I don’t know that anybody really sets out in life with the absolute intention of climbing a waterfall. I mean those people might exist in the world, but I can honestly say that I was never one of them. For one it is a very odd thing to think about, so it had never really crossed my mind. For another it sounds a little bit crazy when you say it out loud.

Say it out loud now:

I am going to climb a waterfall.

See what I mean?

I first knew that this was destined to be a Life List item was when I was planning out a cruise with my travel partner a few years ago. I had never been to Jamaica, and there is so much to do there it was almost overwhelming to decide how to spend our time. One thing people kept raving about, however, was Dunn’s River Falls. They declared this place a must-see destination, so I looked into it a little deeper.

Dunn’s River Falls is a waterfall in Ocho Rios, and is about 180 feet tall at its highest point. At the bottom the water flows into the ocean on a pristine white beach, making for a very picturesque setting. I read a lot of reviews before our trip, trying to work out just how this all might go. Some folks said it was an easy activity, some said it was scary, and others said it was very strenuous. Being fairly young and in relatively good health it seemed like a task that could be conquered, and so we went for it.

It was basically everything that everyone had proclaimed it to be, all rolled up into one.

We took an air conditioned bus from the cruise port out to Dunn’s River Falls, where our guide handed us over to the guys who lead you up the falls. One actually helps you navigate the terrain, while the other films your journey. Beware: they will make you scream ‘yes mon’ more times than you could ever imagine. At first you’re enthusiastic, but later on that enthusiasm turns to something else entirely. A battle cry, perhaps, that you can and will best this never ending flow of water, rocks, and burning lungs.

For me it was mildly terrifying climbing this thing. It isn’t that you’re high in the air or anything like that, you aren’t, but they very much drill it into you that you have to step where they show you to step and that you must be super careful with your footing. One wrong step could result in injury, because you are climbing very slippery rocks while rushing water tries it’s best to knock your feet out from under you. That, I think, was something I hadn’t anticipated or even thought about. Rushing water is a force to be reckoned with, and that adds a level of fear to the experience.

The waterfall is interspersed with lagoons where you can take a break, snap photos, and catch your breath. I personally made it about half way up before I decided that I’d rather enjoy myself by just lazing in some warm water rather than continue to climb. My knees ached, my chest heaved, and I had come to the realization that I am very much out of shape. That and, well, the constant feeling of maybe falling and breaking a leg was just not what I was about that day.

So while the rest of the group (well, the few who kept going) continued to climb, I was happy lying in the water, taking in the jungle setting, and enjoying myself. I had climbed enough to be satisfied, and that was enough for me.

If you’re going on a cruise that stops in Jamaica this might be a good excursion to book through your cruise line. There were other stops, and I must say that even if you aren’t into the idea of the climb the scenery alone is worth a look.

If you visit Jamaica and aren’t on a cruise, there are lots of options for seeing Dunn’s River Falls! You can book a private excursion, or drive yourself and pay to join a group. There’s no worry about heights here, it’s not astoundingly tall, though you may want to reconsider if you’re not in the best shape.

Life List Item: Complete

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