Dunn's River Falls, Jamaica: The Complete Guide | Sandals

Just like reggae music, Dunn’s River Falls is a unique and world-famous attraction on the island of Jamaica. The 180-foot high, 600-foot long landmark stands as a living testament to Jamaica’s natural beauty and attracts millions of visitors from around the world each year.

A brisk 1 hour and 30-minute hike will take you on an exhilarating adventure to the summit through lush surroundings, dotted with natural swimming pools.

The fall’s most defining feature, however, lies at its base. There, the falls empty into the sea at Little Dunn’s River Beach, making Dunn’s River Falls one of the few travertine waterfalls in the entire world!

In this article on the Sandals Blog:

The history of Dunn's River Falls
Climbing the Falls: What to expect
Who can climb Dunn's River Falls?
Other things to do at Dunn's River Falls
The best time to visit the Falls
How to get to Dunn’s River Falls?
What to pack?

The history of Dunn’s River Falls

This popular attraction is said to have been the scene of the legendary historic battle of the “Las Chorreras”. The battle was fought in the year 1657 between the Spanish and the English for ownership of the land. During the conflict, the Spanish were defeated.

When England triumphed over Spain, the name of the area seemed to have gotten lost in translation and was somehow reduced from “Las Chorreras” meaning “the waterfalls or springs” to Ocho Rios meaning “Eight Rivers”. The irony is that there aren’t eight rivers in Ocho Rios, there are only four!

Even if the history of this area doesn’t interest you much, you can also appreciate the pop culture significance of Dunn’s River Falls and Ocho Rios in general. You’ve surely seen the beauty of the region in the James Bond film Dr. No, or beach scenes from Cocktail with Tom Cruise, and in more recent years a fashionista’s paradise in an episode of America's Next Top Model.

Climbing the Dunn’s River Falls: What to expect

Dunn’s River offers two climbs: a wet climb and a dry climb. If you are not a fan of getting wet, then the dry climb would be best for you. The wet climb entails walking within the falls and through the water, so a swimsuit or clothing that will dry quickly is best for the climb. The dry climb involves hiking a trail alongside the falls. Both trails are equally fun, but only the wet climb will take you all the way up to the summit.

Proceed with caution when approaching the top of the falls because it can be slippery along the rocks. Climbing the falls without a tour guide is not permitted, so feel free to ask your guide to help you navigate your way. For the dry climbers, you can make use of the handrails on the sidewalk should you feel unsteady at any time.

Insider tip: There are plenty of tour companies in Jamaica, so it can be difficult to know which one to choose. The Dunn's River Falls Tour by Island Routes includes a catamaran cruise as well! Island Routes is Sandals' preferred partner for good reason.

Don’t forget to pack a pair of anti-slip sneakers or water shoes. You’ll definitely need them as you make your way up and down the falls. Another safety precaution is to join a human chain of people holding each other’s hands as they make their way up and down the falls. This is such a common occurrence on the falls that it’s practically a ritual.

Insider tip: Buy and bring your own water shoes. You’ll get them for the same price as you’d pay to rent them on your vacation, except you’ll have them for your entire vacation and beyond.

If you want to take a dip into the water while doing the dry climb, there are several points along the path where you can easily access the river, if you wish. The refreshingly cool water will wash over you as it cascades down the fall.

Though Dunn’s River Falls is not man-made, some of the terraces incorporate man-made improvements. Several small lagoons are interspersed among the vertical sections of the falls, purely for your relaxation and pleasure.

Insider tip: Bring a change of clothes for post-climb, if you want to get dry quickly. Dunn’s River Falls Park provides locker rooms, where you can store your belongings securely. They cost up to $10 USD up front, of which $3 USD will be returned to you when you collect your belongings and present the receipts and key.

If you decide to make your own way by taxi to the falls, the admission rates (as of June 2022) are as follows:

  • $25 USD Non-resident adult - about £19.00 (or JMD equivalent)
  • $17 USD Non-resident child - about £13.00 (or JMD equivalent)
  • $1000 JMD per Resident adult
  • $500 JMD per Resident child

To obtain the resident rate, you will have to show a valid Jamaican driver’s license or ID card.

All tickets include a tour guide. It is not possible to visit the Falls without one. You can pay with US dollars (USD), local Jamaican dollars (JMD), or a credit card. Bring a little extra cash to purchase a few of the souvenirs and snacks that are available on-site.

