We left early on a Monday morning for our 10 day honeymoon in paradise. Matching Honeymoonin’ t-shirts were definitely a plus as we settled into our seats on the plane and our very friendly stewardess with United treated us to free champagne to celebrate. We had made it and she was next to walk down the aisle in a few months. The excitement bubbled through us as we squished our noises against the tiny airplane window to see the beautiful green mountains of Jamaica as we descended into Montego Bay.
We opted for Club MoBay, Jamaica’s version of TSA Pre and were escorted through customs and immigration and treated with sandwiches and cocktails before being shuttled onto the bus that would take us to Sandals Negril. The drive was about an hour, winding along the coast at higher speeds than you might expect. The driver was friendly as he whirled through the streets and around the curves of the road. If the added speed wasn’t enough to make you realize you weren’t in America anymore, the side of the road we were on and the way the drivers in Jamaica whirl past one another, passing on the wrong side of the road will. As our driver told us, “Left is best, right side is suicide.”
Within an hour or so, we were pulling through the gates to Sandals Negril and ushered off to be checked in and greeted by one of our butlers. We were presented with cool/wet towels and cocktails as we waited to finish checking in and our bags were brought to our room. The room we waited in had a great view down to the pool that was full of party-goers crowding around the in-pool bar. Before we knew it, our butler, Gawayn, was greeting us and walking us to our room. We stayed in the Honeymoon Beachfront Two Story One Bedroom Butler Villa Suite with Tranquility Soaking Tub located on the far side of the property, next to the gift shop and the Dive Center.
The view from both of our balconies was stunning. The balcony connecting to our bedroom had a soaking tub, which allowed me to enjoy the ocean while I relaxed in a hot bath. Gawayn showed us around and gave us our butler phone so we could call him and Orlando (our other butler) if we needed anything throughout our stay. Having a butler is definitely a really nice perk and made us feel super spoiled. Both Orlando and Gawayn knew what we needed often before we had a chance to call – they would reserve our spot on the beach every morning with a cooler stocked with Red Stripe beers and water, drop off cocktails, bring us Jamaican patties and food on the beach, and make dinner and lunch reservations and escort us to the restaurant. They even quickly learned of my love of the coconuts and would bring me a coconut on the beach – at least until we got diving certified and they would meet me as I got off the diving boat between dives with a coconut, Jamaican patty, and/or a cocktail.
The food at every restaurant at Sandals was delicious, but out favorites were the French and Japanese restaurants. Kimonos, the Japanese steakhouse, was reminiscent of Sakura and Otanis but had even more of an interactive and show experience. The chef, Royno, and waitress, Selina were fantastic and made the entire experience so fun and personal. They sang throughout the cooking experience and made it so it was an interactive show. The French restaurant, Bayside, was delicious and offered some delicious lobster and the staff grew to recognize us. A fun fact we learned, we were able to double up on entrees when we couldn’t decide between two dishes.
Jamaica was quite literally paradise and the perfect way to spend the first part of our marriage. The weather was perfect and the views breathtaking. One of the biggest things we noted was how friendly almost everyone was. We quickly started dreaming of ways to purchase a second home in Jamaica so we can vacation in Jamaica whenever we wish. The first part of our time in Jamaica we spent lounging on the beach and doing a few excursions, like river rafting down the Martha Brae River, swimming with dolphins, horseback riding, and an ATV adventure. The highlight of the trip, I think, was learning to scuba dive. Our instructor, Sanjay, was phenomenal and really helped us become comfortable breathing underwater.
Bamboo River Rafting Down the Martha Brae River
It took around an hour to get from Sandals Negril to the Martha Brae River, but it was a really cool experience. The river is very peaceful and it’s really cool learning more about the culture and seeing the pop-up shops along the river’s edge. The rafts were crafted from bamboo that grows along the river’s edge and our guide directed it with another long piece of bamboo he used to push off the bottom of the river as we lazily glided downstream.
