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Jamaica Archives - Page 2 of 3 - Air Canada Vacations

26 Nov

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The 7 Sandals Resorts of Jamaica

November 26, 2015 | By |

Inspired by their beautiful natural surroundings, each of the seven Sandals Resorts in Jamaica is unique. Enjoy a vacation of fine dining, elegant accommodations, great golf, spa treatments, fun land and water sports, and impeccable service at a resort with its own distinct personality. Find your Sandals.

Explore all three Sandals Resorts in Montego Bay with Sandals’ Stay at One, Play at Three program. Round-trip transportation is always included and guests can enjoy each resort’s distinct atmosphere and amenities. Maybe you’ll get some ideas for another vacation.

1. Sandals Ochi Beach Resort (Ocho Rios)

The most happening place is happening NOW

This new resort is trendy when you want, private when you don’t. The Riviera and Great House Villages feature the unforgettable Ochi Beach Club and the Caribbean’s first speakeasy, The Rabbit Hole. The exclusive Butler Village is your perfect retreat to timeless sophistication with luxurious rooms and suites. This is the best of both worlds.

2. Sandals Royal Plantation (Ocho Rios)

Sandals’ only all-butler boutique resort

Understated elegance and exquisitely private, this resort features just 74 oceanview suites tucked into a magnificent coral bluff. Enjoy unlimited golf at nearby Sandals Golf & Country Club, access to all the amenities of Sandals Ochi Beach Resort, and Jamaica’s only Champagne and caviar bar, C-Bar (additional cost).

3. Sandals Montego Bay (Montego Bay)

A true beachfront resort that’s playful and romantic

The very first Sandals is a true original. On Jamaica’s largest private white sand-beach surrounded by calm waters protected by a natural reef, this is a beach vacation like no other. Indulge in the exclusive Beachfront Villa Suites with Butler Service, an all-suite enclave. And enjoy up to 20 restaurants with exchange privileges at two nearby Sandals Resorts.

4. Sandals Royal Caribbean Resort & Private Island (Montego Bay)

Britain to Bali-exotic adventures in Jamaica

Experience a unique fusion at this resort with afternoon tea and a rousing game of croquet partnered with the exotic appeal of an authentic Thai restaurant on the private offshore island. This is Jamaica’s most alluring resort and will soon feature romantic and exclusive Over-the-Water Suites, a first for Sandals.

5. Sandals Negril Beach Resort & Spa (Negril)

A little bit exotic. A whole lot of chic.

On the longest and best stretch of Negril’s famous Seven-Mile Beach, this resort delivers a laid-back beach vacation that can’t be beat. By day, enjoy the sun and sand; and by night, enjoy romantic fire pits and low-key beach parties. For ultimate luxury, try the Swim-up Suites and Millionaire Suites.

6. Sandals Whitehouse European Village & Spa (Whitehouse)

All beachfront rooms guaranteed!

This grand 500-acre oasis offers three distinct villages, French, Italian and Dutch, all set along a spectacular stretch of beach. Relax in Jamaica’s largest pool, framed by a sprawling piazza. Tempt your taste buds with Gourmet Discovery Dining at eight specialty restaurants. This is a truly unique resort in the heart of paradise.

7. Sandals Carlyle (Montego Bay)

An authentic Jamaican boutique resort

This charming 52-room hideaway delivers an intimate B&B vacation with something extra. You’re minutes from Montego Bay’s Hip Strip, and you can enjoy 24-hour room service and free transfers to two nearby Sandals Resorts, giving you access to up to 20 restaurants and endless activities.

26 Nov

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Adam Stewart Talks Success

November 26, 2015 | By |

Sandals didn’t invent the all-inclusive, but over the years they have perfected it, with more quality inclusions than any other resorts on the planet. That’s why they’re called the Luxury Included® Resorts. Adam Stewart, CEO of Sandals Resorts International, talks to us about the success of the most famous resorts in the world.

Why do you think Sandals is so successful?

We’re a Caribbean, family-owned company. We know the Caribbean. We start with the best beaches and create unique resorts that exceed expectations — and we’ve been doing that for over 30 years now.

Sandals has pioneered so many innovations over the years, like the swim-up pool bar and specialty restaurants. What are you most proud of?

That’s a tough one! We have lots to be proud of at Sandals. Constant evolution is something I’m very proud of. To always deliver one step ahead.

How did your Gourmet Discovery Dining evolve?

Our guests have more sophisticated tastes than ever and are always looking for new and authentic dining experiences. We recently introduced Indian, Southern and Tapas restaurants and they’ve become very popular.

The Sandals brand has now grown to 24 resorts in seven countries. How do you create a unique identity for each resort?

There is no cookie-cutter approach to our resorts. Each one is unique and has its own personality. We have our own in-house design team who shops the world for the latest trends and interprets them for a Caribbean aesthetic.

Most people don’t know this but every resort provides resources and support to a local school in the community. How did this program come about?

We are dedicated to playing a meaningful role in the lives of the communities where we operate resorts. Through the Sandals Foundation we support education, community and the environment.

What is Jamaica to you in one word?

Home!

What’s next for Sandals?

We’re very excited for our new Over-the-Water Suites that will debut at Sandals Royal Caribbean in Montego Bay in late 2016. They’ll be the first of their kind in the Caribbean.

What is your greatest satisfaction?

Seeing our guests happy, especially those who come back year after year. I think our amazing staff is the reason we have the most repeat guests of any all-inclusive resort company.

26 Nov

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Sandals is your Luxury Included Vacation

November 26, 2015 | By |

Sandals® Resorts is one of our best partners and we couldn’t be more excited about their phenomenal success. It all started more than 30 years ago with the first ever Sandals Resort opening in Montego Bay, Jamaica. Now, they are one of the most recognized and celebrated resort brands in the world.

