October 1, 2014

8 Enticing Jamaican Resorts

Indulge yourself in an all-inclusive vacation
at these beachfront retreats

By Monica Lugo

Vacations Magazine: 8 Enticing Jamaican Resorts
Ritz-Carlton Hotel Co.
Sugar-white sand, sapphire waters and lush, mountainous countryside characterize the island of Jamaica. Spend a little time in quiet coves or shady hammocks, and you'll instantly feel like you've escaped the pressures of the real world. Plus, the climate is warm year-round, with little seasonal variation in temperature.

Many Jamaica resorts are all-inclusive, where everything you could ever want or need is located on the property. Food, beverages, accommodations, entertainment and many activities are wrapped into a single price that's paid in advance.

Whether you want to move to the beat of a reggae band or take in the soft whisper of an ocean breeze, all-inclusive Jamaica resorts offer something for all budgets and travel styles. We've highlighted eight spots that cater to specific tastes. To learn more about all-inclusive getaways in Jamaica, visit Vacations To Go or call (800) 998-6925.

For golfers: Conveniently located about an hour from the city of Montego Bay, Breezes Runaway Bay Resort and Golf Club is a great escape for travelers in search of a fairway. Experienced golfers will appreciate the 72-par, 18-hole private championship course, which has hosted a Ryder Cup match and the Jamaica Open. In addition, a newly finished underground tunnel allows guests to travel to and from the club without worrying about road traffic.

Novices can learn how to play at the on-site golf academy, where the pro teaching staff and visiting PGA-certified instructors are available for putting tips. The school has a 10-bay golf range, large practice green, a sand trap and a chipping area. Weekly sessions cover a range of key topics, from swing techniques to course etiquette. Best of all, unlimited green fees and all instruction at the golf academy are included with your stay at the resort, which is restricted to guests ages 14 and up.

For families: Searching for the ultimate family vacation? Look no farther than Beaches Negril Resort and Spa. Here you'll find a wide selection of venues and activities for kids, tweens and teens. At the new, state-of-the-art Xbox 360 Game Garage -- unique to Beaches Resorts -- guests of all ages can enjoy unlimited free play on Xbox 360 consoles. Through another exclusive partnership, children ages 9 and up can get creative at the Martha Stewart Crafts Studio and make a postcard, stencil a small tote bag, design a scrapbook page or more. Younger kids are welcome if accompanied by an adult.

In August, Big Bird became part of Beaches' "Caribbean Adventure With Sesame Street" program. This beloved character now joins Elmo, Zoe, Grover, Cookie Monster, Abby Cadabby, the Count, Bert and Ernie in numerous Sesame Street-themed events and activities. For the older kids, there's the Scratch DJ Academy, where they can learn how to scratch vinyl or mix music on CDs or iPods. At night, the Liquid nightclub's cabanas -- with Technicolor lights and guest DJs -- offer tweens and teens a hip, parent-free place to hang out. For water-loving guests of all ages, there's "Pirates Island," a brand-new, 18,000-square-foot water park that features two colossal waterslides with spiraling tunnels, a lazy river, a misting pool and a self-serve ice cream machine.

For romance: A top honeymoon pick for many newlyweds, Jamaica Inn is an elegant 47-room sanctuary nestled just east of Ocho Rios. The resort sits in a beautiful golden sand cove within swimming distance of a reef, and the grounds are covered in tropical foliage, stately palm trees, brilliant jacarandas and blushing bougainvilleas.

Jamaica Inn allows an intimate couples' retreat free of distractions. There are no TVs, radios or clocks in any of the spacious accommodations, which come with a private veranda or balcony. The resort's weeklong "Romance Package" sets the mood for rekindling that spark and includes a nightly five-course dinner, a boat ride to Dunn's River Falls and a couples' massage.

For divers: Also catering to vacationing couples, Sandals Whitehouse European Village and Spa is a 50-acre seaside fantasy within a 500-acre reserve. This impressive resort -- where the public areas are modeled after glamorous European cities -- borders an endless stretch of pristine beach for top-quality diving and water sports. As part of their stay, guests can take part in a comprehensive scuba program that offers dives at eight sites consisting of reefs, caves and 1,000-foot drops. Nighttime excursions are available as well. Certified divers can dive twice daily, while those who are not certified can go out once a day after completing the resort's course.

