Dunn’s River Falls Jamaica – Everything You Need to Know Before You Visit

What you should know before you visit Jamaica’s most iconic landmark – Dunn’s River Falls in Ocho Rios Jamaica

Dunn’s River Falls is perhaps Jamaica’s most recognized landmark. Tourist board ads feature it. Photo shoots and movies have been filmed here. It’s sort of Jamaica’s version of the Eiffel Tower or the Statue of Liberty or Big Ben. Even our Jamaican $100 bill bears its image.

The back of a JA100 bill showing Dunn’s River Falls

Visiting, not necessarily climbing, is sort of a rite of passage for any guest to Jamaica. It’s almost always on any top 10 list of things to do in Jamaica.

True, it’s become more and more commercialized over the years; but the natural beauty remains.

Conquering Dunn’s River Falls with a climb to the top is certainly an item to remain on your bucket list.

To get the most of the experience, it is best to know how to prepare for your visit as well as what to expect before you go.


Here are the top 30 questions that we get asked about Dunn’s River Falls, Jamaica.

Table of Contents

1. What kind of experience is Dunn’s River Falls Jamaica?

This photo of Dunn’s River Falls and Park is courtesy of TripAdvisor

Dunn’s River Falls is a waterfall with a series of naturally terraced rocks interrupted by areas with natural pools of water. The river ends in the sea where there is a beach. It is awesome to look at but most people come to say they climbed it!

2. Dunn’s River Falls is a Jamaican icon but is it of any historical significance?

It is the site of the Battle of Las Chorreras of 1657 where the Spanish, under the command of Christobal Isasi, tried to recapture the island of Jamaica from the British who had captured Jamaica from the Spanish in 1655. The British won and Jamaica remained under British rule until its independence on August 6, 1962.

Plaque at Dunn’s River Commemorating the Battle of Las Chorreras. Photo credit – Wikicommons

3. Where is Dunn’s River Falls?

Dunn’s River Falls is located just prior to entering Ocho Rios on the western side of the town.

It is beside Mystic Mountain and almost across the street from Dolphin Cove. It is therefore quite common to see tour packages that offer Dunn’s River Falls along with either of those two attractions.

4. How far is Dunn’s River Falls from the main tourist areas?

The Ocho Rios cruise ship ports are about 3-4 km, or a five-minute ride, from Dunn’s River Falls.

Going west, the falls are about 20 minutes from Runaway Bay, 30 -35 minutes from Discovery Bay, about an hour from Falmouth, about 1.5 hours from Montego Bay and 3 hours from Negril.  

Dunn’s River Falls is 30-35 minutes from Mais Oui Villa in Discovery Bay Jamaica. It is the perfect base from which to explore attractions such as Dunn’s River.

If you are staying in Negril, I would suggest that you go to YS Falls instead and save Dunn’s River for another trip when you are staying on the northern side of the island.

5. How high is Dunn’s River Falls?

The falls are about 180 feet high and about 600 feet long. According to the guide, the climb is 940ft, which is mathematically correct.

6. How deep is Dunn’s River Falls?

The deepest pool that we encountered was about waist high. (I’m about 5ft 2 inches tall.) Note that after heavy rains the depth can rise a few inches. Likewise, in the dry season, the depth can decrease. The posted minimum height to climb the falls in March 2018 was 36 inches.

7. Is Dunn’s River Falls man-made? Is Dunn’s River Falls natural?

It is natural. Dunn’s River Falls is spring fed and has water that is rich in calcium carbonate and travertine deposits. It is considered “living”.

The terraced rocks at Dunn’s River Falls. Photo credit – Wikicommons

If Dunn’s River Falls were man-made, that would be one of the biggest cover-ups and hoaxes in history.

There have been some man-made improvements. In a few areas, handrails have been installed to help people to exit the falls. A few walls and steps have been built to improve access. A few areas near the perimeter of the falls do seem as though they may have been hacked to make foot holes; but, the falls are indeed natural.

8. What are Dunn’s River Falls’ hours of operation?

The park is open every day, including public holidays, from 8:30am to 4pm. On cruise ship days, the park opens at 7am.

9. Do you have to climb the falls when you visit? What else is there to do other than climb the falls?

You don’t have to climb the falls if you don’t want to. I visited the falls several times and never climbed it until 2018.

There are lots to do there. Most people who visit the falls alone spend a minimum of 2.5 hours. Once you pay your entrance fee, there is no time limit.

There is a beach at the bottom of the falls that you can enjoy.

You can sit on the rocks where the river enters the sea and let the water massage you.

The falls extend down to the beach so you can still enjoy yourself even if you don’t climb. This photo of Dunn’s River Falls and Park is courtesy of TripAdvisor

You can walk up the stairs alongside the falls and admire the beauty of the falls and foliage. If you so choose, you can enter the falls along the way for a dip in the water.

