Jamaica is famous for its beautiful beaches. Be it golden sand, white sand, crystal clear to deep blue and turquoise waters, it has it all. Lovely long stretches of coastline making the perfect backdrop for the ‘perfect island getaway’. However, Beyond the sands, there is a lot to behold. Reach Falls is one such hidden Gem!
Part of the charm of Jamaica is its people. Very welcoming, friendly and warm. Don’t get me started on the great food! The iconic mountains, the undisturbed rain-forests and the crystal-clear rivers are what I am going to tell you about today. There is beauty beyond the beaches. And joy in chasing waterfalls.
Reach Falls is located in Portland. Quite far from the usual tourist resorts. If you have the means to get there then it is worth the journey. The falls boasts more than 23 species of ferns. A variety of birds and other wildlife which you may or may not see during your visit.
The road to get there is well paved. Slightly treacherous when you get off the main highway and start the last leg of the journey. So do use caution. The signs for Reach Falls become less, but you are heading the right way. It is lined with palms all the way and we were rewarded at the end with a truly beautiful setting. Cool crystal clear, refreshing waters which if like us, you could be lucky enough to have the whole place to yourself. We visited in October. Low season and technically still hurricane season, but the rains are gone as quickly as they come. And the crowds and prices tend to be lower.
Costs and Storage
Once you get there, there is plenty of parking. Get your tickets, $10 US or 500JMD if you’re local. You can rent water shoes for 2000JMD or $20US again local currency for local residents. We had the benefit of paying local prices because my other half is Jamaican. She did all the talking at the ticket desk. We also opted out of the water shoes due to budget. The hike up the river is manageable bare foot, just be careful and take it slower and you’ll be fine.
We carried a bit of cash, cameras and phones with us in a bag. After the initial swim in the main pool by the falls the adventure began. We left our bag beside the main pool under some make shift cover for the life guard. Containing our phones, money and change of clothes and they were perfectly safe. There are plenty members of staff around, if there was a bigger group, I’m sure they’d have someone watching over. No official storage facilities so do it at your own risk. All we took with us was a GoPro because you would need your hands free for what was to come.
An exercise in trust
It was in at the deep-end. There was a section of the waterfall that looked the most dangerous part to go to. But as it turned out, that was the way up. As we approached this section the power of the water made it even more of a challenge. Each time we looked back at our guide he just said yes right there, pointing to the most dangerous spot. My mind was telling me no because who goes into fast flowing white water willingly, especially when it’s this difficult to move your legs through it.
We edged closer and I tried to reach through the curtain of water to the other side of the falls. That didn’t help, it only magnified the perception of the big mistake I was about to make. So here we were, we had gone too far. It was looking too dangerous to turn back and in front of us was wall of water. By now the guide had made his own way up and was waiting up top, it was now or never. I stuck my head through the curtain of water. Be sure of your footing otherwise you’d get swept away, or so I thought. Full of apprehension, I took the last step. We were inside a huge cave and it was then I could start to appreciate even more the beauty of this place.
The scenic hike up the Falls
Next challenge was getting out of the cave. There was a small opening at the top of the cave letting light and water in. And before I could say ‘were stuck!’ my partner was half way up the wall telling me this is the way out. Once again take your time, silence the voice in your head telling you to turn back. Just take the leap.
Take a moment to enjoy the view from above the falls and then head up river. Take in all the nature. The rocks that have been shaped by the raging river carving its path to the falls. We visited when the flow of water was relatively low. Depending on the season you may have to skip parts of the tour for safety.
After a scenic walk upriver negotiating rocky river banks, deep pools filled with crystal clear water and trees draped in vines alongside the cascading water we came to a stop. In front of us was a hole through the rocks with water rushing down. Our guide told us to jump in. Thoughts like ‘are you crazy’ and ‘you must be kidding’ came to mind. Words can’t explain, below are some images but look out for the video.
Into the Rabbit Hole
As you can see, no sane person would just take that instruction (in my opinion at least). My partner had done this before in her childhood, so this was proof that you can survive. But standing above this hole with water violently crashing into it, we couldn’t help but consider life for a moment.
This is the main attraction. It would be a shame to quit now. One final effort and we’re done here. After much contemplation we were still unsure, so we asked the guide to go first. You know, if he dies, we can inform his colleagues and if he doesn’t then we’ll follow him. Sound logic 🙂
He laughed at our apprehension, but he soon jumped in and shouted for us. Our turn. My partner went first then I followed. After resurfacing, from what felt like a deep, raging white water plunge pool. We had been transported to a subterranean world Mario style. I looked around and we were in quite a sizable cave.
How do we get out
Getting back out was on the mind. He pointed at one corner and said just go under and forward. With puzzled looks we told him to go first again. We had to fully submerge and swim forward feet first. A couple of seconds duration, but it felt longer. We then popped up in a small opening between rocks that could barely fit the three of us.
After catching our breath, its onto the final dive. This time head first. I dived, saw a bit of light poking through and swam forward. This was a smaller hole and I bumped into the roof. Definitely not for anyone claustrophobic. But just a few strokes later the current catches you and spits you out into a wide pool. All the panic disappears, replaced by the sense of achievement. And like all thrills the feeling of wanting to go again. You once again remember to take in the beauty and scenery.
Its time for the journey back
We made our way back. This time on the other side of the river, maybe to get a different perspective of the natural wonder. It works! It all seems new but just as stunning. As the adrenaline subsides tiredness kicks in. You remember how much effort you just put in. A day of swimming, wading, hiking and fearing for your life but it’s all worth it. What a day, what an adventure.
When you get back to the main falls you can go for another swim if you still have the energy. Hunger had started to set in so we called it a day. Included in the initial price is the tour and tipping is at your discretion. We felt like our guide deserved it, so we tipped him I think 1000JMD (5.7GBP/7.5USD).
You can then take a casual stroll around the gardens on your way back to your transport. We then took a leisurely drive back to our accommodation. On the roadside there were locals selling coconuts and we took the opportunity to re-hydrate.
How to do Reach Falls? Accommodation or Day Trip
If you can, stay in the area for a few days to get the most out of it. A day trip may be possible if you are in Kingston or the Blue Mountains. It is off the beaten track but well worth it. You also get to interact with the locals and experience the culture more so than in a typical tourist resort. This is my personal preference.
We stayed at lovely self-catering place in Fair Prospect Jamaica. One of 3 spacious studio villas on well-kept private land with a communal kitchen/hangout area. This was our base for a few days. We were able to visit restaurants, shops and some attractions within half an hours drive. The likes of Boston Jerk Center, Reach Falls, Winnifred Beach and Frenchman’s Cove. All in all, the perfect location for a few days getaway. And would highly recommend adding this to your bucket list. That decision will come with no regret!
So next time you’re in Jamaica, make the effort to see this side of the island. As always Thanks for stopping by. Thanks for listening, Like and Share if you care. If you have any suggestions for places to visit when in Jamaica let me know and ill add them to my Bucket List