I’ve already written about our first impressions of the Beaches Resort at Ocho Rios, Jamaica, and it’s “luxury included” service.
We visited Ocho Rios for three nights during the October half-term, and it was the perfect time to visit – although it might seem a long way to travel for just a week, the weather was still gloriously hot (it was 30/31 degrees most days) and the resort was a little quieter than it would be at peak season, meaning we had all the space in the world to try things out. Perfect. You do lose a day each way though, through travelling.
Here are some thoughts on our stay:
Our stay at Ocho Rios kicked off with breakfast at the Bayside buffet restaurant. There are fresh, tropical smoothies made to order, and every sort of breakfast food you can imagine, all served alongside the best Jamaica Blue Mountain coffee.
Most of the food we tried was freshly made and hot, and I liked that children are invited the serve themselves from their own buffet stations, which are set at a lower height, with “kid-friendly” options like pancakes and breakfast burritos.
There are five other restaurants on site, and they were all good. I can say that with confidence because we tried them ALL. That’s the kind of dedication you can expect on this blog, friends.
I won’t go into huge detail about eat, but there’s Italian, Caribbean and seafood sit-down restaurants, and two informal cafe-style eateries, one serving crepes, the other serving barbecue food.
For the view, I’d recommend Neptunes, which sits at one end of the beach and offers glorious views. If you want to eat ‘fancy’ then try Eleanor’s, a formal, fusion cuisine restaurant with impeccable service. If you’re after something more relaxed, there’s the Bar BQ, serving a range of burgers, pulled pork sandwiches and very moreish jerk chicken.
As an aside, your stomach will quickly adjust to Caribbean time. And by “Caribbean time” I mean you’ll find yourself saying, at 4pm, “Well, it’s three hours until dinner, so we should probably have a little snack. I’ll just have the jerk chicken and a large pina colada, thanks.”
I gained 4lb in a week. I have no regrets.
Of course, the point of a holiday like this is that you have unlimited access to activities.
Flea’s first highlight of this trip was probably the waterpark at Ocho Rios – it has no fewer than seven slides, a splash pool and whirlpool. There is also a large, separate swimming pool with swim up bar (of course) and a third, smaller pool high on the terrace, which was always a quiet retreat. There’s a lifeguard for each slide, along with lifeguards around the pools, and it feels very safe and well-supervised. We found the lifeguards really friendly, and always up to play and chat with the kids, too.
If you can drag the children away from the pool, then there are tiered kids’ clubs which are all air-conditioned and immaculately equipped with a range of toys, books, games and activities. The clubs are unlimited and open from 9am to 9pm, staffed by international qualified nannies and childcare professionals – to gain their accreditation, staff must have completed at least 2,000 hours of childcare.
Our concierge presented us with an age-appropriate itinerary on check-in and there’s a wide range of activities for kids – tennis and golf coaching are both available, along with catamaran cruises, video games, crafts, cooking and games. But don’t worry if your kids aren’t the sort to go into a club – there’s still loads to do – pottery painting, tennis, basketball and some separate rooms for tweens and teens to just hang out.
Flea’s highlight was the X-Box lounge – although it must be said that when we did visit, several of the machines there weren’t working, controls were missing batteries and most of the machines only offered a small selection of trial games, making it a bit limited. It could maybe do with a bit of attention. Having said that, I probably noticed that a bit more than Flea, who was happy enough and has a new career goal – being the Beaches member of staff whose job it is to play video games with kids all day. #Goals
What most excited us about Beaches, though, was the beach – at Ocho Rios, you’re in a calm, private bay with a dock. It feels very safe – there are lifeguards during the day and 24-hour security, and because the beach is a bay, it’s very private.
At one end of the beach, there’s a watersports centre, where you can take out kayaks, sailing boats, paddle boards and more. There is also windsurfing, banana boats, snorkelling, scuba diving and a range of boat trips. This being Beaches, all the activities are included and unlimited. We found the staff pretty friendly, and they’re great at making sure kids are wearing lifejackets and helmets.
We made the most of our time here, checking out the kayaks, paddleboards, sailing and windsurfing. Throughout the day there are trips on the on-resort boat for snorkelling, scuba diving and on a glass-bottom boat for non-swimmers to enjoy the coral reef views.
Unlike most all-inclusive resorts, Scuba is included at Beaches. You can pay for children to have an introductory session and even to be certified by PADI on-resort but if you’re already a diver, then up to two dives a day are included in your fee. We found the scuba staff to be super-friendly and really great at encouraging the kids and making them feel confident. Although not everything happens quickly, or on time, this was definitely one of the best things Flea has EVER done, and leaving Ocho Rios holding her new PADI Certified Scuba Dive card made for a very, very proud 10 year old.
AS an aside, scuba diving is available for children aged 10+ and there’s a pool-based scuba experience available for children aged 8+.
The other end of the beach is set aside for swimming, and it’s a joy to stand in the warm, clear water and see the fishes swarming around your feet. The sun sets here over the ocean, making for a spectacular sunrise and sunset – Jamaica is 5 hours behind the UK so you’ll likely be up to see the sun rise quite often.
The beach is small but has everything you need – there’s a restaurant and a small bar, serving drinks and with an on-demand ice cream machine, along with complimentary beach towels. There are plenty of sun loungers and each group of loungers comes with its own shade (perfect for people like me who simply can’t venture out in sunshine wearing anything less than SPF70).
Beaches partners with the Island Routes travel company for a range of excursions – you can of course visit Dunn’s River Falls, one of the most famous sites in Jamaica, but there are a range of adventure activities we really liked the look of, including zip lining, bobsled riding, and even one that includes cliff diving. Twice a week, at certain times of the year, you can also visit a local beach where a charity helps to protect newly-hatched turtles, ensuring they get safely into the ocean without being eaten by predators – we were really disappointed not to be on-resort for this but I guess you can’t tell a turtle when to give birth any more than you can tell a human!
When to Visit
October is technically quiet season in Jamaica – and as a result, the resort was only about 60% full – but for us, it was perfect. A slightly quieter resort means you’ll never have to stand in line for a water slide, or hunt for a sun lounger. The weather during our week was a fairly steady 30-32 degrees, with mostly clear blue skies and calm waters. We did get one or two short rain showers in the afternoon, but they tend to pass quickly.
Prices are a little lower during these slightly out-of-season months, making this a really attractive option for a Spring or Autumn half-term visit. Yes, it’s a long flight but for the weather, the environment and the spectacular luxury of a Beaches holiday, I would absolutely recommend giving it a look.
We travelled to Jamaica as guests of Beaches, flying from London Gatwick with Virgin Atlantic. A week’s stay at Beaches Ocho Rios Luxury Included® Resort costs from £1,775 per adult and £899 per child. Price includes all-inclusive accommodation in a Caribbean Deluxe Family Sized Room, return economy flights from London Gatwick and all resort transfers. Prices valid 2 May-24 Jun 2016.
If you’re flying from Gatwick do check out Number 1 Lounges, access costs £25 for adults and £15 for children and includes complimentary hot and cold food, drinks, WiFi, and daily newspapers and magazines. For more information see http://www.no1traveller.com/