Who can climb Dunn’s River Falls?

There are no height restrictions for this climb, but it is not recommended to bring along small children or people who are not strong enough to swim at the foot of the falls. However, there are plenty of other attractions nearby to keep the family entertained for the entire day, or just during your climb.

It’s recommended that the below people not climb the falls:

  • Women who are pregnant
  • People with heart conditions or high blood pressure
  • People with back, knee, or neck problems
  • Those with significant physical ailments or other conditions (eg. respiratory issues, recent hand/arm surgery)
  • Those with diabetes or other health problems that may make them more vulnerable to injury
  • Those under the influence of alcohol or drugs
  • Those under 3 feet tall

Other things to do at Dunn’s River Falls: Something for everyone

Chasing waterfalls isn’t for everybody, so if all you desire is a happy snap with a backdrop of the cascades then so be it. There is a multitude of alternative activities to keep you entertained while waiting for your fellow vacation buddies to climb the falls.

Enjoy The Central Gardens: Tropical garden with a water park for the kids

Complete with three lush gardens, a waterslide, and a splash pad as its center, this rustic space boasts 12 wood-overlaid kiosks laden with Dunn’s River Falls Park branded merchandise, a photo shop where you can collect insta-memories of the falls, ice-cream, pizza, and a host of other commodities.

Get some authentic souvenirs at the Craft Market

Get sucked into the competitive world of craft markets in Ocho Rios. Crafts markets are in abundance in Jamaica, but with Dunn’s River Falls being the biggest attraction, it’s safe to say the craft market at Dunn’s River Falls Park has some of the best souvenirs.

Relax at Dunn’s River Falls Beach

Located at the base of the falls, Dunn's River Falls Beach has a spectacular view of the cascading waterfalls. All-day beach access is included in your falls adventure, so take a run on the beach, stroll while admiring the flora near the falls (including tropical flora like bamboo, crotons, ferns, ginger lilies, orchids, and a variety of palm and breadfruit trees), or simply watch the sunset while relaxing on the beach at the foot of the descent.

Enjoy local food at the Falls

For a true Jamaican culinary experience, head over to the cafeteria where you can be served jerk chicken, pork, fish, and a variety of snacks. For a lovely day out with friends and family, pack your own picnic, and cook your favorites on the convenient grills scattered around the park.

The best time to visit Dunn’s River Falls

Dubbed a living phenomenon, Dunn’s River Falls has become a prominent feature on bucket lists all over the world.

Needless to say, crowds are something to be cognizant of, especially where cruise ships are concerned. Crowds can easily be avoided if you know the best times to visit. Check the Ocho Rios cruise ship port schedule for the days you are planning to book your tickets or tour. If you are booking a tour, your tour operator is the best place to turn for advice on timing your visit. If you're taking an all-inclusive holiday, then the staff at the resort can also provide some guidance.

The Dunn’s River Falls’ daily operating hours are 8:30 AM - 4 PM from Monday to Sunday.

Insider tip: Try to avoid visiting the Dunn’s River Falls on Wednesdays because it’s a busy cruise ship day. Saturdays and Sundays are great days to visit the falls, but can still get a little busy with locals.

We would also suggest that you tackle the falls either first thing in the morning or the last thing in the afternoon. That way you’ll avoid the midday crowds.

The climb will take you anything from 35 minutes to 1 hour and 30 minutes. So, the sooner you get moving, the longer you’ll have to take it all in without interruptions.

Insider tip: Read our in-depth guide on when it's the best time to visit Jamaica. You’ll learn about the temperature and rainfall in different Jamaican destinations, and get an overview of annual events taking place in Jamaica.

The water temperature at the Falls is pretty consistent year-round. On rainy days expect the water to be a bit colder. Similarly, on hot sunny days, the water temperature at Dunn’s River Falls is warmer but still cool and refreshing.

Where is Dunn’s River Falls and how do I get there?

Only a stone’s throw away from Ocho Rios on the northern coast of Jamaica sits the giant natural staircase. Visitors can take a 5-minute drive on land or arrive by water from any one of the Sandals resorts, including Sandals Ochi (all-inclusive couples-only resort), Beaches Ocho Rios (family-friendly all-inclusive resort) and Sandals Royal Plantation (adults-only luxurious beachfront butler suites).

