Escaping the Cold at Couples Negril

img_8620It’s the bluest blue water you’ll find, on the softest white sand beach.  The water here is so shallow you can walk out almost a quarter mile and still only be shoulders-deep. I’m bobbing lazily on a pool cushion in saltwater that’s so warm, I haven’t the slightest chill, and in fact when some ocean water does splash on my skin, it’s refreshing. Opening my eyes to gaze back at the beach, it’s not crowded, and palms and coccoloba or ‘seagrape’ trees are speckled here and there providing cooling shade as the heat rises.

After several years of more active vacations like road trips and traveling to Europe, my husband and I decided it was time to slow down and plan a do-nothing holiday.

With the Caribbean in mind, we chose Jamaica as the destination, but which resort to pick? I’d been to Couples Negril more than a decade ago for a wedding and it was, at that time, the finest resort I’d ever been to. I remembered its gorgeous, endless beach, and marveled at the small size of the resort while it still had amazing service.  The food was also absolutely delicious, well off the charts for the average all-inclusive.

img_8923
Beach grill and veggie bar.

Wanting this to be an easy vacation both to take and to plan, my husband and I chose Couples Negril again, hoping we’d still find the same level of service. Of course, we checked online reviews, and found the resort still ranks highly among beach vacationers. Confident, we booked it.

 

Screen Shot 2015-12-20 at 10.02.05 AMBook Club Mobay for Arrivals and Departures: Fast and Easy

We used a travel agent for this trip, something we don’t usually do, but she earned her commission when she recommended we book into a service called Club Mobay at Jamaica’s Montego Bay airport where we’d be flying in via Toronto.img_8918

Club Mobay is a lounge where travelers can find comfy seats on arrival (and departure) while waiting for ground transportation, our agent explained. She also told us (though I’ll admit I wasn’t fully paying attention to this part) that we’d receive priority access to immigration and customs on arrival.

Skip the Lineups by booking with Club Mobay

When we landed a lovely young lady met us at the gate holding a sign with our names on it. She immediately whisked us through the airport, dodging lineups of passengers as we went instead through special access points. When we arrived at the customs and immigration lineup, it was a sea of humans and their luggage. What a mess!  We figured we’d be an hour getting through the line, but our escort led us to another priority access point where we were the only ones in line.  In about 3 minutes we’d cleared customs, and been led to a lovely private room where she brought us rum punch.

img_8912
Happy author on arrival in Negril

The Club Mobay lounge was comfortable and not crowded, but had the latest Jamaican newspapers, some sandwiches and snacks, as well as drinks and TV. We were only there about 15 minutes before we were told our bus was ready, and we were again led through the airport, to the correct bus. About 25 minutes after landing, we were en route to our resort.

Couples Negril is about a 2 hour bus ride from Montego Bay, but it was a great people and scenery-watching trip.  The highway runs along the water so there’s beautiful views of azure ocean nearly the whole way. The bus chugged through small villages and bigger towns and looking at the variance in homes and architecture was amazing.  While small corrugated metal shacks lined the highway, as the structures climbed up the hillsides, they got increasingly more elaborate and colourful.Jamaica quote 2

The bus seemed to speed its way along, and I wondered why the drive would take 2 hours. That’s about when we arrived in Lucea.  Lucea is the capital of Hanover Parish and was founded in the 1700s. It’s a tiny town that clings to the shore, and it’s very crowded and very busy. The highway attempts to wind through it, but when the buildings close in on the roads, and Jamaicans dash across constantly, our travel grinds to a crawl.

Nearly 2 hours later (though it feels much shorter thanks to the people watching) we arrive at our destination and are greeted with glasses of champagne and cool citrus-scented towels. A light breeze is fluttering the palm leaves and I’m instantly relaxed. Check-in is fast since there are only 3 couples in the bus, and we’re whisked to our rooms with bags in tow. The young man who helps us waves off a tip, and we’re immediately on the balcony, overlooking the ocean from our 3rd floor room.

img_8820
The hedge-lined nude beach

Spacious room, with a (nude) view

The room is open and airy with cool tile and a king-sized bed. The sliding balcony doors open wide to let the breeze in and we have a nice view of both the water and the nude beach! The nude beach is a mandatory fully-nude beach, screened with hedges, with its own bar and swimming area. Not our cup of tea, but it was quite well-attended each day.

Our minibar was stocked with pop and beer, and the gentleman who’d brought us to the room explained that if we wanted anything else for the fridge, to fill out a card and it would be restocked as we wished each day.