They have constantly pushed the envelope, delivering vacation innovations designed to give you an unforgettable Luxury Included® experience; and the evolution continues. In Jamaica, look forward to new ideas, new rooms and much, much more, like the new Palms Building at Sandals Montego Bay, the Coconut and Bamboo Groves at Sandals Negril, Over-the-Water Suites at Sandals Royal Caribbean (coming late 2016), and the Caribbean’s first speakeasy, The Rabbit Hole, at Sandals Ochi.

Just when you thought it couldn’t get any better.

26 Nov

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7 Resorts for an Unforgettable New Year’s

November 26, 2015 | By |

Tired of the same-old, blasé New Year’s plans? We know the feeling – that’s why we’ve compiled a list of the best places to ring in 2016. Exciting, luxurious, and boasting sand over snow, here are our top picks to kick-start your year.

1. Grand Bahia Principe Coba

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The Grand Bahia Principe Coba in Riviera Maya offers great value for the whole family. There’s a waterpark and shows for kids, a golf course and casino for adults, and a beautiful beach for all only a short distance away (and yes, transportation to the beach is included!). It’s also part of our PLAY collection, which means everyone gets an exclusive flight experience and kids stay and eat for free. If that’s not impressive, then try this: stay in exclusive rooms with prime locations, thanks to our Privileges program.

2. Luxury Bahia Principe Sian Ka’an

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Say hello to 2016 in style at the adults-only Luxury Bahia Principe Sian Ka’an in Riviera Maya, Mexico. This resort exudes elegance with its minimalist, modern décor and supremely outfitted rooms. And what’s a romantic getaway without 24-hour room service, waiter service at the beach, or “After Golf” treatments at the on-site spa? We especially love the spa’s Vitamin Bar, where you can enjoy exotic natural fruit juices.

3. Grand Bahia Principe Jamaica

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The Grand Bahia Principe Jamaica is another excellent option for a family vacation. Situated right on the beach in Runaway Bay, there are 3 interconnected lake-style pools with 2 areas specially reserved for children. We’re also quite taken with the green spaces, tropical gardens and abundance of wildlife (keep your eyes peeled to spot long-tailed hummingbirds and green turtles). Bonus: Air Canada Vacations guests enjoy all the PLAY perks and access to an exclusive room section near the ocean.

4. Luxury Bahia Principe Runaway Bay

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The Luxury Bahia Principe Runaway Bay is an adults-only paradise and a definite contender for New Year’s. Since early this year, the resort has undergone extensive upgrades and by December 2015, there will be many new additions to experience firsthand. These include a new swimming pool, a swim-up bar, a lounge and “chill out” areas.

5. Meliá Jardines del Rey

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Treat your family to ultimate comfort at Meliá Jardines del Rey in Cayo Coco, Cuba. This 5-star beachfront resort has nightly entertainment, 3 swimming pools (don’t miss their pool parties with bubbles!) and designated activities and facilities for kids, including a playground and paddling pool.

6. Playa Costa Verde

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Another family favourite is Playa Costa Verde in Holguin, Cuba – and not just because it’s part of our PLAY program. Located directly on the beach, we particularly love the availability of snacks 24/7 (you never know when you’re going to get the munchies, right?), salsa dance classes, and introductory scuba lessons in the pool. Be sure to take advantage of the morning room service, which means continental breakfast delivered to your door!

7. Sol Pelicano

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The Sol Pelicano in Cayo Largo, Cuba, is a nature lover’s dream. Bring the whole family and check out their renowned turtle observation program, which includes egg-laying and the release of baby turtles. Combined with ecological excursions, this resort has everything to make your next family vacation an adventure!

With the holidays around the corner, there’s no better time than now to start making plans for New Year’s. Get started today!

29 Jun

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3 Sunny Summer Escapes

June 29, 2015 | By |

Envisioning a summer escape that involves sun and sand? All you need are your sunglasses, sunscreen and swimsuit and you’re ready for a vacation down south (and the perfect tan). Here are 3 sunny escapes to consider for your summer vacation.

1) Diving Escape at Cozumel Palace – Mexico

Cozumel Palace Mexico

The island of Cozumel, just off the coast of Playa del Carmen, is an excellent place for a fun and relaxing getaway. The Cozumel Palace has the facilities, setting and staff to offer an unforgettable stay. Begin your escape with a spa treatment – we recommend the Pul Yah Ceremony, which will put your mind and body at ease for the remainder of your vacation. Next, get ready to explore the fascinating coral reefs surrounding the resort. You have 2 options: snorkelling for beginners or scuba diving for more seasoned divers.

The ecosystem on the coast of Cozumel is particularly beautiful, thanks to the mild Gulf Stream that allows for ideal diving conditions. The hardest part is choosing which reef to explore, because they are all different and stunning. Another advantage to staying at the Cozumel Palace is that you have access to all hotels in the hotel chain (6 to be exact)! You stay at one, but can enjoy the restaurants and amenities of all hotels within the resort. That’s excellent news if you’re planning a few leisurely strolls around the grounds.

2) Family Escape at IBEROSTAR Rose Hall Beach – Jamaica

Iberostar Rose Hall Beach Montego Bay

In addition to its superb setting overlooking a sandy beach in Montego Bay, the IBEROSTAR Rose Hall Beach offers lots of opportunities for family fun with its wide-ranging facilities for all ages. The little ones can play at the kids club, a hub for adventure. Meanwhile, parents can have peace of mind knowing that activities are supervised by certified animators. Relaxing at the spa or on a lounge chair by the pool or beach are all the more reason to unwind.

For those who prefer to maximize their time with the little ones, there is no shortage of activities to be had as a family: among options are catamaran cruises, tennis, kayaking and dance classes for those who have rhythm (and even for those who don’t). The best part about this resort? Kids stay and eat free.

3) Warm Escape at Breezes Varadero – Cuba

Breezes Varadero

Cuba is largely known for its friendly locals and joie de vivre. And Varadero is no exception, especially at the Breezes Varadero. From the reception staff and animators, to the waiters and management, the staff is excellent. Helpful and friendly, hotel employees flash you a smile at any time of day. Speaking of smiles, we bet you’ll also have one ear to ear when you savour a dish at El Mojito, one of the hotel’s restaurants. Named after the iconic Cuban cocktail, this restaurant showcases typical Cuban flavours.

