“Irie” is a Jamaican word for feeling at peace or having no worries. I have a feeling that many people in Jamaica understand the power of “looking on the bright side.” What a great place to practice some of that positive thinking! This is a review of my recent trip to Negril, Jamaica with my husband. The trip was meant to celebrate our tenth wedding anniversary, but had to be postponed when my dad was in the hospital. It ended up being a 10.5 year anniversary trip!
Justin and I’s first experience in Jamaica was in 2005 on a cruise stop. It was my first cruise and my first ever visit to a Caribbean island. We took an excursion to Dolphin Cove and Dunns River Falls. It was fun, but also a bit overwhelming for me. We had a long, scary car ride and climbing the falls was a bit scary for me. I am so glad that I have now had the opportunity to spend an entire week on the island of Jamaica. This trip- fourteen years later- in 2019, allowed Justin and I to truly experience the beauty of this island and also an opportunity to meet so many of its kind and welcoming people.
After an early morning of travel, we arrived at the airport in Montego Bay. After going through customs, we went straight to the special lounge for our resort. Comfortable sofas and complimentary drinks awaited us until it was time to leave for the resort in our van. A man approached us and offered us a ride on a little plane to get to the resort in fifteen minutes, rather than the couple hour car ride. No thanks. We’ll stick with the van. Our driver took us and a few other couples on the journey from Montego Bay to Negril. It was a safe and calm ride, even though I would never want to drive on the island. Not only do they drive on the left side of the road, but they are also more relaxed about passing other cars very closely. Drivers honk at each other often, but it is in greeting, not frustration like in the U.S. Much of the houses appear to be in halted construction. It can take about 10-12 years for many families to finish building a house, since the banks do not loan out the money up front. Goats grazed along the side of the highway, and locals had food stands set up selling all kinds of fruits, meats, and more.
For this trip, Justin and I stayed at an all-inclusive resort, Couples Swept Away in Negril, Jamaica. An all-inclusive resort was nice as everything we needed was right there on the property, but it also didn’t feel like we were locked away from experiencing Jamaican culture. In addition to the property being staffed completely by kind, Jamaican people, there were Jamaicans who walked the beach, selling their wares, such as seafood, parasail rides, jewelry, massages, wood carvings, etc. All of the people we met, both on and off property, were easygoing and kind. There was rarely any pressure to spend money on things that we didn’t want. Everyone we encountered was fine with a simple “no thanks” and kept going about their day.
It is interesting to listen to Jamaicans speak to each other in their native Patois. It is an English-based language and much of what they speak are just shortened and fast versions of English sentences, but that doesn’t mean we understood much of what they said. The resort has excellent wi-fi, so it was easy to stay connected to home throughout the trip. I have a problem of being a bit addicted to my phone, so it probably would have been healthier for me to have a week away, but it was nice being able to easily call our daughter each day and check in.
The resort consists of small bungalow buildings spread out among the tropical foliage. We booked an atrium suite, which has no television, wooden shutters on every wall, and a porch with sofa, table, and hammock. The hammock is the main reason that I booked this particular type of suite, and I sure got my use out of it. I love the relaxing act of swaying to and fro in a hammock. I spent a couple hours every day swinging in the hammock while reading books or taking a nap. The wooden shutters give the suite an open-air feel, but can easily be closed for privacy. The room cannot be described as quiet. We could hear people in surrounding suites or as they walked along the paths. At night, the sound of music playing and crickets chirping could get quite loud. This didn’t bother me, as I can sleep through anything, but it did bother Justin some. Several cats make Couples Swept Away their home. It was fun spotting cats walking along the paths, relaxing on the beach, or even visiting us on our porch. Hummingbirds also visited us on our porch often, especially if we left fruit or pastries out on the table.
The resort is located on Seven Mile Beach. There are palm trees for shade, beach chairs, swings, and hammocks. Each beach chair had a cushion on it that could be used as a float in the ocean. Resort employees walk the beach offering drinks from the bar. The sand is unbelievably soft and fine. The water was clear and calm and surprisingly devoid of fish. I noticed less fish than I normally do, but at one point, some people near us did spot a large sting ray that was camoflaged- the same color as the smooth sand. Naturally, I went over to see it. We were nervous that an unsuspecting person would step on it, as it was so difficult to spot. A man threw a coconut near it to scare it into going in a different direction, away from shore.
One of the reasons that we chose this particular resort is for the athletic facilities available. It is home to the largest athletic center on the island. Justin played tennis every day, both through clinics and private lessons. I took a couple yoga classes, both on the beach and in the aerobics studio. The resort gets guest instructors to come for vacation, while also teaching classes each day of their trip.
