Jamaica is the third largest Caribbean island, and there are several areas to stay. Depending on how much time you will be on the island, you might be able to leisurely visit many different cities and beaches, but or for a Jamaica weekend, you’ll have to choose just one.
This time it was just a long-weekend getaway, so I chose on the northeast coastal area of Ocho Rios, about two hours from the airport because there were a lot of things to do close to my hotel and I wouldn’t have to rent a car. Ocho Rios is lusher than Montego Bay, lined with white-sand beaches fringed with coconut palms. It lacks the hedonism of Negril.
Where To Stay
The Jewel Dunn’s River Villagio Resort & Spa (formerly Sandals) which Frommers claims is the best Sandals resort. was my first experience with an all-inclusive hotel. When we checked in, we were “assigned” our own personal butler, who proceeded to greet us with a hand-shake in his white gloves. Oh boy. From that moment on, whenever we were on site, he waited on us hand-and-foot, which included not just making our dinner reservations, but coming to our room to walk us to the restaurant — which was on the resort property, and not hard to find. My companion loved it. Me? I’m extremely independent and can’t stand anyone hovering over me, so it drove me nuts. To each his own. . . The second night I said to my companion, “Let’s go walk on the beach for a bit before going to dinner — we don’t need to be walked to the restaurant.” And so we did. But the next day our butler scolded us because we were not in the room when he came to call on us to bring us to dinner. Seriously, I did not make that up.
Of course, the highlight of Jamaica is their stunning turquoise beaches. The light trade winds keep the beaches from becoming unbearable. The beaches on the resort offer guests the use of kayaks and canoes, or you could try windsurfing, snorkeling, and scuba diving.
Some say Dunn’s River Falls is overrated, and although we certainly could have done without the nauseatingly touristy photo ops that our guide insisted everyone endure, we very much enjoyed the actual hike up through the waterfalls (actually a series of falls that cascade from mountaintop to the ocean) to the summit, some 600 ft. above. Frequently we made a human chain to assist each other up over slippery rocks, other times we stopped to splash in the chilly mountain pools, plunge backward into a deep oasis, or trek bravely into the crashing waterfalls.
If you like spelunking adventures, you can visit the Green Grotto Caves. Ditto for zip lining over the Jamaican canopy; flying over the rainforest, mountains and rivers is a lot of fun, but since I’ve already done it several times, I chose to skip it this time.
Rafting down the White River is a 45-minute relaxing drift, not a white-knuckle rapids experience. Although there are some small rapids, it’s mostly a very pleasant and relaxing glide on a guided bamboo raft, with a stop at the Jungle Bar halfway through for lunch.
Shopping for local jewelry and paintings at the open-air Ocho Rios Craft Park was a lot of fun. The local vendors were very, very friendly, there was a lot of variety of handmade goods, and the prices were great. Haggling is expected and can be a fun experience for both parties! If you prefer fixed prices, across the street is the Island Village Shopping Center which has also had good prices but less selection.
Do try the jerk pork that Jamaica is so famous for. Click here for a Caribbean jerk pork recipe.
If you adore reggae music as I do, you can get your fill in Jamaica. It seemed to me that no matter where I went, it was wafting throughout the air. On the resort itself, the music fills the restaurants, dance club, and nightly entertainment venues. If you visit Jamaica in June you can catch the Ocho Rios Jazz Festival.
“One good thing about music, when it hits you, you feel no pain.” ~ Bob Marley
Humor — Intentional or Not?
Oh, and you just gotta love that Jamaica sense of humor — whether it was intended or not!
- Average Temperature: 88 F (coast)
- Currency: Jamaican dollar
- Entry: Passport
- Language: Patois (unofficial)
- Music: Reggae
- Blue Mountain coffee is grown here
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More things to do in the Caribbean: