A Tale of Two Jamaica Waterfalls: Dunn’s River Falls & Secret Falls
When you travel to Jamaica, it’s almost a given that you’ll want to climb Dunn’s River Fall. However, after looking online, you’ll see there are quite a few lesser known falls you can also visit. So how do you know which one(s) to see?
On our recent vacation, we booked an excursion that took us to two Jamaica waterfalls: Dunn’s River Falls and Secret Falls. We thoroughly enjoyed both (and I’ll let you know the family favorite at the end of the article), but there are vast differences between them.
DUNN’S RIVER FALLS
The most well known of all waterfalls in Jamaica is Dunn’s River Falls. Near Ocho Rios, it’s a popular spot for both hotel guests and cruise ship passengers. The park’s hours are 8:30 am to 4 pm or 7 am to 4 pm, depending on whether or not there are cruse ships in port. The cost is $20 per adult and $12 per child.
Our excursion included round-trip transportation from our hotel, Hilton Rose Hall Resort & Spa, and entrance fees.
Dunn’s River Falls – Pros:
1. This is the most well known of all Jamaica waterfalls.
2. Because it’s a tourist hot spot, there are security guards and posted safety rules.
3. The climb is relatively easy.
4. It’s easy to travel to.
Dunn’s River Falls – Cons:
1. Because of its popularity, it can be very crowded.
2. It’s commercialized. Just like Disney, the attraction lets out at gift shop (a really big, open air market).
Tips for Visiting Dunn’s River Falls
1. Wear water shoes. This is posted, but it doesn’t hurt to mention it again. Make sure they’re on tight!
2. Measure your little ones. According to our guide, Floyd, there is no minimum age, but there is a minimum height. Kids must be 3 feet tall to climb.
3. Go early and on a day when there aren’t any cruise ships in port. This is an important one. When we booked our excursion, I asked when the best day to visit would be and was told Sunday. Our driver also picked us up at 7:30 am so we could be the first to arrive. We were and this made the journey up the falls incredible. We were the only people on the falls the entire trip. This allowed our guide time to stop and take pictures he wouldn’t ordinarily be able to. Typically, tour guides take 25 people up the falls at one time, and on average there are 10 groups actively climbing. Because we went early and on a no cruise ship day, we didn’t have to share the falls with 250 other people.
4. Go with a guide. Yes, you can climb without one. No, you shouldn’t attempt it. Trust the guides, these guys can climb the falls in five minutes and they clean the rocks every morning. No one knows the falls like they do. It can be fatal to climb without one.
5. Mostly for women: Pull your hair into a ponytail and wear a one piece if possible. (All that running water could lead to a wardrobe malfunction.)
There’s not a dedicated website for these falls, but a Google search will bring up several tour companies that will take you. Cost varies depending on which tour company you book with.
You’ll have to travel off the main roads to get to this location, trust me when I say it’s all worth it.
Secret Falls – PROS:
1. Secluded: You won’t find hundreds of people here. We were at this location for several hours and came into contact with less than 20 people.
2. Breathtakingly beautiful: The pictures don’t do it justice; this is closer to unspoiled Jamaica. There is no security station and no concrete path. (There’s also no bathroom, so plan accordingly.)
3. So much more to do: You’ll climb up and back down with the help of your guide and a rope. You can swing out over the water on a rope swing and, once you splash down, swim to an underwater cave.
Secret Falls – CONS:
1. It is the middle of nowhere. Roads are sketchy.
2. There will be people selling and smoking joints. It’s legal in Jamaica to carry 2 oz of pot, and we often saw people with considerably more.
3. Climbing Secret Falls can be physically trying.
Tips for Secret Falls:
1. Prepare to be physical. In reading the online description, I vastly underestimated the amount of physical activity involved. It’s a lot more than a beautiful swimming hole. As a person with Parkinson’s, I was spent after the first jump and swing. After a hike into the forest to get to the second part of the falls, I stayed behind on a bench while my family continued on. They later told me this was wise as they doubted I could have made it. There’s no age limit posted, but I would estimate the youngest that should go through to be between age 8 and 10. (You know your child!)
2. You need to be a strong swimmer to do this excursion.
3. Women: once again, I highly recommend ponytails and one pieces.
All in all, you can’t go wrong with either of these Jamaica waterfalls. They’re both gorgeous and fun to visit. Having said that, when asked which falls they enjoyed the most, my family was unanimous: SECRET FALLS!
You may also enjoy:
- Zip Lining in Jamaica with Kids
- Swimming with Dolphins at Dolphin Cove Jamaica
- Jamaican Adventures with Kids – Mystic Mountain
- Spring Break With Kids – Top 3 Destinations
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Christy lives in North Carolina where she worked in the Pharmaceutical Industry for fifteen years before Early Onset Parkinson’s brought her career to a halt. Undeterred, she…