As I sit here typing this looking out the window… I see snow.
Last week I was laying on the beach in 85 degree weather celebrating 10 years of marriage and this week? I’m wearing my snow boots, trying to drink lots of hot coffee and doing work. Bleck.
The coffee mostly because I need the caffeine to get me through the dreary cold work day, but the hot part helps too.
This was our first time taking a trip to Jamaica. We’ve been many other places, mostly in Mexico (<—read about it)… Cancun, Riveria Maya, Cozumel. When I am comparing this Jamaica trip I want you to know that I am mostly comparing it to my experience with all-inclusive resorts in Mexico.
I was clueless when it came to knowing where to go and where to stay in Jamaica. Ocho rios versus Negril versus Montego Bay???
Luckily, we had a travel agent who helped a ton, but if you know me…then you know I did my own research. Lots of it.
Many of you have asked me where we stayed, how we liked it, my recommendations, etc and today you are getting it all.
First and foremost I would like to say that we had an AMAZING time. It was so nice to get away just the two of us.
Sometimes it’s now all about the perfect location or the perfect resort…it’s about being able to take time away with your spouse and really ENJOY a relaxing time together.
And that we did.
So if it seems like I am complaining at times, it’s only because I am trying to give you the nitty gritty details of what we didn’t love while also sharing with you what we did love.
For those of you who like details, you are about to get them. If you ever plan to take a trip to Jamaica then hopefully you will find these details helpful.
Here are 10 things to know before you take your trip:
1. Location Might Matter
When people were asking us, “Are you thinking of going to Negril?” I was all like, “What’s Negril?” LOL!
I’ve never been good at geography, but start asking me about Jamaican geography and I look dazed and confused.
There are basically three main places to vacation in Jamaica… Montego Bay, Ocho Rios and Negril. The airport is in Montego Bay so when you fly into Jamaica you fly into Montego Bay. Ocho Rios is 90 miles in one direction and Negril is 90 miles in the opposite direction (from the airport).
For a girl who already has to drive 2.5 hours to the closest airport and then take 2 flights to get to Jamaica? I was not digging the fact that I might have to get on a bus and drive 90 minutes to the resort once we finally got to Jamaica. That was the main reason we chose to stay in Montego Bay.
But I should have probably listened to all the experienced Jamaica vacationers when they said Negril and Ocho Rios were the nicer places.
Negril is famous for their beaches…7 miles of white sand. In my opinion, it’s the more romantic location and I heard the sunset in Negril is to die for.
Ocho Rios is where Dunn’s River Falls is located. I know you probably have no clue what I’m talking about, but I’ll explain in more detail later. You don’t want to miss Dunn’s River Falls. It’s amazing.
Again, Montego Bay is very beautiful…but probably third choice if I had to place them in order.
2. They Called Me Princess
Need I really elaborate on this? Haha!
Anytime you get called “princess”…it’s a good day. If I walked up to the bar to order a drink they would say, “What can I get you princess?”
That was pretty much the same anytime I encountered any of the resort employees. And I liked it…I can’t even lie.
It is common for them to call you princess so I guess what I’m saying is… if you can’t be a real princess? Jamaica will make you feel like a fake princess for the duration of your stay.
3. Please Don’t Sell Me Junk
If you walk into the resort shop you will see lots of stuff for sale. Overpriced stuff for sale.
Most of it was junky stuff. Sorry if that comes off harsh, but the quality of stuff they were selling was LOW. Especially for the price they were asking.
This is the same with most tourists cities…people try to sell you junk for more than it’s worth. I get that.
But in Jamaica, especially if you leave the resort area, you will be hassled and asked to “look at their stuff”. We even had a few days when outside vendors came and set up at our resort and tried to sell us stuff.
I’ll be honest, I always like to buy a souvenir, but Jamaicans are pushy. VERY pushy. They will hassle you to buy from them and they won’t give up.
I had one lady who followed me around and kept saying, “Buy from me. What you like? I give you what you like.”
Maybe it’s just a culture difference, but I do not like when people are high pressuring selling me. It actually caused me to not even look at the vendors stuff because I didn’t want to deal with being hassled.
Just beware of this. It wasn’t something that made my trip terrible…it was just something I could have done without.
