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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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?
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?