The temperatures are quickly dropping & the white stuff has already made an appearance in our neck of the woods. While we’re all bundled cozy in our parkas this week I’m warming up by reminiscing of our family getaway to Jamaica & our unforgettable stay at Jewel Grande Montego Bay Resort & Spa. I wanted to get this post up sooner, but, well, life! But if the gift of travel is on your family’s holiday wish list (*hands rising*), we’re going to share all the reasons why this resort could be a great option for you. But first…why Jamaica?
“Live with no excuses…travel with no regrets”🏝
This was the last quote we saw before boarding the plane out of Montego Bay…what beautiful motto to live by. When we were looking for a special place to spend Hub’s 40th Birthday, so many of you recommended Jamaica. It would be our first time visiting, and WOW, was it ever GORGEOUS.
Despite a few travel advisories & a bit of hesitation to book, we returned home with absolutely no regrets & completely understand why so many fall madly in love with the Island.
There aren’t many places I’ve left in tears… it’s a place that truly pierces the soul. And you really can’t explain Jamaica in words – it’s a feeling & such a welcome rhythm of life. The sky is different. The people some of the most endearing we’ve ever met (the way the grab their heart each time they greet you…nothing but #onelove radiates💖). We don’t know when, but we do know for certain we’ll be back.
While we feel family travel is one of life’s greatest investments, no doubt it can be a true test of parenting stamina, but our stay Jewel Grande Jamaica was one where we truly had every little detail take care of so we didn’t have to worry about a thing & us parents actually got some chillaxin’ in. We didn’t make this a partnership trip on purpose – milestone birthday celebrations are ones I didn’t want to be working on so I could soak it in with our special guy. But it’s a true gem of a family resort, and while you almost want to keep it a secret, we had SO MANY questions about it during our travels & we want to share the things we loved about it here.
Named one of the Best Luxury Caribbean Villa Resorts for Families in 2019, here are 4 reasons why you should consider Jewel Grande MoBay for YOUR family’s next vacation:
Jewel Grande’s Location
The Jewel Grande is just a 15-minute ride away from MoBay’s Sangster International airport – a great perk for families. Our hotel & flight were booked separately, so we arranged our transfer directly with the hotel. Despite a bit of a delay getting out of the airport parking lot, the shuttle service was well-run & picked us up on our day of departure right on time.
Check-in was seamless and they upgraded us to a Penthouse Suite (more on that later). Our bags were handled immediately & we then got a tour of the resort via golf cart before we were escorted to our room.
Fun Fact: this resort hugs the Caribbean Sea and was the shoot location for one of ABC’s favourite Bachelorette’s – Kaitlyn Bristowe – WeddingVacation.com features. The boardwalks & piers make for beautiful family/wedding photo opps.
2. Jewel Grande’s GINORMOUS Suites!
So, Jamaica has been out of reach for us for some time given that most resorts on the Island offer rooms for 5 max! We were pumped when we discovered a newish place that could accommodate us all in one room. But this wasn’t your ordinary Caribbean family suite – the size, layout & amenities of our “room” blew us away!
Let me backtrack for one sec before I divulge – so, the resort was previously a timeshare property and then bought out by Playa Hotels & Resorts, updated & converted to an All-Inclusive Family Resort about a year & a half ago. This is an amazing thing because all the rooms (like most timeshares) are condo-style…BIG with lots of amenities for discerning travellers.
Spread across 3 towers, the resort offers 129 luxury suites (+ 11 stand alone luxury Caribbean villas!) ranging from the Junior category (800+ sq. feet) to ultra-luxe Penthouse suites (some over 4000 sq. feet!), most with BUTLER SERVICE!!!
We were originally booked in the Three Bedroom Ocean Villa, but they upgraded us to the Three Bedroom Penthouse Butler Suite – ask for the upgrade & STAY HERE! (Room tour included in the video embedded below)
Families will love:
- 3 massive bedrooms rooms spread over 2500+ sq. ft (one with King bed, the others with Queens) each with full bathrooms (ours with a beautiful soaker tub with a view of the mountains!); large families/groups will appreciate all the space!