One of the highlights of this hotel is the beach. Though all beaches in Cuba are breathtaking, this one is particularly stunning with its pristine, white sand and clear water with hints of turquoise and deep blue fading into the horizon. And the wooden huts only add to the charm of the beach. For those who would rather take a nap in the shade, there are several hammocks around the property – now, that’s what we call a proper escape.

 

Tempting, isn’t it? You can probably already picture yourself on the beach, cocktail in hand. What are you waiting for? Escape to sun and sand! Make sure to also check out our last-minute deals – you won’t want to miss these!

 

02 Apr

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Top 10 Resorts to Check Out This Summer

April 2, 2015 | By |

Trying to find the newest, hottest resorts to stay at this summer? Search no more, as we have shortlisted the top 10 resorts to check out this summer in Mexico and the Caribbean. These include some brand new and recently renovated properties, as well as properties that have been newly added to the Air Canada Vacations lineup. From villa accommodations to boutique hotels, these are 10 resorts you definitely want to check out.  

1) Eurostars Cayo Santa Maria (Cayo Santa Maria, Cuba)

Eurostars Cayo Santa Maria

Snack La Caleta

The beach at Eurostars Cayo Santa Maria is an absolute pièce de résistance, with its pure white sand and turquoise water. If you want to maximize your intake of ocean views, make sure to dine at the Mediterranean Aire de Mar Restaurant, or stop by Snack La Caleta, a poolside snack bar that also overlooks the Caribbean Sea. A variety of activities are on offer at this resort, including non-motorized water sports, 2 tennis courts, a kids club and a yacht club.

2) Beach House Turks and Caicos (Providenciales, Turks and Caicos)

Beach House Turks and Caicos

The 21-suite Beach House Turks and Caicos is a boutique hotel with an intimate setting. As a guest, you are entitled to dedicated lounge spaces on stunning Grace Bay Beach. Ranging from 1,150 to 1,580 square feet, guest suites feature a kitchenette, as well as a balcony or terrace with a day bed. The on-site Beach House Restaurant is a popular dining spot in Providenciales and showcases a creative Caribbean and contemporary menu. For additional dining options, you can take a shuttle to the hotel’s 2 sister properties, Alexandra Resort and Blue Haven Resort.

3) Bel Air Collection Resort & Spa Vallarta (Riviera Nayarit/Nuevo Vallarta)

Bel Air Collection Nuevo Vallarta

Bel Air Collection Resort & Spa Vallarta has your wellbeing in mind. Its Asian-style spa is perfect for some R&R: in addition to various spa treatments, it offers daily yoga and meditation, as well as a special low-calorie diet program for the health-conscious. Its infinity pool overlooking the beach does nothing but inspire relaxation, and a variety of special services like tea time and a nightly turn-down service with petits fours adds to the serene experience offered by this resort.

4) ACOYA Hotel Suites & Villas (Willemstad, Curaçao)

ACOYA Lakefront Villa

Lakefront villa

Lush lodging is the name of the game at ACOYA Hotel Suites & Villas. Deluxe rooms feature a private patio surrounded by a tropical garden. Suites range from 2 to 4 bedrooms and are appointed with a large private balcony, fully equipped kitchen, living room and dining area. Featuring a garden, pool or lake view, villas come fully furnished and offer the ultimate private sanctuary. On-site amenities include a swimming pool, a spa and fine dining at Restaurant Seasons.

5) Hyatt Zilara Rose Hall (Montego Bay, Jamaica)

Hyatt Zilara Rose Hall Spa

The new, adults-only Hyatt Zilara Rose Hall is the epitome of luxury. Stylishly decorated, each guest room features handcrafted furniture, a furnished terrace, designer toiletries and plush bathrobes. Dining is a regal affair as well with access to 3 exclusive restaurants, as well as 6 restaurants that are shared with its sister property, Hyatt Ziva. When you want to go for a swim, you can choose from a total of 14 pools, including 9 swim-up pools and 5 whirlpools, and when you’re in the mood for relaxation, indulge in a service at the oceanfront spa.

6) Fiesta Americana Puerto Vallarta (Puerto Vallarta, Mexico)

Fiesta Americana Puerto Vallarta

Lobby

It’s amazing that Fiesta Americana Puerto Vallarta can provide an oasis so close to bustling downtown Puerto Vallarta. The hotel lobby itself is like a mini sanctuary, housed in an enormous palapa and adorned with a calming, rushing waterfall. The resort is surrounded by the Sierra Madre Occidental Mountains and it offers a beautiful private beach on the Bahía de Banderas, the second largest bay in the Pacific Ocean.

7) Be Live Collection Canoa (La Romana, Dominican Republic)

Be Live Collection Canoa La Romana

Be Live Collection Canoa offers a convenient location in La Romana, right on Bayahibe Beach. It also facilitates day trips to neighbouring Del Este National Park, where you can explore over 400 caverns (some of which contain ancient pictographs), a variety of flora and fauna and Saona Island. The resort’s amenities cater to all ages: a lagoon-shaped pool, multiple dining options, a spa, fitness centre and kids club make it perfect for either a couple’s getaway or family vacation.

8) Point Grace (Providenciales, Turks and Caicos)

Point Grace Beach

Featuring a remote location on the point of 19-km Grace Bay Beach, the 28-suite Point Grace offers a quiet, peaceful setting. Appointed with British Colonial architecture, this boutique hotel offers guest suites that are over 1,000 square feet in size, and that include a kitchen, terrace and upscale bathroom. It is also home to 2 Caribbean restaurants, as well as the oceanfront Thalasso Spa which incorporates the properties of sea mud and sea water into its treatments.

