ocho Rios (Sundays), which is easy to determine by taking a look at the pier. However, groups are also brought from cruise ships docking in Falmouth and Montego Bay, and every hotel on the island offers tour packages to the falls, so it's hard to avoid the crowds on any day. Arriving as the park opens at 8:30 a.m. is the best way to find relative peace and solitude at Dunn's River Falls.
The rocks up the falls are slippery and water booties are recommended. These are rented (US$7) and sold (US$17) onsite, or bring your own. The park also recommends visitors climb the falls accompanied by one of the many guides, and you'll likely be coralled and assigned a guide in the designated area if you're with a group. The guides expect to be tipped for their service; US$5 to US$10 per person is more than reasonable. Neither guide nor booties are compulsory, but first timers especially may find a steady hand and some riverbed knowledge useful for the ascent.
Dunn's River is located 2 km west of Ocho Rios. Route taxis pass the entrance to the falls on their way to St. Ann's Bay and will stop at Dunn's River by request. A private taxi chartered from Ocho Rios shouldn't cost more than US$10, though the hard-hustling Ochi cabbies will likely start much higher. Don't be afraid to haggle and remind the driver it's only a few kilometers.
On the subject of haggling, for those who enjoy it, the craft market visitors are subjected en route to the exit of the park provides ample opportunity to engage with aggressive vendors who lose no time making friends with the requisite, "how was it? where you from? come here, let me show you something..." For those who don't enjoy "extreme shopping", keep veer left for the express route through the maze of shops and food concession stands.