For the second year in a row, I was lucky enough to be invited to Beaches Resorts’ Social Media on the Sand. Which, this year, was hosted at Beaches Negril.
Part-conference, part-vacation, this invitation allows influencers and their families from across North America to experience the resort at a discounted rate — and do a little learning at the same time.
Beaches Negril is one of three luxury all-inclusive family resorts owned and managed by the Sandals brand.
Upon arrival in Montego Bay, you’ll be ushered into the Sandals/Beaches lounge to wait for your ride to Negril. This is an extremely well-oiled operation and it’ll give you a chance to grab a snack and drink before you board your shuttle. Here, your bags will also be tagged with your assigned room number and all but your hand luggage will be carted away and delivered directly to your room from here. It’s wonderful. We were assigned room 718 and hoped for the best en route to the resort.
The airport ride isn’t exactly good but it’s not bad either — it’s just a fact. If you want to get to Negril, you have two options: shuttle bus or tiny airplane. The shuttle is included in the cost of your all-inclusive stay, so that’s what we did. The Beaches staff at the airport said the ride would be about 90 minutes. Please note that this does NOT take into account traffic or bad weather. We had rain and what seemed like rush-hour traffic and our ride was closer to two hours.
The ride is windy and bumpy but straightforward enough that none of my family felt queasy (and I often do feel car sick). Enjoy the beautiful scenery along the way, with its rolling green hills and random goats walking alongside the highway. Take in the half-built properties in the countryside and the villas, buildings and shacks — often painted in vibrant colours — people call home. See uniformed schoolchildren walking to and from class. Old stone churches from the mid-1800s. And of course enjoy the wonderful reggae that’ll likely be playing on your shuttle bus throughout the ride.
But, as I mentioned, there is an alternative. You can fly from Montego Bay to Negril in just 12 to 15 minutes. I’ve never done it and can only give you the details I overheard while eavesdropping during our shuttle ride. Apparently, it’s around US$80 to 100 per person one way. Flights are only during the day. Once you land, you still have to take a taxi to your resort but this will be less than US$20 — or so I heard. Probably something you should discuss with your travel agent or Beaches when you book your trip.
Let’s talk about Beaches Negril’s grounds. They’re stunning. Super lush and exactly the kind of paradise you hope for after spending a good chunk of money to be there. You’ll absolutely feel like you have arrived in a tropical heaven. There’s no way you can walk around and do anything but breathe it all in and smile.
Beaches Negril has three villages, which are more like room blocks because of its considerably small footprint. The Savannah is closest to the waterpark. We stayed in Montpelier and absolutely loved it. It’s very quiet day and night and super close to buffet (The Mill). I don’t remember the third village’s name. Oops.
Our room was wonderful. We had a family suite with a four-poster king bed and two daybeds — each with a trundle! So a family of six would fit in one room. The décor was Caribbean but modern and luxe, and the layout was well-done. It wasn’t a huge room but it was easy to get comfortable. Although we do prefer a separate room for the kids, it worked out well. Frankly, they were so tired at the end of the day that we just plopped them into bed and we were able to turn on our devices without fear of waking them.
One of my biggest pet peeves at resorts these days are the pre-mixed slush used for cocktails. They’re always too sweet and ruin any hope of a good pina colada. And damnit, I want pina coladas all day long in the tropics! I’m happy to report that the bars at Beaches Negril are loaded with premium liquor and bartenders who know how to make proper cocktails — from scratch. You won’t find any crappy pre-blended stuff here. You’ve got to try a Hummingbird. Trust me.
The waterpark is open from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. and while I wish the hours were longer, you can swim in the glorious pools from around 8 a.m. to 10 p.m. Just note that there are no lifeguards before 10 a.m. and after 6 p.m. One night each week, there’s an evening “splash party” and the waterpark is open until 9 p.m. And it is awesome.
Staff at Beaches Negril are VERY kid-oriented and always looking to engage them. You can barely walk past any employee here without them greeting your child and trying to have a chat. They’re just wonderful with kids and made a real impression on ours.
