A Natural State of Bliss

Thirteen family members from three generations meet up in Ocho Rios for a memorable vacation.
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Dunn's River Falls, Ocho Rios, Jamaica
ASCENDING THE FALLS: Hike to the top of Dunn's River Falls, then stand under the cascading water and slide down the slick rocks.

It's not easy to convince 13 members of your extended family to climb up a waterfall. "Yes," I told my brother Jim, "we will get wet," and, "yes," I advised my sister Fawn, "exchange those sandals for more sturdy water shoes."

Yet there we were walking hand-in-hand up Dunn's River Falls in Ocho Rios, Jamaica. Terraced like the tiers of a wedding cake, with frothy water the color of light blue frosting tumbling down, Dunn's River Falls rises 600 feet high. As the water rushed past our ankles, we gingerly ambled up, rock by rock, aided by our guide, Warren. Every so often, my 78-year-old father or nine-year-old daughter almost lost their footing and fell into the water, but Warren swept down with a helping hand to propel them upward. When we finally made it to the top an hour later, we slid down smooth rocks, took showers under an arc of water, and thumped our chests thanking Warren for his keen navigation skills.

Memorable moments like this explain why I return to Jamaica more often than any other island in the Caribbean. Indeed, when my family decided to vacation together this past February, my father, step-mom, sister, and brother unanimously agreed on a return trip to Jamaica. With its lush mountainous interior, miles of uninterrupted sand, and blend of juicy fruit and spicy meat, it offers the perfect antidote to those long, gray northeast winters. Plus, the kind and passionate people of this country make you feel most welcome. On an island the size of Jamaica, the third largest in the Caribbean, you'll no doubt come across folks who sell their wares far too aggressively, but the majority of locals are extremely hospitable and proud to show off their country.

All-inclusive resorts, where guests only need to leave the premises to catch their return flights, might make the country more appealing to families, but unfortunately they limit the cultural interaction. To fully experience Jamaica, you must find your own Warren, someone to guide you up a waterfall. That's only possible if you venture outside the walls of the resort to partake in one of the country's countless adventures. You'll still have plenty of time afterwards to soak up the sun, sift your toes through the white sand, and snorkel with the kids.

Published: 30 Apr 2008 | Last Updated: 15 Sep 2010
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication
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