Two months before October, we were still undecided of where to go for my husband’s 40th birthday getaway. As I made my travel plans for his birthday, I simply narrowed it down to a few places where he could do what he loves doing on his birthday: travel, drink and dance! I wanted it to be more memorable. I knew there were plenty of vacation places to celebrate, but we wanted to do something different. We planned to invite a group of relatives and friends with us, as well. After careful deliberation and long hours of internet research, we decided to go to Jamaica. Two other couples were able to join us for this trip.
We live in the Midwest, where October can be considered a bit chilly. We first thought about Las Vegas, but then, we’ve been there before! If we wanted more fun, it’s better to go somewhere none of us have ever been. We were looking at the options of going international but preferably not that far because we were only looking for a 5 day/4 night getaway. After all, Jamaica became the top of my list of vacation destinations.
Jamaica, like any typical Caribbean island, has a tropical climate and not only offers the best white-sand beaches and luxurious hotels, but it also has the perfect options for outdoor activities and nightlife. Jamaica is well-known for having numerous duty free stores, fast food chains, clubs, bars and restaurants. If you are looking for nature, adventure, or sightseeing, Jamaica is loaded with waterfalls, springs, rivers, and streams. As most people know, it is the home of the famous Bob Marley, trust me, Jamaica is more than just rum, sun, and reggae. Jamaica is famous for its numerous all-inclusive resorts. Most of these resorts offer everything you need to enjoy your birthday getaway like fine dining and snacks, sports activities, nightlife among other things so you don’t need to leave your resort. All-inclusive resorts comprises of all meals and snacks, alcoholic beverages, taxes and tips, transfers to/from the airport (some resorts), most water-sports activities, and resort entertainment. Other luxury resorts even offer free golf, scuba diving, as well as off-site excursions for free!
In terms of currency, most of the resorts accept US Dollar and there are a lot of licensed currency-exchange sites within the resort areas. Technically, it’s not so necessary to have Jamaican currency or have it exchanged at the airport, you may find it useless as you check-in to the resorts or go to the gift shops as most of them are priced in US Dollars. If you don’t feel like carrying a ton of cash, many Jamaican ATMs accept international bank cards, so you will be able to use your Visa, Mastercard, American Express, or Discover. Since it’s located in the Caribbean, international roaming calls and data usage using your regular cellphone provider could get so expensive. But, No worries Mon! Most hotels also offer free Wi-Fi access, if you have Wi-Fi access, you can then send free messages to your friends through WhatsApp, Facebook messenger, etc. If you want stress-free trip to Jamaica, you should just get a cab, hire a tour guide or transportation services and don’t even think about driving! Driving on the Island of Jamaica is on the LEFT. If you are not used to driving this way (especially for travelers from the US), you might experience unavoidable collisions with pedestrians, cows, goats, chickens, and other domestic animals on the road.
Where in Jamaica?
As some of you might know, there are three famous parts of Jamaica: Montego Bay, Negril and Ocho Rios.
Montego Bay, Jamaica – It is Jamaica’s second largest city, which offers the best selection of luxury all-inclusive resorts. Montego Bay is the most flooded tourist areas between the three and it is very accessible through the air and the sea. There are a various flights from our home airport to Montego Bay airport as well as many major cruise lines dock here. This makes it convenient and mostly family oriented. Montego Bay is known for its natural attractions like the Half Moon Cove, which is a home to a number of trained dolphins; Canyon River Whitewater Rafting offers tourists the opportunity to take a raft ride down Canyon River or the Windsor Caves where you can see huge bats hanging from the cave’s ceiling and stunning limestone rock formations. Since we are travelling adults, we look forward to more adult activities and stay in a hotel with less children as possible.
Negril, Jamaica – It ranks the second choice on my list. It is perfect for people looking for nightlife. It’s got miles of white sand, a great selection of water sports activities, a wide array of eating and drinking joints, best sunsets, open-air dancing to live music – making it the perfect place to stay and to visit. However, I found that most resorts here are smaller and more for people looking for intimate getaways. We are looking for all-inclusive resorts that has almost everything that we won’t be needing to go somewhere else if we don’t have to.
Ocho Rios, Jamaica – I considered this as the last choice amongst the three because the strip of its hotel-lined sand can’t just compete with the beaches of Montego Bay and Negril. It also has less nightlife compared to the other two. However, it has the best scenic areas in Jamaica just like the world’s famous Dunn’s River Waterfalls – this falls receive thousands and thousands of visitors from all over the world.
Based on the available activities we could do, and the things that my husband love to do for his birthday getaway, we chose to be in between Montego Bay and Negril – that way, both locations would just be within driving distance and we could visit both places.
Which Hotel in Jamaica?
We used a travel agent to book our travel vacation package, after numerous back and forth with our agent, we picked the best resort we could stay in Jamaica! It’s the Grand Palladium Lady Hamilton Resort & Spa in Lucea, Jamaica.
Here’s why we picked this resort:
- It is conveniently located in between Montego Bay and Negril (approx. 40 km away either way)
- It is an all-inclusive private white sand beach which includes free meals, drinks, and water activities.
- It is a huge resort that you could easily get lost, with 390 Junior Suites, 78 Suites and 48 Villa Suites with Ocean Views
- It has ten (10) a la carte service restaurants, (with a wide variety of cuisine) serving dinner and 3 buffet style restaurants serving breakfast and lunch
- It serves local and international drinks in all of its 13 bars including in the disco nightclub
- It has daily and nightly live entertainment that helps you never get bored
- It has direct beach access and five (5) freshwater pools including the largest pool in Jamaica
- It has state of the art sport facilities, water sports activities at the beach, gymnasium, and first class spa
- It has big rooms that offers sea, pool, or garden views, balconies and living areas – all with flat-screen TVs, free Wi-Fi, iPod docks, and whirlpool tubs. It also has minibars in all of the rooms with daily restocking
- It has a shopping area and bunch of gift shops
How Was Our Trip Experience in Jamaica?
