From lively swimming holes to secluded mountain rivers, you’ll fall in love with Jamaica’s waterfalls. Here’s how to hike, admire, or swim in the best falls on the island.
Waterfalls on Jamaica’s North Central Coast
Blue Hole River
Blue Hole River features a series of waterfalls and natural pools found along the White River in an area known locally as Breadfruit Walk. Once relatively unvisited by travelers, this section of the river has become a hot spot, and locals who keep the banks clean and guide visitors to the different pools suitable for swimming ask for a US$10 pp contribution. The area is the first set of swimming holes you’ll reach after turning right at the JPS substation. You’ll see a parking area on the left as you come around the first bend in the rocky road.
Dunn’s River Falls
By far the most visited attraction in Jamaica, if not the Caribbean, is Dunn’s River Falls (tel. 876/974-4767 or 876/974-5944, 8:30am-4pm daily, when cruise ships are in port 7am-4pm daily, US$20 adults, US$12 ages 2-11). 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 golden-sand beach. The river’s cool spring water in the warm Caribbean make an exhilarating swim. The falls themselves are climbable by anyone at least 90 centimeters (36 inches) tall. 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 stretch just before the underpass beneath the road.
Konoko Falls (Shaw Park Rd., tel. 876/622-1712, cell tel. 876/408-0575, 8am-5pm daily, US$20 adults, US$10 under age 13) was upgraded in December 2015, bringing endangered animal species to a breeding program in partnership with the Hope Zoo Preservation Trust. Visitors can see yellow-billed and black-billed parrots, iguanas, and yellow snakes as well as conies and a pair of American crocodiles. The waterfalls are fit for swimming and climbing, with nearby restroom facilities, a bar, and a jerk pit. A museum features a history of the Taino, Jamaica’s earliest inhabitants, and a display covering the local watershed. Ysassi’s Lookout Point, named after the last Spanish governor of Jamaica, boasts spectacular views over Ocho Rios and the bay. A Romanesque pavilion above the falls is used for events and weddings.
Konoko Falls is on the Milford River, which flows through the gardens before descending through town and out the storm gulley by Moon Palace Jamaica Grande. Konoko was once a banana walk, or gully, on Shaw Park Estate until the gardens and waterfalls were developed in the early 1990s. To get to Konoko, turn right opposite the Anglican church heading toward Fern Gully on Milford Road (the A3) and follow the signs off Shaw Park Road. Previously known as Coyaba Gardens and Mahoe Falls, the attraction was recently rebranded Konoko, meaning “rainforest” in Arawak, the language of the Taino.
Laughing Waters (contact Janice Chong at St. Ann Development Corporation for bookings, tel. 876/974-5015, email@example.com), located just east of Dunn’s River Falls and Pearly Beach, is probably the most stunning beach in Jamaica for the combination of gurgling falls and fine, golden sand. The beach was made famous in the first James Bond film, Dr. No, when Ursula Andress emerges from the sea singing and enchants 007, played by a young Sean Connery.
The beach is privately managed by the St. Ann Development Corporation and isn’t open to the public except by rental; however, locals visit the beach and are rarely bothered.
Ocho Rios is known for its lush gardens, though some are far better maintained than others. One of the nicest free waterfalls in Ochi, known as Nature Falls, is frequented mostly by locals who come for picnics and to wash off their vehicles in the shade. The river and falls are located just off Shaw Park Road, along a dirt road that branches off the road to Perry Town just past the Y where it splits from Shaw Park Road.
One Love Trail
One Love Trail, located about one kilometer (0.6 miles) west of Island Village Shopping center heading out of town, leads down to a beautiful waterfall spilling onto a small beach protected by a reef just offshore. Caretaker Goshford Dorrington “Histry” Miller (cell tel. 876/893-1867) takes tips for keeping the place clean and sells artwork and natural jewelry.
Waterfalls on Jamaica’s East Coast
Reach Falls (tel. 876/993-6606 or 876/993-6683, 8:30am-4:30pm Wed.-Sun., US$10 adults, US$5 under age 12), or Reich Falls, as it’s sometimes spelled, is located in a beautiful river valley in the lower northeast foothills of the John Crow Mountains. The river cascades down a long series of falls that can be climbed from the base far below the main pool where the developed attraction is based. Start at the bottom and continue far above the main pool to get the full exhilarating experience. To climb the full length requires about two hours, but if you stop to enjoy each little pool, it could easily consume all day. A dirt road about one kilometer (0.6 miles) before the parking area leads down to the base of the falls.
Just east of White Horses is Roselle Falls, where locals often congregate to wash or cool off. The small cascade is right next to the main road (the A4). Reggae Falls, formed by a reservoir along the Morant River, is an unmanaged attraction with a deep pool at the bottom of the dam where you can swim behind the waterfalls and are likely to have the place to yourself.
Waterfalls on Jamaica’s South Coast
In Christiana Bottom, the Blue Hole is fed from underground streams with two waterfalls dumping into the pool. There’s another waterfall at William Hole farther downstream. To get here from Mandeville, turn right immediately after the NCB bank on Moravia Road, then take the first left around a blind corner, and then the first right, which leads to Christiana Bottom. Continue past the first left that leads to Tyme Town, and park at the entrance to the second left, a wide path that leads down to the river. Ask for Mr. Jones for a guided tour (US$20) of Blue Hole and William Hole and his farm, where he grows ginger, yams, potatoes, pineapples, bananas, and sugarcane.
By far the best conceived and organized waterfalls destination in Jamaica, YS Falls (9:30am-3:30pm Tues.-Sun., US$17 adults, US$8.50 children 3-13 years), on the YS Estate, has been operated by Simon Browne since 1991. The YS River changes with the weather—normally clear blue, and brown after rain in the mountains when it swells. A bar and grill on the property serves jerk chicken, and gift shops sell a wide array of books, crafts, and Jamaica-inspired clothing. Lounge chairs surround two swimming pools, one with colder water near the base of the falls and the other slightly warmer by the picnic area.
A canopy tour (US$50 adults, US$35 children) with a series of three ziplines traversing the falls, is operated by Chukka Caribbean. The tour is a rush, to say the least, and perhaps the most exhilarating of Chukka’s many canopy tours in Jamaica, given the scenery.
Waterfalls on Jamaica’s West Coast
Located in Flower Hill near the Hanover border, The Original Mayfield Falls (tel. 876/610-8612 or cell tel. 876/457-0759) is one of the best waterfall attractions in Jamaica, having been developed with minimal impact to the natural surroundings. It’s a great place to spend an afternoon cooling off in the river and walking upstream along a series of gentle cascades and pools. Four- to five-hour tours (US$85 pp) include round-trip transportation from Montego Bay, entry fee with a guided hike up the river, and lunch afterward. The entry fee is significantly lower if you have your own vehicle and includes a guide (US$15). Lunch may be purchased separately (US$10-22).
Excerpted from the Seventh Edition of Moon Jamaica.