|Where's Mike? Jamaica, Mon!|
Imagine this, if you will: Magnificent, panoramic vistas of nature’s beauty, sun-drenched days spent languishing against a backdrop of azure skies, the sound of exotic tropical birds floating through the air. Lush green mountains vividly descend toward endless miles of white sand beaches, encircled by an eternal, crystal-clear, turquoise sea. These splendors of nature blend together in perfect harmony on this breathtaking Caribbean island. The island is Jamaica, a destination known for its charming people, reggae music and spicy cuisine. It’s a tropical dreamland, filled with sunny days and warm tropical breezes that will ease you into a state of utter tranquility.
Jamaica, the third largest island in the Caribbean, is located 93 miles south of Cuba and is the most populous English-speaking island in the Caribbean. In addition to the island’s natural beauty, tourists will quickly discover the Jamaicans’ genuine outpouring of kindness, accompanied by their unwavering commitment to hospitality. This overwhelming Jamaican courtesy ensures that each guest’s stay is both memorable and pleasurable.
CALLING ALL COUPLES
For years, Jamaica’s countless resort areas, from Montego Bay and Ocho Rios to Port Antonio and Negril have kindly welcomed sun-seeking tourists from around the world. With numerous resorts to choose from, the choice can seem daunting. One possible option for romantic couples is Jamaica’s first all-inclusive, couples-only resort, fittingly named Couples Resorts.
Situated on Jamaica’s north shore, just five miles east of downtown Ocho Rios, you’ll find the Couples Ocho Rios Resort. Couples Resorts currently owns four properties situated throughout the island and proudly offers couples (no gay couples) of all ages (18 and older) all-inclusive packages for that ultimate romantic getaway. The Couples Ocho Rios Resort is the historic flagship property of the four all-inclusive properties. A notable remnant on the 19 scenic acres of beachfront property is its nostalgic history as a popular 50s Hollywood hangout. Today, celebrities found sitting poolside are few and far between. Although the Hollywood posse of yesteryear has since vacated this once illustrious hotel, the charming and friendly service provided by the resort staff remains and continues to please guests. With Couples Resort’s all-inclusive price, virtually everything is included, even tipping! Seasonal rates at the Couples Ocho Rios Resort range from $344 USD for a deluxe garden room to $627 USD for an oceanfront, junior suite. Rates are per couple, per night and a minimum stay of three amorous nights is required.
Visitors can fly into either of Jamaica's two major international airports, Kingston or Montego Bay. Flying time from New York to Montego Bay is approximately three hours, from Chicago, it’s less than four hours and from Los Angeles, flight time is about six and a half hours. American Airlines, Air Jamaica, Continental Airlines, Northwest Airlines and US Airways all provide service from the United States. NOTE: U.S. citizens, traveling by air between the United States and the Caribbean, will be required to present a valid passport.
Travelers can opt to fly on a small commercial aircraft from Montego Bay airport to a smaller airstrip located in Ocho Rios and arrange for the hotel to provide ground transportation. A viable alternative that my wife and I enjoyed is the complimentary air-conditioned bus or van shuttle service provided by Couples Resort. If you opt to do this, simply take your luggage to the Couples Resort desk located outside the customs area, have a seat, enjoy a complimentary drink and wait (up to 30 minutes) until other Couples Resort guests with the same arrival time clear customs. Once aboard, the driver will briskly transport you and your loved one through some astounding scenery and picturesque Jamaican countryside. The scenic and insightful trip takes about two hours but can vary due to meager road conditions and at times, horrendous traffic. Jamaica is a developing country and this truly became apparent on the ride to the resort. Countless miles of multimillion dollar resorts followed by humble, impecunious homes clutter the roadside. The living conditions of the locals make apparent the large disparity between the island’s rich and poor. While enjoying the colorful landscape it quickly becomes evident that Jamaica’s economic prosperity continues to depend on tourists from prosperous countries. Tipping your driver is an accepted and appreciated practice.
A WARM WELCOME
Upon arriving, the friendly staff at the Couples Ocho Rios Resort, greet their guests with a glass of champagne and a warm, affectionate Jamaican welcome. The lobby, decorated with fresh flowers and colorful artwork, is equipped with complimentary broadband Internet access, both wired and wireless. The historic hotel has four floors featuring 206 rooms and suites that overlook either the Caribbean Sea or lush tropical gardens. The simple and clean rooms are equipped with a balcony or patio, a king-sized bed, air conditioning and satellite TV. Although comfortable in size, the rooms do require upgrading of the fixtures and appliances. Guest planning to bring expensive and valuable belongings should be cognizant of the resorts antiquated in-room safes which may provide a false sense of security. The design flaws of the safe include a removal lock and key system. The resort holds guests accountable for the key and will impose a $60 fine if lost. No need to bring electrical adaptors for your electronic device. Jamaica works on 110 volts, the same as the United States. There are some refurbished rooms available and there is discussion to possibly renovate the remaining hotel and rooms in the upcoming months.
THINGS TO DO
Couples Ocho Rios Resort’s long list of inclusions succeeds in keeping guests pleased and satisfied. Inclusions range from causal to gourmet dining, unlimited beverages, premium brand drinks, snacks, 24-hour food service, nightly live entertainment, golf, tennis, horseback riding, scuba, snorkeling, water-skiing, windsurfing, sailing, kayaking, sunset catamaran cruises, nightly theme parties and much more. If you’re courageous and not fainthearted, the resort boasts its own private island for sunbathing ... au naturel. Sunbathers on the island have the benefit of a bar and beach grill facilities and the resort provides a free shuttle boat to and from the island.
