Author Topic: Jamaica 4 day vacation  (Read 2511 times)

Offline Mootkim

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Jamaica 4 day vacation
« on: October 20, 2022, 11:08:40 PM »
My wife and I spent 4 nights in Jamaica this summer and I wanted to try and put together my TR before I forget more details. Will post pictures after all the info. We flew American Airlines RT from PHL to MBJ with the way there using AA miles with a redemption value of 2.53 cents per mile and the way back using CSR points because I would have needed to pay much higher taxes using AA miles that direction. With having the Executive Platinum AA status, I was able to get a free upgrade to economy plus and ended up getting confirmed business class for the way there 100 hours before the flight. Flight was early on Sunday morning and got to Jamaica pretty early in the day. The airport was pretty busy for that time and it did take some time to get through customs. I had communicated with the Chabad Rabbi there, Rabbi Raskin, beforehand about the food but decided to bring food along as the process seemed pretty simple. Officially you can apply for a permit to bring in food but was complicated to use their sites and they never got back to me. After you get your luggage you go on the customs line that is non-declaring and they simply ask you if you brought any food thats not allowed and you just say no and they let you in. We brought along ready made meals that we ordered from Seasons in Lakewood which they double wrapped in oven ready tins with instructions of exactly how to heat it up.

Outside the airport there were many taxis hounding for business. We took a taxi to our hotel, the Hyatt Zilara, for about $30 or so. The location of the hotel is pretty good if you want to be able to go to Ocho Rios and it is basically right across the street from the Chabad house. The Hyatt Zilara and Ziva are both next door to each other and you can use all the amenities of both but the Zilara only has adults while the Ziva has kids too. It is all inclusive so all drinks and food is free. We got a room on the 4th floor with a beautiful big balcony overlooking the pool and ocean. The first thing I did was bring all our frozen meals to the concierge service. They took all our meals and stored it in the fridge and I wrote down specific instructions on how to heat up and numbered each meal. They explained that I can simply call concierge in the morning and tell them which restaurant I wanted to dine at that night, what time, and how long to heat it up beforehand. Everything worked out perfectly with doing that and we brought along nice plastic cutlery and plates to put the food on when they bring us the tins. The whole pool area is really nice and we relaxed at the beach until evening. We dined in the restaurant off the main lobby that night and they had someone playing nice music there.

The next morning we had booked to go to Chukka excursions which has locations all over the island. We did the one at Ocean outpost in Sandy bay and because we had booked to do at least 3 activities, they pick you up very early. The drive was long but was very cool driving through the city and seeing that part of the island. The driver picks up people from other hotels on the way as well so that takes a little time as well. When we got there we checked in and the first activity we were scheduled for was the ATV'ing. We got lockers and changed and relaxed at their pool that is on the ocean while we waited. The ATVing was pretty cool through the forests and some fields and rivers. After ATV we did the horsebacking. They bring you through the same forest and more water. Then you change horses and go on a horse that doesnt have a regular saddle and goes through the ocean up until where the horse is basically fully submerged and swimming. After that, we did the Katamaran snorkeling tour where they take you out on a boat and give you a handheld motor propeller that you hold while you snorkel around the coral reefs there. They serve alcohol on the boat and it does get pretty rowdy on the boat when they blast the music and many people are smoking joints. After that we took the bus back to our hotel where we showered and relaxed. Every Monday in the summer, Rabbi Raskin has a BBQ at his house so we had booked that the night before. We walked there from our hotel and it took around 10 minutes to walk (up a little hill). There was tons of food and he even served Jerk Chicken and Jerk burgers which is the classic food of Jamaica. We got to meet a bunch of other couples who pretty much were also all staying at our hotel and the whole atmosphere there was really nice. The Rabbi was very accommodating and nice and showed us the new mikva he was building there. We were there for a few hours just talking with everyone and the Rabbi saying over some Torah and some of his history with Jamaica.

The next morning, Tuesday, we ate a quick breakfast and then went to the ocean where the hotel offers Wind surfing lessons every morning for free. We were the only ones there that day and the guide spent time teaching us how to do it. We finally mastered it and were able to stand and turn after a little practice. The rest of that day we relaxed at the hotel, got massages at the spa, and ended the day with dining at the restaurant that is on the beach. They set up a table for us on the beach under the lights and served us our food that they heated up for us there. The entertainment that night was a water aerobics show which was pretty cool.

Wednesday was our long day where we hired a driver and booked a few activities through the driver that Chabad had recommended on their website. I had spoken to him before coming to Jamaica telling him what I wanted to do that day and he told me what he recommends and how to do it as well as booked whatever was able to be booked beforehand. We first went to the breakfast restaurant and brought along our own pan and cheese. The chef made us eggs and we had some fruit drinks there as well. Our driver picked us up after that and took us on a long drive past Ocho Rios. He made a little detour along the way to show us some of the small towns along the way. I had chosen this day to go as I looked up the cruise ship schedule on the link someone had posted in the Jamaica thread and saw that there was no ship docking that day in Ocho Rios. That meant that there would be fewer crowds at all the attractions. Our first stop was by the Cool blue hole. There are a few places in the same area and we did the "nature blue eco attraction" There are many guides who take you out onto the river individually (not a group) and show you all the cool things there. The river is basically a big stream coming down a waterfall. The color of the water is a beautiful blue color and is very refreshing. We elected not to take life jackets and was happy we didnt. The first stop our guide took us to was a rope that we swung off to flip into the water. we did that a few times and then started a little hike. We walked along and through the water and waterfalls until we got to a huge waterfall. There was a big platform set up in front of the waterfall where you climb up and jump off into the rushing water at the bottom of the falls. Some of the natives were running off the top off the falls into the water. Our guide went behind the falls to get us some "special" mud and we rubbed it all over ourselves. There were some more smaller cliffs there that we jumped off of and then we made our way back. On the way back he showed us the school that is right there as well as cracked open some almonds that were growing there. We gave our guide a little tip before we left him.

