If you're lucky enough to venture to Jamaica's east coast, make sure you don’t miss Reach Falls. Located off the fishing village of Manchioneal, everything about this off-the-beaten path waterfall park is a delight. From the mountainous road leading to it—the falls are tucked amid the John Crow peaks—the jade-colored cascading waters and various pools, the 30-feet high waterfalls and the surrounding verdant rain forest, Reach Falls is a veritable paradise. You'll want a waterproof camera to capture the natural splendor. There are onsite local guides who will be happy to help you spelunk your way across the various swimming holes and levels, and show you the best spots. Or you can explore it solo. Because of its distance from tourism spots, there are no crowds, no harassment. Just an entrance fee to your very own Garden of Eden. Onsite changing rooms are available as you exit, by the parking lot. Small fun fact: the falls appear in the Tom Cruise movie Cocktail.
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Hiking the lower pools at Reach Falls with Rasta Renny
In March of 2012 we stayed at Zion Country Eco Beach Cabins in Portland Parish Jamaica, in part due to their commitment to sustainable tourism. The proprietor Free-I is a respected member of the community and is able to connect guests with local resources and guides. The tours at nearby Reach Falls recently became government-regulated, and outside guides were hired in lieu of the local Rastafarian community who have traditionally taken visitors to the magnificent main falls. Free-I eschews the regulated tours and instead directs guests to Renny, who with great wisdom and wit led us down a sloping path in a banana plantation to an aquamarine creek... which became a river... which led to pool after perfect pool below the falls. We hiked and played in the water all morning, jumping off rock faces into deep pools and swimming behind small falls to find hidden caves. Eventually we reached the "back door" of the main falls, and were able to see them from our vantage point outside the regulated zone. We did get some nice photos of the falls (a few of tourists with puzzled "how did you get there?!" looks on their faces) but after a brief respite we were happy to turn around and head back downstream with Renny!