Our vacations usually entail activities like hiking up mountains, taking cooking classes, exploring museums, and pitching tents in the middle of nowhere.
But when our friends invited us to their wedding at Jewel Grande Montego Bay Resort & Spa, an all-inclusive property in Jamaica, we decided to embrace the opportunity to relax on vacation.
We stayed in an oceanfront junior suite for $1,904 — a slightly discounted rate since we booked through a room block.
These were the major pros and cons of spending four nights at the all-inclusive resort.
All-inclusive really means what it sounds like at Jewel Grande, as all of our food and drinks were included in the rate.
The resort has multiple places to eat including breakfast spots, lunch buffets, and fine-dining restaurants.
We tried delicious tuna sashimi, a four-course Italian dinner, and plenty of tasty tacos. I also visited the property’s ice-cream parlor every day of the trip.
As for drinks, we sipped on a variety of tropical beverages, delicious Jamaican rums, and ice-cold beers by the pool. The swim-up bar was my favorite part of the property because we didn’t even have to get out of the water to order another round.
Figuring out transportation in foreign countries can be stressful. Usually, I have to navigate trains, buses, taxis, and the occasional ferry.
There was no confusion on this trip since Jewel Grande offers guests transportation service to and from the airport for an extra fee.
After we landed, we headed straight to the designated counter and hopped in a Jewel Grande van that delivered us to the resort in under 20 minutes.
On the day of our departure, the hotel staff loaded our bags into the van, and we were back at the airport in no time.
Tourists should remain vigilant regardless of where they travel or stay and, while doing research ahead of my trip, I found information about the high crime levels in Jamaica.
And as a member of the LGBTQ community who was visiting a country where many gay people face violence, discrimination, and persecution, I wanted to be extra cautious.
Because my husband and I stayed at an all-inclusive resort that managed our transportation and excursions, we felt safe and comfortable.
Jewel Grande offers a number of watercraft rentals, and they were included in the price of our stay.
Our lazy beach days certainly got more adventurous when we took out sea kayaks and paddleboards, and the sailboat gave us the biggest thrill. A guide took us about a mile into the water to ride the waves.
In addition, resort guests have access to a spa, golf courses, multiple excursions, and nightly entertainment. However, additional charges may apply for some of the activities.
The resort’s laid-back vibe made it a wonderful place to meet new friends, whether we found them on the beach or at the bars.
During one especially fun moment, we celebrated two other guests’ birthdays by singing a rousing rendition of “Happy Birthday” and taking a shot with about 30 strangers.
Since we paid the same rate regardless of how much we ate or drank, it was tempting to try to get our money’s worth. The downside of having so much included is that it was really hard not to overindulge.
We could start our day with cocktails, order food and drinks to our room, and go back to the buffet as many times as we wanted. However, the hangover I woke up with one morning was enough to remind me that I’m not in my 20s anymore, and I can’t drink as much alcohol as I used to.
I quickly learned that everything should be consumed in moderation, even at an all-inclusive resort.
During our stay, we tried delicious sushi, ate our weight in pasta, and enjoyed white-sand beaches. But we never actually left the resort to experience the island and definitely didn’t immerse ourselves in Jamaican culture.
Our stay was relaxing, but I didn’t get the sense that I was visiting a foreign country. For example, I tried jerk chicken at the hotel but didn’t feel like I was eating a real, authentic Jamaican meal.
Even though the resort offers excursions, the guided outings I went on didn’t feel the same as exploring on my own.
Don’t get me wrong, relaxing on the beach with a drink, an engrossing novel, and playing cards is a nice break from reality.
But after a couple of days, I started to get restless, especially since I knew the island was teeming with hiking, rafting, zip-lining, and ATV adventures.
The food and alcohol may have flowed freely at the all-inclusive resort, but the items the resort sold were à la carte.
The shops had it all — from swim trunks to snorkel gear to sunglasses — but these goods didn’t come cheap.
We had to pay extra for some basic necessities we forgot at home. Thankfully, we packed multiple travel-size containers of sunscreen, which saved us from spending $15 on a single bottle at the resort.
Recharging by a pool all day with a cocktail in hand and nowhere to be was pretty foreign to us, but it ended up being a wonderful getaway, even if we didn’t follow our typical itinerary.
We may still prefer hectic schedules and cold beers after long hikes, but relaxing on a tropical property certainly has enough upsides to bring us back in the future.