When we booked our planned birthday travel getaway in Jamaica, we were aware that October could be a hurricane or rainy season, but as most travelers didn’t really have problems travelling in October, we took our chance. If you didn’t know yet, first week of October 2016, Hurricane Matthew (a powerful category 5 hurricane) hit the Western Atlantic, including parts of Haiti, Cuba, Dominican Republic, the Lucayan Archipelago, the southeastern United States, and the Canadian Maritimes. We almost cancelled our trip at the last minute, but then, when we checked with the resort and the airlines to know if everything was okay, they confirmed, and we took our chances.
We landed in Montego Bay airport after almost 7 hours of total air travel time, which included the 2-hour layover in Atlanta, Georgia. When we arrived at the airport, we immediately felt the heat as we walk out from the plane. Certain areas of the airport were not air conditioned. It was our first time in Jamaica and the moment you get out of the plane, you could really feel the vibe of being in another country. They have airport security and airline employees that show you which way to go through customs. We booked a van for hire from the hotel concierge in advance as it was not included with the hotel’s all-inclusive option, which we really hope it did! We were greeted by the driver with our names listed on a white paper.
We arrived at night in Montego Bay and it took us, maybe 45 minutes to an hour to the hotel. We noticed that the driving is on the left side, which is very new for all of us. There are not many stop signs or traffic signs, no speed limit signs so you can feel how everyone drives really fast. Our other travel companions were a bit of scared of how the driver is maneuvering through the dark roads and speeding at the same time, but since I and my husband have been able to travel to the Philippines, these crazy driving is nothing compared to the Philippines, especially in Manila!
As we arrived Grand Palladium Lady Hamilton Resort & Spa, we were so excited! It is so huge; it’s like a city on its own! The hotel lobby is beautifully decorated; it’s like a modern paradise! Since the hotel is so huge, they offer a free shuttle to get to different areas of the hotel. With the all-inclusive deal, we were scared at first that they will offer less tasty foods, but we were wrong. They offered delicious dishes with so many different types of cuisines to choose from. They have Asian, Jamaican, Indian, Italian, American, and so on. My travel companions enjoyed the jerk chicken as it is Jamaica’s specialty. They also have a sports bar with a pool table and lounge chairs for late night snacks and drinks. Their disco bar opens till late hours, when we arrived, after getting a few snacks and drinks at the bar, we headed there to dance and party. We pretty much went to the hotel’s disco bar/nightclub every night we were in Jamaica.
Despite the fact that Hurricane Matthew just passed, the weather is in the high 80’s with a warm breeze that blew throughout the day. The water was crystal clear blue with some green areas. The next day, we woke up early and decided to relax at the beach while enjoying the all-inclusive alcoholic drinks. In the afternoon, we decided to take the ATV ride in Negril, Jamaica. We picked the scenic beach route, but although, it was a great choice, it was the muddy choice. We then stopped by at a hot mineral spring to wash off all the dirt from the ride. Later that day, we went back to the hotel, explore other areas that we haven’t been to, did some souvenir shopping and then, relaxed at the main bar/lounge area. At the bar, we all had the Fiery Bob Marley Shot for the first time!
This is something you should never forget to order from your bartender during your travel getaway or you will definitely miss out! On the third day, we decided to do some of the free water sports activities using the kayak, pedal boat, and the stand up paddle board. In the afternoon, we joined some of the hotel’s fitness gurus as we joined a few group fitness classes of Zumba and water aerobics. All of these fun activities are held by the beach area. During the classes, the instructor informed us of the biggest event later that night, called: All White Party! We never heard of that event until we joined that class. We wish that the hotel management would post those events in public areas where hotel guests could see or maybe have a flyer inside of the rooms. After the classes, we went back to the pool areas and grabbed a few drinks at the poolside bar. And later that night, since we are these party animals, we attended the All White Party that night. And we were so glad we did, because my husband joined the dance competition and won it! What’s the prize? A free spa certificate for two!
On the fourth day, which was my husband’s birthday, we took the Catamaran Cruise which is an all-day cruise which included swimming, snorkeling, island hopping, and an Open Jamaican bar offering its famous Jamaican Rum punch inside of the boat. We had fun enjoying the beach, the sun, and rum! The tour stopped by at Negril’s Seven Mile Beach, where we ate at Margaritaville and did the horseback riding on the beach, which was pretty fun and unique! We were transported in a bus to go to Rick’s Café which is one of the ten famous bars in the world and flooded by thousands and thousands of visitors everyday! At Rick’s Café, you can view the sunset from its cliffs, grab some drinks, and then jump off the cliff! But the last one is optional! As we went back to the hotel that night, we tried the hotel’s Italian restaurant and had the birthday dinner for my husband.
It has been a fantastic birthday getaway so far but all good things must come to an end. We ended the last day of our trip with some gift and souvenir shopping. We found out that prices in the hotel tend to be more expensive than the gift shops in Negril. We went back to Montego Bay to be early at the airport and get ready for our flight back home.
Overall, the trip to Jamaica was a very memorable one and my husband and the group had so much fun! We will definitely go back to Jamaica, but would check out some other hotel options. Our travel experience will be surely treasured for the rest of our lives and I am glad to share with our readers so they can have a better idea of what to expect. Jamaica is such a beautiful country that I truly recommend everyone to visit, especially for special events of your life. You only live once, so make the most of it! We had a blast and it was a great birthday getaway indeed!