Around two weeks ago, our family flew to Jamaica for a long weekend. We were all super excited, as it was all of our first times on the island, and we were looking forward to staying at the Beaches Negril Resort, after our great experience at their other property in Turks and Caicos, two years prior. The kids were extra giddy, because our sitter is from Jamaica and since she always talks about her home, they couldn’t wait to see the place where she was born.
Following a fairly quick flight from NYC (just shy of 4 hours), we touched down in Montego Bay Jamaica. While we waited for our luggage and private transportation, we were invited to sit in the Sandals Private Room at the airport. Complete with wifi, snacks and beverages, it was the perfect touch to refuel before our next hour and half van ride to Beaches Negril. The idea of 90 minutes in a cab following our plane trip seemed daunting at first, but those feelings were soon quelled by a super scenic view, as we drove along the coast line. Upon arrival, we were ushered to a private checkin area, prior to being taken to our rooms. Our digs featured a king size bed, plus two couches with trundle beds, so each child had their own bed, rather than sharing.
Like any vacation, the first order of business for the kids was checking out the pool. Some resorts only offer a little kiddie pool, but Beaches Negril has a Pirates Island themed waterpark, filled with watersides, splash zones, kid-friendly pool, and a lazy river, shallow enough for most youngsters. It’s safe to say we spent the remainder of our day there, and they couldn’t get enough of it. Back at the room, we showered up early enough to catch the weekly Sesame Street Parade. Their favorite characters marched down the path, as all the young residents followed, making their way to the beach. Kids were offered balloon art, face painting, and coconut water from freshly cut coconuts. In the sand, overlooking the ocean, we enjoyed a caribbean style buffet dinner, while watching live entertainment and a gorgeous sunset. This beach party happens once a week, so when planning your vacation, try to schedule your trip during this event, because it’s super fun for you and the kids. Ryder, Siella, and Gemma were on stage, dancing and playing the majority of the evening. What a first day of vacation!
In addition to going to Jamaica for a little R&R and fun in the sun, we were working with the Sandals Foundation which is the philanthropic arm of Sandals Resorts International. The foundation was created to make a difference and inspire hope throughout the Caribbean. Dedicated to educating local children, creating a sense of community, and taking initiative to preserve the environment, the Foundation has partnered with several local communities, with local volunteers throughout the Caribbean. Sandals and Beaches guests also play a major role, in their donation of time and financial support.
One way in which hotel guests are encouraged to participate is by attending a Reading Road Trip, organized by the Sandals Foundation. We rode up to the Mount Airy School, where we donated school supplies and books brought from our homes for the children. While on the property, we were given tours of the grounds, and had a chance to work with the children for a few hours. We learned how their learning environment could be challenging, as a result of limited resources and dividing one classroom amongst 2 separated classes, resulting in up to 72 kids in one room at a time. With the kids, we read books, worked on worksheets, and took photos with them. They absolutely loved my camera, asking me to show them how to use it. Ryder connected with one boy in particular, teaching him a version of tag from home, while he showed Ryder how to play the drums. Siella and Gemma colored with their new friends and played some games. It was pretty heart warming to witness, and as pulling away I had a feeling that it probably wouldn’t be our last time visiting that school. Something struck me at the core, and I would love to get even more involved in what the Sandals Foundation does for children throughout the Caribbean. I know that Ryder and Siella will always remember this experience, as they couldn’t wait to go back to their own classrooms to tell them what they did while on vacation.
Back at the resort, we were greeted by a culinary treat. Over the past few decades, the lion fish, a species non indigenous to the Caribbean, has been wrecking havoc to the local fish population. These beautiful, yet extremely poisonous is not only harmful if it comes in contact with humans, but also consumes many other species of fish in high volume, depleting the supply. In an effort to limit the amount of lion fish overrunning the waters, there has been a push to educate local fisherman, in how to catch and properly clean these scavengers. Oddly enough, their spines and teeth can be extremely venomous, but when cleaned and cooked properly, they are quite delicious. The Beaches executive chef offered two different recipes for cooking the fish, one in coconut milk which especially blew our taste buds.
Beaches Negril runs seven miles of silky white sand beaches. It is home to some of the calmest, clearest waters in an incredible variety of all-inclusive water sports. The kids and I took out a paddle board one day, while Ryder found a live star fish while swimming. I could’ve spend all day in these waters.
The spice of life rules at Beaches Negril as it is an all-inclusive resort. They offer nine world-class restaurants with just about every culinary choice imaginable, including a sweet french bakery that we had to visit just about everyday for some gelato. From fresh seafood served right on the beach to wood-fired made-to-order pizzas, each restaurant offers a unique ambiance from the casual to refined. That evening, we dined at their sushi restaurant called Soy, which turned out to be one of our favorite meals of the trip. We are on a tropical island. How can the fish not be delicious and fresh!
The following morning, Ryder and I woke bright and early to embark on some more volunteer work. Many of the beaches outside of the resort and hotel properties are polluted and overrun with litter, and this land is way too beautiful to be discarded. For about two hours, we and twenty other volunteers picked up a about five hundred pounds of garbage. Shockingly, our take from the beach that morning had accumulated there in just one short month. In addition to cleanup, the Sandals Foundation is dedicated to educating the community about pollution, and making efforts to not ruin this paradise.
While they remained at the resort, Jason took the girls to the kids club where they played with other kids staying at the hotel. With the activities and attractions that cater to kids, Beaches truly makes their resorts a children’s paradise. They had access to all their amenities and they felt comfortable going to the bar to order their own drinks and even made their own ice cream cones. It was nice to take a step back and give them a little line to be free. This left the little ones, and mom and dad so relaxed.
That evening for dinner we ate at the Kimono Japanese restaurant. Hibachi style of dining is an absolute favorite for the kids, so we had plenty of laughs around the table, so it was such a treat for all of us.
When we woke up the next morning, we packed quickly before breakfast and a quick dip in the pool. The thought of heading back to the cold weather had us blue, but I can tell you that after spending time on the beaches of Negril, they quickly moved up to one of my favorites in the Caribbean, so we are definitely making plans to go back, for a longer period of time.
On this trip, the kids were a little older, so they seemed to enjoy themselves and appreciate it more. And they’ve been talking about their visit to the Mount Airy school, which lead me to believe they are proud for what we did for the students and community while we are there.
We couldn’t head back home without a little something for our babysitter. The kids asked a few employees what they thought their babysitter would like. The majority said their favorite was the national dish, ackee and salt fish, but we weren’t bringing that on the plane, so we opted for grater cake, tamarind balls and local hot sauce, which almost brought tears to her eyes.