You can completely avoid this one if you just steer clear from the vendors.
4. Jamaican = Friends
With of all of that being said in #3, the resort employees are opposite. They will warn you of the vendors and to not buy from them, etc.
Jamaicans are honestly some of the nicest people I have ever met.
We made friends with one of the guys who worked at our resort. His name was Dane. He was the nicest of nice and went out of his way to greet us and spend time chatting with us.
He also made fun of Jeff for working while we waited for our bus to the airport to fly home. LOL!
But it’s not just that Jamaicans are nice…they are GENUINELY nice. You can truly tell that they WANT to be your friend.
Not to mention that we made new friends with a few other couples who were vacationing as well. The NICEST people.
One couple offered to take our photos for us when they heard us talking about wanting to do beach pictures. Her husband was a photographer and she said, “He can take your pictures!”
I was floored at what an amazingly nice gesture this was for a couple who was on their honeymoon to offer up time out of their vacation to take our photos. We ended up doing a trade off where he took our pics and I took theirs. It could not have worked out any more perfect.
5. It’s The Land Of The Laid Back
The answer to everything in Jamaica is “Ya mon’…no problem!”
The atmosphere was chill. That is the only way I know how to describe it.
It did have it’s downfalls though.
I leaned over to Dane when we were sitting on the beach and I said, “Why is no one ever in a hurry here?”
His reply, “If you lived here, on this beautiful island, in sunny weather, would you be in a hurry?”
He has a point. I probably would have no reason to ever be in a hurry if I lived there.
However, I like efficiency. Haha. And being laid back and being efficient are almost polar opposites. At least from a time stand point.
Just be prepared to know that everyone is laid back. Not in a hurry. Especially when you are trying to be seated for dinner. LOL!
6. Dunn’s River Falls
**I’ll have to add the pictures to this once I get them developed from my waterproof camera. Here is one from the website:
Going on this excursion was hands down the best choice we made while we were there. We had a few people tell us that we MUST experience it and I was skeptical. I don’t normally like to do many excursions. I more of a lay on the beach kind of gal.
But Dunn’s River Falls was 100% worth it.
It’s basically a 950 ft waterfall that you get to climb. Gorgeous.
The only negative for us is that it was located in Ocho Rios so we had to drive 90 minutes to get there. But they do have shuttles that take you from the resort and it was also a good way for us to see a little more of the island.
7. The Resort
We stayed at Sandals Montego Bay. The resort itself was very nice. It compared well to other rooms we had stayed in when we went to Mexico.
I’m usually not one to need the most elaborate room because honestly, most of our time is spent on the beach.
A huge perk is that snorkeling, scuba diving, sailing and the clear bottom boat rides were all included in your all-inclusive package. I thought that was cool because usually those are things you have to pay extra for.
There were a couple things that I didn’t dig about the resort itself.
It was literally 5 minutes from the airport, which seems like a good thing…short ride to get there. You can be on the beach quickly once your flight arrives.
BUT, when I say it was 5 minutes from the airport I also mean that the runway must run parallel with the resort and you could hear planes taking off all day long.
Watch out for the plane photo bombs. They pop up everywhere.
I’m not just talking about minor noise here…I’m talking about, stop your conversation because I can’t hear you over this plane type noise. I wouldn’t have minded much if was occasionally but it was literally dozens of times a day.
And in our room? I was often wondering, is that a plane taking off? Or are we about to have a plane crash on our heads?
Yea, that loud. It’s my BIGGEST complaint about staying at Sandals Montego Bay.
If it weren’t for that my review would be way higher.
I was also a little unhappy with our room location. We booked an oceanfront room, but our room wasn’t ON the ocean. This picture makes it look closer than it was.
What bothered me most is that it was a 5-7 minute walk from the beach, the restaurants and the pool. Which I guess is fine if you don’t need to run back to your room a million times. But I just felt like the oceanfront location was out of the way.
I will say that for the price…the resort was well worth it. We priced A LOT of resorts and chose this one because it felt like a good deal. You know I love a good deal. Haha!
For a 5 night stay at Sandals Montego Bay we paid $1,439.31 per person (that does not include flights).
We fly Southwest using our companion pass and reward points so we flew free. I should do a travel hacking post next? Haha.
