This fall, I experienced a glorious four days, courtesy of the Jamaican Tourist Board, exploring two of the top vacation spots in Jamaica – Negril and Montego Bay. Even though I’ve traveled fairly extensively in the Caribbean, I’d never visited Jamaica. So I eagerly anticipated the island’s combination of low-key vibe and upscale amenities. And did I ever find it! I discovered an island with an appeal for everyone – families and singles as well as those seeking simplicity and those with an eye for activity. I’ve included an overview here of my favorite memories:
PART I, NEGRIL, JAMAICA
Recently, this children’s mecca on Jamaica, won recognition as the top family hotel in the Caribbean by Travel & Leisure – and after visiting, I feel deservedly so. If you anticipate a winter or holiday getaway with your kids in the near future, definitely take a look at Beaches Negril. Between its extensive partnership with Sesame Street and Xbox, action-packed children’s camp, non-stop family activities such as waterskiing and banana boat rides, and an impressive waterslide and river pool, a vacation here will inspire a lifetime of memories. Moreover, the resort offers seven miles of white sand beaches, fun kids-only hangouts for tweens and teens, a sophisticated gym and spa for the grown-ups, and all-inclusive food and drink options, so you’ll easily find something for everyone.
At Beaches Negril, I loved experiencing a variety of watersports such as windsurfing, snorkeling, and banana boat rides. I even decided to hearken back to my teen years by waterskiing. In an instant, I relived memories from my summer camp days, as I slalomed on one ski. Euphoria!
Not a fan of water sports? Turn instead to non-stop land activities from beach volleyball games to yoga classes. You can also take a stroll down the beautiful seven-mile beach or take a dip in one of three pools, two of which offer fun, swim-up bars.
Programs for Kids
With so many activities geared especially for kids and teens, younger family members will experience non-stop fun, as well. Beaches Negil runs kids’ camps all day long, from 9 am to 9 pm, packed with fun age-appropriate activities ranging from sand castle building to beach soccer to a nighttime pajama party. The resort’s partnership with Sesame Street offers familiar territory for younger kids, with constant Sesame-themed activities include bird-watching with Big Bird, story time with Elmo, and baking with Cookie Monster. Kids also experience the ultimate Sesame Street-themed party, the daily Grand Sesame Street Parade.
And for a local vibe, add in some amazing Jamaican-inspired dance moves on the beach stage, and you’ll find yourself dancing along as you watch Big Bird groove to reggae sounds.
On the pool front, Beaches Negril features a “Pirates Island” water Theme Park where you can spend the day floating down the lazy river, while your kids zoom down the water slides, either on two large slides, or two smaller ones, depending on their age and daring.
Activities for Teens
Teens often feel left out of the mix when it comes to resort activities. Not at Beaches Negril! Teens can experience the latest Xbox systems and the hottest games in the play lounge that features large plasma TVs and the latest gaming consoles.
Let them venture into the Scratch DJ academy and test their mixing skills to create their own unique beat. For just a nominal fee, kids can mix, scratch, and spin during a 40-minute session with a professional. Next, they can relax in the Trench Town teen centre and enjoy arcade games like foosball, table tennis, and basketball machines. With huge plasma TVs and Sirius Satellite radio, kids can relax on comfy beanbags and enjoy their favorite show or music.
To cap off the day, kids can hit up the Liquid Nightclub, a unique spot for teens under 21, to mingle and dance from 11 pm to 3 am. This hotspot includes VIP cabanas, Technicolor lights, and guest DJs. And what’s best? No parents allowed!
Dinner at Kimonos Restaurant
Our dinner at Kimonos proved a feast for both the eyes and taste buds. Featuring delicious Asian stir-fry creations, this Benihana-esque restaurant serves up entertainment and fresh stir fry dishes off a central grill. Like a traditional Japanese steakhouse, the roving chefs cook the food right in front of you amidst great repartee and some amazing harmonized singing by the wait staff!
Breakfast at the Stewfish Restaurant
My experience seems to capture the wondrous level of friendly amazing staff at Beaches Negril. At this beach restaurant, my waitress Novia crossed the resort to get me skim milk for my fresh-brewed Jamaican breakfast coffee instead of the cream they stocked. She embodies the wonderful service ethos as Beaches Negril – and if you go, seek her out for a big hello!
Red Lane Spa
In the peaceful, beautiful, air-conditioned refuge from the humidity at Red Lane Spa, I indulged in a massage. My massage therapist Maria was simply outstanding, clearly loving her work and using superb technique. No wonder, as it turns out this is her seventh year at Beaches Negril. Ask for her when you go – and let her release all your tensions of everyday life. She proved so skillful, I found myself scrambling with our packed schedule to figure out if I could get back to see her again.
Sandals Foundation and Beaches Negril’s Superb GM Adrian
At the welcome cocktail party, I had the opportunity to talk with Adrian Whitehead, the general manager of Beaches Negril. I got to know Adrian during a trip several years ago to Beaches Turks and Caicos, where he served as assistant general manager – and was thrilled to see him again. If you make a trip to Beaches Negril, seek out Adrian for a quick hello. He’s delightful, amazing, and will win your instant admiration with the passion and keen intelligence he brings to his work.
I was amazed by all the available activities off the premises, as Negril offers numerous incredible nearby adventures, trips and experiences, suitable for all ages.
We bellied up to dolphins at the largest natural dolphin lagoon in the world, Dolphin Cove. They’ve got something for everyone – activities for adults, as well as family-inclusive experiences. We experienced amazing trainers that guided our dolphin adventure and got to touch, play, and immerse ourselves in the dolphin habitat. A 30-minute encounter for $89 dollars allows you to play, swim, and touch the dolphins. I would so recommend this most incredible experience to anyone.
We left from Sandals Negril and sailed alongside the pristine Negril coastline in a large catamaran while enjoying delicious tropical drinks. We made our way to Rick’s Café, which has the most unbelievable views. Situated by the West End Cliffs, many visitors take a dive. I was daring enough to jump, and although not from the highest cliff, but still high enough to feel intrepid!
Disclosure: I traveled as a guest of the Jamaican tourist board to facilitate this review. All the views expressed here are solely my own, and reflect my honest opinion.