9) Meliá Jardines del Rey (Cayo Coco, Cuba)

Melia Jardines del Rey

Opened in January 2015, the Meliá Jardines del Rey is a beautifully styled hotel that blends contemporary décor with a design that emulates a sugar cane plantation. It is home to 9 restaurants, 6 bars and a sweet corner called Macao, which offers a variety of ice cream and snacks. There is a boulevard that extends from the lobby to the beach, and guest rooms are located in 3-storey bungalows.

10) Akumal Bay Beach & Wellness Resort (Riviera Maya, Mexico)

akumal-bay-beach

Though Akumal Bay Beach & Wellness Resort is now sporting a brand new look after a recent renovation, it has preserved what is at its core: a laidback, beachy vibe and unspoilt natural surroundings. Rooms are now ultra-sleek junior suites with outdoor hot tubs, but have retained their main focal point: an amazing view of Akumal Bay. The resort also offers pop-up beach bars and access to a world-class snorkelling site that is home to sea turtles and a beautiful coral reef.

 

Looking for more resorts like these? If you did not get a chance this past season, you may still wish to look at our Top 10 Resorts To Check Out: Winter Edition, or consult our full listing of properties in the Caribbean & Mexico.

 

25 Aug

By

Top 10 Things for Families to Do in Jamaica

August 25, 2014 | By |

With its postcard-perfect beaches, lush jungles, and vibrant culture, it’s easy to see why so many vacationers crave the laid-back “Island Vibe” of Jamaican paradise. Jamaica offers many unique experiences for both seasoned adventurers and first-time travellers. Choose from exciting activities like zip-lining down mountainsides or rafting down jungle rivers. Alternatively, relax on the beach, find a local treasure at a street market with friends, and take advantage of the luxuries offered at your all-inclusive resort! With so many things to do and see, Jamaica has become one of the most visited vacation destinations in the world. But what does Jamaica have to offer for families looking for the ultimate vacation experience?

The answer: A lot!

At resorts such as the Beaches Negril Resort and Spa, families can enjoy fun kids clubs, adventure excursions, and beautiful beaches. Parents, why not leave the kids in the hands of a capable babysitter while you take some time to relax at the spa or check out a nightclub? Jamaica also offers multiple family-friendly cultural tours and historical sights. Best of all, all of them are doable as a day trip, no matter which Jamaican city your resort is located in.

If you have a limited amount of time to spend sightseeing, it can be a bit tricky to pick just a few excursions out of the many available. To make your selection easier, here are our top 10 family adventures to have in Jamaica.

1 – Take a Canopy Tour 

Fly through the jungle like a tropical bird with Ocho Rios’ Canopy Tour.

Canopy-tour-ocho-rios

See the sights and sounds of the canopy as your tour guide introduces you to the various species of flora and fauna unique to Jamaica and the Caribbean. Both kids and adults are sure to come away having had the time of their lives with this exhilarating and educational adventure.

2 – Try Jamaican Bobsledding

Ever heard of bobsledding in a country where temperatures rarely dip below 23 degrees? Since the movie Cool Runnings, bobsledding has become the ultimate Jamaican experience.

Bobsledding-Jamaica

If your family is ready to race down the mountain track through the jungle, head to Ocho Rios’ famous Mystic Mountain Rain Forest Adventures – a kid’s dream come true. In the meantime, why not get a preview to see what all the fuss is about?

3 – Take the Family Dog-Sledding… Without the Snow

Jamaica is full of surprises, like Chukka Caribbean Adventures. Another Ocho Rios adventure, this dog-sledding outfit is perfect for the animal lover in every kid. All of the dogs at Chukka Caribbean Adventures are rescue dogs, and are eager to lavish affection on every visitor to walk in. Families can choose from either the “Encounter” or “Experience” options. Spend time playing with the sled dogs and watching them run a course or two, or hop in a buggy and experience full-scale Jamaican dog-sledding for a few minutes. Due to the heat, expect to spend much less time in the buggy than you would in a colder climate. 

4 – Don’t Miss Dunn’s River Falls

Dunns-River-Falls-Ocho-Rios

Without a doubt Jamaica’s most popular sight, Dunn’s River Falls in Ocho Rios attracts thousands of visitors a year. Take a tour up to see the river! There are multiple fun ways for a family to make their way up the river depending on the ages of their children. Excursions to Dunn’s River are most easily done with kids aged 6+, as most tours consist of hikes, buggy rides, or ATV adventures. Families with very young children might enjoy taking a bus tour.

5 – Raft the Jungle Rapids

Best suited for families with kids aged 9+, river rafting has always been a fantastic family adventure. Suit up in your life vests, grab a paddle, and hit the rapids! Braco Adventure Tours in Falmouth offers multiple river adventure tours, from the original fun of river rafting, to other experiences such as river boarding and kayaking. What better way to get up close and personal with Jamaica’s natural beauty?

6 – Join the Adrenaline Junkies at Rick’s Cafe

If you can’t decide between relaxing with a cold drink and hitting some adrenaline-inducing adventure sports, why not head over to Rick’s Cafe, near Negril? This popular restaurant on the coast is known world-wide for the cliff-jumping that takes place there. Perched on the edge of a 30-40 ft cliff, Rick’s draws in adrenaline junkies from around the globe. Sip an ice-cold drink and watch locals and foreigners alike leap from incredible heights to plunge into the turquoise waters below, or try your own hand at it. Teens are sure to enjoy spending an hour or three at Rick’s Cafe.

7 – Go for a Family Ride Along the Beach

The Montego Bay Shore Excursion is a dream come true for young equestrians in the making. Saddle up and take an afternoon or evening ride along the beach, enjoying the sights along the way. Watch the sun set on the ocean as your guide takes you on a tour across the bleached white sands. Could anything be more perfect?

8 – Explore the Local Culture with John Hall’s Adventure Tour

John Hall’s Adventure Tour is well known for being extremely family-friendly. Babies are more than welcome on this tour. Your guide will take you out of Montego Bay and into smaller, less-visited towns and villages around Jamaica. You’ll experience local dance, foods, and customs. Kids will enjoy playing games, learning interesting facts, and meeting local children. If your family wants to get away from the crowds and see Jamaica from a new perspective, the John Hall’s Adventure Tour is perfect for you.

