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Dunn's River Falls in Jamaica
Sunday, May 4, 2014  
Amazingly, even though we have been on dozens of cruises to the Caribbean, including several stops in Jamaica, we have never been to Dunn's River Falls. Unquestionably, this is the most popular attraction in Jamaica. Rather than booking an excursion through the cruise line, we decided to do our "own thing" with Island Marketing through their website, We prefer to book our excursions directly with local, reputable operators as opposed to booking through the cruise lines. We have found that doing so is more supportive of the local economies, and, instead of being on a bus with 50 other people, the groups are often smaller.

Our Maxi Tours bus for the day

When our ship arrived in Falmouth, Jamaica we exited the cruise terminal and walked to the area where the independent tour operators pick up their guests. We were greeted by Joy, our guide for the day, and Jonas, our driver. There were four other guests on our tour, so we had no problem getting to know everyone in short order.

Beginning our tour in Falmouth

With our ship scheduled to depart Falmouth at 5:00pm, and a final boarding time of 4:30pm, Joy assured us that we would back to the port in plenty of time. Cruise lines will often use fear of missing the ship as a strategy to get guests to book the cruise line excursions. In twelve years, we have never had an independent tour operator fail to get us back to our ship on time. Once we boarded the van, we began the drive toward Ocho Rios and Dunn's River Falls. Our first stop was at Columbus Park which commemorates the "discovery" of Jamaica by Christopher Columbus. Here we were introduced to another park guide who walked us through the various artifacts, some of which are missing, and explained the history of the park.

Columbus Park

We made another stop a few miles down the road at a local restaurant/gift shop where we were invited to use "the facilities". Some of us bought bottled water and snacks here as well. Along the way to Dunn's River Falls, Joy would direct our attention to various points of interest. It was obvious that she truly loves Jamaica, and loves her job.

Joy points out interesting sights along the way

Soon, we arrived a Dunn's River Falls. As expected, there were significant crowds already there. We were led through the gates and given a wristband to show that our admission had been paid. With only tennis shoes, I had to rent some water socks, so Joy led me to the appropriate vendor. The cost to rent was only $7. So, if you own water socks, bring them because they are required. Next, we were introduced to Rafael, the local guide who would lead us on the climb up the falls.

Rafael leads Rickee up the falls

At the very beginning of the climb, Rafael warned us that there was a quite challenging part of the climb up the falls at the very beginning. We had the option of waiting while the other, much younger and more “fit” guests, took that challenge. As it turns out, that was a wise choice on our part. Those who did that section of the falls said it was extremely challenging. Once the others completed the first section of the climb, we joined in. We were surprised at how challenging walking up the falls actually is. The rocks can be very slippery, hence the need for water socks. Also, it is hard to see where you are stepping because of the rushing water, hence the need for an experienced guide. I mentioned to Rafael that I had recently injured by left shoulder. From that moment forward, he gave me special attention and made sure to personally guide me up the falls, holding only my right hand (and not my left) as we made the climb.

A photo at Dunn's River Falls

We would periodically stop on the climb and Rafael would take photos or video of us as a waterfall cascaded over our shoulders. All of the guides are used to doing this and it is a great service. If you bring a camera, make sure it is waterproof or it won't survive. The climb probably only lasted about 30 minute, but that was enough. It was very exhilarating, challenging and exciting. After we exited the falls, we handed Rafael his much deserved gratuity and began our walk back through the park. We were surprised to find a large number of local artisans and souvenir shops lining the path back to the parking lot. If we had known this in advance, we would have brought more money with us. All we could scrounge together was enough for a small refrigerator magnet.

Rickee adds a magnet to her collection

  • Tip 1: Bring extra cash for gratuities and souvenir shopping. You will be tipping several people, so bring plenty of small bills
  • Tip 2: Bring a waterproof case or Ziplok bag for your money and room keys
  • Tip 3: Wear sunscreen
  • Tip 4: If you plan to take photos, you will need a waterproof camera

Joy escorted us back to Jonas who was patiently waiting for us with the mini-van ready for the drive back to Falmouth. However, Joy had a couple more tricks up her sleeve. The first was a drive up a mountain road to Oceans on the Ridge, a small restaurant and bar with an amazing view of the bay and Ocho Rios below. The best part was that our small group had the run of the place!

A photo at Oceans on the Ridge Ocho Rios in the background

We were all getting a bit hungry, so we had time for a late lunch. One couple ordered the Jerk chicken, another ordered burgers, but I had to have the Jamaican specialty, Curried Goat. The goat was perfectly cooked, spicy and delicious.

Curried goat

Joy also introduced us to "White Lighting", a Jamaican rum with a 60% alcohol content! She promised that before the end of the day, we would have the opportunity to experience White Lighting for ourselves.

Joy shares stories about White Lightning

After we finished our meals, paid our bill and took our final photos, we were back in the van for a drive into Ocho Rios. We stopped at a local gift shop in town where we were given one final shopping "opportunity". Again, if we had known shopping was on the agenda, we would have brought more money. As it was, I was trying to retain enough for Joy and Jonas' gratuities. We were given samples of Jamaican coffee, which is quite good, by the way. And of course, Rickee had to take the White Lightning challenge. She said it burned all the way down, but in a good way!

Rickee downs the White Lighting

As promised, Joy and Jonas delivered us back to the port of Falmouth by 4pm, plenty of time to re-board our ship. We said goodbye to Joy and Jonas and promised to look them up the next time we visit Jamaica. If you are visiting Jamaica on your cruise, make sure to check out

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