- 24-hour room service & fridge regularly stocked with domestic beer, soda & water
- Full chef’s kitchen! You likely won’t need it because…
- BUTLER Service! Keen & Kade were ours & were wonderful. Just a What’s App message away, they tended to every need & then some, even decorating our suite for Andrew’s Birthday while we ate dinner & arranging a room service breakfast spread fit for a king his BDay morning!
- 2 spacious balconies (one with a serene view of the mountains, the other with breathtaking views of the ocean)
- A huge family room with a large sectional couch to fit our big gang
- 3 full bathrooms + powder room (anyone with young kids will understand why this is a SA-Sweet perk! Hello privacy!)
- Room access is via your handy, dandy watch-like electronic wristbands – no keys to lose or worry about! Yah mon!
NOTE: We stayed in the Sentry Tower (one of 3), which is ideally located near the activity pool, children’s splash pad & playground, kids club/teen zone, buffet-style restaurant, gift shop & the ice cream parlour & café! We’d definitely be requesting this tower when we return (*fingers crossed*).
3. Family-Focused Amenities for All Ages at Jewel Grande
We’ve stayed at several all-inclusive properties in the last few years, and while this resort didn’t have some of the “extras” families look for (like Waterparks), our family experience at Jewel Grande was nothing short of fabulous. In fact, the kids said it was their fave so far! While it does have a kids’ club/teen zone & kids’ splash pad + playground, our gang spent most of our time on the family-friendly beach, splashing in the ocean and enjoying simpler leisure like catching crabs & tiny fish, snorkelling & shelling. It’s the trip that made us realize “less is truly more” & all the added bells and whistles for kids aren’t always necessary. It was beautiful to see them immerse in the natural wonder & use their imagination more.
The waters are clear and calm (just trace amounts of seagrass) and the first trip we felt more relaxed about giving the kids more freedom in the water. There is a lifeguard on-duty for added peace of mind, and if you have kids in tow who aren’t yet solo swimmers, bring your water wings/puddle jumpers along but know that there’s lots of opportunity for shore-side, shallow fun.
We LOVED that the beach was more of a private cove – no beach peddlers bugging & LOTS of lounge chairs to pick from (which could be because of the “the low-season” time of year we visited), and if you’re looking to level up your lounging experience, lots of cabanas to choose from (*at an extra cost* $96 USD will get you a personalized Cabana Concierge Service with a stocked igloo!).
After our beach mornings, we plunked down at the activity pool (right in front of Sentry Tower). There is another gorgeous pool in between the Silver & Sabal Towers, which was a great option for folks who like a bit quieter and calmer ambiance.
The activity staff were awesome & the kids loved participating in the daily challenges. Big dude won the Basketball challenge & Dad took the trophy in the Men’s Iron Man water race (he’s still got it 😉).
I had fun in the aqua aerobics’ classes with the kids. Right beside the activity pool is the kids’ splash pad & playground – Moms & Dads will love having a panorama view of the kids wet & wild fun while actually being able to relax & sip a bevvy. With 4 kids to keep our eyes on, this was WONDERFUL! Some resorts with massive kids’ parks can leave us more stressed & exhausted than enthusiastic about all the added kid-friendly fun.
NOTE: there are no towel stations on the beach, so grab them from the lifeguard stations around the pool before you head for ocean time. There is non-motorized watercraft at no extra cost, like SUP boards, kayaks and such to enjoy.
Let’s face it – family travel can drain our parenting fuel tanks real-quick, so you’ll probably love (2) features if carving out a mom/dad time-out is on your itinerary 😉:
Open 9 a.m. – 5 p.m., the kids enjoyed a few hours in the lounge, which had a foosball table, gaming, crafts & interactive games + scheduled time at the splash pad/beachfront. It doesn’t indicate this on their website, but the Kids’ Lounge is for littles 18mths to little-bigs 17 years old. Our kids range from 4 – 11 years old & each found something they enjoyed, albeit it wasn’t more than a few hours total on our trip (they really loved being free by the pool & beach most). If you want after hours caregiving, they do have nanny services for a fee.
Carving out time to rejuvenate is a non-negotiable for us, and the GRANDE SPA one of our most favourite spa experiences so far. The facilities are clean, gorgeous & calm, with unique experiences like the Himalayan Salt Lounge. The Spa menu is extensive, with tons of enticing options (hello “Jamaican Rum Scrub”!) but we stuck to a simple, but fabulous Neck, Back & Shoulder Massage & felt that tension melt away. When you book a service, you’ll also have access to the Grande Spa’s sauna & mineral pools for the rest of the day.
