• Elaine Zito

Yeah Mon: Jamaica Vacation

Allyn and I recently took a trip to Ocho Rios, Jamaica. This was our first time to the country and we were really excited to see what it had to offer. We love the Caribbean and like to compare features of the different islands. For reference, we've been to Antigua, Aruba, and the Bahamas.

First off, Ocho Rios is not close to the airport. Whether you fly into Kingston or Montego Bay, you will have to take a two hour shuttle ride to Ochi. The reason we picked this location was because it is home to the largest Sandals resort, as well as the famous Dunn's River Falls. So, honestly the drive was worth it and not that bad. Plus you get to see the country on the drive.

The Land: Jamaica is a pretty poor country, with tourism being their largest income. As you can imagine, all of that money goes back into the resorts making sure everything is pristine on site. But, where the locals live is pretty depressing. There are so many old, collapsing buildings as well as new construction that is at a standstill because they ran out of money. Rebar sticking out of concrete blocks is a common sight. The roads are also pretty trashy as well as the landscaping (basically there is none). If you've never been outside of the US, this could come as quite a shock to you. As for the flora and fauna, and the terrain, its absolutely beautiful. Unlike Aruba which is dry and arid with cactus, Jamaica is the most lush country I've ever seen. The amount of beautiful trees and flowers is abundant (at least on the resort). It's also a pretty mountainous country. Lots of opportunity for hiking and great views. Which brings me to the best part of the land that we saw, the waterfalls. Have you ever seen a waterfall filter out into the ocean? Me either. It was pretty amazing. The water was so fresh and clean. It was honestly the best thing we've ever done. So overall, the land in Jamaica is very lush and beautiful on the resorts and at excursion locations, but don't be surprised what you see as you drive through the country.

The Water: I'm pretty sure Jamaica has the clearest and prettiest water we've ever seen. Allyn says the

panhandle of Florida is still more clear, but as for a perfect Caribbean blue...Jamaica wins. The sand was also white and soft. At the Sandals Ochi resort, the beaches are pretty small. Sandals Negril however is known for a stretch of seven miles of pristine beach. Just make sure you pick a resort that accommodates what you want in a vacation. We chose Ocho Rios Sandals because of the size and the activities available. There's great snorkeling and scuba diving right off of the beach. Feeding the fish was a favorite. We even saw squid, rays, lobster, and barracuda. Definitely bring a mask and snorkel if you have one. If we do go back to Jamaica, it would definitely be for the perfect water and water activities.

The People: To this day I haven't met a country more friendly than Aruba. But, Aruba is more well off than Jamaica. The people in Jamaica were nice, but we could tell that outside of the tourism industry, there isn't much opportunity or hope. You will see lots of people just sitting on the side of the road at all hours of the day. Maybe they're just so chill because of all the weed they smoke lol. Anyway, make sure you learn how to say "yeah monnn." It's not just a stereotype, they pretty much say it in every sentence.

The Food and Drink: Jamaica is known for their Caribbean jerk flavors. They're also known for a dish called ackee and saltfish. The best thing I tasted the entire time I was there, was jerk flavored wings. They were perfectly smothered in sauce and had an amazing, tangy flavor. We did not try the saltfish, we heard it wasn't that good. As for drinks, they make Red Stripe beer and Appleton Estate rum. The beer is great. I pretty much drank that the whole time, with the occasional frozen rum drink. Allyn really liked the rum. But he recommends asking for an aged version over their standard rum.

The Excursions: Because Dunn's River Falls needs its own category. This is a world famous waterfall that you can climb up. It starts on the beach and you follow a tour guide, through the crisp, clean water. They even scrub brush the path for you so it's not slippery at all. You will need water or tennis shoes though. There are sooo many good photo ops,

as well as little pools to swim in. I'd go back in a heart beat. It's truly the most beautiful thing i've ever seen. Allyn prefers the natural pools in Aruba, which are created by vicious waves crashing over rocks that form a lagoon. It was a little too rough and scary for me. The waterfalls are much more tourist friendly and safe. There's also bob sledding down a mountain, swimming with dolphins, zip-lining, and much more. I think if we decided to do another excursion, it would be the bob sledding. They are known for their bob sled team, and the movie 'Cool Runnings'. While their isn't snow, you ride down a mountain on wheels. It looked pretty thrilling.

Wildlife: Jamaicans take pride on the fact that there are no snakes on the island. This is because of the mongoose. This was the first time Allyn and I had seen a mongoose, and they are sooo cute! They look like ferrets. They were everywhere, and we loved it. We also saw lots of stray cats and even kittens. All of this was seen in the resort. Outside of the resort we saw goats, dogs, and horses. And then of course underwater was an abundance of beautiful fish and sea life. I felt great relief when they told us sharks are not really prevalent on this side of the island.

Extracurricular Activities: For better terms, weed. It is legal and abundant.

Weather and Seasons: We went at the end of October. It was pretty hot, and there was an afternoon rain almost everyday. Somedays were overcast, but it was a nice break from the sun.The locals said that they are just starting to amp up for their busy season. I'm assuming it's when it gets cold here, so October-April. October was definitely a great time to go for rates, just before season.

Overall I think we both rate Jamaica as our second favorite place we have been. Aruba still wins based on the safety, comfort, friendliness and food. But Jamaica definitely gave it a run for its money, and I could see us going back and exploring other parts of this beautiful island.

xoxo, Isla Girl