We requested some vodka and some wine, expecting airplane bottles, but instead, the next afternoon we found a full size bottle of each waiting for us. Bottle service to the room! This was a new highlight!

Negril’s Best Beach, and no fighting for loungers!img_8856

The beach at Couples Negril is fabulous.  It’s raked and tidied daily, while others long this strip appear not to be, and are littered with leaves and seaweed. While the ‘natural look’ isn’t bad, the extra effort at grooming really adds to the beauty of this little section.

There are lounge chairs aplenty, unlike most all-inclusive resorts where you need to get up early or bribe a staff member to snag you a spot. The staff take time to arrange all the chairs in tidy rows, each with its own cushion, and there’s always enough for everyone with plenty of extras so you can come and go as you please.img_8822

For the security conscious, it’s worth noting there are guards at either end of the beach, as well as a lifeguard in the middle. A small group of peddlers walks the beach, hawking parasailing and tubing rides, as well as coffee and other things, but they’re not bothersome or aggressive.

It was funny to note that almost all the hawkers “represent Bob Marley” which is code for they’ll sell you pot or hash or presumably whatever other drugs float your boat. While some of them are charmingly subtle about it, other will just full on offer you dope and flash the good for inspection.  Fortunately, they take no for an answer pretty easily.Jamaica quote

The occasional musician will play for tips at the water’s edge too. The staff distributes flags to folks on the beach, and when you’re ready for a drink, you just stick your flag in the sand, and someone is quickly at your feet taking your order. Again, unlike most all-inclusives, here there was no expectation of tips. img_8908

We alternated days at the beach and at the beautiful tree-lined pool. Here too, loungers were plentiful, and we could seek shade from either the trees or the umbrellas provided. The main pool (there’s another pool on the north side of the resort, but it’s mainly for scuba training) is a sapphire-hued two-tiered oasis with a waterfall in between that spills into the swim-up bar area. It was so relaxing being able to sit in the shade of the bar’s palm roof, listening to the waterfall, and sipping Appleton rum or cold Red Stripe beer. When we tired of the pool bar, we could also visit the beach bar/grill, or the main bar in the reception/restaurant building.

Yes, it will probably rain. Learn to like it.

img_8849I’ve been to Jamaica twice now and on both trips it rained at some point each day. Sometimes just for 30 or 40 minutes, other times for a couple of hours, and on one day there was a helluva storm which led to significant water pooling everywhere. While some vacationers may find this upsetting (how dare it rain on my holiday!!) we found it nice.  After spending hours on the beach or baking at the pool, the rain was cooling, and it broke up the day.  We found ourselves heading to the beach grill, sitting at the bar and playing scrabble or backgammon while sipping cold beer, or just going back to the room, throwing open the balcony doors and napping to the sound of a tropical rainstorm.

The food is great

Most people I know don’t go on all-inclusive vacations to eat well, but fortunately at Couples Negril, you will anyway. img_8926There’s always fresh baking on hand, whether it’s breakfast pastries, dessert, or the cookies that you’ll find at several of the bars and in the lobby. The day we arrived it was lobster night and we were treated to fresh grilled lobster tails with butter. Another night there was both tenderloin and lobster on the menu at a special dinner for “repeaters” or returning guests. I’m guessing the food is just one of the things that keeps people coming back to this resort, as the repeater crowd was quite large, about 60 or so. Everything we ate, from the buffet, to meals at the easy to book fine dining restaurants was fresh and deliciously flavourful.

It’s the little things

There were so many other nice small touches that made our stay so memorable; the fresh cookies and the new veggie bar that’s just opened.img_8689 It features juices, veggie tips and dip, as well as grilled sandwiches. There was nightly turn-down service and towel changing.  An ice bucket and water pitcher in the room were constantly full and cold. The staff are friendly and say hello as they pass. It was also nice to be able to trade our towels in as often as we liked, without a special ticket required.

Even on our last day as we waited in the lobby for airport pick-up, one of the staff members was dressed as an elf trying to cheer us up, as a small band payed goodbye songs for just 6 of us who were departing. Nice touch.

Overall this vacation was amazing.  It ticked all the boxes for us; great beach, delicious food, not crowded, lovely people. I can highly recommend both Negril and the Couples resort here for a fun and relaxing getaway.

img_8865

img_8787This is not a sponsored post. My review is 100% my own thoughts and experiences at this resort, paid for with my own money. If you’d like more info, check out Couples.com 

Related posts: