Team Travels: Sophie’s Trip To Jamaica

Team Travels: Sophie’s Trip To Jamaica

Jamaica has long been at the very top of my travel bucket list. The breathtaking beaches, the friendly people, the mouth-watering food, the exhilarating excursions… what’s not to love?

When I had some spare annual leave to take at the end of March this year, I couldn’t resist booking myself a last minute trip to that glistening, green island in the Caribbean. If you’re also planning a Jamaican adventure, you’ll be happy to hear it was everything I’d imagined it to be and more!

Getting There

Luckily, a couple of days before we booked our trip, it was announced that we no longer needed to get travel authorisation to travel to Jamaica – all we needed to do was order antigen tests to take before our flight (you can check the current regulations on the gov website). We chose to use Randox tests and ordered them around a week in advance. The tests were taken two nights before our early morning flight, and we simply had to register them in the app to show at check-in.

The journey through the airport was smooth, and the flight was fabulous. We were on a TUI Dreamliner, kept busy with a diverse selection of films to watch and topped up with plenty of complimentary wine. I managed to sneak in a little sleep before we touched down in Montego Bay, where we all needed to wear masks through the airport and have our temperature taken before going through passport control.

A Flying Start

Our hotel was conveniently just a 10-minute transfer away from the airport. We stayed at the RIU Montego Bay and we were instantly impressed. We had barely stopped pulling our suitcase when we were offered a welcome drink of rum punch, and we were swiftly given our room keys, wifi codes and maps of the site. All the staff were so kind and enthusiastic – the whole experience of checking in and getting to our room gave us a really great start to our week.

The room we were allocated was so spacious, spotlessly clean and had a balcony with a fabulous view over the on-site water slides. We had a lovely double bathroom with a huge walk-in shower. Most importantly though, there were drink optics including delicious bottles of spiced rum, vodka and whiskey, as well as a fridge stocked with chilled soft drinks and – of course – Red Stripe. We were in Jamaica, after all!

The Hotel

The hotel itself was beautiful, with five sparkling pools (one of which had a swim-up bar) and a gorgeous beach complete with pretty palms and a volleyball court. Lively music bopped through the air from dawn ‘til dusk, and the extensive list of cocktails made our holiday extra fun. When we weren’t lounging in the sizzling sun on one of many sleek loungers, we were joining in with aqua fit classes and making use of the pedalos and kayaks that were free to use for All Inclusive guests.

After the sun went down, there was still plenty to do at the RIU Montego Bay. There were five restaurants to choose from, including a steakhouse, an Asian buffet and an Italian, all of which served up really tasty food (the Italian in particular was quite busy and it’s filled on a first-come-first-served basis, so I’d recommend going down early for this one). After food, we enjoyed some fabulous evening entertainment that ranged from steel pans and dance acts to karaoke nights and live reggae bands.

Jamaican Culture

The people in Jamaica are so unbelievably friendly and welcoming, and so proud of their country. They would talk fondly about local legends like Bob Marley and Usain Bolt, and share endless insights about the food, people and different parishes of the island. From the transfer drivers and hotel staff to the many locals we met on our excursions, it was always a pleasure to talk to the Jamaican people.

One of the highlights of our time in Jamaica was, of course, the food! A jerk chicken barbecue was cooked up each day at Pepe’s Food, a hut just by the beach in our hotel, and it was simply delicious. We tried plenty of exotic fruits at breakfast and the main buffet in the Rose Hall offered a huge range of dishes each evening, including plenty of meats, fish and vegetarian options.

Seeing The Island

The hotel was so lovely that we could have happily stayed there for a week, dipping in and out of the pools and indulging in endless colourful cocktails. However, we simply couldn’t come to Jamaica without seeing a little more of the island through exciting excursions. We chose to spend three days out of seven out and about, and it gave us the perfect balance of relaxation and adventure for the week.

The four trips we chose to go on were a visit to the famous Dunn’s River Falls, a bamboo raft ride down the Martha Brae River, a late-night swim in the Luminous Lagoon and a chilled-out day trip to Negril, where we went to the Seven Mile Beach, stopped off at a souvenir shop and went to Rick’s Cafe for one of the best sunset views in the Caribbean. Each was unique and we loved them all!

Dunn’s River Falls

It’s not hard to see why Dunn’s River Falls is one of the most visited attractions in Jamaica. The trip takes you on such an exciting adventure through gorgeous, green surroundings so beautiful they could be straight out of a movie scene. At some parts of the journey, this literally is the case – these waterfalls are famous for films such as ‘Dr No’ and Tom Cruise’s ‘Cocktail’.

You start your journey at the bottom of the falls, on a sprawling white-sand beach. From there, your group starts the climb, at first through ripples of ankle-deep water. Don’t be mistaken though – before long, you’ll be waist-deep, sliding into rock pools and getting photos beneath tumbling falls. It offers plenty of laughs, some amazing places to snap photos and memories to last a lifetime.

Top tip – I’d recommend you bring along a waterproof phone pouch or a waterproof camera if you’re wanting to take some photos. You’re guaranteed to get wet! We had phone pouches, and they are much cheaper to buy in the UK before your trip than they are to buy out in Jamaica. Please also remember that you’re required to wear water shoes or suitable trainers that you don’t mind getting wet when you visit Dunn’s River Falls. I bought some water shoes for $10 on-route to the falls.

View the excursion we booked to Dunn’s River Falls.

