Jamaica, Mon!

What am I doing in this photo?

Okay, so I’m admittedly not the most graceful person in the world. But this is the closest I’ll ever get to walking on water. You get three guess to figure out the how and why? Think about it as you read on.

The list of all the places I’d like to visit is very long. If I had to put them in order, you’d find Jamaica in the lower ranks. For some reason it’s one of those places that make me think of Spring Break and the party all night crowd. Not the ideal scenario for a family vacation. So when I was asked to be a part of a press trip sponsored by the Jamaican Tourism Board I looked at it as a good opportunity to check the place out.

I’m not too proud to admit I’ve been wrong about the kid-friendly-ness of other places before. I once worried about what I’d do during a 4 day trip to Las Vegas with kids, only to discover we could have spent a week enjoying Sin City. We had a great time in Jamaica as a family!

Checking out the beach in Jamaica

Things to do in Jamaica with kids

The Beach

Jamaica is one of the largest islands in the Caribbean. Tourism is the country’s top source of income, and I think it’s safe to say for most of its visitors, the island’s gorgeous blue water and sandy beaches are the main draw. The average temperature is 85 degrees, so with choices like parasailing, snorkeling and sailing, you will in all likelihood spend a majority of your vacation happily wet. Just remember to keep applying sunscreen.

Eat Well

Good food plays a huge role in having a good trip. One of the highlights of the trip was Scotchies in Ochos Rios. One of three locations on the island, the casual, laid back restaurant somewhat resembles an elaborate tiki bar. Thatched roof structures are comfortably scattered in a garden area provide plenty of breezy and shady spots to enjoy lunch. The menu is all about authentic Jamaican jerk – chicken, pork and steamed fish. Place your order at the window, my recommendation is to try a little bit of everything, and then slide down a few steps to watch your lunch slowly being blackened to perfection. My girls and I watched in amazement as chicken and pork were pulled off the fire and chopped into pieces at rapid speed. The fish is wrapped in foil and steamed. The combination of sliced tomato, onion, okra and black pepper was perfect. None of the offerings are overly spicy. If you’re looking for a little more heat, you can pour on some hot sauce, but all I can say is proceed with caution, I’ve heard stories of tears.

Don’t leave Jamaica without having good jerk. I’d also make sure to enjoy some of the island’s fabulous fresh fruit. Take your pick from mangoes, pineapple and papayas – better yet have them all! Good kid-friendly choices that are good for you too.

Dogsledding

Mush Mon!

When looking for a break from the beach, I’d suggest doing something uniquely Jamaican. My 9-year-old thought the Jamaica Dogsled Team was one of the coolest parts of our trip. No snow, no problem. Using mutts from shelters like the Jamaica Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (JSPCA), folks at Chukka Cove farm teach you how to be a musher for the day. Harness the hounds, hop in the custom made buggy, fasten your seatbelt and off you go. We were lucky enough to have Newton Marshall as our Musher. He’s the first Caribbean musher to ever finish the famous Iditarod. As he was introducing the dogs to the kids, he was telling us how he was headed to Alaska in the morning to start training for this year’s race.

Learning how to mush for the day

The ride was wild, but the thing that seemed to stick with my girls was the dogs themselves. A majority of the dogs are from animal shelters, some rescued mere hours before they were to be destroyed. Now they’ve got a home to call their own, and a percentage of the proceeds from their buggy rides is donated to the Jamaica SPCA. The whole adventure just leaves you with a good feeling.

Dance with Dolphins

Ok, so you’ve had about 700 words or so to think.Have you figured out what has me flying across the water yet? Bottlenose dolphins, Beta and Cometa are pushing me through the water as if I weighed next to nothing. I’m moving fast. Depending on your weight, and the dolphins pushing, you’re moving approximately 15-20 mph. It’s phenomenal!

Meeting stingrays at Treasure Reef

The strong girls are two of 17 dolphins that live at Dolphin Cove at Treasure Reef in Ochos Rios. As a family who loves to hang out at the beach, this was a perfect fit. Dolphin Cove is a natural cove surrounded by a tropical rain forest setting. The highlight for most is to swim with dolphins, but if you go, plan on spending the entire day at the park.

There’s something for all ages. Kayaking, mini boat rides, a shark show and snorkeling with sting rays (no barbs). And when the whole family is exhausted, they have a nice sandy beach with lifeguard, so everyone can relax and catch their breathe. It’s one of those things your kids will be bragging about to their friends for weeks. Leave all your jewelry and valuables in the hotel safe, but bring plenty of towels.

Franklyn D Resort

Where to Sleep

There are boundless options, for a variety of budgets. A popular choice is going all-inclusive. It’s easy and convenient. Everything’s done for you, food, drinks, activities and you never need to carry a wallet. Numerous well known, all-inclusive chains call Jamaica home. The one best for your family depends on what you’re looking for on your vacation. FdR Resorts hosted my family while we were in town. What makes it different from other resorts is that your room comes with a full-time nanny. For families with young children, it’s an inviting option. At 9 and 12 years-old my girls are past the nanny phase, they spent some time hanging out with her and genuinely liked her, but never really needed her.

The resort is small and employees seem genuinely committed to making sure you’re having a good time, it’s clean and what I would describe as authentically Caribbean. Great wood details and colors, but the property is faded around the edges, and could use some T-L-C. It’s the kind of place you stay at because you like being steps from the beach. No elevators, no glitz – just comfortable old school digs. It’s not somewhere you go if you’re looking for something fancy and luxurious. Read the community hotel review of Franklyn D Resort on Ciao Bambino for more details.

If you go the all-inclusive route, make sure you set aside some time to actually see Jamaica. Go check out one of the many local craft markets, and talk to the locals. They might be able to recommend a favorite place or a great restaurant. Either way, you’ll get a true taste of Jamaica.

Photos courtesy of Dana Rebmann and Dolphin Cove

Dana Rebmann and her family received complimentary airfare, lodging, and activities in Jamaica as part of a press trip sponsored by the Jamaica Tourism Board.  We are not asked to express any particular opinion or point of view.

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Relevant Links:

Best places for kids in the Caribbean on Ciao Bambino

Disney cruise line vacation, The Bahamas

2 Comments

  1. Dana, I’m so glad you had to revise your opinion of us in Jamaica.

    Next time you come, you should check out my parish, St. Elizabeth, which offers a totally different kind of tourism from what you’ll experience on the north coast.

    We have no all-inclusive hotels, but you can easily get a villa to rent in the Treasure Beach area. Most villas give you the option of hiring a housekeeper to take care of meals and chores, so you’re free to do holiday stuff.

    It’s very laid back and beautiful here. YS Falls and the Black River Safari shouldn’t be missed. Genuine rural hospitality. Jamaica doesn’t any more real than this.

  2. The dog sledding sounds especially fun! We were up in
    at the Iditarod HQ in Wasilla during the summer years ago, but they weren’t running the sleds when we were there.

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