Enough of an impression, in fact, that The K Man agreed to try out the kids’ club — about which he’s had huge anxiety since his experience last year at Beaches Turks & Caicos Resort Villages & Spa. He happily stayed for a few hours, primarily in the XBOX Lounge, but it was a very positive experience overall for him. Similarly, Miss Q enjoyed her morning exploring the resort where she got to have a meet and greet with Grover.
There are nine restaurants onsite at Beaches Negril. Although I’m disappointed to tell you that because we (stupidly) didn’t extend our stay this year beyond five days, I didn’t make it to all of them. However, I did enjoy:
- The Venetian — outstanding Northern Italian food (probably in large part due to having a chef who’s actually from Italy). Open only for dinner, you have to eat here. Men must wear long trousers and they don’t really want you to wear flip flops but I found that paired with a nice dress, no one said anything to me
- The Mill — this is the buffet. There’s plenty of seating at breakfast, lunch and dinner and the food does change a fair bit from day to day so you don’t get that buffet repetition like you do at so many other all-inclusive resorts. It’s fine and fast
- The Mill Deck — if you opt for the Character Breakfast (extra charge), it’ll be here. It’s really just an offshoot of The Mill and if there’s no character event happening, it’s a nice place to sit but it’s the farthest from the buffet food
- BBQ Park — the Jamaican patties from this grill located essentially in the waterpark are excellent if you need something quick for you or your kids to snack on. And we ate the jerk chicken on many occasions here not only because of convenience but because it was just sooooooooo freaking delicious. You may find wait times at the grill a bit long — but go off and order drinks and nab a table while you wait because it’s a must
- Mariachi’s — we really enjoyed our dinner here! It’s Mexican with a twist and nearly everything we tried was a winner. I loved the Ruby Rita cocktail (which I asked to be prepared “less sweet”) and the Blue Thunder was a big hit with my kids
- Dino’s Pizzeria — order your pizza well ahead of time (at least 20 to 45 minutes before you want to eat) because it’s very popular joint and they can only pop out so many hand-crafted pizzas at a time
- Café de Paris — this was my favourite stop each morning when were were in Providenciales last year and it was my fave again this year. This is better than Starbucks, because not only are there wonderful specialty coffees like Café Americanos, mochas and the like but there’s also a fully stocked liquor cabinet with liqueurs (think Frangelico, KAHLÚA and Baileys). Oh, and ice cream. Oh, and crêpes. And I need you — really NEED you — to try the Signature Crêpe, OK? Because it’s so ridiculous that it’s redonkulous. I skipped the pineapple because I thought bananas alone would pair best with the healthy drizzle of caramel sauce and the splash of Jamaican rum. My only word of warning here is that unless Stacy-Ann is making the crepes, it can take ages to get one made (one day, I waited 30 minutes and that was with only one person ahead of me in line — major gaffe)
- Stewfish — Big B and the kids had a great made-to-order breakfast one morning at Stewfish, though I didn’t have a chance to get there myself. And because I clearly haven’t trained him well, I can’t offer you a photo of said breakfast
Just remember that you’ll need reservations for Kimono’s and The Venetian, and it’s best to make them the day you arrive.
Beaches Negril — like its sister property in Turks & Caicos — offers free family photo shoots through its photo team at SnapShots. Book a time slot when you arrive, get yourselves camera-ready and smile! Only pay for the pics you love. (See more of our favourite Beaches Resorts family photos.)
I don’t know if it’s new, but I don’t remember the daily Footprints newspaper being printed last year. It’s delivered to your room every day (for the following day_ and has ALL of the info you need — kids’ club times and activities, restaurant times and closures, daily activities, evening entertainment, etc. It’s beautifully produced in colour and it really elevates what you get at most resorts, which is a chalk board in the lobby or a sloppily photocopied one-pager.