9 – Swim with Dolphins and More at Dolphin Cove

Swimming-with-dolphins-Jamaica

Dolphin Cove is not to be missed, especially if there’s a marine life fan in your family! Swimming with dolphins is a bucket-list item for many travellers, and where better to finally tick it off the list than in beautiful Jamaica? Dolphins aren’t the only marine life at Ocho Rios’ Dolphin Cove. Visitors can also meet the local stingrays, feed wild sharks, snorkel with colourful tropical fish, and take a kid-friendly walk through a portion of the jungle.

10 – Rusty’s X-Cellent Adventures

Recommended primarily for teens, Rusty’s X-Cellent Adventures in Negril is an adrenaline-packed mountain bike tour that leads participants over rocky, muddy, and wild terrain for a unique look at Jamaica’s wild side. Teens are sure to have a blast. Expect to return to your resort muddy and exhilarated!

Jamaica has a lot to offer, whether you’re into adventure sports or simply want to finally take the time to relax. With so many options to choose from, you’re sure to find a tour which perfectly suits your needs!

Blue Mountains in Jamaica: For the Love of Nature and Coffee

July 17, 2014 | By |

Just thinking about the Blue Mountains has us dreaming of lush rainforests, beautiful flowers, and of course, delicious coffee. If you are planning a trip to Jamaica, this region should absolutely find itself on your itinerary. To put it simply, the Blue Mountains are as stunning as you would expect them to be – and maybe more.

Christopher Columbus is said to have remarked, upon his first trip to Jamaica: “It is the fairest island eyes have beheld; mountainous and the land seems to touch the sky." Not surprising, as The Blue Mountains are some of the highest mountains in the Caribbean, with the Peak reaching in at 2,256 metres, or 7,402 feet. The view from this high peak is absolutely breathtaking – and the mountains are often described as a “Garden of Eden” because of fantastic flora and fauna you can admire there.

Visiting the Blue Mountains

The Blue Mountains are located between Kingston and Port Antonio, dominating the eastern end of the island of Jamaica. It is possible to visit the area by yourself, but for a worry-free activity, a day trip to the Blue Mountains can easily be arranged through the travel desk of your hotel.

Blue Mountains Map

Map of the Blue Mountains, Jamaica courtesy of Summitpost.org

To reach the Blue Mountains by car from Kingston, you have two options: the first being via the main road through Irish Town, the other via Guava Ridge. These roads converge at the town of Section and the trip will take about an hour. It is also possible to reach the Blue Mountains by bus, with most buses departing from Papine, though public transport’s reliability is not guaranteed.

If you wish to stay in the Blue Mountains, Strawberry Hill is perched on a stand-alone mountaintop, 3,000 feet up in the Blue Mountains. The view from the infinity pool alone is worth the stay. It is the perfect place to kick back, relax, and enjoy Jamaica’s lush plant life.

Blue & John Crow Mountains National Park

The Blue & John Crow Mountains National Park was established in 1992 and now conserves about 78,000 hectares, or 200,000 acres of Jamaica’s last remaining rainforest, representing 4.4% of Jamaica’s land surface. The park includes three separate ranges, from west to east: Port Royal Mountains, the Blue Mountains and John Crow Mountains, with the Rio Grande Valley separating the Blue and John Crow mountains to the North. Fees apply to visit.

The Blue Mountains Peak is just 16 kilometres from the sea, meaning the area has one of the steepest gradients in the world. This makes for quite the drop in temperature, from an average of around 27°C at sea level, to just 5°C at the Peak. This difference in temperature, combined with high rainfall, feeds the lush vegetation. The Eastern face of the mountain range receives more than 765 centimetres of rain each year, providing water for almost half of Jamaica’s population.

Hiking to the Peak of the Blue Mountains

There are two ways to hike to the Peak of the Blue Mountains: in the dark, with a flashlight, to reach the summit in time for sunrise, or during daytime.

If you choose the early morning option, it is important to know that Portland Gap is the last rest and overnight stop before the Peak. From there, the Blue Mountain Peak Trail is a 5.6 kilometre hike, taking approximately 2 to 3 hours. The walk is an experience in itself, as you may need to start walking before 5 a.m. to reach the summit in time for sunrise.

The sunrise is the real spectacle, and on a clear day, you will be able to admire both the north and south coasts of the island, easily justifying the very early morning wake-up call. You may even be able to make out the shadowy outline of Cuba! Regardless of the time of the year you visit, weather conditions can of course never be guaranteed, meaning that the sunrise, and view, may be obscured by clouds or the mist that gives the mountains their bluish hues – and their name.

If you walk during the daytime, you will notice that the path to the Peak is surrounded by beautiful scenery, so plan more time to stop and admire the view. If you like bird watching, Jamaica’s National Bird, the Doctor Bird, the Jamaican Tody (Robin Red Breast) and the Mountain Witch are just a few of the species you will get to see and hear on your journey. Most travellers choose Penlyne Castle as the start of the 12.5 km hike to the Peak, which is accessible by bus or car. If you wish to start your hike after Hagley Gap, you will need to have access to a 4WD.

The trail is easy to follow with signs every step of the way. The difficulty level of the path varies by area – some parts are flat while others are gravel and may be more difficult to walk, especially if wet. Jacob’s Ladder is known to be particularly narrow and steep.

For safety reasons, it is best to hike in the Blue Mountains during the dry season, which begins in December and ends in April. The steep slopes of the mountains and its many rivers may create floods and landslides during heavy rains. Join a guided tour or verify the weather conditions before setting off. Do not forget to register at the Ranger Station in Portland Gap.

You will not find many food options in the Blue Mountains, especially once you start hiking. It’s therefore best to always carry water (tap water is safe to drink in Jamaica) and food with you at all times.

