I’ll just start by saying that my time in Jamaica was the most luxurious trip I have ever been on, and will probably ever go on. From a 5-diamond resort (yes, diamond. Apparently that exists) to all-natural spa treatments overlooking the Caribbean sea, I felt like I was dreaming the whole time I was there. And the best part…it was all FREE.
I was able to attend a four-day press trip for the Jamaica Tourist Board through work, but the fact that I was selected for it was pure luck. At the time, I was basically the bottom of the totem pole on my team, and I was still pretty new to the job. However, the corporate Gods were in my favor. The head of my old company, who was originally invited on the trip, was unable to attend so she passed it down to one of the managers and others on my team. Luckily for me, everyone else had conflicting obligations, so I was blessed to be the one going. And I was, to say the least, shook.
I’ve always loved to travel and have done so since before I can even remember because I have family all over Europe, but this “work” trip to Jamaica truly re-sparked my love for seeing new parts of the world. It was one of the most beautiful places I’ve been, and the people, culture, and sights were so colorful and unique. If you’ve ever considered a visit to the little Caribbean island, my recap below might convince you to take the leap!
Getting There and Getting Around
Surprisingly, flying to Jamaica from LA only took about five hours, and the jaw-dropping views began before we had even landed. We flew right over Cuba, and landing over the Caribbean sea into Montego Bay was a stunning sight to see – AKA, do whatever you can to get a window seat! Once I landed and got through customs (make sure to know the address of wherever you’re staying), I was met outside the airport with a small group of journalists, our PR group leader, a big white van, and our driver, George, who would end up being our own personal tour guide for a majority of the trip.
Our van service (complete with driver) is how we got around every day. I would definitely suggest renting a van or using a service like Jamaica Airport Transfers if you plan to make some excursions from your hotel, as the roads can be pretty bumpy. Our first stop before leaving Montego Bay was a roadside restaurant called Scotchies, which featured all the traditional delicacies of Jamaica on the menu. It’s safe to say we ate more than enough jerk chicken and festival bread to get us through the three-hour van ride across the island to our first destination, Treasure Beach.
If you can’t tell by the name, this place really is a treasure. This area is much less touristy and is in a more rural part of the island. For two and a half days we stayed at the quaint and beautiful Jake’s Hotel, a family-owned facility that consists of individual waterfront bungalows, each uniquely decorated by the owner’s mother. I’m not sure what I did to receive such good karma, but I somehow ended up with a bungalow that opened its back doors to a deck that sat directly on the ocean. Walking into my room for the first time I was, yet again, SHOOK. From eloquently placed pink and blue decor pieces to the princess canopy hanging over my bed and the outdoor stone shower (best part of the room, tbh), I was the epitome of a kid in a candy shop. Like, is this real life? We ate dinner the first night at the restaurant in Jake’s Hotel, and everything was fresh farm to table cooking – basically everything we ate throughout the trip was farm to table, which made me realize how glowy my skin can be if I ate like this at home (oops).
Sunrise Yoga: The theme of the press trip was “wellness,” and everything on our agenda most accurately supported that theme. Each morning at Jake’s Hotel, we started the day with some physical activity. The first morning, after waking up to a perfectly tropical view outside my windows (brb, crying just thinking about it), we gathered at the hotel’s yoga studio, which overlooked the soothing ocean waves and palm trees. In other words, it was zen AF. We were led through a restorative yoga class by an instructor named Empress Thandi, which was followed by a hearty breakfast to prepare for the excruciating task of a…you guessed it, a spa day.
Spa Sesh: Each of us was treated to a massage in the hotel’s spa, which was just as dreamy as the rest of the property. I’ve only ever had two professional massages, so I was really in heaven for about 40 minutes. The rest of this afternoon was pretty leisurely. We all just sunbathed and chilled out until dinner, which was perfectly OK with me. I happily made my rounds from laying in a hammock on the hotel cliff, walking the property walkways down to the boat dock, and finally heading back to my own personal deck that was low enough to stick my feet in the water.
Bike Tour: We started our second full day with an early wakeup call to go on a biking tour through the town’s farmland, which was also put on by Jake’s Hotel. This place seriously has everything for a lowkey, relaxing getaway! (Disclaimer: This article is in no way paid for or sponsored by Jake’s Hotel, I’m just obsessed with it.) We were led through the side streets of the Treasure Beach neighborhoods and even stopped to chat with some locals along the way. We rode through crops and farmland lined with mountains glowing in the sunrise and along a hillside that overlooked a meadow filled with roaming goats. A bike tour was the perfect way to see a lot of the town in a short amount of time, and it was nice to start the day with some exercise!
