From Meliá Braco Village to Frenchman’s Cove: The 2018 Travel Guide to Jamaica
Beautiful, varied and unique, Jamaica’s north coast has long been popular as a winter break destination. With pristine white-sand beaches, jungle-wrapped mountains, thundering waterfalls and buzzing towns all just a short drive away, this part of Jamaica has everything you could want from an island escape – and then some.
The two busy resort towns of Montego Bay and Ocho Rios have always been the go-to tourist destinations on the north coast, but if you’re looking for a more glamorous and peaceful retreat, it’s best to head elsewhere. Situated halfway between the two towns is the charming seaside village Rio Bueno, which provides a more relaxing location as well as easy access to Jamaica’s sights and attractions. Using this tranquil oasis as your base, here’s where to stay and what to do in 2018.
STAY: Meliá Braco Village
The largest and most upscale resort around Rio Bueno is the five-star all-inclusive Meliá Braco Village. Sprawled across acres of lush gardens bordering the crystalline Caribbean Sea, the colonial-style architecture and wide streets of the resort evoke nearby Falmouth’s town square. While this is certainly a luxurious property, the resort is pervaded with laid-back Jamaican authenticity; as you recline by the pool sipping a fresh coconut or raw sugarcane juice, the smell of jerk cooking drifts over on the breeze as traditional Mento bands play.
The 232 guest rooms and 52 suites are light, airy, stylish and neutral, and all have private balconies overlooking the beach or landscaped gardens. For even more luxury you can upgrade to Meliá Braco Village’s premium suites, THE LEVEL, which literally open up onto the beach. Guests of THE LEVEL also gain access to the VIP LEVEL Lounge and the exclusive Golden Sands restaurant, as well as a private pool.
There are five restaurants on site. There’s the beachfront O’Grille, which serves traditional Caribbean dishes; Nikkei Restaurant, which fuses Japanese, Chinese, and Peruvian cuisine; the super sleek 876 Prime steakhouse; and Rasta Pasta, which serves all the Italian classics with an innovate Jamaican twist.
Breakfast, lunch and dinner are served at The Market Place, a open-kitchen concept. Whether you’re vegan or coeliac, dietary requirements are happily catered for – just speak to the chef if in doubt. After dinner, Jigger Bar is the place for cocktails, and if you want to hit the dance floor, The Shaker pumps out tunes til 1AM.
Onsite there’s a jacuzzi, two swimming pools, and two gorgeous palm-fringed beaches, so you’ll certainly be satisfied when it comes to swimming-and-sun fun. If you want to head out a bit further, the friendly staff are more than happy to take you sailing, canoeing and snorkelling – and if you’re feeling too relaxed for any of that, just float on over to the swim-up pool bars and get yourself a drink (the Mai Tais are heavenly).
For something even more leisurely there’s the YHI Spa, where you can pamper yourself with a range of indulgent treatments like facials, body scrubs and massages (the Thai massage is particularly divine). For the more active among us, there’s a 24-hour fitness centre, football pitch, basketball court and tennis court, and if that weren’t enough you can head to the onsite Adventure Park where you can climb, jump or zip-line to your heart’s content.
Merging sun-soaked luxury with an authentic Caribbean ambiance, Meliá Braco Village captures what’s best about Jamaica. You could easily stay within the resort for your whole trip and not get bored – but of course, it would be a shame not to experience another side to Jamaica. Luckily the resort is perfectly placed for some exploring, and you can arrange trips with Jamaica Tours Ltd through the resort tour desk. Here’s where you should head.
DO: Visit Port Antonio, Frenchman’s Cove & The Blue Lagoon
If you only do one trip while in Jamaica, make it a big one and head to Port Antonio on the northeast coast. About three hours from Meliá Braco Village, it’s a fair drive, but as the gateway to the island’s tropical jungles, mountains and waterfalls, it’s a must-visit – plus, you’ll only be ten minutes away from two of the island’s most beautiful and iconic natural attractions, Frenchman’s Cove and the Blue Lagoon.
As a town, Port Antonio is well worth a visit in and of itself. This jungle-bordered, delightfully-ramshackle town is worlds away from the tourist-orientated resort towns, and allows you to glimpse an authentic side of Jamaica that’s nearly impossible elsewhere. The winding backstreets are packed with stately-yet-shabby colonial buildings, chilled cafes, lively bars, aromatic street food stalls, sleeping dogs, and baby goats running amok. The market here is also the best place on the island to pick up souvenirs (don’t forget to haggle!)
From Port Antonio it’s only a short drive to Frenchman’s Cove and the Blue Lagoon. Kick back on the sheltered white sand beach of Frenchman’s Cove, seeking shade under a mango tree if it gets too hot. For $10 you can access this private estate, which comes complete with its very own fresh water stream and Instagram-worthy swing. Just a little further afield are the shimmering turquoise waters of The Blue Lagoon; here you can take a boat tour with a local fisherman, take a plunge in the natural cold springs, or just enjoy a leisurely swim under the last of the day’s sun.
Flights: LGW – MBJ, Virgin Airways Atlantic, £800.
Airport Transfers:Shared shuttle $35 per person round trip.
Booking: https://www.melia.com/en/hotels/jamaica/montego-bay/melia-braco-village/index.html / +1 876-618-0582.
Room rates: January lead in rates, £200 / The Level £366.
Car hire: From £24 per day, via Rental Cars at Montego Bay airport.
Excursions: Guests are able to book tours directly from Melia Braco Village with the Jamaica Tours Customer Service representative, located at the tour desk. They can also e-mail Jamaica Tours at firstname.lastname@example.org.