If the surrounding cities have piqued your interest, note that Dunn’s River Falls will be anything from a 1 to 3-hour drive away, depending on your location.

From Falmouth to Ocho Rios: 1 hour, 10 minutes’ drive.

From Kingston to Ocho Rios: 1 hour, 15 minutes’ drive.

From Montego Bay to Ocho Rios: 1 hour, 45 minutes’ drive.

From Port Antonio to Ocho Rios: 2 hours’ drive.

From Negril to Ocho Rios: 3 hours’ drive.

Image: Dunn's River Falls map

Cruisers docking at Ocho Rios will have plenty of time to climb the falls. After a 10-minute drive from the port, your adventure will be underway!

If you’re docking at the ports in Montego Bay, Port Antonio, or Falmouth, you’ll still have the opportunity to complete the climb. However, your commute will be slightly longer, so be sure to budget additional time into your schedule.

What to pack for Dunn’s River Falls?

Whether you’re passing through Jamaica on a cruise liner, or staying at your favorite Jamaican all-inclusive resort, there are a few items you should pack to ensure a relaxed day on your Dunn’s River Falls escapade.

  • Swimwear
  • Water shoes
  • Camera (waterproof if possible)
  • Money for the entrance fee, food and water, and a tip for your tour guide (not mandatory)
  • Change of clothes

Capturing the moment is what allows great memories to live on, but we wouldn’t advise you to bring a fancy camera to enjoy the falls. It will likely get wet or damaged. A simple point-and-shoot HD waterproof camera will allow you to create stress-free snaps along the way. If you forgot to bring a camera, it’s not a lost opportunity. Be sure to don your best smile at all times because you never know when a Falls-employed photographer may cross your path. Be warned, though, that they will charge you a small fee for the photograph if you want a copy to take home.

Frequently asked questions about Dunn’s River Falls

How much does it cost to go to Dunn's River Falls in Jamaica?

If you are not a Jamaican resident, admittance to Dunn’s River Falls is about £19.00 ($25 USD) per person, ages 13 and up, while admittance for children aged 12 and under is about £13.00 ($17 USD). Jamaican residents pay $1000 JMD per person for visitors aged 13 years and up (those who are aged 18 and older must present a locally issued picture ID), and $500 JMD if the child is 12 years old or younger.

What can I expect at Dunn's River Falls?

On a Dunn’s River Falls tour, you can expect to see and climb the beautiful travertine falls, which are usually pleasant to swim in. When the weather is hot, the water is normally warmer. When it rains, the water is colder but still nice to swim in. You can also expect to have a guide, and access to restaurants, restrooms, changing rooms, and lockers to store your belongings.

Why is Dunn’s River Falls famous?

Dunn's River Falls is the historical site of the Spanish-named “Las Chorreras” battle, which was fought in 1657 between the Spanish and English for ownership of Jamaica. “Las Chorreras” aptly translates to “The Waterfalls” or “The Springs” in English, tying the battle to the falls forever.

How far from Montego Bay to Dunn’s River Falls?

From Montego Bay to Dunn’s River Falls is about 3 miles (4.8 km). From Ocho Rios, it is 2.7 miles (4.3 km), from Negril, it is 107.5 miles (173 km), from Falmouth, it is 43.2 miles (69.5 km), and from Port Antonio, it is 65 miles (106.2 km).

Can you go to Dunn’s River Falls on your own?

Absolutely! However, it is far less convenient than if you simply book a tour at the Sandals resort tour desk. By booking through the resort, you’ll have transportation to and from the Falls arranged for you. You can easily book a Dunn’s River Falls tour and other extras before you arrive.

Who knew that waterfalls were so fascinating and could provide hours of entertainment at the same time? Ocho Rios is full of surprises, and it’s more than just luxurious beaches, crystal clear ocean water, and sunny days filled with rum punch. Dunn’s River Falls in Ocho Rios is definitely not something you want to miss on your next trip to Jamaica.

Read More Travel Guides

Kylie Morrow

About Kylie Morrow

Born on the tropical island that is Saint Lucia affords a never-ending source of inspiration. In the past 13 years, Kylie loved to work with various newspapers, magazines and blogs in the Caribbean.

View Comments