Konoko Falls is a tourist attraction nestled in the hilly outskirts of popular resort town Ocho Rios. The Arawakan word for rainforest, konoko, lends its name to this 600-feet cascading waterfall and garden, formerly known as the Mahoe Falls and Coyaba Gardens; coyaba is also an Arawakan word meaning heaven. Both names are fitting, even more so given that Taino artefacts have been found here, suggesting that the area was once a settlement.
The Tainos are a group of indigenous people in the Greater Antilles who were largely wiped out by diseases, cruel games and enslavement with the coming of the Europeans to the Caribbean in the 15th and 16th centuries. It’s not hard to see why the Tainos chose here given the serenity and abundance of fresh water. The artefacts found on-site along with very realistic replicas from the Tainos and subsequent ethnic groups, namely the Spanish, British and West Africans, have been added to a museum which form part of the attraction at Konoko Falls.
Before we get into the article, please subscribe for more adventures from Elle.
Also, please check out my first travel guide on Amazon called ‘SIGHTSEE JAMAICA.’
Konoko Falls is easily accessible from Kingston via the North-South Edward Seaga Highway, although the toll to drive this route is rather expensive. After entering Ocho Rios, a right turn at the major intersection takes you to Milford Road A3. The first right turn off Milford takes you to Shaw Park Road, and it’s a rather lonely winding drive for the next few minutes but Konoko keeps you on track with arrows at every fork along the narrow mountain road. Trust their arrows and signs as the Google Maps map marker is slightly erroneous, not unusual for Jamaican destinations.
They’re open every day of the week from 8:30am to 4:30pm. Admission is JMD$1,500 and $1,000 per Jamaican adult and child respectively, while non-locals pay a corresponding US$20.00 and $10.00. The property has a wide array of facilities including a petting zoo, botanical garden, koi pond, museum, mini-zoo, aviary, restaurant, grill, souvenir shop, and of course amenities like clean restrooms and changing rooms since this is a paid tourist attraction, not at all uncommercialized my usual waterfall adventures. Guided tours are available but my family and I, like most couples and small groups, opted to explore at our own leisure and I’m glad we did. The tours I encountered appeared rushed, but it would have been nice to have the properties of the various plants in the garden explained to us city dwellers. NB- Outside food isn’t allowed.
The waterfall has a staircase built alongside it so you can walk to the bottom and get back to the top by climbing the falls instead, like we did.
Similar to Dunn’s River Falls, this waterfall is made up of several cascades hewn from limestone rock, the power of the river carving out a picturesque path after several centuries. How can one not feel happy in a place like this? I’ve been asked before “don’t you ever get tired of “bush” and waterfalls? Aren’t they all the same?” NO! No, they are not. Every waterfall I’ve visited is unique in its own way.
This waterfall has the advantage of a smaller crowd. Daisy chains of tourists holding hands is common sight at Dunn’s but here, we were actually alone at the waterfall and its lower pools for about an hour. When I climbed the waterfall, it was my brother and I on our own scrambling to the top, a rather quick and easy feat. It took about 10 minutes to climb from start to finish. I recommend water-shoes but barefoot is fine too.
Isn’t this place divine? Coyaba probably suited it better, from the waterfall, minimal edits which have been made to make it a safe and appealing destination, the rich untouched jungle-like foliage and the bursts of colour in between from the numerous tropical flowers including heliconias, hibiscuses and bird of paradise.
Exploring the Rest of the Grounds
I mentioned the waterfall first because that’s the main attraction, however we actually checked out these attractions first given the layout of the property. These are closer to the parking lot and ticket office.
1) The Museum
We took a quick self-guided tour through the museum and re-acquainted ourselves with Jamaica’s history which has a very cruel past for not just the Tainos, but also for my African ancestors. I don’t take it for granted how far my people have come and that people with my skin colour can now vote, own property, have an identity and even explore the natural beauty of this country as tourists and free people.
2) The Mini-Zoo
They have a crocodile, iguanas, snakes including the Jamaican boa constrictor, tortoises, Jamaican sliders, budgerigars, and the star of the show: the macaws. These macaws are very friendly and well-trained, easily moving from their trainers’ arms to yours, in my case without invitation! 😂 You can also feed the budgies for US$1 or JM$100.
3) The Botanical Garden & Koi Pond
Under the shade of blue mahoe, cedar and banyan trees, admire the beautiful plants, a pond filled with koi, carp, mullet and snapper, and take in the “Jamaica corner”. It’s a beautiful spot with colourful signs displaying our popular phrases alongside our medicinal plants, including marijuana, but someone seems to have uprooted that particular plant (I wonder why).
Ysassis Lookout Point
Ysassis Lookout Point gives a peekaboo view across the jungle out to the Ocho Rios harbour, and is so-called because this is allegedly the site where Cristóbal Arnaldo Isassi, Jamaica’s last Spanish governor, hid out for two years following the island’s 1655 British capture. Isassi organized Spanish soldiers and guerrillas, launching attacks on the British in 1657 near Dunn’s River Falls, and again in 1658 from a hastily built fort on Rio Nuevo, but was defeated both times. By 1660, Isassi was forced to flee to Cuba and Spain never made another attempt to retake Jamaica.
Dining at Oceans on the Ridge
Entirely unrelated to Konoko Falls is this gem where I took my family afterwards to conclude their birthday treat (it’s so expensive to have my mother and brother’s birthday in the same week, 2 weeks after Christmas, lol). The road to get here was horrendous and the sign is so poorly placed, I missed the turn. Jhunelle from simplylocal.life came to the rescue though with a quick phonecall; in fact she’s also the reason I know this place exists, and I thought it just perfect to have dinner here since it’s only minutes away from Konoko Falls. Read her blog post about Oceans on the Ridge here.
Oceans is located on a right turn from the same fork which leads to Konoko, except the left turn is the one to Konoko. You won’t see the sign until you’ve actually made the turn but I guess that reassures you’re on the correct path. The view is absolutely divine and you’ll likely be one of the few, if not the only diner in this breezy rustic almost al fresco restaurant. Their menu consists of mainly local cuisine like curry goat, steamed fish, oxtail, baked potato and rice and peas, alongside classics such as wings, burgers and fries. I had their soup of the day for appetizer, and curry goat with rice and peas for main course. My brother had their signature burger and fries and enjoyed it very much. Food was only priced in US$, something which always ticks me off, so ask for the exchange rate.
For me, the view was definitely the star of the show.
- View: 5/5
- Service: 4.5/5
- Taste: 3/5
- Presentation: 3.5/5
- Quantity for Cost: 3.5/5
Ocho Rios is certainly a charming town with lots to do– in fact I’ve only scratched the surface. Konoko Falls gets full stars from my book, ☆☆☆☆☆ if you couldn’t already tell. I LOVE the place. I’d go again in a heartbeat. Dunn’s River Falls is much larger, equally as stunning and allows outside food to save you from exorbitant tourist food prices, but Konoko has the appeal of being less crowded. The entire town is crowded though– this is the vacation capital of Jamaica next to Montego Bay.
Where’s your favourite place in Ocho Rios?
Check out these other waterfalls.
Also, see my complete guide to ALL the waterfalls in Jamaica.
‘Til next time. ✌🏽