April 23, 2014

Jamaican Escapes

See a favorite destination in a different light
with these new, or newly renovated, island resorts

By Jennifer Davoren

Vacations Magazine: Jamaican Escapes
Couples Resorts
Travelers have certain expectations of a Jamaican vacation: soothing surf, relaxing reggae beats and the flavorful zing of jerk cuisine, to name a few. These five island resorts -- some new, some extensively renovated -- also offer a bit of the unexpected. Jamaica is a common destination for the Caribbean-bound, but the following properties seek to provide a one-of-a-kind experience that will entice new visitors to the island as well as appease repeat guests with a fresh spin on a favorite vacation spot.

Four of these resorts are all-inclusive, meaning that accommodations, meals, alcoholic and nonalcoholic drinks, most activities and a range of entertainment options are covered in a single price that's paid up front. The fifth property, Rooms on the Beach Negril, is a simple, affordable hotel that takes the bed-and-breakfast concept to the tropics.

For more information on these and other Jamaican resorts, visit Vacations To Go or call hotel specialists at (800) 998-6925.

Iberostar Grand Hotel Rose Hall


A member of the Grand Collection, Iberostar's adults-only luxury brand, the 4.5-star Grand Hotel Rose Hall opened in Montego Bay in January and sets a high standard for its fellow all-inclusive resorts. Each suite is outfitted with an entertainment center, complete with flat-screen television, DVD player and iPod docking station. Other in-room perks include whirlpool baths, his-and-her marble vanities, customizable minibars stocked with your favorite spirits, and private balconies, some of which boast breezy porch swings built for two. High-end linens and a pillow menu listing seven types of cushions -- from downy soft to neck-bracing, back-supporting firmness -- lull guests to sleep each night.

Vacationers will find a wealth of amenities outdoors, too. Four a la carte eateries and a buffet restaurant serve Italian and Japanese cuisine, freshly caught seafood, steaks and other gourmet treats; meanwhile, complimentary 24-hour room service takes care of late-night cravings. Basketball, volleyball and tennis courts join two swimming pools and a range of water sports among active pursuits (some, including off-site scuba diving excursions, incur an extra charge).

Duty-free boutiques, a sumptuous spa and Vegas-style stage shows also await.
Want more bang for your buck? Guests also have access to restaurants, bars and activities at two sister resorts, Iberostar Rose Hall Beach and Iberostar Rose Hall Suites. Book a stay here and get three enviable beachfront hideaways for the price of one.

Riu Montego Bay


This 3.5-star, nearly year-old property wraps its guests in tropical colors: vivid greens supplied by 450,000 square feet of surrounding gardens; soft blues, courtesy of a wraparound swimming pool and Caribbean waves; and sparkling, eye-catching gold, a warming beacon provided by a private stretch of beach. Riu Montego Bay also seeks to envelop vacationers in all-inclusive perks, including four restaurants, four bars, sports courts, a slot machine-stuffed game room and Pacha, an on-site nightclub.

Riu Montego Bay is a family-friendly spot, where a daily entertainment program schedules activities for children between 4 and 12 years old. A kids-only swimming pool and neighboring playground provide additional distractions. While the tykes play the day away, parents can escape to the resort's spa or beauty salon -- both incur extra charges, but the pampering treatments are well worth the price. Another perk for health-conscious families: Riu Montego Bay enforces a no-smoking policy in most public areas, including restaurants.

Riu Montego Bay serves as a scenic launching pad to a number of area attractions. Just three miles from downtown Montego Bay, the property offers easy access to city shopping, fine dining, golf courses, historic plantation homes and popular public beaches. River rafting outfitters and rain forest tour companies also operate out of this tourist-friendly city.

Couples Tower Isle


Formerly known as Couples Ocho Rios, which claimed to be Jamaica's first all-inclusive, couples-only resort, this four-star property reopened in April after a $25 million refurbishment. Couples Tower Isle still has the same generous all-inclusive program and awe-inspiring views as its predecessor, but now it also boasts more than a few high-end additions, including new ocean-view suites, a new spa with rooms for couples' massages and a wedding gazebo.

This escape, reserved for guests 18 and older, puts an emphasis on romantic getaways. Six restaurants, including a veggie bar serving meat-free treats, dish up gourmet cuisine at tables set for two. A private island, complete with au naturel beach, is reached by a short kayak ride from the resort. Couples can stroll 19 acres of lush tropical gardens, seek the nearest golf course (greens fees are included in the price of your stay, but caddy fees are not), grab a cocktail at four on-site bars or try a complimentary excursion off the property -- trips to Dunn's River Falls, glass-bottom boat tours and bus rides to musician Jimmy Buffett's bar, Margaritaville, are organized by resort staff. A variety of classes and group games also are scheduled, from reggae dance lessons to battle-of-the-sexes trivia contests.

As expected, the centerpiece of Couples Tower Isle is the romance-ready accommodations. Flat-screen televisions and iPod docking stations are standard in each room, and upper-level suites have Jacuzzi tubs and fridges stocked with beer, wine and soda. The swanky villas feature private plunge pools.

Riu Palace Tropical Bay


The name "Bloody Bay" doesn't exactly conjure images of a breezy tropical escape. But those lucky enough to have spent time along the horseshoe-shaped lagoon near Negril know of its persuasive powers -- this is a spot tailor-made for lazy afternoons by the surf. So, too, is the resort of Riu Palace Tropical Bay, which gives its guests sweeping views of the cove.

The four-star, all-inclusive retreat began welcoming vacationers again last December after an extensive renovation. It now offers six restaurants, six bars and two swimming pools, plus 24-hour room service, a fitness center, a full-service spa and a game room with slot machines. Daily entertainment programs and organized kids' activities bring musicians and theater groups to entertain guests by the pool. Resort amenities that come with an extra fee but are still worth a try include an on-site scuba diving school, glass-bottom boat rides, horseback tours and golf.

When it's time to turn in, guests retreat to a collection of suites with satellite television, beer- and soda-stocked refrigerators and terraces with garden or ocean views. Some rooms relax their occupants with hydromassage tubs.

Rooms on the Beach Negril


The name of this three-star resort on the western tip of Jamaica says it all. A part of SuperClubs' most affordable hotel brand, Rooms on the Beach Negril supplies a tropical twist on the bed-and-breakfast formula. Daily rates cover comfortable accommodations (each comes with your choice of king-size or double bed, with pull-out sofas available for the kids or extra guests) and a continental-style morning meal. The resort overlooks Negril's famed Seven Mile Beach, known for crystal-clear water and snorkel-ready coral gardens.

With just 57 rooms, this resort -- known as the Negril Inn until a $4 million renovation was completed last July -- offers a small-scale retreat with low prices to match. A seven-night stay this summer, for example, came to about $399 per person, based on two people sharing a garden-view room.

Accommodations cluster around a swimming pool, restaurant, cocktail bar and private stretch of Seven Mile sands. A complimentary fitness center is ready for guests with an urge for weight lifting. Rooms on the Beach also is a well-located base for exploring downtown Negril, whose shopping, dining and all-night discos are a short walk away.

The information in this story was accurate at the time it was published in July/August 2009. Please visit Vacations To Go or call (800) 998-6925 for current rates and details.


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