Am I correct in thinking that there is a alternative path at the side of the falls that you can walk up if you wish to and is it possible to enter the rock pools along the way if you want to cool down, and are the alternative steps up the falls not quite so busy, as i have heard that the guides rush you along and that you all hold hands and sort of drag one another up, is this true? Any help would be great thankyou. I have also read some awful reviews about the market at the top of the falls, that you will be harrased etc.
Yes there is a walk way that parallels the Falls. It is a walk way and you do not go into the water. My brother and his wife watched my wife and I climb the falls in October. There are few places along the way that you can get access to and from the water. This is the same walk way that you walk down to get to the bottom of the falls. There are usually people along the railings watching others walk up the falls.
You do hold hands and walk up the falls. I personally found that the pace was far too slow. My wife and I went ahead of the group and waited for the group to catch up at the top. If you are in reasonable shape and do not have a problem walking or with balance, the falls should be pretty easy for you. I'm 42 and my wife is "a few" years older and neither of us are by no means atheletes and we had no problem.
One hint: Walk on the rocks that have horizontal marks on them. These are the ones they scrub with an iron brush to make them less slippery.
The market at the top of the falls has a number of vendors that will want you to purchase their wares. Usually a simple, "No thank you mon" is all that's needed to show you are not interested.
P.S. Remember to tip the guide on the falls. They accept US currency. Wet or dry.
Agree to everything Mike said, except the market. The vendors did NOT accept "no thank you mon." Not even a very firm "NO!" In fact, they followed some people out to our bus. A couple we were with on the tour said a vendor asked the husband's name, carved it into a figurine and then told him he owed him $20 for it. The husband refused to pay because he did not ask for it. Another vendor put a similar figurine in my husband's hand and asked him how much money he had. (He said none, which wasn't a lie. I had it because he climbed the falls.) Vendor became very irrate and verbally abusive. The marketplace was without a doubt, horrific. Completely overshadowed the beauty of the falls for us.
However, one tip: Our bus driver told us the only way to exit the falls was to go through the marketplace. IT IS NOT!!! You can walk up the same way you walk down. Unfortunately, we didn't know that until we got out of the marketplace and saw where it led.
I also agree with the information from Mike, the walk up was definately on the slow side. In fact our son just split apart from our group and also went up on his own.
I wouldn't worry that you have to go up at a fast pace. Enjoy the falls, they are worth seeing, but unfortunate that the vendors there are a bit pushy, I just kept on walking.
I had some difficulty on the walk up the falls. First of all I am on the short side (5') and had problems with some of the large steps. The guides want the chains to be male, female, male, etc. I had a woman next to me and an elderly man behind me. The woman kept breaking the chain leaving me to basically crawl up the falls. It was also very slippery. I finally got off at the first exit. The vendors were horrible -- in fact I have no desire to go back to Jamacia at all.
Also agree with Mike mostly. I found the vendors also very aggressive - I always told them my wife had all the money (little lie - no wife). I walked up on the dry side because I'd heard of people in the water seeing brown "logs" flowing down the river - who knows who's "using" that river upstream. I contracted hepatitis once from bad water and don't want to risk it again....
The Falls is beautiful and well worth the time to climb. Last time we went, we avoided the crowds by going later in the day by cab. The climb can be a little difficult in spots, but more due to slickness of the rocks. You just have to be careful.
The trick with the shops, is to just keep moving. Plan on doing your shopping in town, and just don't stop. A polite "No, thank you." will only work if you keep moving. Don't browse, just walk. One advantage to the group, is the comfort of having others around. I was not aware of a second way out either, but we will definitely take it next time.
The view from the paved walkway with stairs leading up or down depending on if you are on a bus tour or boat tour is beautiful. The water tends to be cold and the rocks can be slippery, but going in a group can be a lot of fun too. If you walk down or up, I don't remember any lookouts where you could gain entry to spots for getting wet. However, you can splash in the water at the bottom as it empties into the sea. The beach was clean with a few picnic tables for relaxing. Although I have heard you could be approached to make some illegal purchases on the beach, this did not happen to us. It is too bad the marketplace vendors tend to be so aggressive and rude. If they were more pleasant, they would probably get more business. I was not aware of another path back to the parking lot as I did walk up and down the stairs and it led us right through the marketplace.
Ken--we did say "No" and kept walking. We did not browse. We we actualy walking rather quickly, head looking straight ahead. Basically , we were "on a mission" since the tour was late as it was and we felt me might miss the boat. They followed us. I would say that maybe we are easy marks, but we heard this over and over again about the vendors at the falls.
While the shopkeepers at Soni were bad, they never left the doorway to their shops.
Nana--I did the stairs. Hubby climbed the falls. Where I met him at the top the road forked---one way to the marketplace, the other place back to the path we came in on. Had we taken the other fork to the path, and walked up hill, we would have ended up where the path that exits the marketplace meets the entrance way. (On the way in, we had no idea where the other path led since our guide led us right down.) Nothing is marked, so you wouldn't know unless someone told you--another tourist, because the workers/guides won't tell you about the non-marketplace path.
I have to agree with each person's comments. There is a walkway that follows the falls. About half way up is an access for people to get in or out if they've had enough climbing. You can climb in and take pictures. If you don't have a disposable waterproof one, use a regular disposable camera in a ziplock baggie. Don't take your good camera. You'll be amazed at how many people will take regular cameras in the water. If you're unsure of doing the climb in the water, you can try entering the falls 1/2 way up and finishing the climb to the top. It's easier than the beginning of the falls.
I also found that holding hands on the way up was slow paced but also dangerous. Trying to hang on to the person in front would make you slip. I broke away from the chain. It's much easier if you climb separately or with just one other person, that way you can use at least one hand to climb. And you can stop when you want and take pictures.