In addition to four pools, four whirlpools and a swim-up bar, Sandals Whitehouse offers canoeing, kayaking, snorkeling, windsurfing, hydrobiking, water skiing, glass-bottom boat rides and sailboat cruises.

For luxury seekers: Travelers seeking lavish indulgence will find timeless elegance paired with modern-day convenience at the Ritz-Carlton Golf and Spa Resort-Rose Hall, which is framed by the white-sand beaches of the Caribbean Sea and the verdant mountains of Montego Bay. Offering personalized, exceptional service and attention to detail, this property is part of a distinguished brand that traces its legacy to famed Swiss hotelier Cesar Ritz.

Suites are spacious -- choose from 480, 960 or 2,500 square feet -- and come with a private balcony or terrace. This world-class resort offers a Robert von Hagge-designed 18-hole championship golf course; a full-service, 8,000-square-foot spa, fitness center and beauty salon; and shuttle service to high-end boutiques at the Shoppes at Rose Hall.

The Ritz-Carlton Club Level option is a "hotel within a hotel" that features a dedicated concierge and exclusive access to a private lounge. The services of a personal butler are available upon request.

For spa lovers: The Fern Tree Spa is an oasis of calm at Half Moon, a 398-room Montego Bay retreat that fronts a two-mile private beach on a crescent-shaped bay. Consult with the "spa elder" here for a customized program of pampering; this staff member will design a holistic approach that incorporates authentic Jamaican therapies and locally sourced flowers, fruits and bark. A comprehensive menu of signature treatments, such as the 80-minute "Half Moon Massage," integrates Blue Mountain aromatic oils and a blend of traditional herbs. All spa-going guests are treated to a footbath with essences of lavender or nutmeg and a cup of Jamaican bush tea.

Choices in accommodations include rooms that feature outdoor showers, soaking tubs and private garden patios for two; spa-adjacent beachfront suites with a private studio for spa services or one-on-one fitness classes; and a family cottage with separate living area and a private spa studio. The state-of-the-art fitness center offers personal training, conditioning and weight-training equipment, daily aerobics sessions, and Pilates and yoga classes.

For foodies: With stunning ocean views and only a few dozen opulent suites, the adults-only Royal Plantation Ocho Rios offers seclusion for vacationers who are serious about taking it easy. But just because you're away from it all doesn't mean your fine dining options are limited. There are no buffets and one-meal-fits-all options here: The Royal Plantation's four restaurants serve a la carte selections made by chefs trained in Europe. You'll also find a Champagne and caviar bar and a wine cellar featuring vintages chosen by the resident sommelier.

A "Jamaican Flavors" lunch allows you to try eclectic island specialties -- like curried goat, jerk pork and pepper pot soup -- on a bougainvillea-clad terrace overlooking the sea. For an indulgent experience, try the "Champagne on the Sea" excursion, where you'll sail in a private boat while sipping bubbly and sampling Caribbean finger foods. If you like what you've tasted at Royal Plantation and want to pick up a few kitchen tips, sign up for one of the cooking classes led by the resort's master chef. They're offered privately or to groups.

For nightlife: About 20 miles east of Montego Bay, the Iberostar Grand Hotel is the adults-only property in the sprawling Iberostar Rose Hall Resort complex, which offers an array of exhilarating entertainment options for revelers who enjoy a lively night out on the town. Guests have full access to the restaurants, lounges, bars and amenities of this resort and two neighboring hotels, Iberostar Rose Hall Beach and Iberostar Rose Hall Suites.

In the evenings, guests can enjoy live bands, dance performances and a variety of shows -- from comedy acts to musical revues -- performed by the entertainment staff. For additional options, find your way to Gloucester Avenue, dubbed Montego Bay's "hip strip." This lively area is home to popular bars, nightclubs and eateries like Jimmy Buffett's Margaritaville -- where 52 types of margaritas are served -- and the Coral Cliff, a gaming and entertainment lounge with more than 100 slot machines and jackpots up to $50,000.

The information in this story was accurate at the time it was published in September/October 2010. Please visit Vacations To Go or call (800) 998-6925 for current rates and details.


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