By Jane Chung, guest contributor
As I filled out my customs form and glanced out of the plane window at the crystal clear water of the Caribbean Sea, I felt a flutter of excitement in my stomach — in part due to my fear of flying, but mainly due to the fact that Paul and I were finally on our honeymoon, heading to Sandals Royal Plantation Resort in Ocho Rios, Jamaica.
Once we landed, we headed straight to the dedicated Sandals Lounge located in the Montego Bay International Airport and relaxed on their comfy couches as they located the driver of our private taxi, courtesy of Sandals. (If for some crazy reason you prefer a public shuttle, they also offer free shuttle service from the airport to the resort.)
The drive to the resort was long — about two hours. Luckily, our driver wasn’t very chatty and he let us snooze in peace in the backseat. Upon arriving at the all-inclusive resort, we were greeted by peacocks — they were everywhere! Our room was nice, although nothing too fancy. We did, however, opt for butler service (this was the first time I had ever heard of such a thing). This meant that we were given a personal cell phone to page our butler whenever we needed them for anything.
Our two butlers, Fiona and Jerome, were fun and had a great chemistry. They kept us laughing with their antics, and I loved their island accents. On our second day there, they surprised us by delivering a fresh-cracked coconut to our room. But if we could go back, we probably wouldn’t pay the extra money for butler service; as nice as it sounds, having someone on “standby” 24/7 meant you get a little less privacy and independence.
It rained in short spurts during the five days we were there, but it was still warm and humid. We did everything from ziplining through the jungle, to swimming with dolphins, which was just as amazing as I’d imagined, to snorkeling and glass bottom kayaking, and even bobsled racing – which was terrifying! It was so fast and Paul didn’t bother to work the breaks so I thought we’d fly off the tracks! But of course we survived and I’d definitely recommend it to any adrenaline junkies out there. (You can read more about our bobsledding adventure here.)
Personally, one of my favorite parts was when we found this infinity pool with a gorgeous view and a twisty slide, that was a little more my pace. And there’s nothing like a twisty slide to make you feel like a kid again!
We also LOVED the food experience. Being at an all-inclusive resort, you can eat at any restaurant you want without paying (you pay all costs upfront, but if you take advantage of the unlimited food and drinks, you definitely get more than your money’s worth). There are also shared privileges between the several Sandals resorts in Ocho Rios, and you can walk or shuttle between them to experience the different things they offer. I think the best meal we had was when our resort hosted its own “Jamaica Night” with an amazing buffet (unlimited lobster, Jamaican jerk chicken, and fried plantains) and some crazy entertainment (a guy actually balanced a table on his FACE). It was definitely a cool cultural experience.
If you’re planning a vacation in the Caribbean, I would recommend going during the off-season. We went in July (which is hurricane season, but it’s highly unlikely, so keep up on the weather reports but don’t worry too much), and everything was much cheaper and it was far less crowded. The beaches were actually really secluded — it was almost like having our own private section of the beach. I also wouldn’t recommend staying for more than a week. It can get repetitive, so unless you like relaxing by the pool for days on end (hey, no judgment here), you might get bored fairly quickly. In the five days we were there, we pretty much did everything we wanted to, and we still had time to relax and enjoy ourselves.
Also, make sure to pack dress clothes — you’d be surprised at the strict dress code of some of the restaurants. This means dress shirts and slacks for men, and summery dresses for women. Bring some cash for tipping and shopping, and last but not least, DEFINITELY go all-inclusive (especially if you love to eat and drink without limits). A year later, we visited the Mexican Riviera on another all-inclusive vacation, and it was just as awesome. Trust me, it’ll be SO worth it — you can thank me later when you’re drifting down the lazy river by toasting me with a (free) pina colada.
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