Private Beach Feast: Now, for my favorite part of our stay in Treasure Beach…After the biking tour and some breakfast, we were picked up off of the hotel boat dock by a lively man in a motorboat. We were heading out for a long day at sea, and he drove us first to a private beach for lunch and some swimming in the Caribbean. Aside from the crystal blue water and white sand, the beach was lined with trees and lush greenery along the beach. Our lunch spot? In the trees! We were taken to a wooden structure hidden beneath the brush that was basically an outdoor kitchen and dining room with a full table setting prepared for us. Our boat driver and host for the day cooked us the best meal I’ve had in a very long time, or maybe ever. We were served fresh lobster and fish (like, caught that same morning), rice and beans, and greens accompanied by fruity, rum-spiked drinks. After indulging in all the seafood goodness, we lounged on the beach and took a dip in the sea. It was pure bliss.
Pelican Bar: Although it was an already perfect day, the private beach lunch wasn’t the end of our expedition at sea. We hopped back into the boat to jet out to a place called Pelican Bar, which is an actual bar built from scrap wood in the middle of the ocean. You can buy drinks and hang in the sun, but unfortunately, there’s no jumping off the dock into the water – most likely due to all the boats parked around the facility. This spot was such a gem, and a place I definitely won’t forget.
Remember when I said this was the most luxurious trip of my life? Our time spent in Negril is exactly why. Negril was about a three-hour bus ride from Treasure Beach, so we basically made our way around the entire island by the end of the week. This town was definitely more crowded and touristy, but it was just as beautiful and interesting to explore. We stayed at the Royalton Resort, which seriously blew me away (this is the 5-diamond resort I mentioned at the beginning). My suite and the view from it were stunning, I was assigned a personal butler (like, what?), there was a full-on bathtub jacuzzi in my room, and I was even provided a pillow menu, which offered a wide variety of pillows to choose from for my bed. I know I keep saying this, but I was beyond shook by the pure opulence of it all.
Resort Amenities: Being an all-inclusive resort, anything and everything you could possibly need is included in your stay. Again, since the trip was themed around wellness, we started the days with beachside yoga and a boot camp class put on in the hotel’s state of the art gym facility. The resort grounds also has several pools, including a mini water park for kids, and a private beach for hotel guests. And yes, swim-up bars are included. There is also plenty of shopping, a spa, and tours available through the hotel.
In addition to all the activities available, there are several restaurants on the property that are just as impressive as the rest of the hotel – they have everything from tex-mex to Italian and Japanese. We celebrated the last night of our trip by watching the sunset from one of the cliffside bars and then dined with some of the resort staff at the steak house. It was the perfect way to wrap up our week-long excursion together, as we’d all bonded over the course of a few short days.
Rockhouse: If you don’t feel like staying at your all-inclusive resort of choice for the entirety of your stay (although I wouldn’t blame you if you did), there are plenty of other things to do in Negril. On our last full day, we visited another hotel called Rockhouse. The rooms at this hotel consist of individual bungalows on the edge of a rocky cliff (hence the name), and they all have direct access into the sea by a ladder leading straight into the water. We obviously had to climb down and take a dip for ourselves!
Spa Sesh #2: Rockhouse has a totally serene spa that’s filled with incense and cleansing scents as soon as you walk in, and we were all given a treatment of choice after getting a full tour of the spa. Our choices? An essential oil and flower petal infused bath overlooking the sea, a full head-to-toe body scrub, or another massage. Yeah, there was no going wrong with this one. I went with the body scrub, and a nice Jamaican lady rubbed me all up and down with a charcoal mixture to exfoliate my skin. It definitely got the job done, but if you’re someone with sensitive skin, this may not be the best spa treatment for you (I was left with some scratches on my feet and legs from the scrub).
Garden Tour: If you go to Rockhouse, you can take a tour of the property’s garden, which has fresh crops, spices, and plants that they use in the hotel’s restaurant. The tour was very informative, and I never knew there was so much to learn about plants! Our guide showed us the process of extracting almonds (it’s a lot more work than you’d expect), taught us about the different plants and crops in the garden which we got to taste test along the way, and walked us through the hotel’s walkways to teach us about the different kinds of trees. It was a relaxing, leisurely afternoon activity to accompany the spa treatments. Plus, we had lunch in the hotel’s restaurant after the tour, where we tried the fresh-squeezed juices with ingredients straight from the garden.
Overall, Jamaica surprised me in all the best ways. It was a smooth trip from beginning to end with a great group of journalists that made each day a bit more fun. I highly recommend these spots in Jamaica to everyone, and I most definitely plan on going back. Maybe on my honeymoon? Or on a solo adventure? Who knows. But there’s no doubt that Treasure Beach and Negril will see me again one day.