Hot Trips

What You Should Know about Climbing Dunn’s River Falls with Kids

Standing at 180ft high and stretching 600ft in length, Dunn’s River Falls is a Jamaican national treasure. It is also said to be the site of the infamous battle of Las Chorreras between the English and Spanish in 1657. In short, the English won control of the area now known as Ocho Rios. Today the falls are definitely a sight to been seen and climbed. So naturally, a visit to this famous water fall was a must on our recent trip. Yes, it is a tourist attraction, but some things are tourist attractions for reason; you should see them at least once. However, I was traveling with my family and was hesitant to actually climb Dunn’s River Falls with kids. Besides, before this trip the only reference I had of the site was from a story I spent listening to all my life.

And the story goes…

In 1974 Papa and Grams went to Jamaica. For some reason, my mama actually trusted my accident prone daddy to hold her hand as they ascended the 180 foot high Dunn’s Rivers Falls. Predictably, Papa lost his footing, but it was Grams that paid the price; slipping between the rocky falls and being completely submerged underwater. Suddenly a dashing man, by the name of Hud, came to the rescue; pulling my mama to safety. A story I have heard a million times growing up. If you know my mama, you know how funny it is to think of her plunging into the falls and you know why the story continues to be retold time and time again for the last 40 years.

If parents, young and fit, couldn’t even make it up the falls without incident, how was I going to attempt this activity with my small children? I didn’t want one of my babies plunging between rocks! Well, now I have been there and done that. I have climbed Dunn’s River Falls with kids and I’m here to tell you everything you need to know before you do it too.

Dunns River Falls with kids

What You Should Know about Climbing Dunn’s River Falls with Kids.

Make a decision fast:

I wasn’t going to make the decision to climb Dunn’s River Falls with kids until I saw what it was all about first. Unfortunately, you have to make you choice before getting through the gate, because they get you set up with your climbing guide and group right away. So, I made the choice to go for on the bus and kept my figures crossed that my kids could (or would) actually do this.

Climb The Waterfall (CuddleBear did and he is chicken)

Here, I’ll make the decision for you. Climb the waterfall. You are in Jamaica you might as well take advantage of the opportunity to do something cool. Papa and Grams didn’t do it this time, but they are older and have done it before.

Dunns River Falls with kids
I have the photo of them 40 yrs ago at the falls. I’ll post as soon as I can find it.

I wasn’t worried about FireCracker, because she is balls to the wall. However, I was concerned that CuddleBear would chicken out or that it would be too intense to complete. I am glad to say that he did it and he did it well.

Dunns River Falls with kids

There isn’t an actual age restriction, but the Dunn’s River Falls team recommends age 7 to climb. FireCracker and CuddleBear were both under 7 at the time of the climb and did just fine. It is up to you to decide if your kids can handle it or not.

Dunns River Falls with kids

Bring or Buy Water Shoes:

You need water shoes to climb the falls or at least shoes with traction to grip the slippery rocks. I wasn’t planning on climbing originally and didn’t bring any. Don’t worry if you don’t have your own water shoes, because they are available for purchase at the gate. That’s what we ended up doing. It wasn’t too expensive, about $10 a pair. Plus, they were cool Jamaican colors and my kids still like using them long after our trip.

Dunns River Falls with kids

Go with a Tour if Cruising:

This is especially important if you are ported in Jamaica on a cruise ship. When cruising, you are limited on time and booking a tour through your ship ensures that you make it back to your cruise on time. Since the falls are in Ocho Rios and we were ported in Falmouth, which is about an hour’s drive away, it was safest to take the tour provided by the Disney Fantasy. You can read more about cruising on the Disney Fantasy, HERE. Plus, a tour usually includes some fun added extras. For example, after the Dunn’s River Falls we got to visit Dolphin Cove and enjoy a complementary Jamaican lunch, play with tropical birds and reptiles and much more. FireCracker even got to go down jumbo water-slide.

Dunns River Falls with kids
Dunns River Falls with kids
CuddleBear was brave to climb, but not brave around the birds. I only got one pick of him holding them.

Beware of Vendors:

We all like to bring a little piece of our travels home, but shopping for souvenirs has be done smart. Although Jamaica’s economy has seen improvement in recent years, many are still poor. The vendors near Dunn’s River Falls are eager to sell their goods and you may be eager to buy them, but be mindful of your money and your time. If you are on a cruise tour, then you’ll have to buy pass them completely. You can’t risk missing your ship over a souvenir. Also, I try to shop smart and make sure my money is going into the hands of the local merchants.

