Originally, we were thinking we would take a cruise to the Caribbean to celebrate our first wedding anniversary. A cruise was appealing because we could see several places and that all but drinks, excursions, and souvenirs would be included (of course we would fill our itinerary with excursions!). While hubby was chatting about our plans with coworkers one day, he began to think that we should pick one island destination and really go experience it. The reason? There are a few.
- Going to Jamaica was on hubby’s bucket list.
- His Jamaican coworker told him how beautiful the island was, and more or less validated the next two points.
- We weren’t thrilled about having to watch the clock while on vacation and worrying about making it to the ship before departure. We watch the clock enough when we are not on vacation, so this was not appealing.
- You only get a few hours at each place/port of call, which doesn’t give you much time to really do much without pushing it for time. Could we do more than one excursion per port of call? Would there be time?
So we began to do our homework. I always wanted to experience a Sandals resort so, after some research, we ended up booking our vacation at Sandals Grande Riveria in Ocho Rios. There are two Sandals resorts right next to each other – one is more excluded and the other is right on the beach. We chose the latter…remember we want adventure and excitement.
We were excited to get away and to take our first trip abroad together!
The Sandals experience is amazing, and well worth the cost, beginning with arrival to the airport. Upon arrival, we were escorted to the Sandals Lounge where we awaited the arrival of our shuttle to the resort. Red Stripe and rum punch were free flowing and free for the taking, and they recommended going to the shuttle with a drink in each hand. What an awesome way to start vacation! We knew this all-inclusive thing was going to be great!
Upon arrival to the resort (after the 2 hour ride), we were welcomed with cold towels and encouraged to relax in the lobby with champagne while we awaited our check-in attendant (they come to you). The lobby was beautiful, open, and airy with tropical landscaping surrounding it.
Seriously, the all-inclusive thing is the way to go!! At first it was a little weird eating at restaurants and leaving without getting a check and paying, but we embraced it. Haha! And perhaps the biggest difference between an all-inclusive resort and a cruise is the fact that all of your food AND drinks are included…and THIS IS AWESOME!! The resort staff was outgoing and friendly and the bartenders had all sorts of fun creations to share. We learned a bit of Jamaican Patois from our bartenders, too! If you go, ask for a Mountain Climber and a Bob Marley…SO yummy.
The resort includes most watersports as part of the all-inclusive deal, so we went paddleboarding and sailed on a Hobie Cat for the first time! It was a lot of fun! Hubby successfully navigated the ocean on the Hobie Cat without flipping us.
We chose two excursions: Zip-lining and Dunn’s River Falls, both of which we booked through the resort.
Zip-lining at Mystic Mountain
Neither of us had been zip-lining before, and I had always wanted to go, but somehow zip-lining in Florida didn’t seem very exciting. I wanted to do it in a beautiful, foreign place…and so we did.
The place was called Mystic Mountain and there were several things to do there: the SkyExplorer, zip-lining, bobsledding on a track, a restaurant, souvenirs, a bar, and an infinity pool with a waterslide. It would be a great place for a family to spend the day…and lots of folks from the cruise liners spent their time there.
We reached the top, met our guides for the zip line tour, and got strapped into our harnesses and equipment.
Dunn’s River Falls
I like to make an effort to see/experience something that is historic and/or well-known when we are vacationing, and Dunn’s River Falls was my pick this time. Sure, it’s a manmade waterfall, but you climb up this waterfall as it rushes past you…and what adventuresome person wouldn’t want to do THAT?! So we did. And, overall, it was a fun and unique experience!
A few tips: The water was cold, so I recommend doing this in the afternoon once the sun is out. And do wear water shoes with good grip…the rocks are VERY slippery.
Overall, our trip to Jamaica was fun and, honestly, the locals are part of the reason we have such great memories there. They are warm, welcoming, and friendly – and felt like they enjoyed having us there.