They also have a Teenz Kids Menu (5-16 years), and our little lady got her braids done on-premises also. If you wish, some services can be done outdoors in the cabanas with a view of the ocean (nice!).
TIP: each day you’ll receive the “Jewel Times” in your room with weather, activity, dining & spa promotions info. We got our services at a drastically reduced priced from the standard Spa menu by booking via the daily promotion. Also, there is lovely Spa staff who share specials around the pool – this is how we booked our daughter’s braid experience at a reduced price. They recommend you book 24-hours in advance.
The pool activities were enough to keep us having fun & staying active while not being so much that we didn’t get time to relax. We love tunes while we unwind & the poolside DJ kept a nice mix of old & new flowing.
The nightly entertainment isn’t a daily part of their programming, but the King of Pop show, Jamaican Party night & “Silent Disco” headphone experience are not to be missed (family dance-off was a memory-maker!). For those who like lots of programming and/or to be entertained morning through night, this hotel doesn’t offer that vibe (and for this trip, we appreciated more chillaxin’) but they are continuously making improvements to their programming being just 18 months into being a full-service family resort.
4. Foodie Family Options – Jewel Grande
Culinary quality is pretty important criteria for us, and while the food wasn’t blow-me-away calibre, the quality was there as were plenty of great options for even the fussiest of foodies in your bunch. Here are the places we tried:
Located in the Sentry Tower, this is the resort’s International buffet-style restaurant and where we ate breakfast daily (with the exception of Dad’s Bday where we enjoy a delicious spread via room service) & most of our lunches (a typical lunch spread is shot in the video below). It had the typical selections of bread, pastries, juices (+ morning cocktail station), fruit & cheese station, Ameri-Jamaican influenced breakfast foods like grits, omelette bar, pancakes/waffles, meats, various spicy dishes, cakes & gelato. There is quite a great selection for a comparatively smaller buffet. Just make sure you pay attention to closing times on your daily “Jewel Times” notice – I missed getting my lunch one day when we sat down at 2:20 p.m. taking a child for a bathroom break & had to pick from the fam’s plates. They stick to their closing times to a tee to prep for the next dining slot.
Where you can enjoy the Teppanyaki experience or a la carte Asian. It’s the only restaurant that requires a reservation, and while we weren’t able to nail one down for Teppanyaki, we did have great service via the a la carte option – small but tasty portions. The open-air ambiance by the water made it a unique, enjoyable experience.
Being half Italian, I’m pretty picky about Italian fare, and Moonstone was surprisingly on the mark! The menu selection is extensive, with lots of classic Italian antipasti & mains. The Linguine al Pesto e Calamari & Mediterranean Pan Seared Seabass were delish, and the kids devoured Margherita & Salami Pizzas (of course! 😉). You have the option to dine in or outdoors & the wine list was lovely.
LE BOUCHON STEAKHOUSE
One of our fave foodie experiences & where we dined for Hub’s birthday. Reservations aren’t taken here, but to avoid seating disappointment for our special guy’s special day, we had our Butler arrange for a reserved table. All of our steaks were cooked just right, and we loved having the salad & soup bar to visit while they cooked to ward off the hangry 😉
POOLSIDE DINING & DRINKS
Both pools offer outdoor eats from either the Crickets or Fiery Pelican Grills, which you can order yourself, or have your poolside server grab for you. Food offerings include wraps, burgers, salads, nachos and a bit of Jamaican fare like beef patties.
Drinks were kept flowing with attentive wait staff & the bars offered a great selection of premium & domestic alcoholic options. The kids downed their weight in Cherry coolers& Daquiris galore and my fave spiked frozen picks were The Bob Marley & Strawberry Passion delights! We kept the swim-up bar at Sentry pool busy, but they were always friendly & attentive.
SUGAR CANE ICE CREAM & CAFÉ
One of our gang’s favourite hangs, it’s open 6:30 a.m. – 10:30 p.m. and where we enjoyed ice cream daily after our dinners. They have a nice selection of muffins, cookies + pastries, a small candy bar & a full coffee menu. I grabbed our cappuccinos made with Jamaica’s Blue Mountain coffee from here every morning.