For kids, there is a water play section with a water slide and splash pad.

There are also picnic areas, which are popular with the locals.

Now, thanks to Chukka Adventures, you can go ziplining over Dunn’s River Falls.

Ziplining over Dunn’s River with Chukka. Photo credit – Chukka Adventures

You can also do a catamaran tour with Chukka or Cool Runnings, which includes climbing the falls.

10. Do you have to be able to swim to climb Dunn’s River Falls?

No, you don’t but you must observe the minimum height requirements. The better your swimming ability, the more confident you are likely to feel, especially since there is no safety gear such as life jackets. It would be helpful, especially for children, to at least be comfortable in open water so that if they were to fall into a pool they would know to hold their breath and not inhale the water.

11. Is climbing the falls hard?

It can be intimidating to look at the falls with the thought of climbing it. Like with most things, it isn’t as hard as it looks.

Dunn’s River Falls. Photo credit – Wikicommons

You do have to be reasonably fit to climb the falls. You will be climbing almost 1000ft in about or under an hour (if you use a guide). You are going against the force of the water. Especially in the rainy season, the current can be fast and strong.

There are some steep areas as well as areas where you have to take large steps so you shouldn’t have joint o back issues.

You need to be able to bend because there is a low bridge that you have to pass under.

You do need to pay attention to your surroundings to be able to judge where to step.

It is recommended that you use a guide.

12. Dunns River Falls is a top attraction in Ocho Rios yet there are people who think climbing the falls is dangerous. Why?

With climbing any waterfall, there is the risk of falling.

The rocks can be slippery from algae growth. Climbing the falls while holding the hands of strangers is a lesson in trust. Carelessness can cause someone to fall.

There are many groups climbing the falls at the same time so the falls can be crowded. This creates pressure to move through the falls quickly.

I’m not sure what statistics are kept on the number of falls; however, the number of falls causing serious injury such as requiring surgery, that I have heard of, have been few and far between. People do take tumbles and get bruises sometimes.

Nevertheless, this is perhaps the most popular attraction on the island.

13. Is it dangerous to climb the falls with my young child?

Enjoying Dunn’s River Falls Jamaica. Photo credit Wikicommons

You will get different answers to this question.

I would not bring a baby or a toddler on a climb up the falls. That isn’t a risk that I would take with my child.

There is a posted minimum height requirement of 36 inches to climb the falls. Some tours, like Chukka Adventures, allow children over age 6.

The answer really depends on the child. You have to know your child. If there is any doubt, don’t let the child climb.

There are some “pools” that are a little deep and the current can be a little strong, especially after heavy rains. Also, the rocks can be slippery so there is definitely a fall risk.

If the child is tall enough, nimble enough, not easily scared, and follows instructions and if you are fit enough, you could try it. I would be sure to use a guide. Expect that it might be a challenge because not only are you focusing on your own safety but also our child’s. If it doesn’t work out, you can leave the falls from one of the exits on the way up.

14. Who should not climb Dunn’s River Falls?

There is a sign at the park which says that pregnant women and people with serious medical conditions such as heart disease and diabetes should not climb the falls. People with back, neck, and joint issues should also not climb the falls. You should determine your own level of fitness before you decide if you should climb the falls.

If, for whatever reason you are unable to complete the climb, there are exits on the way up the falls so that you can exit the falls before reaching the top.

15. Is the park or falls wheelchair accessible?

Wheelchair access is limited. There is an observation deck where someone in a wheelchair could sit and enjoy the falls. There are some areas near the entrance of the park that are technically wheelchair accessible but still steep so, with help, someone in a non-motorized wheelchair could access. Overall, I would not give the attraction high marks for wheelchair accessibility just by the nature of the attraction and its location.

This photo of Dunn’s River Falls and Park is courtesy of TripAdvisor

16. Is Dunn’s River Falls free?

No. There is a public branch of the falls called Little Dunn’s River that is accessed across the street and east of Mystic Mountain that is free.

17. How much does it cost to get into Dunn’s River Falls? Why does the cost of Dunn’s River vary so much?

At the time of this writing, April 2018, the entry fee was US$20 per adult and US$12 per child. Different tour operators include the ticket price in their packages so the total price depends on what is included in the package.

Travel distance adds the most cost to the package price. If you are coming from a hotel in the Ocho Rios area, which is where Dunn’s River is located, the cost will be lower than if you are staying at a resort in Falmouth or Montego Bay, which are much further away.

18. Do you have to wear water shoes?

Your water shoes don’t have to be as fancy as these; but, whatever you do, don’t forget your water shoes.

Water shoes are highly recommended. Closed toed water shoes with good grip on the bottom are best. The last thing you want is some type of sandal slipping off your feet.

