Where We Stayed in Jamaica + Things to Know Before You Go

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Final recap time!

Where We Stayed

Ben and I booked our trip through Expedia.com, and stayed at the RIU ClubHotel in Negril on Bloody Bay, about 10 minutes north of 7 Mile Beach, and an hour’s drive from the Montego Bay Airport (MBJ).

We stayed at the RIU Palace in Cabo San Lucas for our honeymoon four years ago, and love the all-inclusive option the resorts offer, which include all meals, drinks, and dining at usually 4-5 onsite restaurants, as well as a morning and evening buffet. You will not go hungry at a RIU!

Since we stayed at a “ClubHotel” instead of a “Palace”, I’d have to say the Palace in Cabo was nicer, but from what we saw of other hotels in the area, this was near the top for Negril. There was actually a RIU Palace located about 1/4 mile up the bay from us, but from what we could see, the only difference between the two was that our hotel was probably more family friendly, and $400 cheaper.

Besides, they all have the patented RIU liquor carousel in each and every room!

Plus a mini bar stocked with all the water, soda, and Red Stripe you can drink. What more do ya need?! ;)

The hotel was beautifully landscaped with palm trees and other trees native to the area.

Including mango trees,

and these wacky 2D palm trees, which I kind of hated. They made me squirm for some reason!

The beach was clean, large, long, and there were plenty of sand loungers for everyone.

Plus, did I mention the view?! 8)

I was not joking when I said the water was as warm as bathwater , and Ben and I spent several days laying in it at the base of our chairs, digging up sea shells while sipping drinks we’d take turns getting from the beach bar about 20 feet away.

The hotel also offered several free water activities, including snorkling, and sea kayaking. I begged Ben to go with me on the last day, and let me just say, sea kayaking is harder than it looks. We had a Lake Calhoun moment of sorts at one point, and I nearly couldn’t paddle in I was laughing so hard. ;)

There is a ton of marine life to see in the bay including sting rays, star fish, puffer fish, and sea urchins, so step carefully when you’re in the water!

If the sea ain’t yo thang, there are two pools to dip into, including one with a swim up bar.

Speaking of bars, they were pretty much everywhere, serving up drinks aplenty, all day long, and all included in the price of the hotel.

There was nightly entertainment in a little theater-like area, but we never caught a show as we were in bed by, cough 9pm cough, most nights. Too much vitamin D… (or fun!)

Besides our all day tour, we ventured out one other afternoon to walk along Negril’s famous 7 Mile Beach. While it was absolutely beautiful, – please don’t hate, 7 Milers – we much preferred staying in Bloody Bay. Although we only went south starting at Margaritville on 7 Mile, there were just way too many people selling “stuff” on the beach for our liking. I do hear that the area north of Margaritaville, around the Couples Swept Away hotel, is very, very popular though.

I’d give the RIU ClubHotel a solid 3.7 stars out of 5. The rooms were comfortable and quiet, and the food was fresh and plentiful (the jerk chicken was SPECTACULAR!) What really counts in my mind – the view, the beach, the staff – was top notch. I would stay there again.

Also, we used Talk of the Town Tours for both our airport transfers, and all-day tour. Love those guys! Be warned though that people – not everyone – drove very, very fast in the parts we went through, so if you have children with you, or are skiddish on the road, just make that clear when you book your transfers!

Final Thoughts on Jamaica

Jamaica is the ULTIMATE relaxation destination. Omar made it very clear the day he picked us up from the airport that you are on island-time when you come to Jamaica. Everything moves a little bit slower there, so be patient, and set your worries aside, mon!

A couple other things I would tell my friends and family before visiting, therefore I’m telling you, is that from what we saw and experienced (I don’t want to generalize an entire country) the areas in and around Negril and southwest Jamaica, where we toured, were very, very poor. I had friends tell me this, but I was still not prepared for what I saw. While we enjoyed ourselves immensely during our vacation, it was at times a bit sad and unsettling staying at such a beautiful, luxurious resort, when I knew that 100 yards away there were entire families living in 8×10″ shacks balanced on rocks. I don’t think I really need to get into it, but just understand that Negril is not a standard resort town like Cancun or Puerta Vallarta, where you go out and shop at these mega complexes or town centers or anything. I don’t know if Montego Bay and Ocho Rios, other popular Jamaican vacation destinations, are similar.

