Oh, beautiful Jamaica, the reggae capital of the world. It is also known for something else not so kid-friendly. Any guesses? I’ll let you use your imagination on that one! At first I didn’t pin this as being a place where kids could flourish, but I was pleasantly surprised to find a variety of activities for a broad spectrum of audiences.
If you are looking for a little less tourism and a little more laid-back vibe, Negril is the place for you and your family. It is known for possessing many of the most exquisite beaches on the planet, including Seven-Mile Beach, a top 25 worldwide rated beach, and it has some of the best Caribbean food on the Island. Now that I have you at beaches and Caribbean food, let’s get down to some insight on making your stay with your kiddos a breeze.
Negril is easily accessible, either by car from Montego Bay’s Sangster International Airport, or by intra-island flight right into Negril Airport. Once you’re there, you have a plethora of taxis to take you wherever you may please. Many places are walkable as well.
What not to do with kids? Bike rentals. Traffic is crowded and chaotic at times, making biking slightly dangerous for beginner riders. You also have the option of public transit, but be warned that it is also crowded and has no air conditioning. If your kid is at all like mine, keeping them semi comfortable is of the utmost importance; otherwise I’m dealing with a “Debbie Downer” for the rest of the day.
Where to Stay.
You have options on this one, but my favorite hands down is Beaches Negril. With unlimited activities on land or in the water, you don’t even have to leave the resort if you so choose. The all-inclusive packages include a multitude of activities, including, wait for it, kids camps! The amenities are so plentiful that I can’t list them all, but click the link for more detailed information.
My favorite part about this resort is the fact that the term “all-inclusive” has more than one meaning. The certified nannies are also specially trained for kids on the Autism Spectrum and modify activity to accommodate special needs of all kinds. If you have a child on the spectrum (or with any other special need), you know exactly how invaluable that is. If not, no worries there either; they will still show your kids a great time.
Kid perk number two- the resort has its own water park, which is included with your all-inclusive package. Need I say more? Beaches also partnered with Sesame Street to give an extra special experience for the younger audience, included as well.
The Royalton Negril Resort and Spa is another all-inclusive resort with endless accommodations. This resort offers a lot of family friendly amenities without sacrificing luxury. Put your 4-11 year old kids in the kids’ camp from 9am-9pm while you go for a spa day. They also have a teens’ club for 13-17 year olds that features billiards, ping-pong, a playstation lounge, and supervised outdoor activities. Also enjoy four pools and water slides, as well as many other on-site activities.
Not a fan of all-inclusive? You still have options.
Villas Sur Mer is a beautiful, lush, cottage style resort. It is located just south of Negril and is what I call a “hidden gem”. Some rooms also come equipped with kitchenettes, and if you read my first post, you know that I find this very convenient when traveling with kids. Childcare services are also available at a very reasonable rate. While you take advantage of the babysitting, enjoy the beach, restaurants, or my favorite, the spa services available.
Stay at the family-owned Travellers Beach Resort for a budget-conscious price and a good bang for your buck. Situated right on the Seven-Mile Beach, it is conveniently located and is very family friendly. For the best room with a kitchenette, air conditioning, and a king bed, select the Superior King Kitchenette Room. Also, leave the obnoxious pack and play at home. There are cribs available upon request. Other amenities include nightly entertainment, a swim-up bar, a hidden grotto (your kids will get a kick out of you “losing” them to the waterfall), and a fitness facility.
Beyond the Resorts.
Get ready for some of the best excursions and activities outside your resort.
Aside from the world-renowned Seven Mile Beach, Bloody Bay is also a must-visit and appropriate for all ages (and no, it’s not at all what the name makes it out to be!). The calm, clear, shallow waters make it very kid friendly so you can sit back and relax while they tread the shoreline (disclaimer- it is still the ocean; be the smart parents that I know you are). The view is amazing and it is less crowded than other beaches, making it one of the top places to see. Some would argue that this beach is the nicest of them all. Go there. You wont regret it!
One of my personal favorite vacation activities is horseback riding. As a horse owner, this is my home away from home, but you do not have to be an experienced rider to enjoy what this excursion has to offer. Granted, this is not the best choice if you have toddlers, but older kids will definitely enjoy it. Let the horse do all the work while you take in the view of the island. They will even take you for a swim in the ocean! For one of the most personalized tours, try Reggae Horseback Riding.
In continuation of the animal theme, take your kiddos of all ages to Barney’s Flower and Hummingbird Garden. This quarter-acre garden full of exotic plants houses an abundance of wild hummingbirds and other wildlife without nets or confinement. The wildlife comes and goes as they please, which is why I’m an advocate for visiting this establishment. It is sure to entertain the kids while also giving them some valuable wildlife education.
Did you decide to rent a car? Feel like going on a day trip? Ocho Rios is about 79 miles (oops, I’m American, how about 126 kilometers?) away from Negril and houses the famous Dunn’s River Falls and Park. I’m serious about it being famous. It was featured in the 1962 James Bond film, “Dr. No.” Get the older kids moving (obviously WAY cooler than that playstation lounge at Royalton) and take a hike right into the waterfalls. It is smart to pack some water shoes for traction as the rocks can get slippery, but worth the space taken up in your suitcase. Side note, you don’t actually need a car for this, as there are many excursions that offer hotel pickup and drop-off from Negril.
Rainforest Adventures at Mystic Mountain, also in Ocho Rios, is full of additional outdoor activities that will entertain you all day, one of which is the signature Jamaican bobsledding. You have the power to control the sled to your comfort level. Again, this is more of a school-aged and older kid activity, but sure to put smiles on their faces. Kids need to be 48 inches tall to ride. There is also a sky adventure that takes you on chair lifts over the rainforest, a zipline, and the ability to include the Dunn’s Falls tour as a bundle if you wish.
Food. Yes. Finally.
There is nothing like some authentic Jamaican style cuisine. Here are some kid-friendly ones for you to enjoy.
Zimbali’s Mountain Cooking Studio. (Organic farm to table style, cooked right in front of you. If you go on Wednesday night, they have drumming entertainment. They also offer farm tours in a packaged deal.)
Just Natural (Casual, authentic Jamaican food with a home cooked feel. Vegan, vegetarian, and gluten-free friendly. This restaurant is right next to the Barney’s Hummingbird garden, FYI. Kids are welcome and embraced. Give them a checkers board while you sip on your adult drink and watch the hummingbirds visit.)
Pushcart Restaurant and Rum Bar (Inside the Rockhouse Hotel. Great atmosphere. Known for Authentic Caribbean food with vegetarian and gluten free accommodations. Locals often recommend this. Family friendly, casual environment with awesome nightly entertainment.) Scroll down on the page via the link to see the menu and get more information.
Did you take advantage of a hotel sitter? In that case, you have to visit Rick’s Café, just for the experience, even if it’s just for a drink. Be prepared for crowds considering it is a world renowned bar, but the cliff views and live reggae music are worth enjoying for a bit. Take advantage of the free time and have a date night!
Get That Suitcase Ready!
Whether you plan on taking advantage of an all-inclusive resort or decide to do a little more independent planning, Negril offers an endless amount of family fun. Don’t forget to grab a waterproof phone case so you can snap some action shots of the kids and make some memories. Book and Enjoy!