24-HOUR ROOM SERVICE
Family’s will appreciate this if you’re arriving late at night when the restos are closed, or just want to relax + dine in your room. We loved lingering in our PJs a little longer on Dad’s bday morning & enjoyed a full spread of all our fam’s favourite brekkie things (arranged by our awesome Butlers!).
The food scene at this resort is really the only area that didn’t overly impress. Not because the quality of food wasn’t great (it was!), it was more about the variety. We’ve heard so many amazing things about Jamaican culinary & while we had a bit of it from the buffet (Jerk meats) & pool-side grills, we didn’t leave feeling we had an authentic Jamaican food experience. We wanted Jamaican everything fired up & in our face to devour…nope. But… the wonderful part? Some of the food managers took time to meet with us to get our feedback on improvement & seem REALLY eager to implement them to level up the culinary experience for guests. If they do, they will truly be positioning themselves as one of the “must-visit” luxury family resorts in the Montego Bay area.
NOTE: we don’t have personal experience with accommodations for allergies/dietary restrictions, but did read reviews that previous guests with those concerns were pleased with their food experience. It’s always best to email hotel Management before your stay.
TIPS & More:
- Contrary to typical savings from booking Packaged Vacation deals, we scored a MASSIVE deal booking this vacation via Expedia.ca – hotel & flight separately. The same package with a smaller room would have cost us $4K extra with a giant + popular online Canadian vacation portal. As mentioned before, we did have to book our airport transfer on our own directly with the hotel, but it all worked out beautifully. Other ways we get the best value on our bookings HERE, including booking “off-season” times of the year, like this September Caribbean vacay.
- For adventure-seekers, the resort does have great off-site excursion packages for zip lining, fishing, boating, swimming with the dolphins, hiking, exploring Mystic Mountain, going on an ATV safari, rafting, or, for the mighty brave, even going on a shark encounter! (Welp!)
- Because of our off-season booking, the resort was pleasantly uncrowded & we never waited long for any service. Lounge chairs were plentiful (no morning towel drops necessary) and line ups for restos were non-existent. That being said, some staff mentioned the resort does have bustling periods (Winter Break, Spring Break, etc.) where crowds swell up – plan according to your preference.
- We often get asked if we travel with a nanny…we don’t but I usually joke I could use a Butler! Having a Suite that came with TWO of them was a real treat (and not at all like our real-life) and made this trip feel like a true vacation with kids. Not all suites come with the Butler service but we HIGHLY recommend you book the ones that do! And if you’re private folks like us, don’t worry, they don’t stick around in your suite the whole day. You simply message them your requests via What’s App (like dinner reservations, items to re-stock in the fridge, etc.) and they handle it.
- Have a glance at the “Jewel Times” info sheet left under your door each night for the next day’s activities, program changes & restaurant closures. We had our hearts set on a specific dining experience a few nights but those restos were closed. Your Butler can help with your seating for special occasions (like they did with hub’s bday dinner) even when reservations aren’t required.
- The Staff at Jewel Grande were wonderful, attentive & some of the friendliest we’ve experienced while family resorting. Special mention to Milton of Le Bouchon Steakhouse (your impromptu magic show & flower-making made for a fun family dining experience); Sashane – the pool Activity coordinator who kept us entertained & laughing our whole vacay; Jodi-Kay – our pool-side server with a smile & warmest heart who made our day’s so enjoyable; and Decare a loving soul of a lifeguard who kept our kiddos safe pool-side & gave us great tips on how to enjoy the best of MoBay when we return.
- The grounds are beautifully maintained & while there were those teeny tiny ants on the outdoor balcony, we came home bite-free with zero mosquito encounters that can be problematic at some Caribbean/Mexican locations.
Have you visited “the jewel of the Caribbean” before? Tell us your favourite things! It was our first time at a Playa Resorts property & no doubt we’ll be exploring other destinations from this chain. When I asked the kids if we should return to Jewel Grande it was a resounding “YA MON!” all around. If you’re looking for an upscale resort for life milestones, a family reunion, girls’/guys’ trip or if you’re waiting for a sign to book that family vacay…this is it! Jamaica is Jamaizing & Jewel Grande a fantastic choice! #takethetrip☀️ XO
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