10 Fabulous Jamaican Retreats
Find your perfect island escape
at one of these beachfront resorts
By Kimberly Garza
(Scroll down to see a slide show.)From crystalline waters and exotic jungles to snorkeling and zip lining, the island of Jamaica -- home to about 300 days of sunshine a year -- is the perfect setting for any type of traveler. But with dozens of resorts to choose from, which is ideal for families in search of all-ages fun, or what's the best fit for couples seeking a romantic getaway?
We've done the work for you, rounding up our top picks in five categories. Eight of our choices are all-inclusive, which means that the up-front rate covers lodging, meals, beverages, activities and more. Our two "splurges" are traditional luxury hotels that offer all-inclusive pricing plans among payment options. For rates and information, call the travel specialists at Vacations To Go, (800) 998-6925, or browse options online.
Hilton Rose Hall Resort and Spa: The par-71 Cinnamon Hill Golf Course is a major draw to this historic spot, situated on what was once an 18th-century sugar plantation in Montego Bay. At a 900-foot elevation on the resort grounds, the Robert von Hagge-designed Cinnamon Hill features 18 holes -- including an open front nine and a trap-filled back nine -- in a championship setting with scenic water and mountain views. The club also offers a driving range, putting green and golf shop, with carts and equipment available for rent and caddie service and lessons by appointment.
Don't miss: Taking a swing at the nearby White Witch and Half Moon courses. Access to these two is provided by the resort.
Beaches Boscobel Resort and Golf Club: Sprawled over 22 acres in lively Ocho Rios on Jamaica's northern coast, Beaches Boscobel -- part of the Sandals family of resorts -- lures golfers with its siren song of unlimited play on a championship course. The 18-hole, par-71 course at Sandals Golf and Country Club boasts stunning views of the ocean and nearby mountains. Guests enjoy complimentary amenities like rounds of golf, green fees and round-trip transfers (it's a 30-minute jaunt from the resort to the course, which serves several Sandals properties), plus access to a putting green, driving range and club storage facilities. Even kids can practice their putts; the facility provides free club rentals for children. Carts, shoes and clubs are available for rent.
Don't miss: The course's free golf clinics with a PGA pro every Tuesday and Wednesday. Additional lessons are available for a fee, by appointment.
Holiday Inn SunSpree Montego Bay: Putting the "all" in all-inclusive, this resort in popular Montego Bay supplies lodging, three daily meals and activities, plus all-day snacks, local brand cocktails, in-room Wi-Fi and complimentary laundry facilities in the up-front price. At www.JamaicaResort.com, we priced a week's stay in mid-August at $655 per person based on double occupancy, less than $95 a night per guest. Nonmotorized water-sports equipment like kayaks and pedal boats are complimentary; others are available for a fee. Find some grown-up fun at the swim-up bar and on-site electronic casino, open to players 18 and up. Other perks: a small private island just offshore, and a miniature golf course lighted for night play.
Don't miss: Keeping tykes busy at the gratis KidSpree Vacation Club. This perk features chaperoned activities like poolside games, sports and kid-friendly concerts.
Gran Bahia Principe Jamaica: The Victorian-style resort in the heart of Runaway Bay, on Jamaica's northern coast, lets guests try scuba-diving lessons in the pool -- a stunner made up of three interconnecting "lakes" -- and take part in sports like snorkeling or windsurfing without charge for one hour each day. Kids ages 4 through 12 can join a supervised club with activities just for them, while adults try free dance classes, beach volleyball and more. Excursions and motorized sports, such as offshore fishing trips and water skiing, are available for a fee. A week's stay in August starts at a reasonable $715 per person, based on double occupancy.
Don't miss: Spotting a green sea turtle. These endangered reptiles frequently come ashore along the resort's beach to lay eggs during nesting season from April to August.
