Jamaica’s known for its fantastic beaches, but it also excels in many other areas – like waterfalls. From well-publicised tourist attractions to hidden gems, the island is home to several beautiful cascades where visitors can gaze, splash and swim. Here’s Loop’s guide to some of the best.
Reach Falls: This great spot is on the north coast about 45 minutes east of Port Antonio. It’s a lovely drive through the rainforest to the falls, where a wide cascade plunges 10 meters into a clear green pool. You can explore up river or sit under the falls for a water massage. “The lush greenery and refreshing pool beneath the cascading falls are breathtaking,” wrote one happy visitor. Most say the site isn’t crowded and it’s open from Wednesday to Sunday. Rates are $500 for residents and USD$10 for non-residents.
YS Falls: Just off the Black River in St Elizabeth, this former cane farm is a well-known attraction that sees lots of visitors. It’s home to seven different waterfalls, as well as several pools to sit and swim in. For the energetic, there are also rope swings for jumping and you can even go zip-lining. “The mineral springs pool is amazing – don’t even need to know how to swim – you just float there and look up at the open sky,” wrote one reviewer. You can buy snacks at the site or and there’s lots of wildlife to see in nicely kept grounds. It’s closed on Mondays and public holidays. Entry is USD$19.
Cranbrook Flower Forest and Turtle River Falls and Garden: Both of these are close to Ocho Rios. In Cranbrook, visitors can bike, zip-line or take a leisurely walk by the river to the falls. The roundtrip takes about 90 minutes and visitors say the path is easy to follow. The trail is also home to birdlife including streamertail hummingbirds and there are places to have a swim. At Turtle River Falls, there are several small waterfalls, gardens full of medicinal plants and an aviary where the birds will eat out of your hands. “Beautiful, serene and magical,” wrote one visitor. “Was not expecting 14 waterfalls! Wow! Next time will swim in the falls.” The park is closed on Sundays. Entry is USD$10 at Cranbrook; Turtle River charges $1,500 for residents and USD$20 for non-residents.
Reggae Falls: Reggae Falls, in St Thomas, is a man-made rather than natural attraction but it’s still a beautiful spot for a swim. It’s a bumpy drive inland from Morant Bay to the falls, where water plummets about 20 meters over the Hillside Dam into a shallow pool. “The waterfalls so heavily I could hardly keep my eyes open without using goggles,” wrote one visitor. Local residents sell food and snacks at the site, which is free to enter. Visitors report a small charge for parking.
Dunn’s River Falls: One of Jamaica’s top tourist spots, Dunn’s River Falls is a 180m-high series of cascades over smooth rocks into shallow pools, near Ocho Rios. You can climb the falls themselves – guides know the best route and visitors often hold hands – or there are stairs alongside. There are multiple points to swim and splash – come prepared to get wet and remember that water shoes are essential! One tip – the falls can get crowded and if you want to enjoy them with fewer people around, try a visit in the early morning or late afternoon. Its local rate is J$600 for adults while its rate for tourists is USD$20.
Kwame Falls and Tacky Falls: Next up are two waterfalls in St Mary, in the middle of Jamaica’s north coast. To get to Kwame Falls, visitors hike from Robin’s Bay. Most reports suggest the trek is not too hard and the rewards worth it – the falls can slow during the dry season but there’s a deep pool below them for swimming. Tacky Falls, a short distance west along the coast, is named for a slave who led a rebellion against the British in 1760. The falls are not easy to get to – visitors describe a 15-minute scramble up a steep and narrow trail – but you might well be rewarded by having this high waterfall to yourself. There is no entry charge but a guide is recommended.
Nanny Falls: Close to Moore Town, in Portland in the east of the island, lie Nanny Falls, which were named for the 18th Century leader of the Windward Maroons, former slaves who escaped and formed free communities. Most visitors report finding guides a real advantage for the 30-minute jungle hike from Moore Town to the falls, where there is a good pool for swimming. “The water is clear, pure and cleansing. The hike is not a stroll in the park but we are in our 60s and with the guide’s help made it just fine,” wrote one recent visitor. Entry is free but you need to pay the guide.
Mayfield Falls: These falls are about a 60-minute scenic drive from Negril up into the hills, where visitors are rewarded with a series of falls, including one called The Washing Machine. “There are rocks to climb, pools to wade or swim in, and even a few spots where you can actually go under and ‘inside’ the falls themselves,” wrote one visitor. Most visitors praise the knowledgeable local guides but caution that the walk down to the falls and back is steep and you need to be physically fit. Entry is USD$20 per person.
Have we left your favorite waterfall out? Let us know what we missed!