We loved seeing the celebrations and birthday wishes laid out each morning in the foyer-facing pool. River stones carefully placed to wish someone a happy anniversary or mark a special achievement, like a 10-year-old who earned his SCUBA license while we were there.
The waterpark is awesome and Miss Q really appreciated that younger kids can get on the big waterslides. It looked like the signage indicated a minimum of 40 to 42 inches. My kids spent hours and hours in the waterpark and never tired of it. The lazy river is nice and fast (just beware of some deep groves if you put your feet down to run ahead and catch up to your kid, because you’ll get an ouchy). And it’s not so expansive that you lose track of where your children are, which I really liked.
Free diving, people. FREE. It costs a lot to SCUBA dive and that’s why Sandals and Beaches Resorts are such a draw for me. Because if I can dive twice a day at no extra charge, that’s worth a lot. I did two dives in between conference sessions and family time, and both were quite good. I saw the biggest stingray of my life (this guy below that I just had to Instagram had a six to eight foot wingspan!), lots of really colourful fish and nicely preserved coral reef. One morning, a group even came upon a pod of dolphins (*shakes fist*).
It’s hard to appreciate how huge this #stingray is — which easily had a 6-8 foot wingspan. We spotted him on our dive yesterday with @beachesresorts in #Negril and followed him from a distance, admiring his elegance in the water. Please see marine life in its natural habitat — it’s better for them and there’s nothing like it. . . . (Photo credit: Jason Schwartz, since my GoPro was dead!) #BeachesMoms #jamaicamon #homeofallright #visitjamaica #negriljamaica #familytravels #diving #scubadiving #scuba #padi #stingrays #divephoto #marineanimals #marinelife #oceanlifestyle #resortlife #oceanvibes #travelblogger #traveladdict #ig_worldclub #worldcaptures #traveldeeper #myWOWmoment
Hubs took the kids on the free glass-bottom boat tour, which they loved. The K Man will NOT try snorkelling so this is the next best thing, and Miss Q loved being able to hold some of the cool sea creatures brought aboard.
I can’t write about Negril and not talk about the beach. It is, in a word, spectacular. What else would you expect from a white-sand beach that stretches seven miles? I didn’t even come close to exploring it the way I would have with more time on my side, but it was darn near perfect. There are either no rocks or seaweed or the Beaches Resorts crew does a stellar job of removing it each day.
The sea water (in October) was incredibly warm and very clear. It stays shallow for a good stretch but I managed to get neck-deep before hitting the boundary line. There are a few floating “saucers” in the ocean and my kids loved playing on and around these, practising somersaults into the water.
…there were a couple of jellyfish stings (which are much like a bee sting and can be quickly quelled with some gin or vodka poured on top of it). Beaches staff was quick to react and treat the stings. We were in every day, I dove twice and I even swam around the main swimming area with my goggles on and I never saw a single jellyfish — so it would be rare, but do watch out for them just in case.
No wifi on our shuttle bus. Boo. This would be a huge plus for that two-hour ride.
Strangely, at least in our room anyway, the toilet was in the same room as the shower. This is a problem for those with stinky husbands (i.e. me).
The buffet selection is small. Much smaller than in Turks & Caicos. And not what I’d call amazing. I much preferred the BBQ Park grill for lunch and the a la cartes for dinner.
Rooms located close to the beach can get noisy at night when there’s a beach party. We personally heard nothing in room 718 and it was glorious.
There’s no Flowrider (wave simulator) at Beaches Negril, and both my kids called it a miss.
I think it’s quite odd that there are no snorkel and mask rentals available at the watersports shack at all. They cited boats as the reason, but there’s a cordoned off swimming area so I just don’t get it.
If you arrange allergy-specific meals in advance, you may find that they don’t arrive promptly — or at all. We talked to one family who arranged meals in advance and they reported serious inconsistencies. For those with severe allergies, this is obviously a potential problem so be clear and firm when you arrive. And be sure to stick to your plans so you don’t throw off the food schedule.