Jamaica

TRAVEL GUIDE: EAT, PLAY, STAY IN MONTEGO BAY, JAMAICA

img_1309-1440x1920.jpg

When I first visited Jamaica for my 30th birthday, it was understood that the only thing I was concerned about was jumping down a waterfall or 2, drinking Red Stripes for breakfast, and eating oxtails in the city. Let’s just say, mission accomplished and exceeded in all of areas mentioned above. And while I was able to scratch those things off of my bucket list, I also walked away from Jamaica with a newfound respect for the culture, the people, and the land. My first trip to Jamaica was centered around Ocho Rios, because I’d always been advised it was the better option to the more touristy Montego Bay, however, when it came to finding a luxury all-inclusive room to accommodate three guests, the better options were in MoBay (the local name for Montego Bay).

Out of the group of 3, there was one Jamaica newbie, so in order to create a trip filled with new experiences for us all, I made sure to peruse blogs, Pinterest, and tour sites for the best off-resort excursions.

My only regret from this entire stay was not being able to stay longer. This trip was a reminder of everything that I loved about Jamaica, from the people to the food, and we even left with a new adopted uncle in the form of our driver, Dean. Our respect for Uncle Dean might have been the only thing that kept our party animal sides in check when the cocktails and shots started flowing like the water down Dunn’s River Falls while at Rick’s Cafe.

Here is my comprehensive guide to enjoying Montego Bay on your next visit to Jamaica.

Eat

It goes without saying that one of the best things in Jamaica, next to the people, is the food. On vacation, God removes gluttiny as a sin, and encourages you to eat as much as want, whenever you want. Well actually, I’m sure that I made that up, so don’t quote me at the pearly gates, but that’s definitely my rule of thumb. Just in case you’ve either been under a rock or are far removed from anything that resembles Jamaican culture, I’m listing some of the staples below:

  • Jerk Anything (but start with the chicken)

  • Oxtails

  • Rice and Peas

  • Beef Patties

  • Curry Goat

  • Coco Bread

  • Fried Plantains

  • Callaloo

  • Rum Cake

  • Rum Punch

  • Blue Mountain Coffee

There are to many traditional foods to name, but the list above should leave you off to a good start. And if you’re a lover of spice, try the Jamaican pepper sauce made with scotch bonnet peppers. Yum!

img_1330-e1521531276657.jpg

The best place to try authentic Jamaican food is in town or by suggestion of the locals, so I’ve listed and linked some favorites below:

Scotchies

The Pork Pit

The Pelican Grill

And just in case, you decide to try your hand at making some jerk delicacies when you return back home, pick up these seasonings either in town or at the airport.

img_1448-800x1067.jpg

Play

Since this was not my first trip to Jamaica, I had already knocked some of the popular touristy things out like Dunn’s River Falls and the Bob Marley tour in Nine Mile. You can read about those by clicking here. This trip we were torn between a day in Negril and a trip to Kingston for the extended Bob Marley tour, where Negril won by a hairline fracture (only because I wanted to cliff dive).

Negril is most famous for two things: Seven Mile Beach and Rick’s Cafe. Even though it took almost 2 hours to get there from our hotel in Trelawny, the day spent in Negril might have been one of the best days on vacation in my life. Seven Mile Beach is breathtaking, even though the hagglers can be overwhelming, but between the authentic jerk chicken and pork being grilled on the beach, that according to Uncle Dean is some of the best in all of Jamaica, and the free cream rum tasting at the gift shops, you can haggle me for my last $2 any day.

img_1328-800x1422.jpg

And Rick’s Cafe. I really want to write a soliloquy about the romanticism of the sunset, the water that is an emerald blue like nothing I’ve seen yet on this planet, the DJ that must have a part time residency learning the hits in the States, the lobster that we ate like someone was going to steal it from us, and the rum punches and test tube shots that made cliff diving from the highest point seem like a good idea… But instead, I will just tell you, go to Ricks and thanks me later. And if you can swim, cliff dive. #TheEnd

img_1350-1-e1521531117865.jpg
img_1372-800x1067.jpg
img_1368-800x600.jpg

Sidenote: Imagine our surprise when Mike Epps walked in to enjoy Rick’s on a random Tuesday with the rest of us.

Our day in Negril was perfect, but there’s another excursion that I added onto the itinerary as a surprise to my girls for letting me drag them across the Caribbean more than once. Jamaica is one of only five places in the world that has a bioluminescent bay, which is essentially a body of water that lights up with millions of microorganisms to the touch. The only way that the glow of the water can be captured is with a specialized camera, so even our fancy new IPhones didn’t do the trick, but the sunset dip in the dark lagoon surrounded by glowing microorganisms was one pretty dope experience that will forever be committed to memory.

lagoo.jpg

Our tour to Luminous Lagoon can be found by clicking here, but for any other tour or transportation needs in and/or around the Montego Bay Area, I recommend my Uncle Dean. He’s a preferred driver for Riu properties, so if you’re staying at one of them, even better, but if not, he can be reached via What’s App at (1-876-394-1171). You can tell him that one of his nieces from Houston sent you.

Note: US Dollars are widely accepted in Jamaica preventing the dreaded currency exchange.

