“No problem, mon!” That may not be the national motto of Jamaica, but you hear it a lot while you’re there. My husband and I just returned from our vacation to that beautiful island, and I miss living on island time and the idea that, no matter what happens, it’s “no problem.”
This was our first time to visit Jamaica, and I can tell you with certainty that it won’t be our last. Jamaica is a gorgeous island, and we enjoyed ourselves immensely. We stayed at Sandals South Coast, an all-inclusive, adults only resort located about two hours south of Montego Bay.
If you check online reviews of Sandals South Coast you’ll find all kinds of wailing and gnashing of teeth regarding the drive from Montego Bay to Whitehouse (where the resort is located.) Now, I don’t know what kind of roads these reviewers are used to, but if you’ve ever driven in Memphis, Tennessee then you won’t be fazed a bit by the drive to South Coast. Yes, the drive is over the mountains and on narrow, curving roads with numerous potholes. But it’s not the horror story most reviewers make it out to be. It’s just a drive, albeit on the “wrong” side of the road. (Yes, they drive on the left side of the road in Jamaica.) As someone who gets carsick on a merry-go-round (don’t ask), I can tell you that the drive to South Coast is no big deal.
Once you arrive at Sandals South Coast you will immediately enter the world of “no problem.” The resort itself is gorgeous, and the staff is beyond great. The minute you get there they greet you with “Welcome home!” and then they do everything in their power to make you feel like it’s home. If you want something, you only have to ask and someone will literally drop what they’re doing to make it happen. That was kind of hard for me to get used to, because I’m one of those people who never wants anyone to be inconvenienced by me, you know? The Sandals staff never, ever makes you feel as if it’s an inconvenience to assist you, but my Southern upbringing still made me hesitant to bother anyone. Also, there’s a strict no-tipping policy at Sandals that was hard for me to wrap my head around. Don’t even think of offering a tip to any Sandals employee (except for the butlers, but more about that later) because anyone accepting a tip from a guest of the resort will be fired. We stayed there a week and still felt weird every time we left one of the restaurants without leaving a gratuity.
We stayed in suite 2405 in the Dutch Village, and that has to be, hands down, the best suite in the place, with the exception of the over-the-water bungalows. It was a corner suite, and every window had a view of the Caribbean Sea. It also overlooked the Dutch Village pool, which is the “quiet pool” at the resort. In fact, the Dutch Village is the quietest of the three villages at South Coast. The Italian Village is closest to the restaurants, and the main pool is located there. That’s the pool with the swim-up bar, the constant music, the games, and is where the rowdiest element congregated. South Coast is the most calm of the Sandals resorts in Jamaica, so even the rowdy element was muted. But what hard-core partiers there were gravitated toward the Italian Village. We barely saw the French Village since it was past ours and we just didn’t ever venture that far, but I’ve heard it can get a tad loud, too. The Dutch Village was just perfect for us, since all we wanted was island breezes, a beach, and cold drinks.
It was a perfect vacation, and we hated to leave. If we can sell some internal organs on the black market we’d like to stay in the over-the water bungalows next time. At about $15,000 a week, though, they’re way out of our budget unless someone needs a spare kidney.
Sandals South Coast travel tips
Take a bag of Hershey’s Kisses and/or miniature candy bars and some little treat bags, and leave some each day for housekeeping (and put one in the fridge for the guy who comes to restock your water and drinks.) The staff isn’t allowed to accept tips, but that’s a nice way to show your appreciation for all they do for you. Add a tag so they know it’s for them to take.
The Red Lane Spa shampoo in your room is wonderful stuff! I don’t think my hair has ever been so soft! Also, leave the flat iron at home. It’s humid there, and the island breezes can be strong. Your hair is going to frizz. Just master a good fishtail braid and a messy bun and don’t worry about it.
Since we were there in the off-season (or the low season), the resort wasn’t too full. But even with less people there you’ll still have to get up very early if you want a good lounger on the beach or at the pool. Saving a seat is not supposed to be allowed, but it still happens, just like it does everywhere. So get out before 7:00 a.m. and stake out your favorite place with some towels and a magazine or book. Guests with butler service can go ahead and sleep in since your butler will go out for you and reserve your place with towels and a cooler full of water and/or Red Stripe. But if you do stake out a spot, use it. Don’t just let it sit there all day empty while you’re off doing other things. Don’t be that person.
Unless you have some sailing experience, don’t take out a catamaran. Watching the poor fools trying to get their catamaran to go where they wanted it was one of the most enjoyable parts of our trip! We called all of them Gilligan and The Skipper, because none of them had the first idea of how to get that thing back where it came from. Sailing against the wind ain’t easy, and five minutes of verbal instruction and a quick Google check won’t help you. Instead of wasting an hour or more of your time in frustration and fighting, sit on the beach and have a daiquiri or two. The pic below is one poor man bailing on his catamaran. We watched him struggle to turn it around for almost an hour before he gave up and beached it in front of the Dutch Village. A staff member had to come by later and get it.