Half Moon, A RockResort: Whitewashed cottages and lush, landscaped gardens dot this 400-acre luxury retreat, tucked on a two-mile slice of beach in Montego Bay. The Ultimate in Luxury package includes nonmotorized water sports like sailing and windsurfing, dining in any of six restaurants and sipping on cocktails at watering holes such as the Cedar Bar, which is just steps from the sand. For an additional fee, guests can swim alongside some special island locals at the popular dolphin lagoon, where they'll learn more during an orientation and education session before diving in with the friendly mammals. High-end suites and villas feature private swimming pools, while each of the Fern Tree Spa suites has an area that can convert to a secluded treatment room or fitness studio with sea views.
Don't miss: Strolling horseback along the surf. Guests choose from 28 horses at the resort's equestrian center, also available for jungle rides and private lessons.
Jamaica Inn: Nestled just east of Ocho Rios, the Jamaica Inn wants guests to take relaxing seriously: You won't find a single TV, radio or clock in any of the 47 suites. Private balconies and verandas overlook the water, and guests get preferred green fee rates at the nearby par-71 Sandals Golf and Country Club. Book a massage at the KiYara Ocean Spa or partake in croquet, tennis, snorkeling and kayaking, among other activities. The hotel offers an all-inclusive meal and drinks plan.
Don't miss: A six-course gourmet dinner beneath the stars at the Jamaica Inn restaurant, renowned for its romantic surroundings. It's also the site of the daily afternoon tea.
Secrets St. James Montego Bay: This 350-room, adults-only resort provides modern luxury with a historic British touch, a nod to Jamaica's colonial roots. At Secrets Spa by Pevonia, guests choose from an array of specialty massages, facials and hydrotherapy treatments. For couples celebrating a honeymoon or anniversary, try one of Secrets' romance packages, with Champagne breakfast in bed, fresh flowers, a bottle of sparkling wine and a 15 percent discount on spa treatments.
Don't miss: The Relaxing Moon and Stars Massage for two, featuring an oceanside Swedish massage along with Champagne and passion fruit.
Sandals Whitehouse European Village and Spa: Stroll amid Italian piazzas and French fountains at Sandals' Whitehouse location, in the heart of Jamaica's southwestern coastline. At this couples-only retreat, each European-inspired enclave -- Italian, French and Dutch -- boasts oceanfront rooms and suites with stellar views of tropical gardens and the two-mile-long private beach. Classic treatments are given Caribbean flair at the Red Lane Spa, like the skin scrub with aloe vera and bamboo crystals or the honey-ginger body wrap.
Don't miss: Splurging on Sandals' famous butler program. In addition to in-suite services, your attendant handles airport transfers, spa appointments, suit pressing, shoe shining, beachside drinks and arrangements for a private terrace dinner for two.
Iberostar Rose Hall Beach: From tropical dance instruction to Spanish lessons, table tennis to water polo, this resort has a plethora of entertainment and activities. And it's not far from zip-lining adventures, horseback riding, all-terrain vehicle tours and a dolphin cove. Parents can relax at a fully equipped spa while kids ages 4 to 12 paint and play games at Lucy's Club. Even picky eaters will be satisfied at any of four on-site restaurants serving a variety of fare, from burgers to sushi to jambalaya.
Don't miss: The Montego Bay resort's complimentary shows for the whole family, with acts ranging from comedy to dance.
ClubHotel Riu Ocho Rios: Surrounded by spectacular waterfalls and rain forests, this 856-room resort welcomes families with eight international eateries, a spa, fitness center and complimentary windsurfing, sailing and introductory scuba-diving lesson. White-sand beaches beckon to sunbathers, and baby-sitting is available for a fee. With a slot-machine casino for parents and a kids-only pool and playground, there's something for every age. A promotion running through 2012 lets children under 12 stay free (two young guests per family).
Don't miss: The RiuLand kids club, where travelers ages 4 through 12 can enjoy supervised entertainment and programs, plus special themes like Pirate Day.
The information in this story was accurate at the time it was published in July/August 2012. Please visit Vacations To Go or call (800) 998-6925 for current rates and details.