If you and your kids are getting tired of those traditional all inclusive vacations that come complete with a "kids camp" where you arrive at your destination and never leave the hotel gates, I say it's high time you experience the ultimate family adventure with a vacation to a tropical destination that exposes your entire brood to the sea, the land, the food and the culture of the caribbean. Trust me, you'll create memories that'll last a lifetime and will have all of you yearning to return every year. We did just that this week when we paid a visit to Jake's Hotel and Resort in Treasure Beach, Jamaica and our days and nights were absolutely magical. Take a look...
Day 1: We arrive at the airport in Montego Bay and our driver, Darin, greets us, piles our bags into his van and then drives us through a cavernous mountain to Treasure Beach, located in the southern portion of Jamaica. While the ride takes about two hours, we actually feel as if we are experiencing the ultimate amusement park ride - twisting and turning around a mountain, hugging the coast line and watching as locals are busy selling tropical fruits, pepper shrimp and jerk chicken from colorful cement storefronts that line the road.
By 4 pm, we arrive at Jakes and the general manager, Yvonne, greets us as we step out of the van and asks if we'd like a fruit drink or mango sorbet while we check in. Within minutes, we're already settling into our two bedroom cottage which sports an incredible view of the ocean, two decent sized bedrooms and a TV with a VCR. Even in one of the remote corners of the world, we still have access to technology (Jake's has wifi located near the hotel lobby.) We then slip on our bathing suits and take a dip in the salt water pool located a few steps away from our cottage (Sweet Lip). After I lazily sip a rum punch, all four of us unwind as the sun sets over the turquoise ocean. We then head back to freshen up for dinner where we dine on jerk shrimp, beef tenderloin and traditional Jamaican desserts (if you haven't tried bread pudding with rum raisin ice cream, then you don't know what you're missing). Meanwhile, the kids enjoy banana daquiries, minus the alcohol and I order a second rum punch that's expertly prepared by Dougie, the bartender. While we're eating, an incredibly docile stray dog named Blackie, who we later find out lives at the resort year round and follows guests to their rooms, lays down next to us while we enjoy our meal under the stars.
Day 2: After an incredibly tasty breakfast (my husband Darin now loves Ackee and callaloo), Yvonne and her assistant manager Annaki arrange for us to take a boat ride with Captain Dennis (his nickname is Shabba) where we spend an entire day at sea - exploring an unspoiled stretch of ocean and beach where a fishing sanctuary is nearing completion. During our journey, Dennis shares how he had envisioned re-vitalizing the fishing economy in Treasure Beach by creating a fishing sanctuary that would be off limits to fisherman so that schools of fish could grow and mature. While the kids snorkel and we sink our toes into the pure sand, Dennis then expertly guides us toward a patch of sea grass where his trusted co-captain Jace uncovers some of the most incredible starfish we've ever seen.
We then head to Snake River where we come face to face with crocodiles that are baking in the hot sun and lurking in the muddy waters just a few feet away from our boat. Though we're a few arm lengths away from the crocs, they don't seem fazed by our intrusion. Instead, they pay us no mind while we snap photos. Dennis then takes us to one of his favorite foodie haunts in Snake River, Sister Lou's - a remote locale that serves some of the tastiest crabs we've ever eaten. As Sister Lou prepares our lunch, the kids jump off the pier along with some local children who are speaking a language we can't seem to understand. We soon learn it's called Patois (pronounced pat*wah) and Dennis and Jace begin giving us lessons on how the kids can converse with their new friends.
Next, we head over to the Pelican Bar, which resembles a hut that's suspended on stilts. Inside, Darin orders a rum punch while other tourists are dining on traditional Jamaican fare while carving their names into the floor boards. Meanwhile, my kids have jumped back into the ocean to search for more tropical fish. I stay behind and chat with a family that's also staying at Jake's. A family friend had raved about the resort and they were impressed by the online reviews and decided to make last minute travel plans to vacation there. And so far, they were having an amazing time.
Following their second swim of our boat ride, we hop back inside and head back to Jake's, but not before we see at least five wild dolphins swim past our boat - it's awe inspiring to watch these incredible creatures diving in precision as we try to chase them down and capture photos. By the time we arrive back at the resort, we're famished and head straight for Jack Sprat's on the beach where we order pizza with a variety of toppings and I check my watch because my aromatherapy massage is about ready to start.
I leave my family behind and head over to the Driftwood Spa where I literally drift away as I'm given the first aromatherapy massage of my life. Okay - I'm incredibly uptight, I admit it, but I finally decided to throw caution to the wind and give my body the chance to truly relax.
Completely at peace, I feel as if I'm floating as I meander along a brick path back to the pool where my kids and hubby are playing a trivia game while laughing and reminiscing about the incredible day we've just experienced. We then head back to the cottage where we relax for a bit and then join Blackie (the stray dog) and Millie - a jack russel terrier who has been a fixture at Jakes for nearly a decade as we enjoy another fantastic meal together.
Stay tuned for Day 3 where we visit a waterfall, the kids swing from tree vines, we meet the most famous farmers of Treasure Beach and enjoy wine, dinner and incredible conversation with Jason, the owner of Jakes and his lovely wife, Laura on a veranda high atop a mountain overlooking southern Jamaica.