I have often said that over the years traveling with my family has grown to become one of my absolute favorite forms of travel because they, my children especially, take in the world in a way that I haven’t in a long time or never did. Experiencing places through their eyes or for the first time again (because it is the first time for them) reminds me of how precious these moments are. I take nothing for granted.
Our recent trip to Jamaica was a great opportunity for us to come together as a family and a fun vacation full of first-time experiences for my kids, which helped to make the trip even more special.
Because the main focus of our trip was to take part in an annual conference hosted by the Beaches Resort, where we stayed was pre-chosen for us. In this case, we headed to Negril, about an hour from Montego Bay by shuttle and stayed at the family friendly Beaches Resort Negril.
Posing in the lovely 7 mile beach right in front of the Beaches Negril Resort
My first Beaches experience was at Turks and Caicos and we loved it. That resort was larger and newer than the resort at Negril. The rooms at Negril were darker and a bit more dated. Turks and Caicos’ space allowed for “villages”, all with a different feel and look. Negril doesn’t offer that. There are however some pretty great restaurants, the Mexican and sushi restaurants were our favorite and the staff and service is on par with my experience at Turks and Caicos – hospitable, friendly, and professional.
The kids had a great time and there are events hosted throughout the resort on a weekly basis, featuring the Sesame Street characters, that younger kids would really enjoy.
No shame in getting that photo with your favorite Sesame Street character!
We also really love that most water sports are included in the all-inclusive stay. This kept us busy and was a fun thing to do when you didn’t want to get off resort or lounge around anymore.
This was how my children got to experience snorkeling for the first time. At the beginning there were tears and regrets to have agreed to do it, but after a few minutes of hand holding and admiring the sea life happening right in front of them, my little one was able to let go of my hand and both were comfortable enough to venture without us comforting them. They enjoyed it so much they wanted to do it again, and because it’s included in the stay, we did.
There is another Beaches Resort in Ocho Rios, Jamaica, which I hear is gorgeous.
Off-resort is a must
I highly recommend taking some time to experience the island off resort. You can book tours at the resort if you arrive undecided on what to do. We got a great recommendation for a driver from the hotel’s tour desk and were able to negotiate a fair price for a few hours around town. Our driver was great in recommending a local place to eat, as well as in giving us some history about the area and the country. This was especially great for my kids.
Local foodie find: Sweet Spice Restaurant, Negril
Everyone will tell you that you must go to Rick’s Cafe to watch the cliff divers, so of course we did. However, it’s just a bar. A really, really nice bar with views of the ocean and during the sunset hours the views are even more stunning, but depending on the time you go, the scene is more spirited than those with kids would like. Watching the cliff divers is cool, though because they wait on tip collections before “the show”, you can be waiting for some time before you see the most impressive dive from an 80 foot high cliff. There is a lower cliff that anyone can jump off from. I would say, get there earlier when the scene is not so “bar happy” and make an afternoon of it. It’s a bit pricey, but it’s to be expected from one of the top tourist spots in the area.
There is so, so much to do. From hikes to waterfalls to snorkeling trips off the coast along beautiful reefs. Some excursions can take half a day, others can take an entire day, but almost all of them leave in the morning.
We chose to go horse ride riding along the Blue Mountains in an old coffee farm about 30 minutes away from the resort. The experience started with a ride on a fairly easy trail, followed by a short, few minutes riding in the ocean near the shore. I was grateful that this ride was shorter because it is done without a harness and holding on consists of a rope and the strength of your thighs. It was a fun and unique experience, but I can’t imagine having been able to stay on my horse for too long!
This whole experience, however, was made even more special because it was my boys’ first time ever riding a horse. I was so super nervous for them but they got it and hung on like champs! At one point, the horse my little one was riding was scared by another and galloped away – with my kid on it! My heart stopped, but my kid held on and though his horse stopped, with my kid hanging on sideways to the saddle, he never fell off and it is now one of his “cool” travel stories.
And that’s the point of it all, isn’t it? The travel memories that we get to take back home. The stories we share with friends and over and over with each other about that fun time in the great place we visited together.
This is how I dared to jumped 30 feet into the a deep blue cave called the Blue Hole Mineral Springs. My husband and kids were too nervous to go and so I took the plunge – not that I wasn’t nervous too. My kids soon followed and then my husband. It was one huge jump into cold water in a deep cave, but more than that, it is one of the stories we still share that makes us laugh almost to tears each time.
Through the Beaches Resort we were also able to take part in the Sandals Foundation’s Reading Road Trip where guests can take part in an excursion to local schools to volunteer their time to help young students in their reading and writing. It was a short experience, at least it felt as time flew. The experience is sweet and a great way to learn more about the community, the needs of the same, and different ways in which you can combine giving with you trip.
My reading buddy and I in front of his school.
When we boarded the plane to Jamaica, my husband and I just really needed to get away with the kids for a bit. But, while we were there, we found so much more than an escape. Because the resort has so many activities for the kids, we even found a few moments of quiet alone time.
How I want my morning coffee every day
Most of all, the kids discovered something new in themselves and found new things they liked that they never got a chance to try before here at home. We can’t wait to see what our next trip has in store for us all.
To see more images of our trip to Jamaica, check out my Instagram.
My stay at Beaches Resort Negril was offered at a discount as an attendee to the annual Social Media on The Sand conference. All opinions are my own.