Kwame Falls is a free river and waterfall in Jamaica near the rural district of Robin’s Bay in St. Mary. It is said that the falls are named for Kwame, one of the warriors who fought alongside Tacky in 1760. This was the most successful rebellion against enslavement in Jamaica before that of Samuel Sharpe 71 years later. It is significant that the fall named for Kwame is smaller and less powerful than Tacky Falls, also in St. Mary, as Tacky was a more courageous and fiercer leader than he. I haven’t found a written record of any general Kwame or Kwaamen, however, one source made mention of Kwaw as one of Tacky’s conspirators. With the distortion of oral history throughout the years, it’s very likely that Kwaw became “Kwame.” That aside, this was a memorable adventure with a 4-hour roundtrip hike involved. Here’s how it went:
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How to Get to Robin’s Bay & Kwame Falls
Starting from Kingston, the route to Kwame Falls takes you through Constant Spring, Stony Hill then along the picturesque Junction main road into St. Mary where you’re going right of the roundabout by the banana estates for about 5 minutes. It’s one straight albeit winding road from Kingston until the right turnoff for Robin’s Bay, marked by a Strawberry Fields Together sign. Start looking out for this sign after passing a narrow metal bridge which arches overhead. You could also use Epping Gas Station as a landmark which is just across from the sign (unfortunately I don’t see this petrol station on Google Maps). From there, just follow the road. It’s pretty bare but the instant you start seeing houses again, go right (NB- this road is a bit hidden from the main road so you have to be looking out for it).
At this point, road quality decreases significantly so cautiously navigate around these potholes. Eventually it becomes a dirt track but keep going. The closest point accessible by vehicle is at Bobby’s Ocean 21 Bar where you’ll also see a few houses. Ask around and negotiate a fair price for a guide in this square, after which you can start your hike.
All of which I’ve just said is ideal. In reality, I used public transport for this trip so at least I can share the “deets” for other walk-foot travellers. My three friends and I took a coaster to Annotto Bay for JM$250 which took nearly an hour to fill with passengers. We got off at the final stop in Annotto Bay and asked for the Robin’s Bay taxi stand which is just outside a National Commercial Bank (NCB) branch. These taxis cost $200 per person. After waiting for a bit and not seeing any taxi drivers calling out Robin’s Bay as their route, we eventually went into the regular bus/taxi stand across the road and chartered a willing Port Maria taxi driver to carry us for $250 each. By time we stopped to ask exact directions along the way, the poor guy ended up carrying us for further than he’d bargained so we gave him a tip for good measure. After getting off by Bobby’s Bar, we asked this gentleman for directions then decided we’d try it on our own. Common sense prevailed for the first 90 minutes of the walk until we followed the wrong trail at a fork which led to Robin’s Bay’s “Black Sand Beach.”
Mind you, this sand is certainly not true black sand but it was a stunner nonetheless. The best places in life are discovered on foot, and perhaps the best things in life discovered by accident.
The sole person we met on the beach told us we’d likely get lost again as the trails got a bit confusing here and required crossing the river about three times as it doubles back on itself. We negotiated a price of $1,000 and it was the best decision we could’ve made at this point, considering he hadn’t been lying as the trails later proved. Thus, I recommend using a guide from the start but I have zero regrets doing things the way we did and choosing to figure it out as we went along. It made things that much more exhilarating, dodging low branches and spider webs and stumbling across breathtaking views by ourselves unrushed.
The humidity is not one to forget anytime soon. It’s hot & sticky but eventually got cooler or our bodies adjusted. Whichever it was, I felt better as we went along. Also, trees are your friends. Hold on to them when you need to.
As for trail directions if you choose to try it un-guided like we did initially, I hope those photos helped. By the time you start hearing water a second time towards the right, just know that that’s caused by waves from the black sand beach, NOT the waterfall, so unless you’d like to check that out, take the left path instead. You’ll cross the river a few times too, but it’s only ankle-deep. You don’t even have to get your feet wet. If you’re skilled enough you can hop from rock to rock. We passed a swampy area at one point too which made me thankful there aren’t crocodiles on our north coast. The path undulates from uphill to downhill quite a bit but I’d say the terrain is gentle. I mean, anything is compared to Jacob’s ladder which is painfully uphill or the path to Tacky Falls which is dreadfully downhill. Also, if you encounter brick ruins of an Ebenezer A.M.E. church at any point along the way, retrace your steps and take the other path instead. The only ruins you should encounter are the brick foundations of an old waterwheel near the waterfall, which once powered the sugarmill of an old plantation in this area.
Arriving At Kwame Falls
We first heard the waterfall through the trees about 5 minutes before actually seeing it up close. It was much taller than expected.
The river bed soil felt yucky to be honest– very clay-like and sticky. The water is very deep too so tread cautiously. If any fallen but not quite dry bamboos are available, consider using them to float– nature’s own pool noodles. After an hour we retraced our steps uneventfully back to the village where we asked one kind shopkeeper to contact one of the community’s taxi drivers for us. We bought a few drinks from him and waited on the only available driver to return from Annotto Bay. This time we paid the correct fare out of Robin’s Bay then had a speedy departure and uneventful trip back to Kingston.
Lots of street smarts and a general friendly laid-back attitude are required to accomplish a Kwame Falls trip with public transport, but it’s a perfectly doable day trip from Kingston using either public or private transport. Aside from last year’s Blue Mountain Peak hike, I’ve not seen trails as beautiful as this one was (yet). Thus, despite the obvious lack of amenities that comes with seeking an uncommercialized treasure, I rate the experience five stars, ☆☆☆☆☆. I couldn’t ask for a better day on the trails with all of these views for JM$1400, nearly 20,000 pedometer steps and unique lifelong memories with friends.
Two important tips for anyone interested in taking public transport to Kwame Falls:
- We learnt that only three drivers run taxi to and from this community, so take a number for the driver who carried you to Robin’s Bay or tell him what time you’ll be ready to leave so you can have transport security in the evening. Mind you, everything worked out quite fine for us but better safe than sorry.
- While I’m a staunch defender of only taking licensed red-plate taxis, Robin’s Bay-Annotto Bay isn’t a licenced Transport Authority route due to the small community size so only expect white-plate ‘robot‘ taxis. When in Rome, do what the Romans do.
There are other ways to experience Kwame Falls too! Consider taking a guided hike from River Lodge or Strawberry Fields Together as Jhunelle from simplylocal.life did, or reduce your hike time to 20 minutes with a boat ride and start from the black sand beach instead. These options are costlier however.
Thanks for reading! ‘Til next time. ✌🏽
2022 Update & Travel Advisory: There has been several recent cases of robberies at gunpoint by hoodlums at Kwame Falls. Avoid traveling to this destination in small groups at all costs.