The Blue Mountains’ natural beauty: finding plants and birds

Even if your fitness level (or interest!) doesn’t allow for a climb to the Blue Mountain Peak, there are plenty of ways to enjoy the area’s natural beauty. Hardwar Gap, one of the park’s recreation areas, and the Rio Grande Valley are prime locations to admire much of the island’s fauna. Just outside of the Blue & John Crow Mountains National Park, Ecclesdown Road, in Portland Parish, is also a great place to visit.

More than 800 species of endemic plants and 500 species of flowering plants, 200 species of resident and migrant birds and the world’s second largest butterfly, the Homerus swallowtail (Papilio homerus) can all be found in the National Park.

Amongst the most impressive plant species you will get to see in the park are Lobster Claws, Orchids, Torch Lilies and Ackee – the fruit with the texture of scrambled eggs that is part of Jamaica’s national dish. The area is also optimal for bird watching: do not miss the red-haired Jamaican Woodpecker, the black Smooth-billed Ani and the rare White-eyed Thrush.

black-smooth-billed-ani-bird-jamaica

Smooth-billed Ani

Occasionally, the Natural History Society of Jamaica organizes field trips to the Blue and John Crow Mountains with special emphasis on their fauna and flora.

While Kingston is a great base for visiting the Blue Mountains, most visitors prefer to use Port Antonio as a base when visiting the Rio Grande Valley. There are many short walks starting in the small towns along the Port Antonio-Bowden road. Ginger House is not to be missed, featuring a waterfall and mineral spring (bring your bathing suit!).

Other short walk options are the 3-kilometre Oatley Mountain Trail, in very lush and impressive forests, with lookout points to enjoy panoramic views, and the 2-kilometre Cascade Water Trail, where you can swim to cool off. Both trails are situated in the park’s Holywell Recreation Area and come highly recommended.

Learning more about Blue Mountain Coffee

Blue Mountain Coffee is famous worldwide for its smooth, mild and bitter-free taste. The coffee has been produced in the Blue Mountains since 1728, when the Governor, Sir Nicholas Lawes, brought the first coffee seedlings from Hispaniola (the island where Haiti and the Dominican Republic are situated). The slopes of the Blue Mountain were cleared, creating coffee plantations that helped Jamaica become the leading coffee producer in the world by the 19th century. However, this domination was short-lived as the industry fell into decline after Emancipation, when Jamaica could no longer compete with slave-owning countries like Brazil and Cuba. Blue Mountain Coffee is still appreciated worldwide today. In fact, more than 80% of the production is exported to Japan.

Today, although some coffee estates remain, most of the beans are grown on small plots by local farmers on the Kingston-Buff Bay Road, near Section.

What makes Blue Mountain Coffee so special?

The climate in the Blue Mountains is cool and misty, with high rainfall, while the soil is rich and offers excellent drainage. These make for ideal conditions to produce the world-famous coffee.

Blue Mountain Coffee is a globally protected certification mark, meaning that only coffee certified by the Coffee Industry Board of Jamaica can be labelled as such. There are different  classifications of Blue Mountain coffee.

Only coffee grown at elevations between 3,000 and 5,500 feet (915-1,700 metres) can be called Blue Mountain Coffee. Jamaican High Mountain is the term used for coffee grown at elevations between 1,500 and 3,000 feet (460-910 metres) and Jamaica Supreme or Jamaica Low Mountain is coffee grown below 1,500 feet (460 metres).

Visiting the Blue Mountains coffee plantations

If you like coffee, a visit to a coffee plantation is a great experience to learn more about the beans, the harvesting, and the process to turn the beans into the famous coffee.

You can visit the Mavis Bank Coffee Factory, where Jablum coffee is produced. Victor C. Munn, an English planter and processor established the factory in 1923 on just five acres (2 hectares). Today, approximately 1.4 million pounds of green beans from over 6,000 farmers are processed here annually. Enquire about the tour at your Kingston-area hotel. On a tour of the factory, you will get to see the coffee beans drying (in season) and being processed. This is also a great place to purchase roasted coffee beans. Space in your luggage permitting, bring back as much coffee as you would like – there is no specific limit to how much coffee you can bring back to Canada, as long as you do not exceed the duty free limits (up to $750 for a trip of 7 days or more).

North of Newcastle, you can take a one-hour tour of Craighton Estate Great House and coffee plantation, where you can learn about coffee cultivation. From the over 200-year old estate’s gazebo, sitting in 2,600 feet above sea level, you will be able to admire the views over the mountains and the villages below.

The Blue Mountains offer something for everyone. From quaint villages to challenging hikes to rewarding vistas to great coffee tastings, you are sure to find something you enjoy in the region. And in true Jamaican fashion, there will be plenty of friendly locals to make the visit even more memorable. Happy travels!


02 Jul

By

Jamaican Slang You Should Know Before Travelling

July 2, 2014 | By |

Before visiting a destination where the people speak a language different from your native tongue, it is a good idea to learn a few words and phrases from the language that they speak. Doing this can help you navigate, do simple tasks like ordering food or thanking a person. It is also a common courtesy to the people you are interacting with. You might not be able to speak their language fluently, but that small amount of effort and being polite could really help you out and go a long way in regards to them being willing to help you out in return.

The official language of Jamaica is English and you should be able to travel throughout the country without having any problems communicating. However, if you really want to impress and get to know the locals, then it might be a good idea to learn a bit of their other language known as Jamaican Patois.

What to know about Patois

Patois (pronounced like Patwah), is known by linguists as Jamaican Creole. It is mainly based on the English language with different uses of grammar, mixed with various African languages, native words and even a bit of Irish English.

Jamaican Patois is more often spoken than written and one of the hardest parts about learning the language is that it isn’t legally recognized. Because of that, the language isn’t standardized either. This means that there are many variations of different sayings and many variations as to how things are spelled as well, with no one way being wrong.

