A visit to Dunn's River Falls is the most popular cruise excursion in Ocho Rios, Jamaica. If your cruise stops in Ocho Rios and you're wondering whether a Dunn's River Falls cruise excursion is for you, Cruise Critic has rounded up everything you need to know.
What It Is
Stretching 600 feet long, the falls -- which at their highest point are 180 feet above sea level -- are terraced like a giant staircase, making them a natural draw for daredevil tourists. (A few extra manmade "steps" here and there make the climb a bit more doable.)
With small lagoons interspersed among the vertical sections, Dunn's River Falls is also an inviting place to cool off on a hot Jamaica day.
Cruisers can visit Dunn's River Falls independently with a taxi or purchase a shore excursion through their cruise line (or with any number of independent operators).
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We chose a Dunn's River Falls cruise excursion that paired our visit to the falls with a stop at Mystic Mountain Rainforest for its aerial chairlift and bobsled experience. (Other options might pair the falls with a zipline experience over the falls themselves, or with a trip to a cave where you might see bats.)
Our first stop was Mystic Mountain Rainforest, where we were dropped off for the aerial chairlift up to the top. The ride lasts about 15 to 20 minutes and gives you a wonderful view of the port to one side, and the rainforest stretching out into the distance on the other. Be on the lookout for butterflies and humming birds.
Once at the top of the mountain, you'll need to rent a locker to put any bags in, as they're not permitted on the bobsled. The wait for the bobsled can be anywhere from five to 10 minutes, which is only slightly less than the ride lasts. Bobsleds hold one person (or one adult and one small child). There is a brake, but for the most thrilling ride, you'll want to use it expeditiously. (We only used it when we came to the most dramatic turns.) It's a lot of fun and you're able to do it multiple times if you want.
Be sure to check out the small hummingbird garden when you're done. We spotted three types of hummingbirds flitting around. There's also a walking path, but the gate was locked during our visit.
After we had our fill of the bobsled, we headed back down the mountain on the chairlift. Shuttles run on the half-hour between Mystic Mountain and Dunn's River Falls. When we arrived at the falls, a guide grouped everyone on our shuttle together and after explaining a little about the falls led us down to where we could either climb or take a series of stairs to follow along on shore. Here again, you must rent a locker as no bags are permitted on the falls. (A waterproof cell phone case is highly recommended if you want to bring your phone.)
We chose the easier option, though we saw plenty of people of all ages daring the falls.
Most people who climbs the falls go with a group that has been assigned a falls guide who helps the group navigate their way up to the top -- and also keeps the group pumped up as a videographer records the climb. (You sign up afterwards if you want to purchase the video, which will be delivered to you while you're waiting for your shuttle.)
Most groups go up hand in hand, and everyone helps the person behind them -- we only saw one or two slips. The current is strong and climbers need to pay attention at all times; the climb is most definitely not for anyone who needs any type of aid to walk or feels unsure about footing. Small children often have to be lifted up on some of the trickier rock climbs in order to avoid their feet being swept out from under them. (Children shorter than 3 feet are not permitted to climb.)
The entire climb takes between an hour and 90 minutes. There are several exit points for anyone who doesn't think they can make it the entire way. These are also spots where those choosing the stairs can enter the lagoons to take a dip in the cool water or slide down one of the natural slides created by the falls. (Take a photo here, and it'll look like you climbed the falls even if you didn't.)
For those just taking the stairs, expect to spend 20 minutes or more, depending on how much time you want to spend at the beach or whether you choose to take a dip in one of the lagoons.
All visitors to Dunn's River Falls must exit via the straw market; be prepared for heavy-handed sales tactics. If you're not interested, just say no and keep moving.
Worth a Try?
Yes, though we suggest coming prepared with your own water shoes (closed-toe with grip) so you don't have to spend more money on the right footwear beyond the cost of the excursion and tip for your waterfalls guide. If you're only interested in the falls and don't want to pair it with anything else, hiring a taxi to get you to the falls is the most cost-effective way to go. You can then catch a shuttle back to the port when you're done.
Things to Note
- Be sure to bring cash, as you'll need to rent a locker for your bag(s), towels and anything else you don't want to get wet when at the falls. Lockers cost $8, with $3 returned to you when you hand in the key. Waterfall guides will also expect a tip.
- We recommend bringing your own water shoes, though you can also wear sturdy sandals or sneakers (they'll get soaked!). Flip-flops are not permitted. If you don't have water shoes and want a pair, they are offered for rental at the port, or for sale at the falls. (We'd recommend purchasing them over renting; the price is only a few bucks higher and you know they've never been worn before.)
- Bring bug spray. While you won't have much of a problem with mosquitoes when you're climbing the falls, you might find yourselves being bit waiting around before, during the walk back afterwards, or at any of the other stops your cruise excursion might make.
- Be prepared to face a hard sell at the Dunn's River Falls straw market. If a vendor asks your name and you're not interested in buying anything, don't respond. A common tactic is to get your name, which a vendor then carves or paints onto a product and then tries to guilt you into buying it. Don't fall for it.