Dunn’s River Falls
As the most popular tourist attraction in Ocho Rios Jamaica, Dunn’s River Falls attracts a crowd. A really large crowd. We found the amount of people at the falls detrimental to actually enjoying the falls. People climb the falls in large groups. It takes about 45 minutes to make the climb, but only because of the large groups. On their own a person could probably scramble up the falls in about 10 minutes.
Climbers start at the bottom like a sea of humanity flowing upriver reminiscent of a school of salmon at spawning time. Unlike spawning salmon, the waterfall climbers live to tell the tale. Each relatively large group made their way upstream to the next pool, where the guides would entertain them as they delayed the group awhile waiting for other groups further upstream to clear the way. Once moving, they seemed to travel fairly quickly in a line while traversing the next section of the falls, only to bunch up again as they reached another pool.
We opted to stay on the sidelines and film as climbing in a bunch like that just really didn’t appeal to us. This attraction seemed too crowded and commercialized to actually be much fun. A man who had climbed the falls confirmed this on the bus ride back to the ship. They also seemed somewhat unorganized. Even though we had pre-paid and did not plan to climb the falls we had to wait nearly as long at the gate for someone to lead us inside as the amount of time we spent there once we finally got in. It also cost the same to get in whether you climb the falls or not.
After leaving the waterfall, the path to the exit passes through an area filled with booths where locals sell their crafts. At nearly every booth a person steps out aggressively trying to get passers by to stop and make a purchase, all the while claiming to be low or no pressure and different from the rest.
Unless this waterfall is something you really want to see, or climbing one is on your bucket list, my recommendation for Jamaica is to skip this and find something less crowded, like Mystic Mountain where we had lots of fun. The waterfall was beautiful. Without the crowds it would have been a nice place, but that many people just doesn’t make for peaceful co-existence with nature.
The name Ocho Rios, which means Eight Rivers in Spanish, seems a bit misleading since the area does not actually have eight rivers. Once a fishing village, the town now makes its money from tourists. People come to see the falls, for scuba diving and other water sports and recreational opportunities, or because their cruise ship stops there.
Christopher Columbus landed many places along the Jamaican coast, but Columbus Park in Ocho Rios may have been his first stop there. Europeans brought slavery and disease to the Taino population who lived there at the time. The Spaniards settled the island, only to lose control to the British after a series of wars.
Like many Caribbean islands, European colonists settled in Jamaica, using slave labor to man their sugar plantations and warring with other European countries. After numerous uprisings, the slaves were finally granted their freedom. Jamaica however did not gain freedom from Great Britain until 1962.
Things to Do in Ocho Rios
Cruise ships have quite a selection of shore excursions in Ocho Rios, many of which can include a stop at Dunn’s River Falls like our excursion from the Norwegian Pearl did. Besides Mystic Mountain, and the Bobsled Roller Coaster there, other excursions offered in Ocho Rios include a variety of ATV tours, a number of different choices that include either a dolphin swim or dolphin or shark encounter, horseback riding and various watercraft ranging from inner tubes to bamboo rafts to jet boats. Other options include zip lines, caves, beaches or a visit to the birthplace and final resting grounds of Bob Marley.
Other things to do in Ocho Rios include visits to gardens, parks, or museums. Shopping for local crafts or visiting swimming areas inland as well as beaches are also popular pastimes for visitors to the area. Scuba diving and snorkeling also entertain visitors to the area.