Key phrases travellers to Jamaica should know

Often times you will find that the Patois word compared to the English word is an altered direct translation like “Thank You” being “Tank yuh”. Other times the Patios version might be more of an explanation of what you are trying to say in English. An example of this is “Goodbye” being “Walk good” which is like saying, “take care” or “travel safe”. If you think about it too much it might be harder for you to learn. This is the type of language that just kind of flows out of your mouth.

To begin, here are a few Jamaican slang expressions you should know before travelling. Some of these are very basic words that you would want to know or at least get an understanding of before visiting Jamaica.

Hello = “Yes sah” or a more casual greeting would be “whaa gwaan” which is the equivalent to “What’s up?”. There are numerous variations for greeting someone, which also include: “Whap’am” and “How yuh stay?” which means “How are you?”.

An appropriate response to one of these greetings might be “irie” which means “alright” or “fine”.

Good Bye = “Walk Good” or “lata”

Thank You = “Tank yuh”

Yes = “Yah man”

No = “Nuh” or “No sah”

Drink = “drinkz”

Water = “watta”

Eat = “nyam”

How much is this? = “Ow much is dis?”

Examples of more advanced expressions for the adventurous linguists

If you think you have an ear for languages and you want to be able to communicate a bit more with the locals, then these few expressions and phrases might help you out.

Perhaps you are looking for directions?

Show me where this is located = “Mek I know weh dis deh”

Where is the bus stop? = “Weh di bus tap deh?”

Or maybe you want to make some small talk?

Who sings this song? = “A who sing da sang ya?”

Where is the party? – “Wich paaat di paaty deh?”

What are you doing? = “Wha yuh a do?”

Tips for meeting the locals and practicing the language

Now that you have a handle on the lingo, it is time to meet some locals, try out what you have learned and perhaps learn more from first-hand conversations. Jamaica Local Rastafarian

If you are staying at a resort during your vacation, the best place to start is at the bar. Pick a time of day where the hotel bar is not overwhelmed, take a seat at the bar, grab a drink and strike up a conversation with the bartender, preferably a local. Hotels are all about customer service and most bartenders love to chat, so this is the best way to test out your new skills without going too far outside your comfort zone.

If you feel more comfortable like you have a handle on things, ask the bartender, the concierge or your tour guide where they would suggest you can go to hang out with some locals. Hopefully they will recommend a great local watering hole where you can not only strike up a conversation with some real locals, but you might also get the chance to try some great local fare.

A few key phrases to know for customer service interactions

Aside from common pleasantries and small talk, it is also a good idea to figure out a few phrases of Patois that relate to customer service. From shopping at a market, to getting service at a restaurant or bar, here are some prime examples.

How much is this? = “Ow much is dis?”

What is that? = “A wah dat?”

Can I have… = “Cyan I ave…”

Can I order? = “Cyan I orda?”

What is the best? = “Wah is di bess?”

I like this. = “Mi like dis.”

Funny expressions

Learning a new language can be a fun experience and is a great way to expand your mind. As with learning any language, it is always fun to not only learn the most common words to help you get by, but also to learn a few funny words and phrases as well. Here are a few you might enjoy.

“Blabba mout” = Someone who talks too much.

“De olda de moon, de brigher it shines” = The older a person is, the wiser.

“Wanti wanti can’t get it, getti getti no want it.” = The grass isn't always greener on the other side.

These few words and phrases should get you started talking like a Jamaican local or at least help you attempt to communicate with them. Don’t forget that being polite, saying “please” and “thank you” can really go a long way. Hopefully they will inspire you to learn more and feel more comfortable speaking with the locals.

Remember that English is the native language of Jamaica, so you don’t need to learn Jamaican Patois to travel there. These suggestions are just for fun and they might help you understand some of the reggae music that you are sure to hear.

 

References:

www.ackee.com

www.speakJamaican.com

www.talk8tive.com

http://jamaicanize.com/translate

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jamaica#Language

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jamaican_Patois

http://www.reference.com/motif/reference/how-do-you-say-hi-in-patois

http://jamaicanpatwah.com/

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=klvvBLqvecg

http://shoery.com

http://www.tripadvisor.ca/Travel-g147309-s604/Jamaica:Caribbean:Important.Phrases.html

http://www.visitjamaica.com/feel-the-vibe/patois/a-few-good-words-to-know

http://growingupjamaican.com/jamaican-english-phrases/

20 Jun

By

Walking Along Negril’s 7-Mile Beach

June 20, 2014 | By |

For many, arriving in Jamaica is the experience of a lifetime. Imagine waking to warm tropical beaches, cool drinks under a golden sun, long relaxing afternoons wandering the streets filled with Caribbean culture and enough adventure for even the most avid adrenaline junkie. With plenty of shops, restaurants, and outdoor activities, this Caribbean island is a tropical paradise for anyone needing to take a break from a busy schedule. Negril’s 7-Mile Beach is the most famous beach on the island, and has been rated in the Top Ten Beaches worldwide by many travel magazines. The soft white sands and thriving reefs just offshore attract thousands of tourists each year.

Negril caters to tourists far more than Ocho Rios does, but it’s far quieter than Montego Bay. The result? A perfect combination of relaxing natural getaways, beautiful resorts, and adventure sports for travellers of all ages and levels of experience. In short, Negril has a little something for everyone, and much of it is centred around this postcard-perfect beach.

No matter what your interests, Negril’s 7-Mile Beach has enough attractions to ensure that you’ll find something that suits you.

Take an invigorating walk

With so much soft white sand, coastal views, and lush rainforest just outside your hotel, why not explore down the beach? Despite its title, 7-Mile Beach is little more than four miles long, making a hike down the length of it and back a reasonable excursion if you have a few hours to spare. It’s also worth exploring in smaller segments, as the heat can sometimes be exhausting. Be sure to bring plenty of water and sunscreen! Watch a sunset you'll never forget with sand between your toes, or have the beach to yourself as the sun rises over the ocean.