Stay

There are 2 things that determine whether a resort is perfect in my eyes, besides visual aesthetics, and those things are food and service. Melia Braco’s Village, almost 5 star overall customer reviews on Trip Advisor was solidified from the moment that we stepped foot on the resort.

Since we had been traveling since early morning, after dropping off our luggage, the only thing on our minds was the nearest place to fill our rumbling stomachs (and maybe grab a rum punch or 2). If you’ve been to multiple all-inclusive resorts, then you probably know that the lunch food by the pool can be either hit or miss, but let me tell you about my first meal. Imagine jerk snapper covered in sautéed greens, onions, and bell peppers before being grilled in a foil pack and served to your table hot and ready to enjoy. This was the first of many great meals, including hibachi good enough to put Benihana’s out of business.

Our resort was filled with many amenities, including it’s very own complimentary adventure park with zip-lining and an obstacle course. And let me not forget the many photographic areas, like this little hut that just screamed Jamaica.

img_1250-800x800.jpg

Confession: I’ve realized that I might need to start writing in some travel picture time into each day, because my camera is often replaced by a cocktail or plate of food within the first few hours of any trip. Hence, the lack of shots around the resort.

Would I recommend Melia Braco Village for your next trip to Jamaica? Yes, BUT that’s only if your sole purpose is enjoying the resort and the food. I could talk about the food, amenities, and great service all day, however, since our resort was situated in Trelawny, about 30-45 minutes outside of Montego Bay, cabs were pricey and hard to come by, preventing us from getting to enjoy the nightlife as much as we would have preferred on this trip.

On my next trip to Jamaica, I’m sure I will be staying at one the Secrets Resorts or Breathless, which can be booked directly from my website by clicking here.

Have you been to Jamaica? What were some of your favorite food and local spots?

img_4025-800x1067.jpg

P.S.  If you would like assistance booking your next trip, click here.

Disclaimer: Some of the links in this blog are affiliate links, meaning at no additional cost to you, I will earn a commission if you click through and make a purchase.

YOU MAY ALSO ENJOY:

TRAVEL GUIDE: OCHO RIOS, JAMAICA

Last year, on Thanksgiving Day, I entered into the third decade of my life.  30 years young.  For months leading up to my birthday, I told anyone that cared to listen that the only guarantee for my big day was that I would be jumping down somebody’s waterfall in Jamaica.  Since my birthday fell on a family holiday, I wasn’t really concerned about who would be able to make the trip and big plunge with me, as long as I had a rushing body of water, a Red Stripe or 3, and a camera to capture the moment, life was fine with me. So, a few months before my scheduled departure date, I sent out a mass email to my usual travel crew and began to plan my first vacation to the reggae capital of the world.

The Jewel Dunn’s River Resort was worth every penny.  The rooms were spacious, the resort beach beautiful, the premium liquor plentiful, and the staff became our friends.  When was the last time you went to an all-inclusive resort that served Hennessy?  I’ll wait, but let me just say that the liquor selection definitely overshadowed the mediocre food that you find at just about any all inclusive resort.

Note: If your Jamaica travels will land you in Montego Bay versus Ocho Rios, you can click here to read my MoBay travel guide filled with tips, or click here to book your room at either a Secrets or Breathless resort.

While I’m a beach bum at heart, I am also a tourist, and there were some things in Ocho Rios that were must sees on my list.  There was no way that I could go to Jamaica and not visit the birth and resting place of Bob Marley, Nine Miles, or not find the perfect waterfall (Dunns River and Secret Falls) to make my birthday wish come true. Unfortunately, my phone died before we reached the peak of Nine Miles, but some sights photos wouldn’t do justice anyway.  If you’re struggling in the humble department, take a trip through Jamaica and up to Nine Miles, and it might help you remember that even on your worst day you are blessed.  From the shanty huts to the children chasing behind our tour van barefoot on the undeveloped roads like on Belly, I had to take a minute and just say, “Thank you God.”

And if you’re a free spirit with a wild heart that’s open to taking a walk on the wild side, take a trip to Shades on a Freaky Friday.  Sorry, no pictures were allowed, so you can only imagine what that means.  Don’t say I didn’t warn you, but you can definitely say I sent you.

Restaurant Highlight:

Miss T’s Kitchen

What is a trip to Jamaica without enjoying traditional cuisine in an authentic Jamaican restaurant.  I couldn’t imagine depriving my travel crew of not only a home cooked meal for Thanksgiving, but also making them suffer through the Jamaican attempt to Americanize the buffet with dry turkey, bland dressing, and a host of other holiday items that didn’t even slightly resemble your mama’s home cooking.  So, based on a host of yelp reviews and recommendations from the locals, we ate our Thanksgiving late lunch/dinner at Miss T’s Kitchen in the heart of Ocho Rios.  Usually a very opinionated and conservative food connoisseur, I must admit that the ox tails and rice and peas were fingerlicking good.  The ambiance of the restaurant also did not disappoint, as it was set outside in the center of a lush garden, protected just enough so that the daily torrential downpour didn’t dampen our moods or our clothes, but instead merged in harmony with the Bob Marley playing from the speakers.

P.S. If you would like help planning your next vacation, click here.

Disclaimer: Some of the links in this blog are affiliate links, meaning at no additional cost to you, I will earn a commission if you click through and make a purchase.