The Oasis Spa is a peaceful, relaxing hideaway amidst the athletic facility. Justin and I enjoyed a couples massage with two great therapists. We were in Jamaica for the Easter holiday, and the resort went to great lengths to decorate for the occasion. There were carved watermelons, large wooden painted eggs, an egg hunt, and more. I wish that I had went off property to attend Mass on Easter Sunday, but I was a bit nervous about new things. Easter Monday is a major holiday in Jamaica, with the locals off of work and headed to the public beaches.
The resort offers many different watersports included in the room cost, including sailing, scuba diving, kayaking, windsurfing, and more. We went on the included snorkeling trip. A boat took us out to to a coral reef. While we saw less fish than I’ve seen snorkeling in the past, it was so nice because the water was calm and easy to get around. A guide swam with us and allowed us to feed a school of fish, touch a white sea urchin, and more.
We also took a sunset catamaran cruise one evening, which allowed us to see a lot more of Negril from the vantage of the sea. Once you pass Seven Mile Beach, the shoreline becomes rocky, with cliffs and caves. We watched daring tourists and locals dive off of the cliffs and into the sea. We passed the famous Rick’s Cafe, a bar where many people cliff dive from various heights, up to 35 feet high. One of the crew members of our cruise got off the boat at two different locations to show us his fancy cliff dives. The sunset was beautiful from the view of the catamaran. There was drinks and dancing. At one point, the boat anchored so that we could swim into the caves and use the slide off the top of the boat. I chose not to get off the boat, but Justin did the slide a couple of times.
One of my favorite parts of visiting an all-inclusive resort is the unlimited variety of tasty food. Every morning, we had room service deliver juice, coffee, and pastries before Justin left to play tennis. After he returned, we’d visit the breakfast buffet at The Palms, with a wide variety of traditional and local hot foods, fruit, pastries, and more. For lunch, we would visit The Palms again. The Cabana Grill and Seagrapes Cafe also offered burgers and vegetarian fare, respectively. We had dinner at Patois Patio, Lemongrass Restaurant, and The Palms on different nights. The only one we did not try was Feathers, the most formal of the restaurants on property, as Justin did not pack anything beyond tennis shoes and flip flops. Even if you went to the same restaurant every night, however, you were presented with a completely different menu of options. Lemongrass was a reservations only Thai restaurant on the balcony with a great view. The Palms varied at dinnertime between elaborate buffets and menu options. I usually took advantage of all the offered courses, including appetizers, soups, salads, entrees, and desserts!
Each night the resort had live music and dancing available, although we usually went to bed early. Throughout our trip, we heard a variety of reggae music, exposing us to more than just Bob Marley. On our catamaran cruise, people danced to traditional line dances, such as the Wobble and the Cupid Shuffle. I do think that this resort definitely appeals to couples who are more extroverted and like to party and socialize. There are only about 300 rooms, so you see the same people over and over again on your trip. There are many structured events and classes for guest who like to stay busy. The trip was also great for introverted, quiet types like myself and Justin. We spent the week relaxing and mostly keeping to ourselves.
We did one off property excursion during the trip, which was not included in the room cost. We went to Rhodes Hall Plantation for horseback riding! Rhodes Hall is only a 15 minute ride from the resort. A driver was arranged to bring us to and from the plantation. The experience was truly one of a kind and amazing! Justin and I were joined by one woman for the ride. She was staying at the plantation and travelled to Jamaica alone. Two guides came on the ride with us, for a total of 5 riders and horses. I am not an experienced rider, but the horses were calm and the guides assisted along the way to make sure everything went smoothly. My horse was named Ziggy, and he was a great companion on this journey. First, we rode through the jungle, seeing a wide variety of plants, trees, and flowers. The horses were calm as we crossed one main road and went up and down some rocky terrain. While walking along the shoreline, we spotted two pink flamingoes in the water, which according to our guides is quite an uncommon sight! We rode to a swamp, which houses a crocodile preserve. Our guide whistled to get the attention of the crocodiles, so that we could see them as they approached. The last portion of the ride was the truly amazing and unique part. I dismounted Ziggy, and they put on a special water saddle. I climbed again on his back and led him into the Caribbean Sea. We walked through the water until it got deeper and the horses began to swim! As Ziggy swam, I laid upon his back. He carried me through the sea. It was an awesome feeling! Justin declined riding his horse into the water, so thankfully he was able to take some pictures and videos of my experience, although we were quite far from shore, so the pictures don’t do the experience justice. It is definitely a moment that I will always remember.
Overall, our trip to Couples Swept Away in Negril, Jamaica was an excellent experience and one that I would love to repeat in the future. The beach is so nice, and I would love to return with our daughter. The Beaches family resort was right next door, so we did walk along the beach to check it out. I would also readily return to Couples, either at this location or perhaps to try out one of their other three locations. Yah mon! Jamaica is a great place to be!