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A photo-intensive account of a retro road trip with my family from Montego Bay to climb Dunn’s River Falls near Ocho Rios, Jamaica.


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Note: The following revised and annotated post is part of our Retro Roadtrip series. It is about a day trip from Montego Bay to Dunn’s River Falls near Ocho Rios, Jamaica, with my sister Carla, my brother-in-law Todd, and my amazing nephew Nathan. They were living in Jamaica at the time, and I had flown down for a brief visit. The original version of this article was posted November 17, 2007, on my Nathan’s Uncle blog.


Retro Roadtrip: Jamaica’s Dunn’s River Falls


When it comes to nature, there is no “best,” or “most beautiful.” How can you compare nature to nature? Can you say the Grand Canyon is grander than the Grand Tetons, or the Amazon Rainforest is more picturesque than the Swiss Alps? I have visited many breathtakingly beautiful locations on my travels, and they all defy comparison, each with an allure that is uniquely their own. Dunn’s River Falls qualifies as one of those incredibly lovely places. In fact, it is lovely to the point that terms such as “wonderland” and “otherworldly” come to mind.

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The mission Toyota Land Cruiser.

Early on a Friday morning, we crawled in the mission Land Cruiser for a day trip from “MoBay” to Dunn’s River Falls near “Ochi,” Jamaica. Dunn’s River Falls is the number one tourist destination in Jamaica, as well it should be. Cruise ships haul in visitors by the thousands to climb the falls from bottom to top. But before we could make the 65-mile drive to the falls, we had to escape Montego Bay and its infamous traffic.

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Your typical Montego Bay gridlock.

They made me ride in the back seat with Nathan all the way from Montego Bay to Ocho Rios, including Todd’s grueling navigation through MoBay’s interminable traffic and gridlocks.

And I loved it . . . .

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In the back seat with my favorite person in the whole world.

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So much could be said.

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Left-lane driving messes with me.

Leaving the madness that is MoBay traffic behind, we headed east on Highway A1, but it was not long before our leisurely drive along the Caribbean coast brought excitement of another kind. Suddenly, Todd was motioned off the side of the road by a gang of Jamaican motorcycle cops in an apparent speed trap. We knew there was no way Todd was exceeding the speed limit because he is a confirmed rule-follower and typically drives like a grandmother. Todd was directed to get out of the car and meet with an officer sitting at a distance under a tree. We waited nervously in the car, concerned that our plans for the day may be aborted, or even worse.

Eventually, Todd returned to the car and we drove away, anxious to hear what had happened under the tree. Long story short, the officer had shown Todd his radar detector displaying a reading over the speed limit and told him there would be a large fine he would have to pay in court. Todd asked the cop if he could issue him a warning instead, and the kind officer indicated that perhaps Todd could give him something. Todd said, “How about I take care of your lunch today,” and the officer nodded. Todd slipped the money into his hand and made his exit.

When in Rome, . . . .

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Can I buy you lunch?

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My red-headed nephew spying out the roadside encounter.

Relieved, we continued down the highway and arrived at the entrance to the falls without further incident. Fortunately, we hit it on a day when no cruise ships were in port, so we wouldn’t have to deal with the really big crowds. The visitor parking lot is located at the top of the falls, so we took our time inhaling the beauty of this incredible place on our trail hike to the bottom. Carla elected not to climb the falls on this visit, so she became the photographer for the day. She followed our ascent on the side trail and documented our climb from bottom to top.

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Yeah, that kind of beautiful!

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Red ginger

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Heliconia

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Coconut Palm

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My boy and me.

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Carla, Todd & Nathan

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“Am I going to climb this waterfall or not?”

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Snapped on our way down. I thought this sign had a vintage Hollywood look.

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A bit of history.

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Where the falls meet the beach.

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Dunn’s River flows into the Caribbean Sea.

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Todd, Nathan, and I begin the ascent alone.

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Large groups navigate the falls by holding hands in single file.

Shortly after starting our climb, we decided to let an escorted tour group go on ahead so we could follow in their steps. Yes, we are cheap!

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We’ve only just begun.

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This image through the jungle foliage has great 3-D composition. Cool shot, Carla!

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Another interesting shot. I love the jungle vines in this one.

The escorts for the tour group lagged behind to assist us, even though we had not hired them. We tipped them when we reached the top.

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He-Man and the Olympic Gold Medalist.

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A treacherous passage. (Not really.)

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No, I did not bust my butt! It was a sliding rock.

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Otherworldly

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Near the top. Almost Heaven.

Carla, thanks for being our official trek photographer. You got some amazing shots, Sister!

Footnote: I still remember the night several years ago when Todd told me they were going to be missionaries to Jamaica. I didn’t receive the news well. They would be taking my one and only nephew away from me. Over time, I came to accept the inevitable, and being a missionary’s kid myself I knew that Nathan would get to experience many things the average American kid would not be able to do, and I could never deny him those benefits. Watching Nathan climb Dunn’s River Falls and swim near the coral reef at Doctor’s Cave during my brief visit to Jamaica confirmed that knowledge for me. I know without a doubt that international travel during my childhood is what put the travel bug in me.

If you enjoy waterfalls, you might want to check out other waterfalls we have visited.

We welcome your questions and comments, and we would love to hear about cool waterfalls you have visited around the world, in the comments section below.

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Helpful Link


Dunn’s River Falls Official Site

IMG 3105 Version 2 - Retro Roadtrip: Jamaica's Dunn's River Falls
Howard Blount is founder and co-owner of the travel blog BackroadPlanet.com. He has traveled internationally since boyhood and lived abroad in Mexico, Chile, and Paraguay. Now his passion is navigating the roads-less-traveled of this amazing planet in search of anything rare and remote. On the stuffy side, “Mr. Blount” has been a writer, consultant, and published author with the likes of Simon & Schuster and McGraw-Hill. Although his road trips are financed by his day job as a middle school teacher, Howard would much rather be doing anything that includes mountains, waterfalls, dachshunds, gospel choirs, books, restored classic movies on Blu-ray, HDTV, autumn, sandhill cranes, hot springs, Florida springs, rain and other gloomy weather, log cabins, cracker shacks, abandoned sites, unearthed history, genealogy, museums, documentaries, To Kill a Mockingbird, scenic and historical sites, castles, cathedrals, the Civil War, cold sheets, National and State Park Passports, quotes, the Rambos, Dionne Warwick, Steely Dan, Doobies, Diet Pepsi, Fish City Grill, anything Apple, all things British, Jesus, and lists. And on a random note, Howard is a fourth cousin once removed to Truman Capote.
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