Jo Cooke looks at some of the best sights, attractions and activities around Jamaica's 'big three' resorts - Ocho Rios, Montego Bay and Negril
Jamaica's ‘big three’, as the north coast resorts of Ocho Rios, Montego Bay and Negril are collectively known, each have a distinct personality.
Not only that, they can offer great sightseeing and activities whether your clients are seeking action, culture, a nature kick or a romantic moment. These can be sold as extras or bought in resort.
Ochos RiosWith more excursion possibilities on its doorstep than there are days of the week, Ochi (as the locals call it) is perfect for those who want to explore as well as soak up the sun on the resort’s arc of golden sand.
Dunn’s River Falls is a must-see. Its tumbling cascades are shaded by ferns and palms, and can be climbed or simply admired. Plus the marketplace of craft traders at the top and lively beach at the base of the falls make this a complete day out.
Nearby Dolphin Cove is where visitors can make dreams of swimming with dolphins – or indeed sharks or stingrays – come true. The recent addition of a pirate-style village adds to the fun atmosphere. Advise clients to book early, as places on the interactive programmes are limited.
Ochi’s newest attraction is Mystic Mountain. A cable car ride takes visitors above the rainforest’s treetops for a sweeping view of the coastline. At the top, clients can get a theme park thrill aboard a bobsleigh-style roller coaster.
For a more romantic experience there’s bamboo rafting along the Martha Brae or Rio Grande rivers, or a journey into the Blue Mountains, where the world’s most sought-after coffee is grown.
Cosmos offers a Blue Mountain Adventure day trip cross country to Jamaica’s misty peaks. It includes a tour and tasting session at a coffee plantation and lunch at the exclusive Strawberry Hill Resort – a popular celebrity hideaway.
Where to stay
Set on a bluff with its own secluded beach, Royal Plantation is a romantic boutique hideaway. A grand gabled entrance leads to 74 sumptuous sea-view suites.
At the resort centre, on a swathe of golden sand, Sunset Jamaica Grande is a stylish 730-room all-inclusive. Themed pools and dawn-til-dusk entertainment make it ideal for families.
On the same stretch of beach Rooms Ocho Rios offers great value bed and breakfast in its 97 bright, spacious rooms.
The resort’s unspoilt seven-mile stretch of sand, Long Bay, is its biggest selling point. This is fly-and-flop heaven, ideal for clients who want a laid-back place to de-stress.
Facing west, Negril is also sunset central, and sundowners are typically followed by reggae beach parties.
Join the nightly sunset party at Rick’s Café where cliff divers somersault into the sea. By day take a safari to the wilder south coast where visitors can cruise the Black River while crocodile spotting, cool off at tranquil YS Falls, then sample the island’s rum at the Appleton factory.
Building on the success of its Blue Mountain Adventure tour from Ochi, Cosmos is now offering a two-day jeep safari from Negril where clients get to stay in a mountainside retreat before taking an early morning trek to the peak in time to see the sunrise. It’s simply stunning and perfect for the more adventurous – book ahead to guarantee a place, though.
For those who don’t want to get too active, Royal Palm Reserve offers a boardwalk nature trail, while a sunset catamaran cruise is a Negril must-do.
Where to stay
The deluxe, beachfront Couples Swept Away has 312 suites secluded by lush tropical foliage and a sports complex, complete with training pool, tennis courts, running track, gym and fabulous spa.
Those seeking to simply chill out might head for The Caves. This cliff-top haven has 11 cottages, suites and a villa, plus an Aveda spa.
The twin properties from Spanish hotel group Fiesta boast 1,056 rooms between them.
If it’s bars, restaurants and nightlife that your client desires after a day on the beach, this is the place. From the ultra-cool Blue Beat jazz bar to jumping Margaritaville with its over-sized cocktails and a water slide into the ocean, Mo’ Bay rocks.
Be spooked by a ghostly tour of Rose Hall Great House, a beautifully restored colonial mansion full of antiques, but with a grisly past.
In contrast, the childhood home of reggae king Bob Marley at Nine Mile can be visited aboard a vintage bus with Caribbean Adventure tours. The company also offers soft adventure options including zip-wiring, river tubing, horse riding and mountain biking.
For those curious about Jamaica’s history, culture, music and food, suggest a visit to the interactive Outameni Experience in Trelawny, created by a film producer.
Where to stay
Breezes Montego Bay has 124 rooms. It’s on the Hip Strip – the resort’s nightlife hub – and has its own slice of the popular Doctor’s Cave beach.
The luxurious Sandals Royal Caribbean and Private Island has a range of colourful, colonial-inspired rooms, water sports and dining options and a sweeping private beach. (Learn more about Sandals on our TWacademy information zone.)
Chic out-of-town property Grand Lido Braco has 226 rooms. With its Georgian-style clapboard architecture, this all-inclusive has a rustic, elegant feel.
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