After canceling another cruise, it was back to planning a last-minute vacation. We applied Southwest credits to another adults-only all-inclusive resort across the island from our last stay. It would eventually feel like a different Jamaica altogether. When you arrive at Couples Negril, they welcome you home and it certainly feels like it could be. There are several Couples Resorts on the Island. You can do transfers to Couples Swept Away (CSA) during non-Covid 19 periods. Visiting a sister resort is a nice way to check it out without committing. CSA is larger and has a much larger beach and fitness center, but that doesn’t necessarily make it better. I have heard that the first Couples you visit is the one you will prefer so we will stick to CN. Over in Ocho Rios, you can visit Couples Sans Souci and Tower Isle. However, reviews led me back to CN time and time again, even with the extended travel time.
Touching down again in MoBay
Back to Sangster International, and back to MOBAY VIP. We don’t fly enough to enjoy VIP the perks that you earn with the major airlines, so having a lounge where we can relax in the airport is very new to us. Since we have been traveling during a pandemic, the lines haven’t been extreme, but I still appreciate having a guide to take us through baggage claims and customs. It just seems less intimidating. This time we took better advantage of the arrival lounge and did not hurry to our transfer right away. Our first trip into MoBay we didn’t get to relax, or barely get settled in before being whisked away to our van. This time around, I ordered a couple of rum punches, and enjoyed a couple of chicken sliders while we also used the free wi-fi to check up on things at home.
When we stepped out into the sunlight, we found our sign for JARoutes – Jamaica Action Routes and met my man in Jamaica, Vinton Ashman. He loaded us into the van, and we settled in for our trip from Montego Bay to Negril. Taking a private transfer is a great way to see the Island and learn about the local history along the way. As requested, he had a bucket with iced refreshments for us to enjoy, and the trip was perfect. Vinton also facilitated our donation to the local elementary school. We packed a dozen soccer balls for our gift to local kids, which in turn would allow us room for our souvenirs, and gifts on the way back. I can’t state it enough, if you are traveling to Jamaica, JAR is a fantastic option for tours, taxis and excursions. You can go river rafting, or climb Dunn’s River Falls, before sampling Rum at Appleton Estates, or enjoy an experience like no other at the Pelican Bar. Vinton and his team will definitely take you to all the big attractions, while rich culture of these beautiful people and their Island. HINT: ask for something off the beaten path and they will get you there and back with memories to enjoy a lifetime.
Couples Negril – We have found our spot
Circling the fountain on the drive up to the open-air lobby, Vinton explained that though we may seem close to the main road, we would not notice the traffic noise as we would be tucked away in a fabulous garden setting. I had no idea how right he was. While our bags were unloaded, Vinton wished us well until our trip back to the airport.
Check-in was a breeze. The bellman walked us to the counter where we told them who we were, and they sat us on one of the couches in the lobby to complete our paperwork. Champagne was on hand while they gave us a brief orientation of the resort. Within minutes we were on our way to our room with a bellhop to show us the ins and outs of the room and resort. No timeshare push, no vacation club presentation, just hello and Welcome Home.
Deluxe Garden View
Deluxe Garden Views are not always deluxe. Often times when booking a hotel, you get views, and you get parking lot scenery. Usually when I see Garden View, I think it’s a nice way of saying, “just enjoy your bed”. Couples Negril Garden Views are amazing, so much so that we booked a Garden View again over Ocean View for our upcoming return. Lush tropical gardens surround the buildings, and from your balcony, you could still see the ocean.
Our room was the perfect temperature upon arrival! When you are still trying to adjust to the humidity of the Island, it is more refreshing than you can imagine, just walking into a nicely cooled room. If we had wanted to take a nap right then, the room was ready, and that had not been the case at our last two resort stays. A bottle of Champagne and a bouquet of flowers were waiting, setup by the Romance Concierge in advance. A great first surprise for my lovely wife, with more to come.
Blackout curtains worked perfectly when they were warranted, but we usually let the light in as the a/c kept up nicely. The bath included a large open shower with a rain shower head. Instead of an exhaust fan, there were louvred windows to let the steam out (or, I guess let the people watch you shower if that is your thing). NOTE: Dudes, or Dudettes too I suppose, if you need to make the room smell differently, open the louvres, and turn on the shower. Thank me later.
For your storage needs, there was plenty of closet space, with the safe, iron and ironing board, plenty of hangers and a full-sized umbrella included. Our large bags fit perfectly and tucked away nicely under the safe, which gave our hanging items plenty of room. In the main room a large open rack held shelves for the rest of your belongings. There was ample counter space under the large television, that held your mini bar which was stocked daily with fresh soft drinks of your choice, and Red Stripe Beer. Be careful when ordering from the daily mini bar menu, the extra charge items are full sized. I had to send back a liter of vodka, because 1) I had assumed they would be airplane bottles, and 2) we really didn’t need that much booze on hand since we weren’t there to get drunk in the room.
