Coyaba River Gardens & Museum
Visit the small but beautiful 25 acre botanical garden. Stop by the museum which displays pre-Columbian artifacts from the Taino/Arawak cultures of Jamaica’s first inhabitants.
Dunn’s River Falls is known around the world. But the locals in Ocho Rios know Coyaba Gardens is the place to go when it’s time to get back to nature, and maybe climb a waterfall, too.
Coyaba means paradise in the language of Jamaica’s first people, and this is as close to the Garden of Eden as you can get.
The heart of the gardens is the Milford River, which rises above the property and runs all the way through. Its limestone base constantly purifies the water, giving us a perfectly clear view into the small pools, ponds, and peaceful spots where koi, snapper, and turtles play.
We’re shielded from the hot Jamaican sun by a canopy of almond trees, avocado trees (*pears* to Jamaicans), giant cedars and more, as we follow the stone-cut waterways that define and shape the grounds, and feed the verdant vegetation thriving along the way.
Now the path lifts us up to Yassi’s Lookout Point and we take in a breathtaking view of the bay. It’s easy to see from here that a cruise ship is in town, and that means the famous falls will be busy. But here in Coyaba, we feel like we’ve got the whole place to ourselves.
Speaking of falls… tucked deep in the gardens are the Mahoe Falls, which Simon Stuart, Coyaba’s owner, invites us to climb. They’re not as big as their Dunn’s River cousin, but they’re just as beautiful, and we’re told you don’t need a guide. But you should have a bathing suit! With Simon leading the way, we gamely kick off our sneakers and cross a section of the falls.
Limestone is constantly growing, says Simon, and that explains the roundish “mushroom” cap look to the falls’ rocks. And it doesn’t get slimy like some underwater rocks do – so it offers a good foot grip.
The gardens were once part of the Shaw Park Estate, home to the first hotel in Ocho Rios back in 1923. Today a small museum tells the history of the grounds, from its first inhabitants, the Taino and Arawak, through to its Spanish and English colonial settlers.