8. Beach Chairs Galore
In Mexico, you had to wake up at 5:00 AM and go put towels on beach chairs if you wanted any hope of having a place to sit for the day. And on vacation there is nothing worse than waking up early when you don’t have to. UGH.
In Jamaica, you could get to the beach at 11:00 AM and there were still chairs available (and the resort was supposedly at max occupancy). This was a huge plus for me! I loved that it wasn’t overcrowded and that I didn’t have to fight people for a beach lounger.
They even had floating rafts in the ocean that were anchored down and those were easy to get a turn on too.
9. I Might Be A Food Snob
Welllll, I hate to sound snooty on this one, but I love good food.
I feel like anytime I stay at an all-inclusive resort the food is just “ok”. I felt the same way in Mexico.
The food was fine. It wasn’t extraordinary and it wasn’t terrible. Same thing with Jamaica.
The only difference is that I LOVE mexican food and I am not the hugest fan of jerk chicken (which is Jamaica’s thing). Jeff loved the jerk chicken and pork, but he’s a meat eater. I am just not a huge fan of jamaican food.
They had other options, but none of it was spectacular.
And I did miss having chips and fresh guacamole on the beach every day (<— My favorite part about Mexico). LOL!
Jamaica still had good beach food, but it wasn’t as good as Mexico, in my opinion. Although they did have beach ice cream and that was a nice treat.
I think my biggest complaint in general with all-inclusive resorts and their food? Is that it isn’t as fresh as I’d like it to be.
Which I understand, but still bums me out. Then again, I love that all meals are included.
Some nights we ate two dinners. Haha!
10. I’d Go Back Tomorrow…Oh wait, I Am.
Yep, you read that correctly. Before we even left the resort we already booked a trip back. However, this time we will be staying at Beaches in Ocho Rios and WE ARE TAKING THE KIDS.
For one, we wanted to take our kids on a beach vacation this year. Actually, my husband owes it to me since I did the two week RV trip last year.
We thought about Hawaii, but it’s so expensive. Then we thought about Turks and Caicos, but for 5 people it was like $9,000. I can’t swallow that.
Like I mentioned we have the Southwest Companion Pass where when Jeff books a flight then I fly free. Plus we have so many Southwest rewards points that we can all fly free through them. And Southwest doesn’t fly to Turks & Caicos. We decided we may do that when our Companion Pass expires at the end of this year.
For now it makes sense to fly to places that Southwest flies to. Call it that whole “being married to a financial advisor” decision. Ha.
I’ve wanted to try out a Beaches resort for a few years. They have one in Negril, Ocho Rios and one in Turks and Caicos.
We decided against Negril, but ONLY because the Beaches looks nicer in Ocho Rios. If we ever take another adult trip again, we will definitely visit Negril.
We are so excited about taking them to the Caribbean. They have never been anywhere like this and I think they are going to love it! The resort has a water park AT it so I’m pretty sure they will be in heaven.
As you can tell we MORE than enjoyed our time in Jamaica. Especially after hearing all of the mixed reviews about it before we left.
Despite the location of our resort, the beach and ocean were amazing. And the weather? Was 85 degrees and sunny every single day. Can you really complain about that? #ithinknot
I can’t say whether I like Jamaica or Mexico better because they were both wonderful and gave my husband and I a chance to get away and focus on our marriage. Which is something we are trying to make a priority these days.
If you are interested in reading more about HOW we are doing that then check out our marriage blog.
If you asked me, “Mandy, do you think we should go there for vacation?”…I’d say this:
If you have never been to Jamaica then I definitely suggest that you at least go once. If you are going with just your spouse then I suggest staying in Negril. If you are taking your family then I would suggest Beaches in Ocho Rios. If you are on a tighter budget then stay in Montego Bay, but find a resort that isn’t as close to the airport. The beaches there were still amazing. I think visiting Jamaica is a MUST!
More than anything, just realize that it’s vacation. It doesn’t have to be perfect. It just has to be relaxing. You don’t have to stay at the most expensive resort to feel refreshed!
*This is not a sponsored post. Sandals did not comp us a vacation for this. Nor did we get any type of discount. However, I wouldn’t be opposed to finding out who runs their media program so I could get a better rate. LOL!
Have you been to Jamaica? What did you like? Not like?