I was also not prepared for the amount of pot we encountered during our trip! We either saw or smelled it nearly everywhere we went during our stay, and although we were approached to buy many times during our stroll on 7 Mile Beach, we were never bothered in Bloody Bay. Nobody was every pushy about it or anything, I just thought I’d mention it.

Overall Jamaica is a very unique, and unimaginably beautiful country. Definitely Top 3 most stunning places I have ever seen, and hands down the most relaxing place I’ve ever been. If you want to get away from it all, go to Jamaica. And tell ‘em Ben and I sent ya’!

More Jamaica Recaps

Island In the Sun

Jamaica’s Hidden Gem

The Jerk Chicken Shack + The Best Rice, Ever.

Back to regularly scheduled programming tomorrow!

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Comments

  1. Your pictures are beautiful. The beach looks gorgeous and I loved the mango trees! Glad you enjoyed it :)

  2. I have dreams about Jamaica. We went on our honeymoon (I think I’ve mentioned that before) and stayed at Sandals Ocho Rios. It was magnificent, but we’ve been talking about a Negril trip. SO glad to hear the RIU is nice!!!

  3. Tori 04.18.2012

    Looks beautiful! We stopped at Ocho Rios on a cruise and I was depressed as well. We walked from the ship to the market and there were beggers everywhere. I don’t think I could go back to Jamaica because of just HOW depressing it was, despite its beauty. :/

  4. Lindsey 04.18.2012

    This is so random, when you posted from Jamaica I thought the resort looked familiar! It’s the same one we stayed at 2 years ago! I laughed out loud when you mentioned all the “stuff” being sold on 7 mile beach, we had the exact same experience – knew there were drugs but had no idea how fluently we would be offered them! I guess that means you didn’t hit up the jet skiiers… (word was that was where you went if you wanted it at the resort…) Was the Ciiiiiiiiiiggarettes, cigars cigars cigars guy still roaming the beach?

  5. Daisy 04.18.2012

    i love your vacation recaps. you are so detailed, thorough and always have THE BEST TIME.

  6. Magnolia Mom 04.18.2012

    Great post! I’ve never been to Jamaica, but hope to go one day. My husband and I love to cruise. I would really like to try an all-inclusive though. Thanks for the tips.

  7. Kelly 04.18.2012

    Im glad u had a nice trip. I really want to go back to Hawaii. Especially now that they have a Disney resort.

    I think I might have to pass on Jamaica. The herbal offerings are not something I want to experience or my kids. Thanks for the warning.

  8. Kim 04.18.2012

    Sounds like you had a wonderful vacation! Can’t wait to visit Jamaica one day. Thanks for sharing your thoughts and photos!

  9. What an amazing vacation! I’m hoping that once all of my friends have stable jobs and are out of school, we can take a vacation to an all-inclusive resort. It looks so fun!

  10. heather 04.18.2012

    ugh i’m always the immature one, but…the part about pot made me laugh so hard just now! your photos are great, i’m glad you had a good time.

  11. Stefanie 04.18.2012

    I know how you feel about witnessing the poor areas of countries. I felt that way when I went to St. Lucia 3 years ago. I was there on a mission trip and even then felt like it was luxury. The country was absolutely beautiful, however given the reason why I was there and what I witnessed, I don’t think I could ever go back for a vacation. Mission work for sure, but I would never be able to relax.

    Gorgeous photo’s, hoping they convince my boyfriend to pick somewhere tropical for our trip in December!

  12. Ashley 04.18.2012

    We stayed at Riu Santa Fe right next door to the Palace this past February. I LOVE Riu hotels!! They are great!! :) We want to check out the other side of Mexico and possibly Jamaica next. Will definitely keep this place in mind!

