Spread the niceness

Sunning Hill seems like a quiet farming community in the southeastern parish of St. Thomas, Jamaica. It has 2 major rivers flowing through it― the Plantain Garden River and the Running River. A section of the Running River has been dubbed ‘Unruly River’, affectionately referring to a favourite hangout spot for the community’s famous native, dancehall artiste Popcaan.

Unruly River: Sunning Hill, St. Thomas, Jamaica

A group of friends and I parked beside a fenced field of young pineapples, and unloaded containers carrying food and kitchenware. There was a fork in the unpaved road, with the path closer to the river looking a bit bushy, so we trekked upwards over a small hill for roughly 5 minutes before navigating through knee-high, stone-lined water. It was later revealed that the seemingly-overgrown route to the right was indeed the easier choice at the time. We eyed a shady spot on the riverbank, near a rope swing amongst hanging tree vines.

The journey to St. Thomas may be very slow and bumpy during the ongoing construction of the South Coastal highway leg from Kingston to St. Thomas, slated to be completed in summer 2023

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Unruly River has multiple swimmable spots of varying depths; your personal experience and aesthetic really depends on the section you settle at. Most of the Unruly River areas we saw was just a steady-flowing stream, but some sections may have small waterfalls rushing over rock beds. Independent persons and groups could secure different areas of the river without it feeling crowded.

Its clear water reflects a forest green hue of the surrounding foliage. A variety of trees harbour chirping birds and flittering insects, some of which I found myself admiring in still moments. The riverbed is mostly lined with sizeable stones and beds of fallen leaves from the overhead canopies. Unruly River has a certain stillness to me, which may make it a lovely choice for a solo outing, but its community setting also makes it suitable for a laidback trip with friends. On this trip a riverside cookout, seasoned with good vibes, was the order of the day.

Why is it called Unruly River?

The word ‘unruly’ goes hand-in-hand with dancehall artiste Popcaan. Besides the fact that it may be considered a spot-on description for his music and antics, it is also the name of his entertainment camp. ‘Unruly’ is thus often used to refer to him “the Unruly Boss”, plus his associated brands, fans and supporters.

Unruly River has reportedly been one of Popcaan’s favourite places to unwind ever since high school, and he still spends time there when in Jamaica. He has credited Unruly River with having a significant role in inspiring many of his hit and unreleased songs. Upon visiting the river you may spot light posts, rocks, and structures adorned with the expression.

How to Find Unruly River

  • The 2nd exit of the Morant Bay roundabout (from Kingston) leads into Morant Bay town.
  • Continue on the main road until you reach an intersection with a gas station in the Port Morant community.
  • Continue along that route until you see a primary school on the right side of a fork.
  • Take the left at the fork into the Airy Castle community until you reach another fork.
  • The entrance to Sunning Hill is a left at a fork in the road; the alternative right connects to the Bath community.
  • Follow the straight road through the community, past fields and small shops, to an unpaved dirt path by small houses.
  • There is another fork in the road; either path will lead to the river.
  • The upward left route requires more walking effort, but the right route is more likely to be overgrown with grass.

Unruly River for Tourists?

With farming being Sunning Hill community’s most popular profession, many residents sell agricultural products in the area. It has been claimed that the community vendors have bigger paydays whenever Popcaan visits Unruly River with friends, thanks to purchases of cookout supplies and produce. The potential for Unruly River to become a tourist attraction was cited after a Member of Parliament met with the St. Thomas superstar.

Travel Tip: Patronize the community shops and stalls where able


It will be interesting to see how Unruly River develops, especially after the completion of the large-scale road projects. I have been traveling and blogging long enough to see community oases become trending attractions; I have mixed feelings about it. On 1 hand, more awareness leads to more financial opportunities for community members which is a big positive. It also often deducts the serenity and natural beauty when more human elements (including litter) are added. Reggae Falls (St. Thomas), Blue Lagoon (Portland), Falling Edge Falls (St. Andrew), are a few examples I’ve experienced this. What do you think about Unruly River becoming a tourist attraction??? Let me know in the comments.