Jamaica North Coast Inclusives with an Exclusive Edge

Nowadays in the Caribbean, an all-inclusive resort experience does not have to mean that your own special interest in travel  gets lost in the wider shuffle.  Big no longer translates to a lack of attention or absence of  options for your own travel focus. This is certainly the case around the island of Jamaica – where the all-inclusive hotel concept is said to have originated back in the Sixties – and where that same  concept has since evolved to include travelers who require an hotel experience built around a major life event – such as a marriage,  honeymoon, romantic getaway or active travel interest.  Consider any of these three major name inclusive resorts – from Ocho Rios to Montego Bay to Negril – that have built an identity with a strong connection to a lifestyle or life event.

Ocho Rios

ClubHotel Riu Ocho Rios – tennis and all-purpose courts (credit: Hal Peat)

ClubHotel Riu Ocho Rios – Playing on Court to Riding on Waves

The resort town of Ocho Rios is a longtime leader not only on Jamaica but within the wider Caribbean for its choice in attractions and accommodation, finding the right choice in onsite and nearby outdoor action sport can be challenging if your travel days are limited. One local solution: ClubHotel Riu Ocho Rios, an arrival in recent years to this resort landscape. With a breathtaking beach along its vast complex and the nearby outdoor active attractions of the north coast just minutes away, ClubHotel Riu Ocho Rios serves as its own self-contained arena of sport opportunities while also being a launching point for doing more in the rainforest or waterfalls.

While this all-inclusive is major in size – having 846 guest rooms – the Riu family of hotels are always consistent in maintaining a high comfort level in guest interiors, and here there are well-appointed rooms each with amenities such as a mini bar and liquor dispenser, along with luxurious hydro-massage tubs and jacuzzi in their deluxe wing section. Outdoors, the aquatic action ranges from two large swimming pools, a children’s pool, to offshore action along Riu’s long beachfront – including kayaking, windsurfing, sailing, snorkeling.  There are also introductory scuba lessons available at the pool area.

Back on land, the choices are equally as diverse for the active-minded guest – both onsite and further afield. Close at hand there is the huge multi-sport court, available for volleyball and basketball. The tennis courts are accessible round-the-clock, often a great way to wrap up an active day when the sun is lower.  Then there is the wider Ocho Rios landscape offsite – ranging from waterfall to rainforest.  For those wishing to get out and fully experience the area, the resort is conveniently located to all the major attractions, including the spectacular 600-foot Dunn’s River Falls. Consider some of the other extensive activity options from independent operators or at other activity locations – just check the links on ClubHotel Riu Ocho Rios’s page of suggested nearby sports and activities. Most often than not, the activity operator or location will include or arrange round-trip transport from Riu to their site.

Montego Bay

Secrets Wild Orchid:  All the Ingredients for Honeymoon and Romance

Secrets Wild Orchid – swim-up Preferred Club suite exterior (credit: Secrets)

Always setting an innovative quo in travel in the region, Jamaica has been seeing the arrival of the five-star, all-inclusive resort property that receives couples traveling for a special occasion – wedding, honeymoon, or romantic retreat – as its prime guest market. The western end of legendary Montego Bay – more secluded than the city “hip strip” or the Negril area – nowadays is also the ideal location for this type of luxe hideaway with Secrets St. James and adjacent property Secrets Wild Orchid, each offering the five-star experience with a slightly different direction and range of amenities.  At Secrets Wild Orchid, the stylistic influence is drawn from Jamaica’s African Ethiopian roots, defined as the “youthful soul and the young at heart,” but not stinting on any of the guest amenities that its sister property offers.  It’s a refreshing change from the bland and impersonal surroundings Caribbean travelers  can encounter too often in mass all-inclusive environments.

In fact, once couples check into their suite here, everything is available to create the ultimate luxurious tropical romantic getaway or honeymoon.  The concept may be inclusive, but the model is upscale and minus the herd mentality – so, no wrist bands needed here.  The 350 luxurious guest suites are designed with a romantic couple in mind: in the suite layout and design, expect to find luxe features in the bath area such as whirlpool tubs, dual vanities and separate showers and WC, TV speakers, plus Gilchrist & Soames bath amenities.  Equipped with such amenities such as a 37” cable TV, desk with telephone and internet connection, and CD/DVD player, while adjacent for exterior relaxation is a furnished balcony. For any needs ensuite, there is 24-hour room service.

At the Preferred Club Suites level, guests are treated to even more attention with a private check-in and check-out, and access to a Private Preferred Club Lounge where there is complimentary computer access, daily continental breakfast service and also afternoon hors d’oeuvres served.  Outdoors, couples can luxuriate on on their own sun beds or in the soaking tubs on their terrace, or take a dip in their private pool – and some select suites even feature a swim-out access. Ensuite there is upgraded mini-bar service and bath amenities.

Another relaxing dimension with the discerning couple in mind is the wide spectrum of bars for savoring some elite label mixes – so for instance, among the nine total bars on-hand, guests can choose from a swim-up bar configuration at the Sugar Reef or Manatees Bar, watch the offshore action from the Barracuda Bar, or just soak in Jamaican fine sounds along with your cocktail at the Desires music lounge. Couples get to indulge together in some of the spa therapies and treatments at the Secrets Spa by Pevonia – featuring indigenous treatments and dual massage rooms, along with a zen garden and much else to induce total revival.


Couples Swept Away – Wellness, Yoga, Spa Life

Couples Swept Away – lap pool view (credit: Couples Resorts)

Negril has something of a longtime reputation as a hedonist’s paradise – but it also has its own resort opportunity for wellness and exercise on a grand scale at Couples Swept Away.  Sitting along 19 acres of Negril’s Seven Mile Beach, the option is obviously there at Couples Swept Away to spend maximum time on the sand and in the water – but there is also an impressive amount and variety to engage in on land that is both active and healthy.

The focus that this particular all-inclusive puts on its fitness and land-based active becomes visible as soon as you observe the layout and design of its range of facilities all located on the other side of the road from the resort beachfront accommodation and entertainment.  Created on a vast ten-acre complex of facilities that includes around its outdoor area a 25-meter lap pool, two squash courts, two racquetball courts, a basketball court, professional grade and lit tennis courts (five clay and five hard) with instructors available, and an outdoor jogging track.

In the indoor areas, fit-minded guests can tune up for their sport or stay on track with their exercise at the gym equipped with the latest high-tech cardio machines, including treadmills, elliptical machines, stationary bicycles and rowing machines.  For those into strength training, there are full sets of free weights and ergonomically designed machines, and certified trainers to assist with goals.  Classes?  Quite a selection – ranging from spinning classes to aerobics or a variety of yoga practices all on the schedule here.  Relax and unwind in the steam rooms, saunas, or jacuzzi.  All lessons and training sessions are included, and the instruction is first-class all the way with a rotating roster of visiting instructors from around the world.  While some all-inclusives may encourage you to just “eat all you can” in vast restaurants with dizzying selections of foods, paying attention to your inner and outer well-being with the most extensive in fitness, exercise and sport options is a balance that many nowadays favor for achieving the recharged getaway.

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About the author: Hal Peat

Hal Peat is a travel writer who has covered various topics ranging from adventure and active experience, luxury, lifestyle, festivals and personalities in both print and online media over the past two decades. His work spans points of interest and destinations within Europe and North America but nowadays focuses primarily on the Caribbean region including Central America.

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