One of the great perks of working in the travel industry is to be able to occasionally travel to countries you wouldn’t necessarily choose to travel to. For me, Jamaica was one of them. I was lucky enough to spend a week travelling the island and sampling different hotels.
I started my adventure by flying out from Gatwick to Montego Bay with Virgin Atlantic. Just a 9-hour flight saw us leave a rainy UK and arrive to a balmy 30 degrees and a greeting of ‘Welcome Home’ from everyone we met. We were met by our guide and driver and whisked off to the hustle and bustle tourist resort Montego Bay. Driving through Jamaica’s streets, I loved the colours of the buildings and people going about their day to day. As Montego Bay is a cruise port you can find Starbucks, Margaritaville bar and restaurant and lots of bars, so although it still felt like the Caribbean it was nice to have the option to venture out of the hotel.
We spent our first 2 nights staying at the beautiful Secrets St James Montego Bay, just 15 minutes from the airport. Immediately you’re drawn into a peaceful, sophisticated paradise. The seafront location and colonial décor with contemporary touches is an adults-only dream. With 7 a la carte gourmet restaurants, a buffet, a grill and a café including 24-hour dining at Coco Café, you were never short of places to sample the food. You could even take advantage of the complimentary 24-hour room service if you fancied. There was no all-inclusive band to wear either which I really liked. Our beautiful room included a whirlpool bath, separate shower, bathrobes and slippers, TV speakers in the bathroom and shutters opening up to the room so you can sit in your jacuzzi, glass of bubbles in hand and watch a movie. We enjoyed premium drinks throughout and the on-site nightclub kept going until the small hours with the entertainment team on hand to keep the energy high.
For families there is the Sunscape Hotel just 5 minutes up the road. This hotel features 6 dining options, kid’s menus, 24-hour dining, an on-site waterpark, Explorer’s Club for kids and Core Teen Club.
For yoga/spa lovers who are looking for a boutique resort, then the Zoetry Montego Bay is for you. With 49 beautiful rooms, this ultra-luxurious hotel offering a beach front sanctuary. You can enjoy organic and healthy dining, a 20-minute complimentary spa treatment, 24 hours private in-suite dining, BVLGARI full size toiletries and award-winning wine collections.
Our second day had us take a 1 hour and 30 minutes transfer to Ocho Rios and a day at Mystic Mountain and Dunns River Falls. The roads from Montego Bay to Ocho are similar to those back in the UK, so we enjoyed a comfortable journey on good quality dual-carriageways. I’d recommend stopping for a Devon House Ice-Scream on the way! We did Mystic Mountain first - a theme-park located within a real tropical rainforest. We rocketed through the jungle at high speed on a bobsled, had a zipline tour through the trees and took in the beautiful scenery high above on the Sky Explorer chair lift. We then had lunch with breathtakingly beautiful views from the restaurant overlooking Ocho Rios, before moving on to Dunns River Falls for a truly exhilarating experience. At a staggering 180 feet high and 600 feet in length, this isn’t for the faint hearted. We joined hands with our group and zigzagged our way up the falls. For those wanting a less physical experience you can climb the stairs alongside the falls. You have a guide and a photographer that makes the journey with you, so there’s plenty of funny footage and photographs to keep.
Our next 2 nights were spent at Breathless Montego Bay. This was my favourite resort of the whole trip. We enjoyed unlimited access to Secrets St James/Wild Orchid facilities, pool parties, silent discos, fashion shows, reservation free al a carte dining and premium drinks, to mention a few! The hotel is ultra-modern. All suites boast chic design and state of the art technology, including free Wi-Fi and in-room tablets. When I walked out on to my balcony (which featured a sofa and double jacuzzi!) the hairs on my arms stood on end. This hotel has a real energy and if you’re looking for the best of both worlds, then I strongly recommend Breathless. You can enjoy the tranquillity of Secrets and have the vibrancy of Breathless. The 3 hotels are joined by a bridge so everything is on your doorstep.
The last part of our stay had us staying at Beaches Negril and Sandals South Coast. Beaches is located on the widest stretch of Negril’s 7 miles of white-sand beach. It features Pirates Island Water Park with 8 slides, a lazy river and Caribbean Adventure with Sesame Street which includes daily character appearances, parades and stage shows - but you definitely don’t need to be a kid to enjoy them all! Beaches Negril has been voted “Jamaica’s Leading All Inclusive Family Resort” 4 years in a row and the Beaches Resorts has been voted the “Worlds Leading All Inclusive Family Resort Brand” 20 years in a row. The hotel also features scuba and water sports, unlimited land sports, beach parties, xBox play lounge and teen nightclub, all set in beautiful manicured surroundings and a stunning beachfront location. We enjoyed the most incredible sunsets every night too.
And lastly but by no means least we headed to Sandals South Coast for 1 night. Wow! A European-style Beach Resort and Spa. You’ll discover old Jamaica on the lush and untouched south coast within 500 acre of wilderness preserve. Each room overlooks the 2-mile powder white beach and the resort boasts 9 gourmet restaurants, 7 bars and with Sandals “Island Routes” your excursions are all included, you just need to pre-book them. The dining is second to none, from traditional Jamaican Jerk to exotic Pan Asian and a gorgeous French patisseries. They even have over-water bungalows with butler service!
I personally would never have booked Jamaica as a holiday destination until I came, but how wrong I was. The people are so friendly and I felt safe the whole time. The lush green mountain ranges are beautiful and the sea is so warm. Nothing is too much trouble for the hotel staff. I even lifted my suitcase in one of the hotels’ receptions and was told “No boss lady, we don’t do things like that here! We do all the lifting.” Nobody expected a tip - it was all done from the heart and that really comes across. Some of the best customer service I have experienced anywhere in the world and I’m pleased to say that Jamaica is now right at the top of my places to go back to.