Little Dunn’s River in Ocho Rios, Saint Ann, is a smaller more rootsy alternative to the tourist masses ascending hand in hand, on it’s more famous sister, Dunn’s River Falls. Whilst it’s not as magnificent as its bigger sister, it’s still worth a mid-week visit for a few hours, if you want to cool off and experience a ‘local’ chill spot.
The lack of tourists at Little Dunn’s River, is made up for by the amount of locals that frequent this tiny strip of sand and falls, especially at weekends and on Jamaican national holidays. If you want the place in semi-seclusion I would recommend coming between Monday and Friday, avoiding any midweek days that the holidays fall on.
Entrance Fee at Little Dunn’s River
Little Dunn’s River is accessed from one of two inconspicuous gateways on the paved roadside walkway, known locally as The One Love Trail, to the side of the busy A3 Main Road.
The first of which has a double door gateway, the second further along the trail has a single gateway. You will normally see a couple of men ‘manning’ the single gate and they will probably ask for a donation to enter. Although it is officially free to enter Little Dunn’s River, use your discretion when being asked for a donation.
TIP! Many of Jamaica’s uncommercialised natural beauty spots have unofficial caretakers, custodians and guides. These persons are locals who maintain the site, but are not employed by anyone per se. They chose to keep these areas of outstanding beauty, clean, safe and accessible to all. In some spots they will also act as a guide, showing you which way to go, pointing out and describing all the things of interest, patiently answering millions of questions and generally imparting their knowledge, love and pride about where they ‘work’ and about Jamaica overall. So don’t turn your nose up, contribute a little!
The descent to reach the falls is an adventure in itself and if you’re not sure-footed and reasonably fit it may not be the place for you. If you want to navigate the trail with ease, wear some shoes with a bit of grip on the bottom, or just wear your sea shoes!
Once you enter through either of the gateways you go down some concrete steps to a platform area, where there are usually a few vendors selling ice cold drinks, snacks and other necessities.
Here you can either go the right where there are rocks lining the shoreline with trees shading the waters edge. Or go to the left where you have a choice of climbing a steep incline with tiny foot holds to reach the falls, or walk down towards the water, where you will find a tiny strip of sand where the falls spill out into the sea.
The Lowdown on Little Dunn’s River
Little Dunn’s River offers free access to the public and is more relaxed and uncommercialised, than the ‘paid for’ beach experiences. So expect a chill spot to marvel at the beauty of nature, where you can enjoy a dip in the ocean and have an invigorating massage under the falls, not a ‘high end luxury experience’.
The Falls at Little Dunn’s River consist of one large fall, where you can (very carefully) ascend the rocks for a short distance if you are daring, or traverse the shorter route downwards into the sea. It is very slippery on the rocks and heading down towards the sea there are some deep spots, so take your time if you choose to navigate this way!
There are also some smaller falls over to the side, which spill over the top of the rock face, you can get an invigorating massage if you are brave enough to face the cold river water pounding on your head and shoulders!
The actual ‘beach’ at Little Dunn’s River is a very small , sandy slither with a couple of bent over trees to sit on. So leave the whole beach caboodle at home, as there won’t be room to spread out on the sand!
TIP! You can rent Sun Loungers for around JA$500 (if you haggle) to keep your belongings out of the water and ‘claim’ your piece of the shoreline… And they easily hold three people, if you don’t lay down!
Facilities at Little Dunn’s River
Little Dunn’s River has some vendors selling drinks and snacks and there is a cook shop that is perched on the edge of the falls that is sometimes open. So you’re good if you want a cold beer, Wray & Nephew Rum, soft drinks or water and but I’d recommend bringing your own food if you want something to eat.
The facilities are limited and the washrooms / changing rooms are right at the top by the roadside (although I never checked they were open).