    • Kristin from MN 04.19.2012

      My husband and I stayed at the RIU Vallarta in 2007 and the facilities were amazing, but the food was awful! It could be because they hadn’t been open long and maybe hadn’t worked out the kinks. The reviews said they food was bad, but we figured it wouldn’t be all bad at all the restaurants. Well… it was horrible! They couldn’t even get the breakfast buffet right. So if you are going to Puerto Vallarta, I would advise against this place unless the reviews have changed.

  13. Kel 04.18.2012

    Your pics are lovely! I enjoyed all the info and the recipes very much!!

  14. Ty 04.18.2012

    We have visited Jamaica three times and love it. The poverty was shocking the first time-even though we had been warned. However, we know that people visiting brings a lot of opportunity for the locals. Staying in those hotels helps the locals put food on their tables!

  15. Amy 04.18.2012

    I love hearing your perspective…………and I bet if I ever get there, I’ll agree….what a contradiction, beautiful place and povert, ugh………..I’m with you on not liking pot to be all around………….oh well, you made a great vac. happen……yay!

  16. Prairie Bee 04.18.2012

    I love your pictures and your observations! Jamaica should put you in charge of their travel outreach! No, wait! You’re doing that already for the state of Iowa!!!! I’m so glad you had such a great time.

    Also: congrats on the wonderful sidebar on your blog!!!! You’re a rock star, Iowa Girl!

  17. Brenna 04.18.2012

    I would love to go to Jamaica and have been to a few other places in the Caribbean. My boyfriend and I are looking to plan something this fall, but he has no interest in Jamaica because he says it is unsafe. Did you have any safety concerns while traveling there? Had you heard anything about the safety of the country before visiting? I’m just curious because I don’t want to rule Jamaica out as a vacation destination after looking at your photos and hearing your reviews!

  18. Molly 04.18.2012

    My boyfriend and I went to Couples Tower Isle in Ocho Rios and loved every minute of our stay. Our hotel was perfect! You’ve made me start looking at some other places in Jamaica to go :)

  19. Katie Downing 04.18.2012

    Your pictures are beautiful and make me want to go back to Jamaica! I’ve been twice now and it is one of my favorite places I’ve been. We stayed in the Trelawny beach area along the north coast between Montego Bay and Ocho Rios. Just beautiful. Plus you can’t beat the all-inclusive route!

  20. Grace 04.18.2012

    I did feel a similar sort of discomfort when visiting the Bahamas. We went to both Nassau (the main island with more shopping and the HUGE Atlantis resort on nearby Paradise island), as well as Andros (the largest but least populated island). Andros was really, really amazing due to the seclusion but the residents there live a very, very simple life. Our little “resort” was by US standards, a nice motel/tiny hotel and was still by far the nicest building in the area. All the food had to be brought in by boat. It does tug at your heartstrings and makes you really grateful for what you have back home.

    Thank you for sharing your experience and lovely photos! :)

  21. Jess 04.18.2012

    We stayed at the RIU Ocho Rios about 6 years ago, and now always stay at RIU resorts when we go to the Caribbean. They are very nice, in general. Ocho Rios is very poor too, so I think it is a Jamaican thing.

    Someone asked about the safety. My husband and I left our resort by ourselves one or two times, and were never really worried. You just need to stay with the rest of the people and you will be fine. Not for sure if this is how it was in Negril.

    Thank you for the recap on this RIU resort. We are debating between this one and the Palace in Negril for next spring.

  22. Kellie Schenk 04.18.2012

    I loved reading your thoughts on Jamaica! My husband honeymooned there…in Negril at Couples Swept Away. Absolutely Breathtaking resort, that I highly recommend! But I completely agree with your comments regarding the poverty that surrounds the resorts. My husband ventured off the resort for one afternoon (by taxi) and it was a little scary. I think Negril, in general, is a place where you need to be prepared to stay on resort the whole time. I don’t think I realized it would be that way until we got there. …but that water, I’ve never seen water more beautiful!
    PS – made your chicken lime burgers for the second time last weekend…totally addicted. My parents and in-laws have both also made the recipe! Word is spreading fast here in Lincoln NE!

  23. Kellie Schenk 04.18.2012

    ..um I meant my husband AND I on the last post. He didn’t honeymoon alone. :)

    • Kristin from MN 04.19.2012

      You just made me laugh out loud at work! Tee hee!