The highlight of this room was indeed the garden view from the balcony. We joked that it was like being on Gilligan’s Island. Palm trees dominated the scenery, but the grounds were painstakingly maintained, and beautiful plants were everywhere you turned. The fountain was lit at night, and the sounds of nature would lull you to sleep nightly. Photo ops abound as you walk the paths around and between the buildings. The spa sits tucked between the palms and a huge coy pond, and just beyond that is the Treehouse. You can have a couples massage, or even a private dinner here, but we will get to that in just a minute.
Room service was excellent, but very limited unless you are in a suite. Though we could only order from a continental breakfast menu, we put our order on the door nightly, and it was there promptly as ordered. If we requested 6am delivery, it was there at 6am. I think being in Building 2 may be an advantage in that regard, as it is close to the main buildings. The turndown service was great, and housekeeping did a wonderful job keeping our room clean. It is important to note that towel service does not include your beach towel. Your best bet is to trade for new towels at the end of your day, so that you have fresh towels in the morning. There will be a towel stand on the beach, but it doesn’t open until 8am, and the ocean is already waiting for you.
Spending the day on Bloody Bay
Every visitors guide and list of things to do in Jamaica, includes 7 Mile Beach. One of the most famous beaches in the world, 7 Mile in Negril stretches white sand across a majestic coastline in the forefront of the Blue Mountains rising in the background. Just past the main stretch lies Bloody Bay. Story tellers say that Great White Sharks once infested these waters causing the locals to name it so. Historians will talk about the fishing boats coming here to clean their catch, leaving the bay bloody. Since these waters are not fit for most sharks, I believe the latter, but thoroughly enjoyed the funnier tale we were regaled with on our Glass Bottom Boat tour.
On this quick excursion, we boarded the resort’s dive boat. Once aboard we were seated around glass viewing panes that gave a clear view of the underwater diorama. Our tour guide kept us thoroughly entertained, and if you listened closely, his one-liners were as good as any dad joke! For instance, discovering the fish could be set to “aquarium mode” while we were adrift above the reef, really surprised me.
The watersports are all included at Couples Resorts. Choose from a Sunset Catamaran Cruise, snorkeling tours, or even learn to scuba and go on your first dive. Hobie Cats and Paddleboards are available for use, and they will give you lessons on how to use them. If water skiing is your thing, they will take you out and let you show off your skills. The bay is huge, so if you decide to take a Kayak over to the caves, you can, just don’t go around the bend or they will have to come get you. If you want to take a cruise, or a snorkeling adventure, make sure you sign up a day early and then show up thirty minutes before your tour. You will have a blast!
Being set in a bay, the beach is protected from large waves and straight winds. The beach slowly makes its way into the ocean and you can get 100 yards out without the water getting too deep. Foam pool floats are provided on every lounge chair at the resort, so whether you are relaxing poolside or on the beach, you can take your float out and relax the day away. In the afternoon, you can go out and find starfish by the dozens. NOTE – it is not okay to take them out of the water. It is possible to enjoy them without doing them harm.
Take a short walk down the beach and you will find the Office of Nature. An outdoor bar and grill, you can get fresh lobster and seafood grilled to perfection. It comes HIGHLY recommended, but we didn’t actually make it on this trip. Just past this you can find local vendors selling souvenirs and handmade crafts. The resort had souvenirs right on the beach, so we just stayed back and did our shopping there. It gave my sweetheart a chance to take her time picking thru the offerings, while I sat back and stuffed my face at the Beach Grill or kicked it in my lounger on the beach enjoying a Pina Colada. All I needed to do was raise the little flag and a server would be there to take my order. Not a bad way to spend the day.
Poolside Fun and Games
Fun in the sun comes easy at Couples Resorts. Though unlike bigger properties we have visited, there was only one large pool, it was never overly crowded. Hot tubs and stairs flank the main body of the pool with the main staircase in the middle. On the opposite side of the main stairs an infinity edge drops into the pool lower level and swim up bar. There is also a smaller pool close to the Watersports office, where they give the scuba lessons, but it is rarely used for anything else. HINT – right behind the smaller pool is a secluded hot tub that is fantastic at night, especially with a full moon peeking thru the Palms.
At the main pool, lounge chairs with pool floats are abundant, and our favorite spot was the front side under an umbrella, next to the giant palm tree. This gave us the most shade throughout the day and put us right in the middle of the action, with a great view of the happenings over at the swim up bar. We didn’t take part in the water aerobics classes, but those that did definitely had a good time doing it. We were just steps from the Juice Bar or Beach Grill, so we could grab pizza, nachos, ice cream cones or Jamaican patties all day long, while the drinks were delivered with the same promptness as the beach. Just raise your little flag and they will be right there. When I just wanted to grab my own, or have a bartender special, the main bar, beach grill bar, and the beach bar were all within 50 yards.
