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Dunn’s River Falls

Dunn's River Falls, Jamaica
Dunn’s River Falls / Breakyunit, Wikimedia Commons / CC BY-SA 3.0

WorldBlue  In short

One of the most exciting natural landmarks in Jamaica is Dunn’s River Falls. This is not just a waterfall – this is a set of tufa terraces formed by springs and ending directly into the Caribbean Sea.

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GPS coordinates
18.4184 N 77.1400 W
Location, address
North America, Caribbean, Jamaica, Saint Ann parish, at the sea coast between St. Ann’s Bay and Ocho Rios
Alternate name
Las Chorreras
Total height
˜ 55 m
> 180 m
Dunn’s River

Map of the site

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WorldYellow In detail


Jamaica has limestone formations and a humid, tropical climate. This is a recipe for an exciting geological process – karst. Rainwater seeps through the small fractures in the limestone and dissolves the lime on its way. Fractures in the rock become larger and turn into underground streams and caves.

There are rather many places in Jamaica where such underground streams come to the surface. Such springs are called river rises or resurgences.

As the water leaves the limestone and comes to the open air, it precipitates the dissolved lime. Thus along the spring bed and river stream is precipitated light-colored material – tufa.

Dunn's River Falls, Jamaica
Dunn’s River Falls / Jim Amorin, Flickr / CC BY 2.0

The precipitation and characteristics of the stream often cause another phenomenon – tufa terraces. These terraces look like shallow basins in rock. When the water reaches the rim of this basin, it falls down along a small waterfall into the next pan.

Such tufa waterfalls are not very frequent in the world but not that rare either. Tufa and travertine terraces could be found in more than 100 places around the world. Their formation continues while the springs are active.

Typical example of such processes is Dunn’s River Falls in Jamaica.

Delightful staircase

World has many staircases and many are beautiful. But the steps of this waterfall could be some of the most enjoyable staircases in the world.

Water falls over the precipitated tufa, Dunns Falls in Jamaica
Water falls over the precipitated tufa / Jim Amorin, Flickr / CC BY 2.0

These tufa terraces end in the beach of the Caribbean Sea. Thus – one can climb the falls right from the gorgeous beach.

Water in the falls is pleasant and tropical vegetation creates a likable shadow. Visitors to the site can climb for a while – and stop for a short bath in one of the pools along the way.

Total height of waterfall terraces is roughly 55 m, length of the falls is more than 180 m.

No wonder that this place is much enjoyed both by local people and numerous tourists. Falls have played a role also in history.


It is possible that exactly here took place the decisive battle about Jamaica ("Las Chorreras") between the English and Spanish in 1657. English won – and since then Jamaica became an English-speaking country.

Falls were recorded in the very first James Bond movie – "Dr. No" (1962). In fact, this is one of the most memorable moments of these movies – seducing Honey Ryder (played by Ursula Andress) walks out of the sea right at the falls and meets James Bond here.

Dunn's River Falls in Jamaica, as seen from the sea
Dunn’s River Falls, as seen from the sea / Ricardo Mangual, Flickr / CC BY 2.0

In 1972 this area was obtained by the government of Jamaica and turned into a popular tourist resort with international fame. Since then the waterfall has turned into a tourist trademark of this beautiful island.

Excessive exploitation by tourism industry

In the theory of tourism management exists a term: Butler’s Tourism Area Life Cycle. This theory explains the life cycle of many popular tourist destinations.

This cycle goes as follows:

At first the beautiful natural or man-made wonder is unknown to the wider public. As the beauty of the wonder is recognized by more and more visitors, tourism facilities are developed around it: nature trails, car parking, small shops, and toilets. More and more visitors come, tourism industry declares this to be a part of national identity and advertises it internationally. More and more locals get jobs in the facilities around the tourism object.

At some moment the number of visitors stabilizes and even starts to decline. More and more negative reviews appear about the site: sometimes toilets are broken, locals are rude and somehow the site is not as charming as before. Often the unorganized flow of mass tourism has disfigured the former beauty of the site beyond recognition. The site falls out of fashion, locals lose their jobs. The tourism industry has found other destinations.

Dunn’s River Falls are at the high point of this cycle. This beautiful waterfall receives close to one million visitors per year. Many of them come from the cruise ships, having here a short visit and not learning much about the beautiful country of Jamaica (1).

Thousands upon thousands of feet climb on the travertine steps and walk on the trails around the falls. The natural charm of the falls to a large extent has been lost and replaced by shops, signs, and the eternal crowds of tourists climbing up the falls and sliding down.

Nevertheless, most of the beauty of the falls still is there…


  1. Brian J. Hudson. Fall of beauty: The story of a Jamaican waterfall — a tragedy in three acts, An International Journal of Tourism Space, Place and Environment, Volume 1, 1999. Accessed on 16th May 2019

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Spring tufa, travertine, and other formations

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