No, we didn’t take our three year old white water rafting, even though that is what comes to mind when we talk about this excursion and everyone’s jaw drops to the floor.
Actually, this is better. This is a Caribbean escape, bamboo rafting under a canopy of trees on a warm river made of silk with no distractions.
Bamboo River Rafting on the Martha Brae River was our favorite excursion when we stopped in Falmouth, Jamaica during our Disney Cruise on the Disney Fantasy.
This article has everything you need to know to have your own amazing family adventure in Jamaica!
River Rafting on the Martha Brae
► Ranking: #cleandiaper
Disney Fantasy Cruise Ship
Port Stop: Falmouth, Jamaica
Excursion: Rafting on the Martha Brae
What is the Martha Brae?
The Martha Brae is the main river in the city of Falmouth, Jamaica. It is 20 miles long, and technically located in Trelawny Parish on the north coast of Jamaica. It’s approximately 6 miles south of Falmouth.
What is River Rafting in Jamaica?
It’s leisurely island rafting on a 30 foot bamboo boat led by a personalized guide who teaches you one on one about the local foliage, wildlife, geology and history of Falmouth, Jamaica.
It’s swimming alongside the raft, laughing, playing, and soaking in the sun for two hours.
This is Rafting on the Martha Brae.
It’s being shaded by towering trees with branches that reach across the river to form a canopy of lush vegetation.
It’s not having a care in the world.
It’s island life.
How to Book a Martha Brae River Guide
- Directly through your Cruise Line
- Directly through Martha Brae
- Third Party Booking Sites like Trip Advisor
We booked directly through Martha Brae Rafting Village, soley because Disney wouldn’t accept liability for children under the age of 5 on this excursion. In fact, Martha Brae Rafting even allows infants, so you are better off booking directly if this dynamic represents your family.
However, we recommend bringing your own infant life vest. We’ve found most places don’t have sizes that fit smaller children, and they aren’t in the best condition either.
This life vest is perfect for children who weigh less than 30 pounds and will rotate them so they float face up.
If you do opt to book directly through your Cruise Line, obviously you won’t have to worry about anything. They’ll work directly with the rafting company for any changes, and arrange pick up times and locations. However, because we were on the same cruise as everyone else who booked this excursion, we reaped all the same benefits. More on that later.
Third party sites are frequently more expensive, require up front payment, and don’t offer any refund if plans get cancelled. However, when it comes to rafting on the Martha Brae, Trip Advisor actually offers the best deal!
How Much Does it Cost to Go River Rafting on the Martha Brae?
Like we just mentioned, it depends on who you book through.
We paid $65 per adult and $45 for each child over the age of 4, which saved us approximately $32 over booking through Disney.
On a cruise you pay in advance, whereas we didn’t pay until we arrived at the dock.
At the time of this publication, Trip Advisor is offering rates at $40 per adult and $30 for children over the age of 4. Keep in mind these rates fluctuate depending on dates and time of year. Trip Advisor offers options to pay upfront or later.
For our trip actually ended up with all the other Disney cruisers intent on Rafting on the Martha Brae. We just paid a lot less! The tour was aware of our port and itinerary changes due to a Hurricane and emailed us the updated itinerary without any effort on our part. We got all the same perks for less money!
All we did was reach out to the Martha Brae Rafting Company in advance and reserve our spots.
How Long is the Excursion?
From start to finish, this excursion lasts roughly 3 hours.
The bus ride each way is approximate 20-30 minutes, and the rafting trip lasts between one and half to two hours depending on your guide.
Each guide offers a different and unique experience down the river in conjunction with the passengers they are carrying. We we loved asking questions, and getting a hands on schooling experience with each answer.
Others who docked after us, floated swiftly by us, and didn’t seem to enjoy their ride nearly as much. It was a little humorous and sad to see the looks on their faces as they went past. They definitely didn’t catch the island vibe (in fact, you might hear the suffering of some of the people and children during our YouTube video above).
The return bus will not head back to the dock until all the passengers are accounted for.
Getting to the Martha Brae Dock
We were picked up from the cruise dock in Falmouth, Jamaica directly by the rafting company.
The dock in Falmouth is a full outdoor shopping center full of stores, handmade wares, live music and restaurants. Including, perhaps, the last known Quizno’s in the modern world. We didn’t have much time to look around before our excursion, but because it was short we knew we’d have time on the tail end.
We made our way to the bus loading zone at the end of the shopping corridor to board the bus. We rode in air conditioned luxury to the loading pier.