Buy your own water shoes beforehand. If you forget your water shoes, you can either buy or rent them at the falls. Of course, that will cost more and you have less of a selection.

Avoid the temptation to wear old sneakers because sometimes the soles are on the smooth side and so you don’t get that grip that is helpful to you as you climb the falls.

Some people climb the falls barefooted. I wouldn’t. I would imagine that being too hard on my feet. There are some coarse stones that you can feel even in water shoes.

19. What do you need to climb Dunn’s River Falls other than water shoes?

You will need:

  • Swimsuit or shorts
  • Towel
  • Waterproof case for your phone or camera, otherwise don’t bring them on the climb
  • Sunscreen
  • Insect repellant
  • Change of clothes or wear clothes that dry quickly

20. Where can you leave your things while you climb the falls?

Take as few things with you as possible while you climb the falls.

Most guests either leave their items, such as towels and change of clothes, in the vehicle in which they arrived.

Alternatively, there are lockers near the bottom of the falls that you can rent. For some reason, I have always avoided using the lockers.

21. Can I bring my phone or camera with me when I climb the falls?

You can bring your phone and or camera with you; however, you do so at your own risk.

If you choose to bring them with you, figure out a way to be unencumbered because you might need your hands to help you climb up the falls if you are climbing without a guide or to hold hands if you are with a guide.

Figure out if they are waterproof. If your phone or camera is not waterproof, you might want to get a waterproof pouch that either goes around your neck or waist. Please do not use a ziploc bag. It will most likely fail.

Consider that if you are holding hands going up the falls there isn’t much opportunity for you to take your own pictures without stopping and letting go of each other’s hand. That would not be considered cool.

The guides will usually snap a few pictures for you but generally not a lot because they are usually carrying upwards of 20 people up the falls. Picture taking does slow them down.

A good option is a GoPro camera which will allow you to be hands-free and is waterproof.

There are photographers and videographers on the falls. We thought the photos were expensive and unnatural. The video was US$40. The quality was not very good, unfortunately. And we were in it for only about 2 minutes total. I think that’s what happens when they try to capture such large groups.

We wish we had taken more time actually enjoying the falls as we climbed. We treasure the few photos we took ourselves or that the guides took for us.

Ask the guide to take a picture for you. This photo of Dunn’s River Falls and Park is courtesy of TripAdvisor

22. How long does it take to climb the Dunn’s River Falls?

From the beach area to the top, with a guide, takes about 45-60 minutes depending on the guide, size of the group, and comfort level of the group with the climb.

One drawback to using a guide is that there is such focus on where to put your feet and not falling, that really you don’t get time to take in the actual beauty of the falls and the surrounding landscape.

Also, if it is crowded, the guide may have no choice but to move quickly to avoid losing control of his group.

If you go without a guide, you can climb at your leisure.

23. Is it true that you have to hold hands going up the falls?

When you use a guide, they have you hold hands, like a daisy chain, to climb the falls. You depend on the guide as well as the person in front of and behind you. Remember that the person behind you is depending on you also.

Dunn’s River Falls Jamaica. Note the guide in the blue shirt. His group members are holding hands. Photo credit Wikicommons

If you are climbing up the falls yourself (without a guide), you will likely need both hands at times to help you on the climb.

24. What days and times are best to visit Dunn’s River Falls?

There isn’t a bad day to go or time of day to go in terms of quality of the falls. The issue is the crowd level.

Peak crowd levels are usually between 11am and 3pm.

To avoid the crowds as much as is possible, there are three rules.

  1. Avoid going when cruise ships are in port. Here is the link to see the cruise ship schedule for Ocho Rios.
  2. If you have to go on a day when cruise ships are in port, go early in the morning as the park opens.
  3. Avoid public holidays.

25. Is it possible to get a private guided tour for two people?

I am not aware of that being able to be arranged. If the park has few patrons, you could get lucky and have a tour with a very small group.

Typically, the guides wait until they have about 20 people before they proceed up the falls.

Think of it. This is their livelihood. On average it takes about 1.5 hours for a guide to get a group together, give instructions and take then up the falls. It is tiring to climb almost 1000 feet in fast flowing water. The average guide does a maximum of around 4 trips per day. They work largely based on tips. It is difficult to imagine that they would take two people up the falls rather than wait for a group of 20. The unofficial guides might do it but the official guides most likely won’t.

26. Can you climb Dunn’s River Falls without a guide?

This photo of Dunn’s River Falls and Park is courtesy of TripAdvisor

It is recommended that you have a guide; however, it is not mandatory to have a guide.

The services of a guide are included in the entry fee; however, you may choose to climb the falls on your own. The guides do expect to be tipped if you use their services.

Having climbed the falls myself, I would recommend a guide. The guides clean the falls in the morning so they “know” the falls. They know the slippery and non-slippery areas. It is in their best interest to take you safely to the top of the falls.

