I've visited Jamaica a few times, but this was my first traveling with a family so it was a totally different experience than partying into the wee hours of the night and enjoying the local um seasonings as I have in the past.
I started this trip with a lot of research on the best family friendly resorts in Montego Bay, our destination of choice and settled on the Hilton Rose Hall because of the reasonable all inclusive rate, onsite water park and full day kids/teen club serving ages 17 and under. I also booked transportation through Island Pride Tours because of previous experience. They are quick and reliable and offer 10% off private tours later in your trip if you opt to do so. (Spoiler alert, we did).
The next day, we ventured off property to the Blue Hole which I'd heard wasn't as much of a tourist trap as Dunn's River Falls. It took about 2 hrs to get there from Montego Bay, but was well worth the journey. You're led to the hills of St. Ann's Falls and then given a chance to make 5 death defying jumps off cliffs as high as 60 ft. I punked out after the first jump, but the rest of my family finished the course and had a blast. I totally recommend this excursion though because in all of my trips this is the only thing that you really actively get to participate in.
The best part of this trip was a stop off at the world famous jerk haven, Scotchie's where we enjoyed the best jerk chicken and pork Jamaica has to offer.
We finished the evening with our first reservation dinner at the hotel at the Three Palms, which offered great scenery and a view of the golf course. The service was slow, but but the food was better than other parts of the property.
We spent the next day lounging at the hotel and soaking up the sun. Later that evening, there was a Jamaican buffet (that didn't compare to Scotchie's) that gave me my first taste of calloleu, one of my favorite local dishes.
Finally, it came time to depart and leave the island sun behind. The airport was significantly less crowded than I previously remembered, but using the Club Mobay service got me through the security line quickly and without any concerns. A quick stop at the duty free store allowed me to stock up on the Havana Club rum I fell in love with on my trip to Cuba (also detailed on this site, shameless plug) and then it was back to the cold Midwest.
We arrived with no issues and cleared customs problem free early on a Tuesday. Getting to the Hilton was a snap, it's a 15 minute trip from the airport.
Check-in was simple (made more efficient by my status as a Hilton Honors member, sign up it's simple and you start earning points with your first stay), but if you can arrive early do so because the line got longer throughout the day. The whole process was very efficient despite our rooms not being ready. We were able to get adjoining rooms after multiple requests for them which was nice because our 13 yr. old had his own space and the pseudo newlyweds (see previous post, I got hitched 2 months ago) had ours.
We were greeted with a welcome drink and cool towel while checking in and advised to make dinner reservations as soon as we arrived which was a great suggestion since it took 2 days to get an available date. We were able to swim and hang out by the pool bar until rooms were ready around 3 PM.
Be advised, if you have a little one between the ages of 6-14, there is a $75/day fee for kids to stay.
The next day was spent getting to know the hotel and exploring the grounds which are really beautiful. There's a lazy river that is so fun and water slides which were cool (even when I pulled an America's funniest home video, see the footage). There's also a swim up bar to cool off and enjoy the drink of the day (my favorite was the Reggae Beat which is glorified rum punch).
That evening, we visited the Luminous Lagoon, one of only 4 sites in the world that you can see glowing blue waters. There is a $25 fee that gets you a boat ride to the Lagoon and a complimentary ultra watered down drink. It truly is majestic though with warm waters and only about 4 ft deep wares. The water only glowed partially for us because people kept disturbing the muck at the bottom which makes the phosphorus glow stop. Absolutely wear water shoes as recommended though because the bottom is flat out gross.
After a quick lunch at the Fresh buffet, we hit the pool and recovered from our trip in. Later in the day, we lost our 13 yr. old to the Teen Club, which had everything from Wii to PlayStation (3 and 4) and was a big hit.
While everyone settled in, I hit the spa the first night which sadly was definitely not worth it. My masseuse was really nice, but the actual spa is pretty barebones. It felt like a drs office waiting room. If you do opt to visit, only do so if you get a special.
We were able to enjoy a BBQ buffet the first evening which was a lot of fun. However the food overall at this property is slightly above average. They have a good variety and do theme nights but nothing was spectacular. However, they are accommodating to get what you want even if it's not on the menu. The best place to visit was the Jerk hut on the beach which is a must try. All other restaurants, Moonstone, Seaside Grill and Mangoes were okay at best and had super slow service. Be advised room service is not included at this property. The first evening wrapped with a nightly entertainment show that you would expect from a hotel like this with lots of fun and audience participation.
Where this place excelled was the drinks and let's be real, when you're in Jamaica this is must and this resort did not disappoint. While they weren't overly alcoholic, they were plentiful, but hey it's a family resort you don't want to be sloshed all day. Drinks everywhere were tasty and they even had champagne at all bars. Only disappointment was there was no minibar in the room which I've come to enjoy from all inclusives because Eclectik Girl enjoys her spirits.