I just got back from Jamaica, a few weeks ago, and want to share this gorgeous destination with you in my last destination spotlight of this series.
Jamaica is a very large Island in the Caribbean with rich culture and heritage. From the moment you arrive in Montego Bay, you will begin to experience the friendliness and laid back nature of the locals. You will hear "No problem, mon" and "No worries, mon" throughout your stay and will learn to leave the stress at home and enjoy the moment, as you are in paradise. While in Jamaica, be sure to sample their famous Jamaican Rum, Blue Mountain Coffee and Jerk Chicken. In this blog I will touch on the 3 main tourist areas known as Montego Bay, Ocho Rios and Negril.
There are two airports on the island, one in Montego Bay and one in Kingston, the capital. Which airport you fly into will depend on the area you are traveling to. However, most of my clients fly into Montego Bay. Once you arrive at the airport you will need to clear customs and immigration and then collect your bags. A passport is required to travel to Jamaica and U.S. citizens do not need a Visa.
There is a VIP service available at both airports, for a fee, called Club MoBay (Montego Bay airport) and Club Kingston (Kingston airport). This service is offered on arrival and departure and can be purchased together or individually. You can purchase this service in advance or upon arrival but I recommend purchasing in advance to save you time in destination. On arrival, this service begins with a meet and greet upon disembarking the plane and fast tracks you through customs and immigration. Once complete and you have collected your bags, you are escorted to the Club MoBay lounge where you can enjoy WiFi, snacks and beverages while you wait for your resort ground transfer.
On your departure, you get fast-track privileges through security and immigration, then you are directed to the private Club lounge. In the lounge, you can enjoy complimentary beverages (alcoholic and nonalcoholic), snacks and WiFi. They offer great seating, TVs, showers and even a children's playroom. If you have time, you can enjoy a spa treatment at Mango Spa, for an extra fee. You will hear announcements for departing flights while you are in the Club. I definitely recommend this service! Here are some photos from my visit to Club MoBay.
In addition to the airport, there are lots of shops, bars, restaurants and resorts in Montego Bay, also called "MoBay". While in MoBay, I stayed at Secrets Wild Orchid and Sandals Montego Bay (which I'll talk about later). I began my stay with 4 nights at Secrets Wild Orchid in a Preferred Club Swim-Out Ocean View Room. I have never stayed in a swim-out room and since this is a very popular room category with couples and honeymooners, I felt it was important that I understand the pros and cons. I must say, "I am in LOVE with a swim-out room"! Talk about convenience and peace and quiet compared to the main pool! I loved being able to take a dip and have direct access to my room. I also enjoyed floating in a relaxed setting versus the main pool. Another great feature when we upgraded to this room category is we got all the benefits of Preferred Club and we had our own personal butler. We received a personal cell phone to contact the butler for assistance with our needs and wants, i.e. spa reservations, fold and press our clothes, etc. Notable regarding the Swim-Out rooms; since you are on the bottom floor you do not have a lot of privacy on your balcony. Also, this room category can be pricey, so be sure to figure in the extra costs.
Secrets Wild Orchid has share privileges with Secrets St. James and Breathless Montego Bay. All three resorts are located next to each other. Although they are separate resorts, there are some differences in who gets to use which properties. For example, Secrets Wild Orchid and Secrets St. James share everything. So, no matter which resort you are staying at or which room category you are in, you can use the pools, beach, bars, restaurants, Spa Pevonia, fitness center, etc. at both properties. If you are staying at Breathless, since there is no beach, you are able to use the beach on the Secrets side as well as any of the bars, restaurants, fitness center etc. The only way to enjoy Breathless, if you are staying at Secrets, is to be booked in a Preferred Club room or higher. Secrets St. James tends to be the quietest of the 3 resorts with Wild Orchid coming in second and Breathless follows with a high energy vibe that includes a daily foam pool party at 3:00 pm, so if you are looking for the party, it's here! Breathless also offers a roof top restaurant and infinity pool with a swim-up bar that offers gorgeous panoramic views of the harbor.
While staying at Secrets, we enjoyed wonderful food, excellent service, calm lagoon waters and amazing sunset views. We also enjoyed a massage and facial at Spa Pevonia, which was awesome! Click here to see some photos of Secrets Wild Orchid, from my stay. To view photos of Secrets St. James, click here. For photos from my visit to Breathless Montego Bay, click here.
While in MoBay, I did a site inspection of Sandals Royal Caribbean where I got to see their amazing Over-The-Water Villas and stayed for 2 nights at Sandals Montego Bay. I took lots of photos and they can be viewed by clicking the resort names above. While at Sandals MoBay, I stayed in a Beachfront Grande Luxe Club Level Junior Suite w/Tranquility Soaking Tub and I am a fan of the newly-renovated decor, I especially loved the soaking tub. In addition to amazing food, there was a youthful vibe here and really nice beaches. A great bonus when staying at Sandals Montego Bay is you have share privileges at Sandals Royal Caribbean and Sandals Inn, at no additional charge. They also offer complimentary shuttle service between the resorts. This gives you a ton of options for activities, dining, etc... If you are interested in more information regarding any of the resorts mentioned above, please send me an email.