It was much cooler on the river, beneath the shade of the trees. Our guide was very knowledgable and spent his time taking us on the several mile journey down the river, pointing out local plants and the history behind them and even pulling over to pull a pimiento leaf from the river’s edge and having us crush it between our fingers to release the scent and taste it as he explained its medicinal properties.
Swimming with Dolphins in Lucea
The dolphin cove in Lucea was pretty cool and housed more than just dolphins. We made friends with a very curious ostrich and even fed it, which can definitely be a bit intimidating with how intently it stared us down and ferociously pecked at the bucket of food. We also saw sting rays and sharks in a separate enclosure near the ostrich’s habitat. After exploring the cove, it was time to head to the dolphin area for orientation.
You are able to select several different experiences that will determine your level of interaction with the dolphins. All the dolphins were very well trained and it was a pretty cool experience that we would recommend doing at least once. We were even able to be towed from the middle of the cove back to the rest of our group by a dolphin – just make sure to grab on to its fins tight or you’ll slip off. The experience came with lunch, which was very appreciated by the time we were drying off. Since we are staying on a resort, the jerk chicken we got was the most authentic we had during our time in Jamaica.
Horseback Riding and ATV Adventure at Chukka in Montego Bay
The experiences in themselves were pretty cool and allowed us to see different elements of the island. However, Chukka is like an amusement park and was pretty disorganized and crowded. We spent more time waiting around in the heat than we did doing either of our activities, and that was pretty frustrating. The ATVs were pretty fast and was a great way to explore part of the island, including part of the original road along the coast. The most unique experience with the horseback riding was getting to ride bareback into the Caribbean Ocean. The water was warm and came to our knees.
Scuba diving was the highlight of our trip, at least in my opinion. All of the instructors were phenomenal, but Sanjay was our favorite. He helped us overcome any hesitations we had to easily navigate assembling our gear and through the water. The ocean is literally a whole other world, separate and yet connected to our own. It is something we both highly recommend and will strongly influence our future vacations. We saw so many amazing creatures, from starfish and sea horses to barracudas, sharks, and octopi. Russ loves diving, but isn’t quite as obsessed as me. He dove once a day while I dove two times a day and three on our last day.
We quickly advanced through the requirements to become Advanced Open Water certified and I soon found myself being certified as a Deep Diver, going 105 feet below the surface and diving a plane wreck. It was one of the coolest experiences I have ever had. On our last night in Jamaica, I was able to take a specialty Night Dive. The night dive was eerie and exhilarating as I descended to 60 feet to do the same Arches dive I had done earlier that day. The difference was incredible. We couldn’t see more than a few feet in front of us, illuminated by our flashlights and the sea life was different. We saw large crabs, puffer fish, and even an octopus crawling on the ocean’s floor. The octopus was definitely something super cool to see. Before beginning our ascent, we all turned off our flashlights so we could see the illuminating organisms that glowed when agitated by the movements of our arms.
The only downside to our stay at Sandals Negril was the non-stop harassment of the photographers, with the exception of the dive photographer, Jeffrey. One photographer in particular, Christopher, was particularly annoying and wouldn’t take no for an answer. He actually ambushed us as we left our room for dinner one evening and forced us to take pictures – none of which we purchased since we didn’t want those pictures in the first place.
Looking for a fun and relaxing place to vacation that has an array of activities? Sandals Negril could be the perfect spot for your next relaxing get away! On our next trip to Jamaica, we plan to go to the world renown Rick’s Cafe for some cliff diving and to experience Negril Town. Let us know in the comments your favorite things you did in Jamaica and where you think we should go next!
Fun Fact: Book your next Sandals vacation to any of their resorts before you leave and you’ll save 12%. Download the Sandals app and create an account and you’ll get credits to use on your next stay! Looking for a transportation service while in Negril? Reach out to our amazing butler, Orlando, at firstname.lastname@example.org!
Sign up for our email list today and never miss out on new posts or special offers!