The variety of dining options range from a romantic breakfast in bed to fine dining at the resort’s award-winning Le Gourmet restaurant. Each of the Couples Ocho Rios’ five restaurants have something unique and different to offer, from local specialty dishes to candlelit, beachside dining. Or, if you like, you have the option to dine al fresco with incredible views of the Caribbean Sea. The only restaurant worth praise is the outstanding and highly touted Le Gourmet restaurant. This charming restaurant specializes in French cuisine. An excellent starter is the sautéed scallops nestled in a lobster bisque, topped with forest mushrooms. For a main entrée, try the chicken and duck breast with a bordelaise sauce. Another delicious dish is the sautéed sour orange glazed shrimp with steamed rice and pumpkin. Both dishes will satisfy the most finicky of palates. A piano softly playing in the background adds to the gracious ambience. The impeccable service accompanied by delectable dishes makes this a must-visit while at Couples Ocho Rios. Reservations are required and there is a semi-formal dress code for those who plan to dine at this exceptional establishment.
After discovering the pleasures within the walls of this legendary resort, it’s finally time for us to venture outside and partake in some exciting daytime excursions. Part of the all-inclusive package, guests can enjoy an unforgettable climb at Dunn’s River Falls, a horseback ride on an 18th century plantation, or take pleasure on a relaxing Caribbean sunset cruise. All excursions are coordinated through Couples Ocho Rios Resort. Yeah, mon!
DUNN’S RIVER FALLS
The illustrious Dunn's River Falls is one of Jamaica’s more notable tourist sites. Climbers can attempt to scale the imposing 600 feet of rock, as cool waters magnificently cascade over the diverse rock formations that eventually flow into the Caribbean Sea. There are several small lagoons between the levels of the falls making the climb relatively easy; guided groups form a human chain while walking up the falls. If you’re not so daring, you can walk alongside the falls on an adjacent path and take photos or videos of those memorable moments. Although not required, visitors should seriously consider purchasing or renting water shoes for the climb up the slippery and jagged falls. After completing the almost one-hour climb, your guides will kindly await a tip for their good-hearted services.
After the exhilarating climb to the top of the falls, you may choose to wander through the outdoor market, filled with local vendors and browse through the variety of merchandise available for sale ranging from handmade wood carvings to custom-made jewelry. But beware the pushy and somewhat aggressive merchants, notorious for bombarding tourists with bogus offers of “free gifts” or attempting to lure hungry travelers to their food stands of spicy Jamaican cuisine. An emphatic “No, thank you” should suffice, to rescue you from the overwhelming hassle and tactics employed by these trying shop owners.
If you’re a little claustrophobic, then look no further than an exciting and festive cruise on the open Caribbean Sea. The sunset cruise is a perfect opportunity to witness the beautiful sapphire waters of the Caribbean while aboard a 60-foot catamaran that sails effortlessly atop the ocean waves. Captain Mark and his crew are sure to delight their passengers with a two-hour voyage filled with lively music, dancing, drinks, and on top of everything else, a brief anchor at a remote location for a quick plunge into the warm and inviting waters. My most thrilling moment? When Captain Mark handed me the wheel and commanded me to take control of the boat. The 80 on-board passengers were truly delighted that I managed to successfully navigate the vessel on the open Caribbean seas without incident. We jammin’, mon!
Jamaica is not merely an island filled with sun, beach and sea. The mountains and lush tropical countryside can be a welcoming sanctuary from the scorching sun and a fascinating place to explore. Jamaica’s old estates and plantations offer visitors a delightful opportunity to take a leisurely horseback ride through the verdant and natural landscape of the island.
One of Jamaica’s oldest, 18th-century estates is Prospect Plantation. Here, you’ll find friendly and knowledgeable guides, who lead riders on a relaxing two-hour tour. While meandering through the trails, your senses will overload on the picturesque, panoramic landscape, the delightful sounds and the rich aromas that saturate the air. While giving the horses a short pause, watch in awe as one of the tour guides quickly climbs a 30-foot coconut palm tree, picks a coconut and descends swiftly. Then, with utter vigor and determination, he dismantles the fruit, providing each of us with a tasty sample.
After a day in the sun and horseback riding on the mountain trails it was time for us to revitalize and renew our spirits by visiting the resort’s spa and salon. The scores of reasonably priced services offered by the spa are by appointment only. Available times tend to fill up quickly so be sure to schedule in advance. The poorly lit spa requires some inspiration and upgrading for its dated furnishings and somber massage rooms. Perhaps it’s in their upcoming design plans to renovate this austere spa. The somewhat lacking and not-so-aesthetically-pleasing spa does, however, thoughtfully offer complimentary half-hour, his-and-her massages for wedding couples, honeymooners and repeat guests to the resort.
Jamaica is, beyond a doubt, a charming island of wonderful vistas, fun-loving people and a fantastic destination for that romantic getaway. After relaxing in the sun, playing in the sea, enjoying the fine cuisine or simply taking pleasure in the spa, it’s hard not to find yourself revived and renewed. The Jamaicans’ kindheartedness and hospitality will truly ensure that your stay is a treasured experience. The essence of the island is apparent with every interaction and your memories of this exotic location will last a lifetime. Yes, go to Jamaica and feel alright!
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All information presented here is accurate at the time of publication but prices, dates and other details are all subject to change. Please confirm all information before making any travel arrangements.
Note: This trip was sponsored by Couples Resorts.
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