You could pay attention to the path that the guided tours take and do likewise; but, I think you will find that is easier said than done.

27. Is tipping required?

Technically, tipping is not required. Practically, you need to tip.

The guides get paid very little and make up their salaries in tips. Most of them do not work every day as there are so many days so they try to make as much money on the days that they do work. They will tell you directly that they expect to get tipped.

Considering that they are responsible for getting us safely up the falls, I think it is worth giving a tip. They helped me to do something that in all likelihood would be more difficult on my own.

28. Dunn’s River is rated as one of the top attractions in Ocho Rios. Why do some people think it is a tourist trap?

Dunn’s River Falls Jamaica – a great family experience. Photo credit Wikicommons

Eighty-eight percent of reviewers on TripAdvisor rate Dunn’s river as either Excellent or Very Good.

When Dunn’s River gets a bad review it is usually related one of five issues:

  1. whether or not the reviewer believes that climbing the falls is dangerous (and there are supporters in both camps),
  2. excessive crowds especially on cruise ship days,
  3. being hurried during the climb,
  4. constant request for tips and
  5. aggressive behavior of some vendors in trying to get a sale.

29. What are some tactics to deal respectfully with the vendors at Dunn's River Falls?

This photo of Dunn’s River Falls and Park is courtesy of TripAdvisor

The exit from the falls is through a craft market of sorts. There have been concerns about the aggressiveness of some vendors in trying to sell their wares.

What’s the best approach to dealing with vendors?

  1. Avoid eye contact.
  2. Do not display an interest in any items unless you really want to buy it. If you show interest, the vendor will likely try to convince you to buy it.
  3. If you are offered anything you don’t want, a pleasant “No thank you. I’m good” will usually suffice.
  4. Keep walking to the exit. If someone gets mad, ignore what they are saying, don’t feel bad, keep walking.

For more tips read this article: How to Survive the Craft Market in Jamaica.

30. Is Dunn’s River Falls worth it?

Based on the reviews on Tripadvisor and Google, a majority of the people would shout Yes! Dunn’s River Falls has a 4.5/5 rating on TripAdvisor from over 16,000 reviews and is number 1 of 69 best things to do in Ocho Rios.

We visited in March 2018 and had a blast. Successfully climbing the falls is definitely an achievement.

Dunns River Falls Jamaica - things to do in Jamaica when you stay at Mais oui Villa
This photo of Dunn’s River Falls and Park is courtesy of TripAdvisor

In reality, only you can answer that question because each person will have his or her criteria for determining value for money.

This is one of the cheaper attractions on the island. In March 2018, the entrance fee was only US$20 per adult which gives you access to the park until it closes that day.

If you prefer less commercialization, you might want to try one of the smaller waterfalls like Blue Hole or Konoko.

Dunns River Falls Jamaica - things to do in Jamaica when you stay at Mais oui Villa
Pin this: The 30 Questions Everyone Asks About Dunn’s River Falls Jamaica

Any more questions about Dunn’s River Falls?

Is there a question that you have that I didn’t cover? Drop me a line and will answer you and might even include it in the next update of the post!

Disclaimer: This report is based on our experience. Only you can determine your suitability for this activity. The climbing of the falls is at your own risk.

Til next time.

Think and dream Jamaica!

Sherry, Darrell & Darrian

Considering a visit to Jamaica? Contact us today for more information about, Mais Oui Tennis & Spa Villa, our boutique 8-BR ocean view Jamaica villa rental experience in beautiful Discovery Bay, Jamaica. Perfect for multi-generational families, groups, and intimate destination weddings.

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About the Author Sherry

Sherry & Darrell, owners of Mais Oui Tennis & Spa Villa in Discovery Bay, Jamaica, consider themselves unofficial ambassadors for Jamaica. They look forward to using their insider knowledge to help guests create priceless vacation memories. Feel free to say hi!

4 Responses

  1. This has long been my favourite Jamaican attraction. Of late, many people are talking about the Blue Hole “up the road.” I have been to Blue Hole and must say I still very much prefer Dunn’s River. By the way, these are 30 great questions and answers.

    1. Thanks so much for your comment!

      Yes, Bue Hole is a different experience. I visited it a few years ago and am due for a repeat visit to see what it is like now. I’m not that adventurous to jump in off the swing at Blue Hole but that is the highlight for many 🙂 Dunns River is very touristy but it did feel like an achievement to climb to the top.

  2. Thank you for this really informative post! Looking forward to visiting the falls either today or tomorrow -can’t wait!

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Related Posts

About the Author Sherry

Sherry & Darrell, owners of Mais Oui Tennis & Spa Villa in Discovery Bay, Jamaica, consider themselves unofficial ambassadors for Jamaica. They look forward to using their insider knowledge to help guests create priceless vacation memories. Feel free to say hi!