  24. Katie Christensen 04.18.2012

    My boyfriend and I stayed at the RIU in Costa Rica…it was fabulous. We had a great time there. If you are looking for your next adventure it is a wonderful place to visit with a lot of excursions and fun stuff to do outside of the resort.

  25. Very nice recap! It’s like I want to go in your footsteps and do all the things you did…

    When I stayed at an all-inclusive in Puerto Vallarta, I warned my friend that the group we went with were all big-time partiers. However, it seemed like everyone was in bed by 9pm there, too! I think it’s a combination of all the sun, the activities, and having drinks on and off throughout the day that do it to ya. :-)

  26. Karla 04.18.2012

    Amazing trips and photos, Kristin! Thank you so much for sharing your experience and thoughts with us. I clearly need to try an all-inclusive vacation sometime soon! :)

  27. Erika 04.19.2012

    We stayed at St. Lucia for our honeymoon and I think both countries are similar in certain ways. We didn’t stay at an all inclusive though, just a tiny 5-room inn and really immersed ourselves in the culture. We did touristy things too, but I feel really fortunate to have gotten to see so much of the country during our stay.

  28. Nichole 04.19.2012

    First of all, just want to say that after browsing through a bunch of food blogs yesterday, and coming back to yours…I love your blog. The food, the way you write, etc! Thank you!
    Secondly, I want to go to Jamaica!!! I’m afraid that if I went, I wouldn’t want to come home.

  29. Anne H. 04.19.2012

    I’m really enjoying your blog. Thank you for sharing all your information.

    The 2-D palm that you were hesitant about is called a Travelers Palm. They typically grow in an east-west orientation so they were used as compasses back in the day. They look odd but are really quite amazing.

  30. I’m so, so glad you had a fantastic time on your trip. I was really nervous when I heard where you were going. Hubster and I ventured down there in December for a small destination wedding which was not held on a resort. It was the worst trip we’ve ever been on thanks to the fact that one of the villas guests were staying in was robbed while we partied at the reception. Thankfully none of our things (especially our cameras since we were shooting the wedding) were taken.

    I’ve heard great things about the resorts down there. I’m glad your story was a happy one. I even showed Hubster your all day tour post with the comment “Look, some people have a great time in Jamaica.”

    But I would definitely echo your concerns for travelers and highly suggest staying on a resort.

  31. Lora Lee 04.19.2012

    I totally agree with your comments about the poverty. I believe it’s widespread across the country. We stayed at a Sandals resort that was a 2 hr bus ride away from Montego Bay and I was shocked and saddened (and yes a little scared) of the sights we saw on the ride. The sandals resort was nice but all we could think about was how much poverty was just outside of your doorstep..literally..that and the men holding machine guns in the streets and monitoring the beaches in the guardshacks. I’ve never been more proud to get home and live in the USA!
    We learned after our return that Jamaica is a 3rd world country and that the government is considered corrupt (this was shared by locals). Their main source of revenue is tourism, which we expected.
    I agree, the waters are beautiful…but there are areas on the Gulf Coast of FL that are just as beautiful, i.e. Seaside, Pass a Grille, Sarasota, the FL Keys, etc… Going forward, I choose these areas. At least you aren’t harassed by someone selling drugs (although it’s there-I’ve smelled it) and we don’t see machine guns on the beach.

    • Kristin from MN 04.19.2012

      You sound like you know a lot about Florida beaches. What beach in Florida would you say looks the most like Kristin’s gorgeous Jamaican beach pictures that is ALSO somewhat close to Orlando (within a few hours)?

  32. Jeninnc 04.19.2012

    We stayed at the same resort when we went 4 years ago! LOVED it, and would totally stay there again. And we too missed out on the nightly entertainment (too late for our alchohol, food, and sun laden bodies – lol:)). I’m hopeful that we’ll return at some point – just such a relaxing and awesome place to enjoy.

    The poverty is overwhelming, no doubt. It does make you grateful for what you have, and thoughtful for those who do not have so much.