We went back to our driver who was waiting for us and headed out to Dunns river falls. It is on the way back to the hotel from Cool blue about a half hour from Cool blue. We ate lunch and then paid for admission into the park. Dunns river is basically a long huge waterfall down a mountain that leads into the ocean. We hiked down to the beach where the falls ends and started our ascent up the falls. The hike is really thrilling as you have water gushing on you the whole time as you climb up through the river up the falls. The views are amazing and the place is really pretty. You need to bring along water shoes for this as it would be pretty hard without. You dont need a guide for this place as it is pretty self explanatory and all they do is help lead you up the falls. When we got to the top we dried off and then headed back to our driver.

The next stop was Luminous lagoon which was even further back towards the hotel (about 30 minutes from the hotel) and by the time we got there it was starting to get dark. Luminous Lagoon is a lagoon that has some organism in the water that is found in only 4 places in the world with this one being the most visible. When the water is disturbed it gives off a green glow which you can only see at night. The boats start heading out when it is fully dark and it drives out about 5 minutes. They then anchor and turn off their lights. You can then jump off the boat and as soon as you splash into the water or move around in the water, the whole water glows a green light. We were in the water for around 15 minutes before we headed back. Our driver brought us back to our hotel after a long full day. We then enjoyed Bob Marley night at the hotel with a singer singing all the Jamaican classics and then we had the hotel deliver our food to our room with room service where we ate supper and went to sleep. The next day we relaxed at the pool before we packed up and left to the airport.

A couple of things to note about Jamaica: We had looked into doing Martha Brae which is basically a ride down a river on a log raft but ended up skipping it as it was expensive and didnt seem so exciting. There was also people who took a tour through the Rastafarian villages which seemed pretty cool but didnt have time to do. The chabad does offer food which you can order and he delivers to your hotel. We brought our own food so didnt order any besides for going to the BBQ. The Rabbi also works hard to put together a minyan which we had a few days there and he even sends a driver to pick you up from the hotel to come to the minyan. Driving is also not such a big deal aside from getting used to driving on the other side of the road but everywhere I went was basically one long road and not that complicated. I definitely could have gotten a car to do the long day myself without a driver but it definitely was convenient with the driver. The Hyatt was very accommodating to any requests we had and was excellent in dealing with our food. They also have swim out rooms on the first floor that looked very cool. I definitely recommend Jamaica as a little "different" vacation that has a nice mix of relaxation as well as adventure and also has a good option to either bring along or order food there. There is also the falafel store in the main town in Montego Bay which we never got to but passed on our way to Chukka. I will try to upload pictures later when I have a chance. YA MAN!

Offline Ploni3

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Re: Jamaica 4 day vacation
« Reply #1 on: October 21, 2022, 06:22:22 AM »
When we were there pre Covid, the Hyatt had a welcome lounge in the airport where they processed the check in and gave some cold drinks, snacks and cool towels.  Then the hotel provided a free shuttle.  Did they stop all this?

Offline whacked1

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Re: Jamaica 4 day vacation
« Reply #2 on: October 21, 2022, 08:14:34 AM »
Great TR! Thanks for writing!

Offline CountValentine

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Re: Jamaica 4 day vacation
« Reply #3 on: October 21, 2022, 02:59:58 PM »
When we were there pre Covid, the Hyatt had a welcome lounge in the airport where they processed the check in and gave some cold drinks, snacks and cool towels.  Then the hotel provided a free shuttle.  Did they stop all this?
Even pre-covid with the welcome lounge you had to pay for the shuttle. You must have been one of the last ones for the free shuttle.
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Offline Mootkim

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Re: Jamaica 4 day vacation
« Reply #4 on: October 21, 2022, 04:26:30 PM »
Even pre-covid with the welcome lounge you had to pay for the shuttle. You must have been one of the last ones for the free shuttle.
Yup exactly. They did have a lounge there in the airport which we skipped and the concierge had reached out before my trip offering to shuttle me to the hotel from the airport for $39 per adult which is more than double a traditional taxi if you are a party of 2.

Offline CountValentine

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Re: Jamaica 4 day vacation
« Reply #5 on: October 21, 2022, 04:44:19 PM »
Yup exactly. They did have a lounge there in the airport which we skipped and the concierge had reached out before my trip offering to shuttle me to the hotel from the airport for $39 per adult which is more than double a traditional taxi if you are a party of 2.
39/adult is RT.
The lounge also now only has beer and no hard liquor.  >:(
Can't wait for the pics!!!  :)
« Last Edit: October 21, 2022, 04:50:54 PM by CountValentine »
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Offline Ploni3

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Re: Jamaica 4 day vacation
« Reply #6 on: October 22, 2022, 10:28:25 PM »
Oh well. I would definitely not have paid for that lounge and hotel transport.

Offline CountValentine

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Re: Jamaica 4 day vacation
« Reply #7 on: October 22, 2022, 11:33:48 PM »
Rafting the Martha Brae is very relaxing. It is a mini version of rafting the Rio Grande in Port Antonio.
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