Over on the Boardwalk (a few tables set up outside the Beach Grill) they have daily trivia, and you can find the daily activities listed on a chalkboard near the main buffet. Basket weaving, tie-dye and painting classes are offered, as well as several open-air fitness classes on the covered patio next to the gym. Or stop by the game room and play some pool, find and leave a book, or take your chances with the slot machines. Guests often leave items here that they don’t want to cart home, like sunscreens and aloe, and some things they can’t take home. You may want to stop by here for a ‘treasure hunt’, and you might be pleasantly surprised.
Getting Hungry? Ready for a drink?
Grub at Couples Resorts is always available, always tasty and always leaves you wishing you could just keep eating! We arrived midday so after we settled into our accommodations, we headed out to find something to eat. A short walk over to the resort center put us in front of the Juice Bar or the Beach Grill. We decided on the Beach Grill and checked in with the host stand. They took our temperature and made sure we masked up and sanitized our hands, before leading us to a table with amazing views of the beautiful beach and turquoise bay.
After our first trip to the Island, we fell in love with Jamaican Patties. Pastry pockets stuffed with beef, chicken or veggies – like a perfectly flaky, handheld potpie. We also love Jerk Chicken and so I ordered up a plate with fries and a couple of Chicken Patties, while she got a quesadilla. We sipped on our delicious drinks while we waited, and over my shoulder, my cheese addicted spouse spied Nachos on the table behind me. Instantly a new addiction was introduced to the daily routine. She had nachos every day, sometimes twice a day, for the rest of our trip.
Dinner the first night found us at the specialty Asian Fusion Restaurant, Lychee. To be honest the pork ribs were not what I had hoped, but everything else was so good that we came back a second time. The next time around, we had an incredible experience. The Sushi was perfect, as was the service.
With help from the Concierge, Tafari Ellis, I prebooked the Treehouse for a romantic dinner. I preordered everything and we were met at our door by our server with chilled Champagne and glasses. She led us through the garden to the treehouse where she had prepared an amazing candlelit table adorned with flower petals. We dined on seafood appetizers, Lamb Medallions and Fresh Lobster Tail grilled to perfection. It was a perfect night in a beautiful setting. You can also choose the beach for your dinner, and we will definitely be trying that next time.
Otaheite is another must if you enjoy fine dining. This is the one specialty restaurant that requires reservations, and I can see why. The entire experience was incredible. Otaheite’s menu features Caribbean style cuisine with a variety of dishes plated with flair. Intimate and elegant, the dining room is quiet and offers only two settings per night. The service is elevated, but not over the top. Don’t skip the specialty coffees as they are made at the on-site Cafe. The espresso and cappuccino are delicious, and the wifey loved the frappe.
After dark, the Beach Grill transforms to Heliconia. The last specialty dining offered at Couples is also where they host the Repeaters Dinner on Mondays. Unfortunately, we weren’t able to attend that night and enjoy the special menu offered. But we were able to get in and enjoy their Italian specialties by candlelight while waves crashed on the beach over our shoulders. The Beef Carpaccio was perfection, and the Lasagna Bolognese would satisfy any hearty appetite.
The Cassava Terrace offers buffet dining for breakfast, lunch and dinner. There is a stage for nightly entertainment that can be enjoyed whether dining or just hanging out by the pool under the stars. The breakfast buffet is huge, and the food was well made. Every item on the buffet was delicious. The only thing missing was biscuits and gravy in my humble hillbilly opinion. The lunch buffet was also surprisingly delicious. We only ate here for lunch once, but I had several plates. Rarely am I disappointed at not eating at the buffet more often, but this is one I would say I wish I had not skipped.
Couples Negril is now our Home in Jamaica
Having already reserved our return trip to Secrets St James, I was surprised that my wife wanted to move our reservations to Couples Negril. I was already prepared to make that change, but for her to so readily agree caught me off guard. The vibe is different on the grounds here. There are mostly couples walking the footpaths cut between the amazing garden and the beach, lending a more romantic feel to the entire resort space. There may be no better place to witness a sunset than that beach set in the middle of Bloody Bay. The experience from start to finish was one we cannot imagine duplicating anywhere else.
We did not want to leave, and when I went to check into our flights, I found out we weren’t. Our flights had been canceled without notice from the airline, or their vacation planners. Stuck in Jamaica was not something I expected to hear myself explaining to my wife. She took it with a shrug which can only be attributed to the wonderfulness of this location. The management extended us one night at a discount, which I was surprised by. I was just hoping we could stay at all.
Vinton at JARoutes made sure our transfer was set for a day later too. He went out of his way to secure us a private transport even though he knew we could take the resort bus at no charge. In fact, since he could not meet us himself, he had our driver stop and procure some gifts to us. I drink from that coffee mug every single day and it takes me back to that feeling of Irie! Vinton says, “you come as friends and leave as family”. I can’t wait to go home and see my new family.
**We are not paid or compensated to promote any business, nor do we offer travel services – our reviews are intended to entertain, enlighten and inform the curious travelers out there**