Ochi, as locals call it, is the activity hub of the island and located East of the airport in MoBay. Here you will find lots of resorts as well as things to see and do. During our stay, we booked a private tour to the Blue Hole and Dunn's River Falls (see photos below). I highly recommend doing a private tour. Although it's a little pricier than a large group tour, you will get a more authentic, personalized and less hectic experience. Also, when you book a private tour, you have the driver all to yourself, so stopping for photo ops, shopping, etc. is no problem. Our private tour guide was Alrick Allen with Your Jamaican Tour Guide and he was extremely friendly and knowledgeable. He picked us up at our resort in MoBay and drove us to the Ochi area to do these activities. The drive time ranges from 1.5 to 2 hours each way, depending on traffic, however it seemed short because we were enjoying the scenery and learning all about life in Jamaica from a true Jamaican.
Our first stop was the Blue Hole. Not included in our tour cost was a $10/person cash fee for a private guide to assist us all the way. Our guide was Sean and he took tons of photos of us and was there to make sure we were safe. Our escorted journey started at the main part of the Blue Hole, which was at the bottom. We had a chance to cliff jump, rope swing and swim. Be advised, the water is crystal clear and very cold! Also, don't forget your water shoes, a towel and a little cash to buy a beverage, snack or souvenir at the top. Next, we made our way up higher through the forest on a hiking trail. When we arrived at the next spot, we met up with some other larger tour groups and several little lean to sheds where we could buy things. Here you will see a beautiful waterfall and you can climb up for an awesome cliff jump or stay lower and do the rope swing.
Our next stop was Dunn's River Falls. This is an extremely popular place to visit and should be on your must visit list, if you are fit to climb the Falls. Once again, you will need water shoes , a towel and a little extra cash as there are tons of souvenir shops when you are exiting the park. Upon arrival, we paid a $20/person entrance fee and that allowed us to use all of the facilities. When you enter the park you will notice a newly added kids water park area (photoed below) and lean to sheds to purchase items. As you keep walking, you will see the exit of the Falls. Here you will sign a waiver and join a guided group. To hike the Falls you will need to descend down stairs all the way down to the beach. Once you arrive at the beach, you will see where the Falls meets the ocean, it's a cool sight. I did not have my camera at this point ;-( Note, there are some tours that offer an excursion to Dunn's River Falls via boat. The beach is where you will start when you do a boat tour. Before beginning your hike up, you will be briefed and escorted by a videographer/photographer who will capture the whole experience for you and you are able to purchase the video and/or photos at the end. When your group is all ready, it's time to start heading up the Falls, you will do so in a group by holding hands. At first, we were all looking at each other in shock that we were actually supposed to climb while holding hands. We all quickly realized that it's a MUST. Having the help of another hand, saved me from many falls. The hike up took about 45 minutes and can be a little tough on the ankles. Note, hiking the Falls is not required and there are benches and photo op areas for guests to wait while others climb the Falls. It was a great experience and I'm glad I had the opportunity to do it!
The next day, we did a half-day tubing adventure at The River Bumpkin Farm in Trelawny, Jamaica. I totally loved it! There are various activities offered here from tubing to bicycle trekking to bamboo river rafting. We started our adventure with a drive from MoBay in a 15 passenger bus to Trelawny. Once we arrived, we got suited up with life jackets, helmets and lots of bug spray. Note, don't forget your water shoes, towel, bug spray and tip money for your guide. Once we were suited up, we took a smaller bus to the water entry point. Then, we were paired up with 2-3 people per guide. Our guide, Arlanda, tied our tubes together and off we went. The scenery was very lush and the whole experience was extremely peaceful. Our guide helped keep us on track, took pictures for us and sang. The tubing in total was about 45 minutes but halfway down the river we stopped at a rope swing and jumping platform. Below are some pictures. There were some rapids however they were pretty small with the exception of one. If you are feeling adventurous, I recommend giving it a go. I was the only one out of the four of us that did not fall out of the tube! There were some groups that opted out of the adventure and walked around this area. Once the tubing adventure was over, we were taken to an area with lounge chairs and we were served some delicious homemade pumpkin soup along with cold water. There were other beverages for purchase. While we relaxed and enjoyed our soup we were pampered with a limestone foot massage. This tour was off-the-beaten path and well worth the money! On our way back to MoBay, our driver stopped by Scotchies so we could get some of their authentic Caribbean barbecue. They have a special way of cooking their meat (photoed below) with jerk seasoning and you have to try it! Don't forget to try the festivals. Festivals are made primarily of flour and are fried. They are a cross between hush puppies and funnel cake. You will definitely want more than one!
Most famous for it's 7-mile beach and gorgeous sunset views, Negril is a quieter area than the two mentioned above. Negril is Southwest of MoBay and most resorts in this area can be reached from the airport in about an hour and a half or so, depending on traffic. Some famous "must dos" while in Negril are watching the sunset at Rick's Cafe, a sunset catamaran cruise and cliff diving, to name a few. The road between MoBay and Negril is quite winding, so if you are prone to car sickness, pack Dramamine, just in case.
As you can see, Jamaica has a variety of activities for honeymooners, couples and families. I hope this destination spotlight of Jamaica has inspired you to want to explore this very cool destination.
Stay tuned for more travel tips and tricks with Explore Travel Planners!
Angie Conger Hinds
I have a true passion for travel and I want to share my travel knowledge with you. I hope this blog gives you inspiration to EXPLORE the world!
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