Swimming and Falls at Little Dunn’s River
The sea floor is shallow and (usually) calm for a good distance, which is nice for non-swimmers and the young to have a paddle without worrying about a dangerous drop off. Towards the falls, the water is cooler and there are a couple of lines with floats to direct swimmers away from the rocky areas under foot. If you want to swim and go deeper, you can go beyond the bowed over tree away from the falls, where the sea is warmer and it’s sandy under foot.
The whole of Little Dunn’s River was very clean and I noticed the beach vendors regularly sweep the debris off the sand. I arrived around 3.00pm and there were plenty of people around, after about an hour the crowds thinned and we could get a chance to go under the falls. I spent a few hours here to relax and unwind and really enjoyed myself.
The Important Bits about Little Dunn’s River
- COST: Entry is FREE! You may wish to donate / tip the men at the gate
- PARKING: Limited FREE street parking in a layby right outside the entrance
- FOOD: I would recommend bringing your own. Cannot guarantee the vendors / cook shop will have food to sell
- DRINK: Plenty of Vendors to choose from selling cold soft and alcoholic beverages
- SHOPPING: Limited, maybe some craft / souvenirs
- RESTROOMS: Yes, at the roadside
- FAMILY FRIENDLY: Maybe not for young children, the infirm or the elderly as the accessibility is challenging. You may see persons smoking Marijuana
- WHEELCHAIR ACCESSIBLE: No, lots of steps and climbing required
- FITNESS LEVEL REQUIRED: Average
- EASY TO FIND: Quite Easy! It’s on the A3 Main Road, but the layby can be easily missed – follow the directions below!
- BEACH AMENITIES: Sun loungers to rent for approx US$5 / JA$500 price was negotiated!
- BEACH SAFETY: NO Lifeguard on duty – Swim at your own risk! Plenty of unofficial caretakers though
- ADDED EXTRAS: Take a FREE invigorating massage under the falls!
- GOOD TO KNOW: The sea floor is shallow and calm. There is usually music being played by the vendors towards the falls
- CROWD INDEX: Very busy on weekends and public holidays
- TOP TIP: Bring sea / water shoes to walk with ease!
How to get to Little Dunn’s River
ADDRESS: Little Dunn’s River, Belmont Property, A3 Main Road, Ocho Rios, Saint Ann
WALKING: If you like walking try The One Love Trail, a roadside walkway that carries you from Reynolds Pier at the edge of Ocho Rios town centre, along a scenic ocean side path (needs resurfacing in areas) all the way to Dolphin Cove and Dunn’s River. The entrance to Little Dunn’s River is just over a mile from the start of the trail and is before Dolphin Cove and the turn off up to Dunn’s River. You can easily hail a route taxi by the side of the road for around JA$200, if you don’t fancy the walk back into town again!
TAXI: From Ocho Rios you will need to get a taxi going in the direction of Saint Ann’s Bay. It won’t cost you any more that JA$200 if you use a route taxi from the Ocho Rios Bus Park, or stand on the side of the road in the direction of the falls and flag down a taxi. Tell the driver you are going to Little Dunn’s River and they will let you off near the entrance. Private Taxi’s will cost considerably more!
DRIVING: If you are driving from Ocho Rios, take the A3 Main Road out-of-town towards Saint Ann’s Bay. As you leave the town you will drive past Reynolds (Cargo and Cruise Ship) Pier on your right hand side. Keep following the road for just over a mile. Look out for a lay by on the RIGHT hand side, where there is a couple of small single storey white buildings. Pull over and park in the bay to the right-hand side of the road. Do not park on the opposite side of the road in the soft shoulder. If you get to Rainforest Bobsled Jamaica at Mystic Ridge you have gone too far, so go ahead and carefully turn round!
If you are driving from the direction of Saint Ann’s Bay and beyond, head along the A3 highway towards Ocho Rios. You will pass Dunn’s River Falls on your right, Dolphin Cove on your left and Rainforest Bobsled Jamaica at Mystic Ridge on your right hand side… look out just around the next corner you will see the lay by. Park your vehicle!
*This post has been fully updated from the original post shared on 13th July 2016