  33. Terry 04.19.2012

    Thanks for your posts of Jamaica. I absolutely love Negril. We go atleast once a year and always stay at Couples Swept Away. Looking at your pictures reminded me why I love the island so much! And, I’m definitely trying the jerk chicken recipe as I haven’t found a recipe yet that comes close to our favorite Negril jerk spot, Bourbon Beach!

  34. Hannah 04.19.2012

    I know you said you preferred Bloody Bay to 7 Mile Beach, but you really need to try Couples Swept Away. AMAZING, AMAZING, AMAZING. We had our honeymoon there 3 years ago and hope to go back someday. If you are looking for a place in Mexico ever, the Excellence Riviera Cancun is probably the most luxurious place we’ve stayed – get the upgraded area! Loved the pictures!

  35. Hannah 04.19.2012

    Oh, and make sure to go to Rick’s Cafe in Negril. The sunset and cliffs are amazing!

  36. I have loved reading about trip. Thanks for all the tips

  37. Rachel 04.19.2012

    We stayed at Sandals Whitehouse in Jamaica during our honeymoon last year and absolutely loved it! It is one of the most beautiful, relaxed places I’ve ever been. We had read a lot of reviews prior to going, but I don’t think anything can prepare you for the poverty you see there. There are no traffic signs anywhere and the roads are terrible – some people staying at our resort paid to take a helicopter from MBJ so they didn’t have to ride in the van! We were also very surprised to find out how high the interest rates were for property. Most citizens build their houses on stilts so they don’t have to pay as much. We learned that if you’re buying land, interest rates range from 15-35%. Families would buy property, build one room, and live in it for years as they slowly completed their house (this is why so many of the houses look unfinished/abandoned.)

    We would definitely return, though!

  38. Rosie Vasquez 04.19.2012

    We really liked Jamaica too! I see that on your list of places to see includes Costa Rica. We just got back and loved it! Let me know when you are planning on going…I have lots of recommendations.

  39. Thanks for sharing your vacation experience.

    I’m lucky to live in SoCal where the tropical destinations in Mexico are just a few hours away….but I would still love to visit Jamaica someday.

  40. Ruth 04.20.2012

    The resort looks amazing.

  41. Cat Davis 04.22.2012

    That looks so relaxing. One of these days I hope I’ll be able to go back. A few years ago my husband and I went while I was pregnant and stayed at Couples Resort in Negril which I adored … except for spending a week hungry. I was not prepared for the food differences.

  42. Beth 05.09.2012

    I stayed at this resort back in 2008, I loved the food, the people and the experience. I can’ wait to go back!

  43. Sandy 08.12.2013

    Stayed there in 2005 after Red Cross Assignment in New Orleans after Katrina. Jamaica was recovering from Wilma storm damage but the resort was beautiful!!! Our travel agent recommended Negril for the fabulous sunsets and the RIU for the beutiful beach. He said it was the most beautiful beach in Jamaica and I agree!!! He also recommended a private plane from the main airport that cost $65 and took us literally across the street from the resort in 15 minutes (vs an hour long bus ride). It was worth EVERY penny!!! Several guest complained about the long bus ride so we were grateful for the tip!

    My husband and I both quickly became weary of constantly be offered drugs whenever we left the boundaries of the resort (ready to buy a T-Shirt with a big “NO – don’t ask” printed on it). Snorkeling from the “Wild Thing” tour was incredible!!! Love the resort, loved the staff, loved the food. Wonderful!!!

  44. tariq 10.09.2013

    Well I suppose everyone had their wild pass on the 7mile beach where you can get anything from lobsters to MaryJane…lol. Ironically, it appears that Omar was our guide to everywhere too!! He’s awesome!! when I return or if anyone wants to get a great price on everything…contact Omar at the jetski place on the beach near RUI Negril…cheers!

  45. Jameika 08.11.2014

    So glad I came across your blog post! I was researching reviews of things to do in Negril. Hubby and I are going in a few weeks. We will be staying at COuples Negril. We stayed at a Riu Palace in Punta Cana in 2011 and although the resort was nice, it was packed and the food was not all that great.

    Thanks for posting the link to your tour guide people. We are looking to explore as well!

    Thanks!

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