After making our way up a winding street in Ocho Rios, we arrived at the entrance of Konoko Falls and Park. We parked in an unassuming lot that belied the diverse flora, whispering streams, exotic birds, and stunning waterfalls inside the park.
Konoko Falls is said to be a settlement site of the Taino Indians, the first inhabitants of Jamaica. Modern-day visitors can enjoy a beautiful garden that include native and non-native plants and trees, crystal clear ponds, an onsite museum, a minizoo, and, of course, the beautiful waterfalls at the heart of the attraction.
The Garden and Park
We were greeted by Sherlock, our personal guide, who expertly and patiently answered our questions as we walked through the lushly green garden on brightly painted foot bridges and walking paths designed to maximize our view of the many ponds, flowers in bloom, and stately trees, including the Blue Mahoe, Jamaica’s national tree.
At the end of the Orchid Path is an aviary where visitors can enjoy the sight of dozens of pastel-colored Mountain Witch doves, several parrots, budgies, and a Jamaican barn owl commonly called patoo on the island along with iguanas, snakes and a sunbathing alligator.
A small onsite museum has several relics from the time the Tainos lived on the island, several “tools” used to capture or restrict the movement of African slaves who were initially brought to the island in 1513 by the Spanish, information about Jamaica’s seven National Heroes, and more contemporary cultural artifacts. A variety of merchandise including genuine Jamaican products can be purchased at the onsite gift shop.
As we approached the main attraction, we arrived at a brightly painted courtyard crowned by an assortment of tropical trees that is frequently used to host weddings and other events. At the Arawak Jerk Bar and Grill, we had delicious jerk chicken, rice and peas, and a salad. The park also has open greenspace that visitors are welcome to use for a relaxing picnic.
When you’re ready to take on the falls, there are lockers to store your belongings and a nearby changing area. Each customer is given a key on a wristband which must be kept while they climb the falls. While water shoes are highly recommended for the climb, they are not necessary.
We met our lifeguard Kenroy after we quickly descended wooden steps to get to the base of the falls. When asked if the falls are natural, he assured us they are naturally occurring falls.
The lifeguards and other staff maintain the falls to keep the stepping stones from becoming slippery and remove large leaves or branches.
Climbing and exploring the falls, hidden caves and shallow lagoons with our trusted lifeguard took approximately twenty minutes. It is not as crowded as Dunns River Falls and is more serene. The experience was at once fun, soothing, restorative and incredibly humbling.
At the top of the falls, visitors can enjoy a spectacular, panoramic view of Ocho Rios at Ysassi’s Lookout. Don Cristobal Arnaldo de Ysassi was the last Spanish Governor of Jamaica who, aided by the Maroons, fought British forces in 1657, 1658 and finally in 1660 where he was defeated after the Maroons defected. Ysassi is reported to have spent some of his last days in Jamaica in nearby Shaw Park.
While Jamaica is known for its beautiful beaches, majestic Blue Mountains, lush, hilly terrain, and serene rivers, its waterfalls are just as awe-inspiring. A day trip to Konoko Falls and Park is a great place to start exploring the island’s many waterfalls. It is indeed a beautiful country and aptly called “the land of wood and water.”