The drive itself was approximately 20 minutes. Along the way, our driver, Paul, and our guide, Taneisha, gave us historical, geographical and cultural information about the island and each area we passed through as we drove to the pier.
What Else is Included in River Rafting on the Martha Brae?
This was a super informative and interesting part of the trip.
We were able to view local homes and learn about the process of building homes in Jamaican culture. Jamaicans frown upon borrowing credit and having debt. Instead they start with a small concrete home, and build on it room by room as their family grows. In a few years, a once shanty concrete room is now a palace.
We drove by the school where Usain Bolt attended and started his running career to earn the title “The Fastest Man in the World”.
We even learned a few Jamaican words and phrases before heading down the Martha Brae.
At the Port
Once we arrived at the port, we were all issued life vests and separated into two and three person groups according to our families or parties.
While waiting we enjoyed a non-alcoholic tropical fruit punch, and the beautiful scenery that was overflowing with dense vegetation spurred on by the heat and humidity of the Jamaican habitat, tropical sun, and abundant Martha Brae River.
The Martha Brae River itself winded through the waiting area, and the tree branches formed halos of shade over the river.
Getting on the Raft
Docking was seamless with an operator at the helm quickly dictating the line up and loading each group onto the rafts.
The rafts themselves are built by each individual guide from fresh bamboo that is cut, stripped, and fastened together.
A singular 30 foot bamboo pole helps them steer and guide the raft down the river and around the turns and bends.
The guides each take one to three trips down the Martha Brae River a day, depending upon the season, and the rafts last 6-9 months before the guides have to build a new one.
How Many People Can Fit on a Raft?
Each raft carries a minimum of two people, and can carry up to four people, depending on size. Lest your worried about weight or size, you need not be. I traveled 4.5 months pregnant and with the exception of being a little clumsy did just fine.
Gabriel took the trip with Pie and their guide Clay, and I loaded directly after him with Widmore and Eclair. Our raft was led by Anderson.
Worldschooling on the Martha Brae
The first part of the journey is a bit swifter and we were assisted by our guide in pointing out animals, wildlife, flowers and types of trees. We even got to see the types of the trees that the rafts are made from growing on the edge of the river.
We learned about shy leaves, and were able to touch them and watch them close up with just the slightest touch!
The kids got to try out steering and navigating the rafts, and of course we learned all about making them.
We learned how much of a part the Martha Brae influences what grows in Falmouth and how the locals survive off the river.
Swimming in the Martha Brae River
It wasn’t five minutes before Eclair was begging to get in the water, and so our guide quickly maneuvered to the calmer, deeper parts of the water so we could jump off the raft and squeal in delight.
It was also at this time we caught up with Gabriel and for the rest of the journey rafting on the Martha Brae, we were side by by side.
Martha Brae Souvenirs and Mementos
Along the way, local entrepreneurs ran along the rivers edge and sold their wares and crafts.
We brought home a miniature Martha Brae Bamboo Raft complete with seats that open and close. Eclair loved playing with it in the water, loading it with figs and pretending she was their guide.
The guides also sold cups and maracas from gourds that grew alongside the river, and we purchased a hand carved mug as a souvenir.
When Rafting on the Martha Brae ended we had the opportunity to purchase professional photos of our family on the raft with our guide. At just $10 a piece, we couldn’t pass up the cute memento.
What Should you Bring?
Just a swimsuit and a few extra dollars.
If you have little ones, you might want to consider a few snacks for the bus ride, though if you come off a cruise you could alternatively hit the buffet prior to the excursion to ensure a full belly!
And, as we mentioned earlier, Martha Brae Rafting provides life vests but we recommend bringing one for smaller children/infants that may not fit a traditional standard size.
► For Kids: This is one of the most relaxing ways Mom and Dad can spend the day in Jamaica while the kids are entertained in the water. We all loved learning about the characteristics of the land, and the kids enjoyed the authenticity of swimming in the local rivers and seeing the friendly faces of merchants and passerbys.
Bathrooms are found at both the beginning and end of the trip.
Because this was a shorter excursion, we had plenty of time to look around the dock after our rafting trip. We purchased rum cakes, ate some jerk chicken at the Spice Kitchen and Bar, and had Pie’s hair braided! It was a perfect Caribbean day!
► What We Learned: This was an amazing worldschooling trip. We learned about the life of a rafting guide, how locals live, the flora and fauna and wildlife, and so much more (see above)!
Have you ever been rafting? When we lived in Oregon we would go white water rafting on the Deschutes River every summer! This is definitely a different experience!