Bamboo Rafting On The Martha Brae River

You’ll often see photos of long, narrow bamboo rafts on twinkling turquoise waters when you search for things to do in Jamaica. These will likely have been taken on a rafting excursion down the enchanting Martha Brae River in Falmouth. We went on this excursion mid-way through our holiday and it was the most fascinating place I’ve ever seen!

The whole experience was fabulous. Even just driving up the winding roads by the river to get to the point where you board your raft was exciting. The towering trees were glowing green as the sun peeked through their canopies, and the sound of the flowing river and tweeting birds was a perfect soundtrack. Needless to say, you’ll want to bring your camera – there are photo opps aplenty!

We bought some bottles of Red Stripe from the bar just before boarding our raft (but we wished we’d remembered we had some cans in our fridge as they were $5 each to buy there!). Sipping on an ice cold beer whilst floating gently down the river, learning about the wildlife and fruit trees surrounding us from our raft captain was quite a surreal experience, and it’s one I would whole-heartedly recommend!

View the excursion we booked for bamboo rafting on Martha Brae River.

Luminous Lagoon

As the name suggests, the Luminous Lagoon was just magical. This vast body of water in Falmouth contains bioluminescent microorganisms that light up a neon blue colour when they are agitated. It’s one of the most mind-boggling natural wonders in the world, and there are only a handful of places around the globe where you can see it for yourself.

On the night, our friendly driver dropped us off and we were welcomed to a funky waterside bar with a cup of rum punch. We sat with other people from our group, chatting and pondering the journey ahead as the sun set over the sea. Once the night fell, we were called up to our boat where around 40 people boarded and we set sail into total darkness. It was quite a surreal feeling going out into the water with little to no light!

As we bobbed further away from the shore, the captains told us more about the lagoon before stopping the boat and announcing that it was time to jump in. One by one, people leapt from the side of the boat and lit up the waters in a dazzling, electric blue. The more we moved, splashed and kicked, the brighter these microorganisms became. It really was unlike anything I’ve ever seen before, and it’s totally worth doing on your trip to Jamaica.

View the excursion we booked to the Luminous Lagoon.

Day Trip To Negril

Negril is known to be one of the most picturesque and luxurious parts of the whole island. We were really excited to visit the famous Seven Mile Beach and had heard great things about Rick’s Cafe, which has allegedly been voted one of the best bars in the world. The only thing that let this trip down slightly is that we had scattered showers at the beach (the only rain we saw all week!). Even so, with a Red Stripe in one hand and our beach bags in the other, we didn’t let it dampen our spirits.

Our tour guide was very chatty and engaging as we meandered down the coastal roads and through smaller communities towards the western side of the island. Once we arrived at the beach, the people who had opted to include lunch were sat down with a rum punch and served either jerk chicken, pan-fried fish or a pork dish. We added our lunch on for approximately £10 each, and it was so worth it as lunch was around $20 per dish to buy on the day.

After spending a few hours at the beach, which had beautiful white sands and a dramatic backdrop of jungle-green trees, we were taken to a souvenir shop and then on to Rick’s Cafe in time to watch the dazzling sunset. I loved the atmosphere at Rick’s – the music was great, there were dancers keeping us entertained and it was amazing to watch cliff jumpers leaping gleefully into the shimmering waters below. We did this trip on the last day of our holiday, and it felt like the perfect way to round off a sensational week.

View the excursion we booked to Seven Mile Beach & Rick’s Cafe.

Handy Holiday Tips

Avoid Getting Bitten

Whilst the bugs didn’t seem too bad where we were staying in Montego Bay, we made sure to wear our insect repellent bands and use sprays every night to be safe. There’s nothing worse than the irritating itch of a bite, so we did all we could to avoid them! Luckily, I made it home completely bite-free. We bought a bottle of spray and a pack of 12 different coloured bands off Amazon before we left, and it was so worth it – they were much more expensive to buy in the airport or once you’re out there.

Top Up Your Factor 50

Now, this tip may seem obvious. However, we were extremely sensible with our sun cream, topping up every couple of hours or so and we still managed to get badly burnt on day five of our trip. It could have been that the temperature was a little hotter than usual that day, or that we just spent a little too long cooling down around an in-water table by the swim-up bar. Either way, the burns weren’t pleasant! I would recommend going for factor 50 (we regretfully had 30) and taking a big bottle of aftersun just in case you need it. It was our lifesaver!

Find Excursions On The TUI App

The excursions we went on made our trip extra special. The hotel was absolutely fabulous, but I just loved getting out and seeing more of this incredible country. There were multiple reps within the hotel who gave us prices for a range of excursions, however we found that the cheapest (and easiest) option was to simply book up through the TUI app and pay via PayPal, avoiding any exchange rates or spending any of our cash. You should also check if there are any discount codes to use, as you’ll often get some great savings with these!

Tipping The Staff

In most Caribbean destinations, it’s well-known that tipping is greatly appreciated, so be sure to have some smaller quantities of cash to tip with (we had plenty of one and five dollar notes – American dollars are accepted). We didn’t always have our purses with us when we were flashing our All Inclusive band for drinks so we didn’t tip every time, but there were certain members of staff who made a real difference to our holiday so we made sure to give them tips at the end of our stay. It is also polite to tip your drivers when you’re out on excursions, so bear that in mind when packing your bags for the day.

Start Planning Your Own Holiday To Jamaica…

I hope you’ve enjoyed this small insight to my first trip to Jamaica! As you can tell, I just loved it and I can guarantee it won’t be the last time I visit. If you’re in the mood for some sun and feel inspired to have your own Jamaican adventure, take a look at our latest deals – I can put my hand on my heart and say you won’t regret it!

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