Sunscreen. Sunscreen. Sunscreen. Even if you’re just chilling on your shaded balcony or patio, the UV rays in Jamaica are fierce, and you’ll burn like a marshmallow at a bonfire. Just ask my husband who ignored my nagging that first day and ended up with horrific blisters popping up on his bright red legs and ankles. The Equate sunscreen from Walmart has been rated the #2 best sunscreen available, which means you can afford the big-ass bottle. Take it with you and apply it every 30 minutes whether you’ve been in the water or not. If you feel like you’re burning, apply it even more frequently. The best facial sunscreen is Australian Gold Botanical Mineral Sunscreen. I use the tinted one, just so it doesn’t leave that white cast on my skin. I use it every day, but I really came to appreciate it while in Jamaica.
Take a hat. Try to find one with UPF which will keep the UV rays off your face and hair. I got mine at Belk, but they’re available pretty much everywhere, and you’re gonna need it.
General travel tips
Contact Tiffany Martindale at Key to the World Travel, and let her book your vacation, no matter where you’re going. Just email her at firstname.lastname@example.org. No, I’m not getting any kind of discount, nor is this a sponsored post. I just totally recommend Tiffany. If we’d booked our trip ourselves it would have cost us about $1500 more. Tiffany took care of everything for us, and at no cost to us. We did everything by email, and she found us such a great deal! Without her, there’s no way we could have stayed at a Sandals resort in an Executive Club Level suite at that price. She also booked our vacation at Playa del Carmen, Mexico last year. Seriously. Let Tiffany book your vacations from now on. email@example.com. You won’t regret it.
No matter where you’ll be staying in Jamaica, spend the extra money and buy Club MoBay (if you’re flying into Montego Bay; it’s Club Kingston if you fly into Kingston.) It’s worth every penny. Your Club MoBay rep will meet you at the airport with a sign that has your name on it, which is kinda cool. They’ll go over the immigration form you filled out on the plane and make sure it’s all correct. Then they take you directly to the immigration check-in. And when I say “directly,” I mean it. We walked past about 200 people standing in line for immigration, and that alone is worth the cost. (We paid $160 for two people for both arrival and departure.) So instead of standing in line for at least an hour, we walked right up to immigration and had our passports stamped. Then our Club MoBay reps took us to the baggage retrieval area where we got our luggage. From there, they escorted us past another long line to customs where we were waved through. Then you go to the Club MoBay Lounge. Usually. We didn’t, because we were staying at Sandals, and we didn’t have very long to wait until our transportation arrived. So they took us to the Sandals Lounge instead. Either way, you’ll have a comfortable place to wait on your transportation with snacks and drinks provided. Upon departure Club MoBay again assists you with checking in your luggage and fast-tracking you through customs. It’s definitely worth the extra cost.
Take a stack of $5 bills. You’ll want to tip your Club MoBay reps, and the red caps who handle your luggage at the airport. In fact, the red caps will remind you (forcibly) that you need to tip them. You’ll also want to tip the driver that takes you to your destination. If you’re staying at a no-tipping resort like Sandals, you can leave your money in the safe in your room (unless you have butler service. I understand the butlers at Sandals are the only employees allowed to take tips, and from what I saw when we were there they totally deserve it!) Then be sure to tip everyone on the way back to the airport when you leave.
Be patient at the TSA check-in. Even if the agents are like that bitch in Memphis who went all Barney Fife on everyone at 5:30 a.m. (She dragged the guy next to me out for some reason, and then yelled, “I done tol’ you not to take yo belt off but you done went and tryna to do it and you don’t be lissen to me so you goan stan’ over here.” Poor guy couldn’t understand a word she said. Shouldn’t there be some sort of minimum I.Q. requirements to be a TSA agent? Apparently there aren’t.) Even if you’re pre-screened for TSA, you’ll still be required to remove your belt, jewelry, and shoes at Montego Bay. Just do it. Arguing will get you nowhere and will hold up the line. (And I’d pay money to personally bitch-slap everyone who had anything to do with every single incident that led to these awful security measures, including that smirking asshat who tried to smuggle explosives onto a plane in his shoe and is the reason we have to walk across filthy floors in bare/sock feet now.)
If you’ve never been to Jamaica, I urge you to consider it for your next vacation. It’s such a beautiful island, and you can’t beat the rum! Take tons and tons of pictures, and slow down and enjoy yourself. You’re on island time there. No problem, mon.