Jamaica – A Caribbean Paradise!
There are generally two different perceptions of Jamaica based on “how you visit” Jamaica. Many people visit Jamaica as a port of call on a cruise ship, while others take a land vacation and stay for a few days. Most people that visit on a cruise ship sometimes state they would not like to go back, while those that take a land based vacations rank it among their top travel destinations. Why is there such a big difference of opinion?
Visiting by Cruise Ship:
People generally remember the first 30 minutes and the last 30 minutes in port. Unfortunately, this first and last impression is generally not a good one for Jamaica. While most people report that they enjoyed the destination and activities, most only remember the swarm of vendors as they get on and off the ship and at some points on certain tours. Many that visit Jamaica on a cruise ship would not care to go back. The port of call experience that many have does not accurately represent the great destination of Jamaica.
Visiting by Land:
When you choose to visit Jamaica on vacation your impression can be totally different than those that visit by cruise ship. In Jamaica, you have friendly people, good food, amazing beaches, fun activities and some of the best all-inclusive resort hotels in the world. Many that visit Jamaica on vacation would chose the destination again and again and it usually is one of their top vacation destinations.
I have been fortunate to visit Jamaica by both methods above. The first five times I visited by cruise ship. If you had asked me a year ago (before I visited on an actual vacation) about Jamaica I would have told you that Jamaica is one of the most beautiful tropical destinations I have ever visited, but I would never choose to vacation there.
Now, I have taken two land based vacations to Jamaica in the last 6 months. My view of the destination is 100% different now. I received some of the most attentive and friendly service by hotel staff I have ever experienced at the Sandals Montego Bay and Hyatt Ziva/Zolara hotel resorts, along with some of the best food anywhere in the world! If you have not had authentic Jamaican Jerk Chicken you are missing out on a great meal. The activities available are some of the best of any destination in the world. I personally enjoy the Jamaican Bobsled Experience and Bamboo Rafting.
Jamaica is similar to Hawaii in that the flight time is about that same, there are great beaches, a good selection of activities and excellent food. One major difference is although the price points are similar to Hawaii, in Jamaica you get an all-inclusive experience where all of your meals, drinks and some water sports (at resort) are included.
My Top Jamaica Hotel Recommendations:
1 – Hyatt Ziva/ Zolara: 5 star (my rating) all-inclusive with a family section (Ziva) and a adults only section (Zolara)
2 – Royalton White Sands: 5 star (my rating) all-inclusive that is perfect for a family vacation
3 – Sandals Royal Caribbean: 4.5 star (my rating) – Sandals can be a little pricy but you won’t find better service anywhere in the Caribbean or Mexico.
4 – Riu Ocho Rios: 4 star (my rating) – This is a big resort with a great beach and close to many of the activities on the island.
5 – Holiday Inn Montego Bay: 3.5 star (my rating) – This is a basic all-inclusive hotel without the bells and whistles of the above hotels but perfect for the value minded traveler.
My Favorite Jamaica Activities:
1 – Jamaican Bob Sled Experience: A fun rollercoaster type experience through a tropical rain forest
2 – Bamboo Rafting: A leisurely float on a bamboo raft – perfect for couples
3 – Dunn’s River Falls: Probably the most popular activity on the island. There are some pushy vendors here, but the Falls them self are beautiful and fun to climb.
4 – Rose Hall Great House/ Haunted Night Tour: Learn about Annie Palmer and why the house is said to be haunted.
5 – Spirit of Reggae Tour: Visit Bob Marley’s home town of Nine Mile.
Jamaica is a Caribbean island paradise that I hope to visit many, many more times.
By Mark Faldmo, Jr
Contributing – Rayleen Myers