Let me start by saying that these falls are unnamed. It’s a pity to have such beautiful cascades of the Hope River tucked away in Penfield, a small district in Gordon Town, yet after all these years they are still nameless. Until a name for these falls catches on, we will call them the Penfield Falls after the district in which they are located. This is to distinguish them from the other four waterfalls in Gordon Town which can be accessed through the Pretty Close 876 property.
The only alternative name was offered by a Penfield resident whose grandmother told him that the fall was called “Mother Brown Fording” in honour of a slave who had drowned there. Since slavery was abolished in 1834, you can imagine how time would have legendized that story. Moniker aside, Gordon Town Falls is a very relaxing trip and easy to accomplish by either public or private transport. My only regret is not knowing of this place before. It’s a pleasant coincidence that all three rural tips of Saint Andrew, a mostly urban parish, conceal such beautiful waterfalls.
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Getting to Penfield
The journey began in Papine outside of the Texaco gas station next to the University of Technology (UTECH). A driver whose taxi had only one passenger asked us “Gordon Town?”, to which we replied, “yes, Penfield.” The official taxi stand is beside the gas station outside Papine Plaza (the one with Parkview supermarket). Thus, if the gas station is free of taxis when you go (rather unlikely), there is your best bet. The drive lasts 15 minutes, gets bumpy in the last 5 minutes and costs JM$150 per person. You’ll be let off in Penfield’s square, the last point at which vehicular traffic is tolerated. You can also start walking from the Gordon Town square next to the Louise Bennett Statue but that adds an extra fifteen or twenty minutes to your hike.
You’ll see 2 paths; the one on the left which goes uphill is the correct trail, not the one which leads downhill on your right. The trail is straightforward with no side-paths on which to get lost and is shaded with verdant trees overhead. Nonetheless, ask the residents milling about the square for directions if you like. The path involves crossing 2 footbridges pictured above, roughly 10 minutes apart, which is the length of the entire walk. After rounding a corner past the second bridge, there you are by the main fall!
Driving to the waterfall is pretty straightforward as well. Look out for a left turn to the community after passing the Louise Bennett Statue.
Exploring the Waterfalls in Penfield
Penfield Falls is a tier of three waterfalls cascading into gentle azure pools of varying depth. The main one is packed with a few sandbags to form a nice pool at the base of the fall for bathing and swimming.
My quartet never ventured further than shoulder-deep, but it gets deeper as you approach the waterfall so tread cautiously. And brrrr! The water’s temperature was a far cry from the heat of the city. You’d never believe Kingston reaches maximum temperatures of 34°C with the temperature of the Hope River. As usual, submerging oneself causes temperature acclimatization despite how long it may take to feel mentally ready for the temperature shock. We were the laughing-stock of a passerby who tried coaxing us to make the dip. We eventually did and had our fun, especially with having the water to ourselves.
Exploring Some More
We decided to go in search of the other cascades which the passerby mentioned. These are more uphill than the two pictured above. We thought we could follow the river’s course further but eventually hit up on private property and had to turn back. However, we were rewarded with the third cascade pictured below. It is less grand but flows into a delightful pool complete with river current for jets– nature’s own jacuzzi.
We retraced our steps to the Penfield square and got a taxi in about 5 minutes headed to Papine. Penfield Falls are located in a residential community, albeit sparsely housed as with all communities perched on the rural Jamaican hillside. Thus, it is 100% uncommercialized and lacks amenities like changing rooms, bathrooms and garbage disposal facilities. It is not a tourist spot but I highly recommend it for its easy accessibility. If you go, you will likely have it to yourself no matter how long you choose to spend. Besides transport costs, it’s free!!!
I was shocked when 2 residents of the community told me they didn’t know the depth of the water because they have never been inside it! I guess when you live alongside gorgeous scenery everyday it gets commonplace. For all the amenities it lacks, I guess I should give it 4 stars, ☆☆☆☆, but I know I’ll heed my friendly driver’s parting invitation to return again one day. I don’t recommend this place for the solo traveller though. Group is best!
If you missed any, read about two more Saint Andrew falls here:
Thanks for reading! ‘Til next time. ✌🏽
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** Last updated in June 2022.