Dunns River Falls with kids
Dunns River Falls with kids
These are handmade by a local woman and we fell for them.

Listen to the Guide! Avoid Slippery Rocks & Hold Hands!

Your guide up the Dunn’s River Falls will inform you want rocks are climbable. The staff does an excellent job of preparing the falls for climbing by scraping off the slippery green algae on many of the rocks, but they don’t treat the entire fall. Don’t step on the green rocks and don’t step outside the area your guide has designated for you. The guide will instruct you to hold hands and this is for safety reasons, so get out of your comfort zone and make new friends really fast. Ha.

Dunns River Falls with kids

Say Cheese!

If you want to capture those exciting memories, be sure to bring a water camera. It is really wet and your regular camera will not survive. If you don’t want to bother, a photographer/videographer follows your guide and prepares those memories for you for purchase. Even though we took our own pictures, we still bought the one provided by Dunn’s River Falls. They were able to capture a lot more than we could, as we were trying to keep our kids safe. Plus it helps support them, so why not?

Dunns River Falls with kids

That’s A Wrap!

If you get a chance to visit Jamaica with your family, I would highly recommend climbing the Dunn’s River Falls with kids. It was a great experience and one we still talk about today. Check out this great list of fun things to do in Ocho Rios from a local Jamaican and fellow travel blogger.

Have you ever climbed Dunn’s River Falls? Would you want to?

Have you ever climbed any waterfall?


I am a busy mama with 3 delicious babies and a serious itch for travel and writing (when I am not bartending, that is)! After graduating from Cal State San Marcos with a B.A. in Communications, I decided to start a family and pursue a career in freelance writing. I created HotMamaTravel as an outlet to do what I love while sharing useful travel tips and inspiration with others. Our mission is to show parents how to master travel with kids, while keeping your Saturday-night selves. We call it "Family travel...with a twist".


  1. My daughter was six when she climbed Dunn’s River Falls. There was one point when she became scared and wanted to quit, but when the guide told her this was the toughest point and the rest was easy, she was fine and kept going.

    • Awesome! It is a little tough to stop once you start. One point the guide it help me carry my boy up on rougher part too.

  2. This looks like a lot of fun for the whole family! Great tip about the water shoes! I always forget about them, argh!

  3. This sounds like so much fun! We never climbed a waterfall, this is actually the very first time I read about such an experience, anywhere in the world. Definitely doing this if we ever get to visit Jamaica!

    • I first heard about from my parents, so it was nice to recreate it with my kids while they watched on. Hope you get to do someday soon.

  4. My husband and I climbed the falls a couple years ago, thinking of planning a trip to Jamaica again but taking our son who would be 2.5 then. How old was your youngest when you climbed if you don’t mind me asking.

    • He was 4 when we climbed, but the tour we did allowed toddlers. So, you should be fine. Have fun!

  5. Great tips. Same apply if you’re taking the kids to the Blue Hole, which is cool too but totally different. Gaw, isn’t Jamaica cool?!

    • I wanted to do the Blue Hole too, but we didn’t have enough time. Next time I am in Jamaica for sure!!

  6. Wow, I can imagine you were hesitant to try it with small children after the story of your mom and pop. Luckily for you, all went well because it seems like a lovely family outing!

    • Yeah, I thought he might chicken out, but he surprised me. He was really proud of himself too. That’s what travel is all about right?

    • Hi Stephanie. Yes I am certain they will have your size. They had a size for just about anybody, from my 4 year old to my husband size 12m!

  7. Another amazing adventure you had! Thank you for sharing all the tips – I think they could be applied to any waterfall climbing with or without kids 🙂 You rock!

  8. So you are one those people I look amazed to be carrying their kids to activities that I have trouble doing on my own… GOOD JOB 🙂

  9. Awesome tips! this is great information to help those visiting Dunn’s River Falls with kids. To add to the fun, a mini water park has recently opened.

    • Oh really? How fun! My kids would love that, I will have to check it out the next time I am in Jamaica!

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  12. Heard some stories about safety but my kids are 6 and 9 and from what you say this sounds like an experience not to be missed

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