• Jamaica: Livin’ The Care-Free Life

    Looking for relaxation, beautiful sights, and tons of family fun? Jamaica is your destination!

    By Bethany Kandel

    Sunset at Rick’s Cafe

    I’m sitting on a lounge chair right in the pool, sipping a frosty mango mojito. I drop off the empty cup at the swim-up bar and get ready for my second exercise class of the day. First there was 7:15am yoga by the beach; now it’s water aerobics. Could life get any better?

    This is how it is at the Royalton Negril Resort & Spa on an expansive stretch of white sand beach located on the Western tip of the island. Three days here and I’m feeling totally relaxed and refreshed. Perhaps the swims in the warm ocean, long days in the sun and rigorous massage at the spa helped. And the fact that I can swim up to the pool bar and get another drink without even charging it to my room, is a real bonus.

    I’m enjoying the all-inclusive life and I recommend it to families as well as adults escaping the cold for kids-free vacation. My introduction was after check-in when I went to get a pina colada at the sports bar off the lobby. Drink in hand, I then spotted an ice cream/gelato bar next door. Hey, why choose when you can have both?

    This was definitely not a dietetic vacation. But it’s perfect for anyone who can’t make up their minds: do you want the chicken fingers or the Caesar salad? Try them both!

    Jamaica, home of Reggae music, Bob Marley and the famous Olympic bobsled team, offers a wonderful Caribbean vacation experience. It has some of the world’s most beautiful beaches, amazing sunsets, crystal blue waters, year-round warm temperatures and mountains, lush gardens, caves and grottos to explore for the adventurous. And don’t forget the delicious local cuisine including beef patties and jerk chicken.

    If you’re planning a visit with school-aged kids, be sure to watch “Cool Runnings,” the 1993 Disney movie based on the first Olympic Jamaican bobsled team before your trip. If your kids are really into it, stop by the Bobsled Café in Montego Bay to pose for selfies with the original bobsled (or check out the bobsled in the Montego Bay Airport).

    The Royalton is about 1.5 hours from the Montego Bay airport. It’s a scenic drive as you get a taste of the beautiful ocean and overall tranquility of the island along the way.

    Once you arrive at the resort, there’s so much to do, you may never leave.

    Royalton Beach

    Entertain Me

    Spend your days relaxing poolside, enjoying a boat or paddle board on the calm seas or taking long strolls on the beach. Every night there’s some type of entertainment in the hotel’s large centrally located amphitheater. One night we saw a Michael Jackson-inspired show which had a great look-alike. The next, there was local music and dancing.

    When it rains – which doesn’t happen often, or for too long — plan B kicks in. The staff pulls out the giant sized Jenga and other games, or there’s always another visit to the ice cream shop. I took a nap!

    It’s also a perfect time to hit the kid’s club (for ages 4-12), not that your kid will need any excuse. There are lots of toys, books, video games, foosball and don’t forget the science center where they do experiments and build their own erupting volcanos. Older kids, age 13-17, will love the teen club where they can do karaoke, design t-shirts and work the DJ booth for a dance party – no adults allowed.

    If tennis is your game, check out the hidden grass court on the roof of one building. It seemed to be almost always empty. They’ll supply rackets and balls.

    Some of the buildings have swim up private pools. Others have butler service, taking care of anything from sending up a birthday cake, booking a kayak or arranging for a babysitter.

    Fun Extras

    And speaking of massages, the Royal Spa offers hydrotherapy, couples massages, body wraps and all sorts of therapeutic treatments including reflexology and Shiatsu.

    Unlike many hotels, this one has a large gym and dozens of free classes a day including boot camp, TRX training and kickboxing. You can start your day at the crack of dawn with a refreshing yoga class to wake up and end with a sunset one by the beach. There are also numerous water exercise classes to keep you working off those pina coladas.

    Adventure Bound

    Ready for adventure? They’ve got that, too. Negril is home to one of the longest beaches in Jamaica, the beautiful and expansive Seven Mile Beach.

    Or take an excursion to a nearby waterfall. Mayfield Falls is a hidden gem. Trained guides lead you through the twists and turns of the river and through dozens of mineral pools and natural whirlpools where the pounding water will give you a great shoulder massage. The guides know all the secret underwater caves and must-not-miss spots. Bring a rash guard and water shoes (or rent them there; they are a necessity).

    You’ll be refreshed from the cool water, and awed by the beautiful scenery, exotic plants and flowers and wildlife. After your hike, you can enjoy a traditional Rastafarian home-cooked meal of chicken curry, fish, rice and beans under an open-air thatched roof hut.

    Other parts of the island have rain forests to explore, zip lines through the jungle, dune buggies, sugar plantations dating back to the 1700s and lots more.

    We also hit Rick’s Café, famed for its sunset views and nightly live music. Your older kids will enjoy watching the brave locals who jump off the 35-foot cliffs, doing all sorts of stunts and flips on the way down.

    If you have an adventurous teen along– there is a much lower spot to jump and get some street cred in the process.

    More for the Kids

    The hotel has a centrally-located kiddie pool complete with splash park features. If you want to spend even more time in the water and get off campus, Kool Runnings Water Park is only minutes away. With over five acres of thrilling water rides and eye-popping dry park attractions, there’s fun for the entire family. They boast seven waterslides – including a Jamaican bobsled one — a lazy river and Captain Milie’s Coconut Island splash pool for young children. Non-water attractions include paintball, go-karts and laser tag.

    Also nearby is Dolphin Cove, one of Jamaica’s top attractions where you can swim with dolphins and interact with other sea creatures.

    Culinary Delights

    All-inclusives are dangerous…there’s so much to eat and drink that you have to be careful. But hey, you’re on vacation. I definitely indulged at the extensive breakfast and lunch buffets. And then there’s that snack bar in the lobby serving self-serve soft ice cream, gelato, desserts, coffee, and sandwiches all day and night if you need sustenance between meals.

    The resort offers six fine-dining restaurants on the property. Try Italian one night, sushi the next and Tex-Mex the third. There are so many choices it’s dizzying. There’s also a sports bar with burgers and the like. After hours it turns into a late-night disco.

    There’s so much to do here…or do nothing at all. I will definitely be back.

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