Engage in some retail therapy

Shops near the all-inclusive resorts on the north end of the beach can be overpriced, offer less, and the quality of the items offered is not nearly as good as it is at the south end of 7-Mile Beach. It’s possible to find local crafts and goods almost anywhere, and there’s a tourist mall that offers the best dresses, watches, and luxury items in Negril. Don’t be afraid to shop locally. You’ll have twice the fun, as bartering with the locals can get you some fantastic deals and you’re certain to enjoy yourself in the process.

"Wasting Away" at Jimmy Buffet’s Margaritaville

One of 7-Mile Beach’s most popular hangouts, Jimmy Buffet’s Margaritaville, boasts a wide selection of delicious international and local foods; of course, you're going to want to order a margarita!

Jimmy Buffet Margaritaville Negril Jamaica

“Margaritaville” by Huseyin Sakaoğlu (Flickr)

Right on the beach, it has its own section of snow-white sand leading to the ocean. A large water trampoline floats temptingly in the shallows, and families and young adults alike are certain to appreciate the friendly, relaxing atmosphere of this vacationer’s hotspot. I dare you to make it through your whole meal without singing a Jimmy Buffet song out loud!

Take a leap at Rick’s Cafe

This is likely the most popular restaurant on the island. Rick’s Cafe is set atop one of the cliffs that line 7-Mile Beach. It offers excellent food, a lively atmosphere, and markets itself primarily towards the younger generation of vacationers.

Rick's Cafe Negril Jamaica

“Ricks Cafe (Jamaica)” by Ras Juanjo (Flickr)

For a true taste of the Caribbean, order their world famous surf and turf; the lobster will make your mouth water! Families are also welcome, but it’s recommended for families with older kids, as there isn’t a great area for young children to swim. After all, if you visit Rick’s Cafe, you should really bring your swimsuit. It’s famous worldwide for its cliff diving. Local divers will show off their skills by leaping from the highest points of the cliff, for a small fee. Some will even climb to the tops of trees overhanging the cliffs and execute perfect dives from there. Amateurs can also dive from any point, at their own risk. It’s reasonably safe, and the slight sting upon hitting the surface is easily overlooked when compared to the exhilaration of leaping off a towering Jamaican cliff to land in the pure warm waters below. Tales of cliff jumping into the blue sea are sure to impress your snowbound friends at home in Canada!

Get wet at Kool Runnings Water Park

With multiple water slides, lazy rivers, and kiddie parks, Kool Runnings Water Park is the perfect destination for families looking for a place to get out and enjoy the warm Jamaican sun. A sure fire hit with families, if you want to win the "best parent" award with your kids for the day, you'll want to take them here! One of the only water parks in Jamaica, Kool Runnings Water Park was voted the Best Attraction by the JHTA in 2013, and for good reason! Well-maintained and affordable, locals and tourists alike enjoy fun family trips to Negril’s top attraction on 7-Mile Beach. Be sure to try out the bungee trampoline!

Fly high: Go parasailing

For a breathtaking view of the beautiful 7-Mile Beach of Negril and the fantastic Caribbean ocean, book a parasailing tour. You’ll fly up to 500 feet in the air, allowing you the best bird’s-eye view of Negril and its neighbouring towns. Parasailing is one of the most popular activities on 7-Mile Beach, and is great for families or single riders alike. Suitable for all ages, the Parasailing Professionals run rides daily. Rides start and finish at the boat, and no experience is necessary to enjoy this fun and exhilarating adventure!

Where To Stay The Night

Plage de Negril Jamaique

Beaches Negril Resort & Spa

Families will enjoy this beautiful resort at the north end of Negril’s 7-Mile Beach. With no less than three outdoor pools, there’s plenty for the kids to do! The resort also offers a full range of activities, including kayaking, sailing, windsurfing, hydrobikes, waterskiing, and more. There’s plenty to do for all ages. Kids will love the mini-club, while parents might enjoy relaxing at the spa or taking advantage of the nightly activities. Teens can make friends at the teen disco held every night, and enjoy adventure sports during the day. The Beaches Negril Resort & Spa also has its own scuba and water sports activity centre, which sets it apart from the majority of the other hotels and resorts lining 7-Mile Beach.

 

Sandals Grande Riviera Beach and Villa Golf Resort

This all-inclusive resort at the end of the beach is the perfect getaway for couples. It boasts 7 impressive pools (not including whirlpools, of which there are plenty to go around), 15 restaurants, and 9 bars. It specializes in weddings and comfortable private suites for couples. It is reserved for those 18 and older, which some honeymooners prefer. This resort has one of the best spas on the beach, with an impressive array of treatments available, ranging from mud baths and reflexology to pedicures and aromatherapy. A quiet, relaxing haven, Sandals Grande Riviera also offers complete wedding packages. Couples can choose from a wide range of colour palettes, work with their own wedding coordinator, and customize their own wedding through the Sandals Wedding Designer site online.

 

Grand Pineapple Beach Negril

The Grand Pineapple Beach Negril is the best resort around for singles looking to get away from the rush of everyday life and spend some time by themselves. It’s smaller than the other resorts, and doesn’t offer multiple pools or organized events. However, it is in a beautiful location, and has a pool, bar, restaurant, and is by all accounts a classy, well-kept resort. Sailing, snorkelling, and tennis are a few of the on-site activities offered here. The resort is located near many other attractions, and horseback rides, dive centres, shopping malls, and water skiing can be found just a short walk away.

View all the resorts in the area

 

Things You Should Know Before Visiting

– The beach is actually just over 4 miles long, though tourists have insisted on keeping the famous 7-Mile title.

  • For the best shopping, visit the south end of the beach.
  • West End Road, south of downtown Negril, offers the best local cliff jumping. Not for the faint of heart!
  • Topless sunbathing is allowed all along 7-Mile Beach. Full nudity is allowed only in certain locations, such as private coves on the West End cliffs.
  • Exploring outside of your resort or hotel is completely safe, so long as you use the same street smarts you would at home. Don’t walk alone in strange areas at night, keep in mind that drugs that are illegal back home are also illegal in Jamaica, and treat officers and locals with respect.