I’ve been itching to write a post about one of my favourite places in the entire world – Jamaica, which is a fabulous honeymoon or special holiday destination, if you are currently considering your options.
I’m going to give you my own personal account of my experience here and hopefully offer some advice and tips along the way!
Our travel agent
We booked the all inclusive trip with Thomson Holidays. There is a branch in my local town so it was easy enough to pop in and ask questions or add/amend the booking. I must say, the customer service was excellent and there were no hiccups along the way.
We flew from Birmingham and took the 10 hour trip via a dream-liner. These state of the art aeroplanes give you extra leg room, better air quality, get you there quicker, suffer less turbulence, have soft mood lighting and more importantly you receive complimentary drinks on demand, 3 meals and a selection of box office films to keep you occupied. I’m certainly not great when flying but I must say this long haul trip was absolutely fine and I actually enjoyed the experience!
Where we stayed
Montego Bay or “Mo’Bay” as it’s known was the destination for us. With it’s white sandy beaches and turquoise sea you can’t get any better. It’s probably one of the islands most popular resorts for tourists.
We picked Secrets St James Resort: Set on a peninsula surrounded by the crystal-clear Caribbean waters, this quiet oceanfront destination offers adults the ultimate in sophistication, relaxation, romance and the privileges of unlimited luxury at this AAA Four Diamond resort.
I honestly couldn’t be happier with our choice. After touching down after the 10 hour flight we grabbed a pre booked private transfer which took us straight to the door (15 minute drive). On arrival we were greeted by the concierge team who looked so fancy in their trilby hats! Our luggage was handed over and we were guided to the most beautiful reception area. With its impressive chandeliers, wooden floors, designer furniture and the most gorgeous scent in the air we knew we’d hit the jackpot! Our concierge manager Mark gave us a cool towel to use along with a choice of either a classic Caribbean rum punch or glass of Champagne (we went for the punch!). There were also homemade cookies available if we fancied them. We officially checked in with the efficient reception team at their individual desks and then Mark walked us to our room, a ocean view suite on the second floor.
The room did not disappoint! Mark gave us a quick tour of the facilities which included a waterfall shower, his and hers basins, standalone bath with jets, four poster style bed with drapes, lounge area, TV with several satellite channels, private balcony and a free mini bar to use whenever we wanted. I loved how the bathroom just carried through to the bedroom, it was very open plan and airy. The view was lovely out to the crystal waters. I could not wait to get out there! So that’s exactly what we did. We were swimwear ready in about 2 minutes and ready to explore!
Food & Drink
As the hotel was all inclusive we literally could eat and drink all day…not good for the waistline, but what the heck! The resort had many evening dining options including Japanese, Jamaican, Italian, French, Mexican and Seafood. All the food was very good but I would say my favourite was the French.
Breakfast and lunch times were spent in the “World Cafe” which provided a plentiful buffet style of world foods to keep all guests happy.
There were many bars to choose from too which served cocktails, spirits, wine and beer. My favourite was probably the Miami vice or rum punch! My favourite bar was the piano bar. Each night a pianist would play your favourite songs to sing along to. Any one that knows me well will know that I love a good sing song so really enjoyed the late nights in there!
For those in between times when you fancied a snack you could catch the twice daily jerk chicken wagon at 12pm or 12am (and yes we did indulge one night after a few too many cocktails!) or the snack bar on the promenade.
The resort had everything you needed on site: 3 large pools, an air conditioned gym, an indoor and outdoor theatre, spa, shops, restaurant, bars, coffee shop, night club, casino, water sports centre, ping pong and a shuffle board – we spent hours playing this! They even had a wedding shop to help you plan your special day!
Entertainment and Activities
Every day there was something to do from reggae dance lessons, yoga in the gazebo on the beach, stage shows, a nature walk, bike rides, cooking lessons – there really was something for everyone.
We had a go at paddle boarding and snorkling at the water sports centre. You could hire a glass bottom boat or go on a jet ski at an additional charge.
We watched a hypnotist, the house band play, a circus perform, a famous steel band perform. They even played movies at 5pm every day on the big screen if you fancied it.
My favourite evening was at the bare foot beach party. A DJ played into the early hours of the morning whilst we danced the night away. We toasted marshmallows and had so much fun!
The day after we arrived we were invited to the Thomson welcome meeting to find out more about the area, hotel and excursions on offer. As I had been to the island before (many years ago), I knew that I wanted to go to places I hadn’t been before. We choose to visit Ricks Cafe, Negril beach, Dunn’s River Falls and Nine Mile the birth and resting place of the music legend Bob Marley. These activities work out more expensive than going direct to the local tour provider but you do have the peace of mind that you will be using reputable companies.
I absolutely loved the trip to Dunn’s River Falls and Nine Mile. At Dunn’s River Falls you basically walk up 183 metres of a cascading waterfall. It sounds a little crazy but actually it’s fine when you are up there. All participants link up and help each other. A good pair of water shoes are a must here as some areas are slippy. We took the go pro up with us and took lots of photos. Such a great experience and I’m not the most adventurous of souls but I managed it!
On our way from Dunn’s to Nine Mile, we stopped at The Ultimate Jerk Center a roadside restaurant serving some of the best jerk chicken I have ever tasted! The stop was topped off by us watching a game of cricket played by two local teams. They even asked if we wanted to join in!
As many of you may know, I love Bob Marley, so a trip to his birth and resting place was definitely on my list of places to visit. We had to take a rather ropey trip up into the hills for this one! We got there in one piece and got to the museum which housed Marley memorabilia and Bob’s bedroom and family home. Going into the chapel where he was laid to rest was a really spiritual experience for me. We lit some candles and I thanked Bob for giving us the most poignant and feel good music of all time (in my opinion)!
On another day we visited Negril beach a stretch of 7 miles of white sandy beaches. We then popped down the road to Rick’s Cafe, a well known cliff top bar on the edge of Negril. People get to free dive off the edge and it was great to watch the professionals and tourists jumping off the cliff which are 10ft (3m), 25ft (7.6m) and 35ft (10.6m). NOT for the faint hearted! Reggae beats filled the air, we had a snack and watched the most amazing sun set.
My Top tips
Time of year – Try and visit outside of the rainy season. The best times to go is mid December – mid April as this is the driest time of the year.
Health – Jamaica is currently an area which is affected by the zika virus. If you are planning on starting a family or if you are expecting, it’s best not to travel to areas affected. I used jungle formula mosquito repellent, I purposefully left my perfume at home as this attracts the mites and I started taking vitamin B complex a week before I went and throughout the stay. I only got bitten once so I think all the preventative measures helped.
Get to know the locals – Jamaicans are warm, beautiful people. We spoke to so many on our travels and they gave us insight into the best places to go and when.
Wildlife – The wildlife in Jamaica is just stunning. We had parrots Rita and Bob at the hotel, several Peacocks and the sealife was incredible. Throw a broken up banana in the water and you’ll see so many fish!
Go Pro – If you have one of these take it! You can do some cracking time lapses (we did one of the sunset) and it’s great for any adventure based trips, especially involving water.
Sea shoes – Take some waterproof shoes with grip. These are great for waterfall climbing and general sea use (I’m not a fan of water creatures!).
American Dollars vs Jamaican Dollars – I took a mix of both but American Dollars was fine at all places.
We had the most incredible stay at an island which is full of love and chilled vibes. I would recommend this as a honeymoon/holiday destination to any one – couples, families or groups. I definitely shall be returning one day in the future.