It’s no secret I base many of my travel decisions on the food I can eat while I’m away – and that was the main reason for choosing Jamaica for a winter getaway. I’ve been there once before – briefly on a press trip – two years ago and remember eating the most delicious jerk chicken, and the freshest fruits and vegetables.
Yes, I wanted to feel the warm sun on my winter-parched skin and take a dip in the ocean, but knowing there would be tasty things waiting for me made the decision that much easier.
As I mentioned in my earlier post – I’ve never done an all-inclusive vacation. I’ve BEEN to several resorts for work (where the destination or the resort is the client and we are there to shoot segments for them.) So my experience at resorts has always been to work while others sip frosty drinks and fall asleep in the sun.
The folks at Sunwing Vacations helped with the trip and offered suggestions on where to stay. My friend and I stayed at the new Riu Reggae which is next to the other Riu resorts. The Riu Reggae is adults-only and smaller; which I liked because we were always steps from the pool, beach and restaurants (you didn’t need reservations for any of the a la carte restaurants which was great. I thought this was normal until my friend said that at many resorts you have to line up to make reservations and I’m glad I didn’t have to experience that).
We wanted to leave the resort a few times to experience other parts of Montego Bay so we did two different things. First, we booked an excursion to do a little horseback riding trip. We chose this because it wasn’t too far away (some excursions require a bit of driving and will take a whole day), and also, I am not very athletic so sitting on a horse sounded ok.
It is a horseback ride and SWIM and I thought it meant that we rode a horse to the beach and then if we wanted to, we could swim. You know, because it’s hot. But no, you take the horses IN the ocean and for a photo opp, the guide leads your horse in a little loop and then for another photo opp – you can stand on the horse in the water. This would require sharing a full shot of me in a bathing suit so I’m just going to let you imagine me standing on a horse.
Then you ride your horse back to the stable and are driven back to your resort to eat jerk chicken on the beach (aside: our resort had a jerk grill on the beach every day and it was bliss.)
TIPS: they don’t let you bring any bags on the horse…no small backpacks, little purses or totes. Bring a towel from your resort to dry off after the swim (they will put it over the saddle so you sit on it while you’re riding), if you have a camera, make sure you have a strap so you can wear it around your neck. My friend had a camera but didn’t bring the strap so she couldn’t take it with her. Bring some cash so you can buy a beer or water when you get to the beach. There’s a little canteen there for refreshments and since you can’t bring a bag, you can’t bring water on the ride. If you want to bring your phone for photos – just make sure you wear something with pockets so you can tuck it in.
We booked our trip through Nexus Tours – there are a lot of different excursions by various companies but this is the one we went with.
The other thing we did is look into food tours. There were a few options based on recommendations by friends but we also didn’t book it before we landed so we tried to find someone who could accommodate us…the next day. We ended up buying our tour through Viator which got us a private driver for a few hours to take us around. The driver asked what we were interested in – we wanted fruit stands, coconuts, patties – and took us out. Our first stop was a traditional Jamaica breakfast at a small spot not far from the airport. It was full of taxi drivers and tour bus drivers looking to fuel up for the day and I always prefer to eat where locals eat. We had already eaten a pretty good breakfast at the resort but there’s always room for more ackee and saltfish, callaloo and dumplings.
We also stopped at a fruit stand to sample fresh jackfruit, buy some mangoes, drink coconut water and I tried my first nessberry – a really tasty little fruit (about the size and shape of a plum) with light brown skin.
The price of the tour includes the food we ate so we didn’t have to worry about looking for local currency or digging out bills.
We were out for the morning and back to the resort again, for more jerk chicken on the beach.
Part of the reason I chose the Riu Reggae is because they had a bunch of water activities you could do. I thought I would be too restless to sit on a beach for days on end so it was great to break things up (and feel active) and try stand-up paddle board (or SUP like the kids say), and to take a kayak out on the water. The day we decided to kayak, it was really windy so you really just paddled for your life to try and stay in the same spot. Since we were eating many, many meals a day (I guess that’s what happens when you have all these restaurants and a buffet always available) I really felt like that 10 minute kayak burned a lot of calories.
It was a successful trip with great weather (it was hot but not too hot) and as a bonus – the wifi works all over the resort including on the beach – you know how important it is to post to Instagram while you’re away…
*Flight and accommodations were provided by Sunwing Vacations*