Rum, Reggae and Romance: One Love in Jamaica
By Melanie Reffes
Perennially popular as a winter getaway, Jamaica is also red hot during the summer with plenty of rum, reggae and romance. From top-shelf to no-frills, resorts and hotels are rolling out the welcome mat for weddings, honeymoons, anniversary celebrations and mojo-filled weekends. “Jamaica’s allure is unparalleled,” said Donnie Dawson, acting director tourism, “we love sharing this charm and natural beauty so that our visitors have memorable experiences in the home of all right.”
From a wedding ceremony on a boho beach and intimate I Do’s at a chic seaside hotel, couples can marry just 24 hours after arriving on the island and with a myriad of hotels; resorts and hideaways, there are plenty of choices for a picture-perfect wedding. “Courtesy of Jamaica’s tourism boom,” said Hon. Edmund Bartlett minister tourism, “our island is seeing an expansion of existing hotels and also new developments with projections we’ll welcome five million visitors by 2019.” www.visitjamaica.com
Nuptials in Negril
Set back from the road in the midst of fragrant gardens, weddings at the adults-only all-inclusive Sunset at the Palms invites couples looking for a scenic venue for a memorable ceremony. Family-owned, the resort is a cozy hideaway with 85 chic treehouse rooms, spa and four restaurants from Caribbean-fusion at the Lotus Leaf, haute and spicy at The Palm Breeze Beach Bar & Grill and open-air dining in Palm Grove to a morning cuppa Joe at the Blue Coffee Bar and a sweet cocktail at the Irie Martini bar. Afternoons are lively with serenading bands and as the sun dips below the horizon, pull up a chair at the Bamboo Bar for a fruity cocktail and salute the sunset. Fronting 2-miles of powdery white sand, saying I Do is a breeze at wedding ceremonies on the beach, in the gardens or in the scenic gazebo. Water sports, tennis courts, fitness center, swimming pool and Club MoBay VIP arrival at Sangster Airport in Montego Bay for fast tracking through immigration sweeten the pot for newlyweds. Through October, the resort is hosting Jamaica-Rama; funky summer celebration with beach barbecues, sunset viewing parties, movie nights, seafood fiestas and cooking lessons with the Chef. www.thepalmsjamaica.com
Balanced on limestone cliffs, The Caves is one of the most unique hotels on the island with plenty of secret spots and quiet moments. A good deal for couples, ‘Carefree Summer’ includes 4 nights for the price of 3 and perks like a flask of Blackwell rum, cocktail classes, cliff diving and a candle-lit dinner. www.thecaveshotel.com
More fun at Rick’s Café on the west end where the bold and the brazen plunge from the cliffs while the onlookers snap photos with heady cocktails in hand. “The summer is a great time to visit the island,” said Myrtle Dwyer, director, sales and marketing at the Montego Bay-based Glamour Destination Management Company, “hotels offer special sales and resorts invite with credits which allow couples to splurge at the spa and enjoy other summer fun activities like watersports. www.glamourdmc.com
Sexy on the South Coast
On Treasure Beach, Jakes Hotel has oodles of charm in cottages painted in a rainbow of colors. For wallet-watchers, one-night stays during the summer dip as low as $90 with one night on the house. Right on the beach, bungalows are so close to the sea you can fish from the deck. https://jakeshotel.com
Keeping the theme, Lover’s Leap is a 1,700-foot cliff with one of the most picturesque vistas on the island. With a storied past, the cliff is often photographed as the spot where two young slaves jumped to their deaths fearing that they would be separated after their secret love affair was exposed.
For fans of lazy afternoons, Pelican Bar is a one-of-a-kind floating fun house one mile off the coast. Built on a sand bar, the rickety bar is all about sunny afternoons, frosty mugs of Red Stripe, fishermen showing off their catch of the day and boho beach bar aficionados taking five under the tropical sky.
Beaches, Butterflies and the Blue Mountains
What could be prettier than butterflies flitting about at a wedding ceremony? A family business, Fruit Hill Butterflies is the island’s premier supplier of wedding butterfly releases in Jamaica. Hand-raised and trained by experienced butterfly farmers to linger for photographs, the colorful critters are an exquisite eco-compliment to every destination wedding. www.fruithillbutterflies.com
For couples on the move, there’s no better way to spend an afternoon than biking through the Blue Mountains; highest mountain range in the English-speaking Caribbean. Island Routes Adventure Tours escorts cyclists far above the island through coffee plantations and emerald valleys with pit stops for a refreshing dip in a waterfall and a delectable Jamaican brunch. www.islandroutes.com
On the south coast away from the big resorts in Montego Bay, Treasure Beach is bevy of beaches with names like Jack Sprat and Calabash Bay that are more popular with the local artsy community than they are with tourists. In Negril, beach aficionados rave about Seven Mile Beach ; a true original that gets groovy with sun-seekers, aloe masseuses, hair braiders and vendors hawking jerk chicken, icy beer and Bob Marley souvenirs. With water the color of blue denim, Boston Bay Beach is a picture-perfect cove on the eastern shore of the island. Flanked by tree-covered rocks, the out-of-the-way beach is a surfer’s paradise and home to the island’s best jerk stands.
In Montego Bay, Doctors Cave is the local favorite right on the Hip Strip. With golden sand and calm water, the beach is close to the popular Groovy Grouper Bar, glass bottom boat tours, shopping on the main drag and Usain Bolt’s Tracks and Records Sports Bar where jerk grilled shrimp rock the house. http://tracksandrecords.com
For music fans, Reggae Sumfest heats up Montego Bay from July 15-July 21 with dancehall and reggae concerts. http://reggaesumfest.com
For a wedding that’s out of this world, head up, up and away to Mystic Mountain where the high-octane ‘I Do at 700 Feet’ takes the cake as the most creative wedding in Ocho Rios. Catnip for adrenalin junkies, couples soar through the treetops reciting their vows as they take in the awesome vistas of the seaside rainforest. Packages include a champagne toast and island bites like jerk chicken and pumpkin pilaf. www.rainforestadventure.com
At the Good Hope Estate, weddings are gorgeous on the lawn overlooking the Queen of Spain Valley and Cockpit Mountains. Befitting a celebration, Colonel Thomas Williams built the elegant estate in 1755 as a gift for his wife Elizabeth.
For the wedding of a lifetime, couples tie the knot in the graceful company of dolphins at Dolphin Cove in Ocho Rios or Montego Bay. Trained to be around humans, the smart mammals greet the bride and groom with a bouquet of flowers and, on request, will also deliver the wedding rings. Eye-candy for photographers, the ceremony is chockablock with bragging rights that will last a lifetime. www.dolphincoveja.com