Negril, the chill spot

beach cabanasNegril, Jamaica is affectionately known as the ‘Capital of Casual’ for it’s beachy, laid-back vibe. Seven miles of pristine white sandy beach is located only 90 minutes from the airport in Montego Bay. Due to Negril’s status as the westernmost city in Jamaica, you’ll experience the most amazing, unobstructed sunset views. The city is home to a variety of attractions, local beach bars, fitness events, shopping, and of course, fantastic watersports opportunities.

Seven-Mile Beach: Considered by many to be the ultimate Jamaican beach destination, the miles of white-sand and crystal clear waters make Negril a perfect spot for beach lovers. Soak up the sun from your beach lounger or take a leisurely stroll in the sand. Feel free to check out the never ending parade of people from all over the world, or close your eyes and relax to the sound of reggae and ocean waves. If you’re a water sports enthusiast, be sure to book your stay at one of the beach’s fantastic all-inclusive resorts. The best ones offer complimentary snorkeling, stand-up paddle boarding, kayaking, and water-skiing. Divers will enjoy Negril’s protected reefs where it is not uncommon to see nurse sharks, stingrays, sea turtles, and even dolphins! Let your heart race high above the Caribbean Sea; experiencing the thrill of parasailing.

Sunset love

The Cliffs: Now for something completely different. The “Capital of Casual” is so much more than just a stunning beach. No Negril vacation is complete without a visit to the famous cliffs. For a unique experience, head over to Rick’s Café. This bar, restaurant, and chill spot is the place to watch the Negril cliff divers flip, twist, and splash into the clear cool waters below. Enjoy a Red Stripe while they do their thing, and then find a spot to watch the sun wave its fiery goodbye to another day, often accompanied by live Reggae music. Also on the cliffs are a number of small local bars and restaurants, as well as boutique resorts and villa properties. Most of the accommodations in this area will feature a private stone staircase from your room to the water.

Rick's Cafe
Negril Cliff Diver
Negril Cliffs

Craft Market: The craft markets of Negril will satisfy your urge to shop with a wide array of paintings, wooden carvings, Caribbean inspired dresses/sarongs, and handmade leather good such as belts, sandals and wallets. Not only are the crafts beautiful, but the craft market experience itself is not to be missed. Jamaican craft vendors might be compared to the brokers of Wall Street in that they are chief negotiators, always willing to haggle over prices. See something you like? Make a low offer and prepare to bargain. Chances are good that you’ll walk away feeling like you got a great deal on a souvenir you’ll treasure.

Beachfront Suite view

Accommodations in Negril range from luxury all-inclusive resorts and boutique hotels to rustic inns and cozy guesthouses. There’s really something for everyone…unless you’re looking for a ultra-modern high-rise. Local building codes prevent developers from constructing anything higher than the tallest palm tree.

Next up: We’ll move to the lesser known parts of Jamaica- the South Coast!

Jamaica Part 3: Montego Bay, the party spot

Oh my, Montego Bay…..the perfect destination for a Jamaican vacation with variety. Affectionately called Mobay by locals and visitors in the know, this North Coast city is the second largest in Jamaica. It hosts the most popular airport for tourist arrivals, Sangster International Airport (MBJ), which means that your Mobay resort will be no more that 20 minutes from the airport. If you’re only in Jamaica for a short getaway, stay at a Montego Bay resort for the shortest touch down to toes-in-sand time, because you know you’ll want to be on the beach asap!


There’s no better place on the island if you want to see and do it all. From Montego Bay, you can access most of the other key resort areas within a 2hr drive, opening up all of Western Jamaica for day trip exploration. Closer to home, Mobay proper holds many charms. Your resort is almost guaranteed to be on a beautiful beach (especially when you use Three Wishes Travel to find your perfect resort match). Scuba enthusiasts will enjoy exciting wall dives within a 20 minute boat ride. Golfers are spoiled by four fantastic championship courses. For the party, well…’ve come to the right place. The famous Montego Bay Hip Strip will satisfy all of your needs for local nightlife.

Let’s take a closer look at Montego Bay:

Rose Hall Great House: History buffs will appreciate learning about Jamaica’s plantation days. The Rose Hall Great House is the most famous of all Georgian-style plantation mansions in Jamaica. Legend tells that is is haunted by the ghost of it ruthless mistress, Annie Palmer, who earned the nickname “The White Witch of Rose Hall”. According to the story, Annie Palmer practiced voodoo, enjoyed beating slaves, and murdered several husbands within the house..before being murdered by a jealous slave that she had taken as a lover. Tours are offered of the property including the option to do an evening tour, focusing on the spookier aspects of the mansion’s history. The grounds also hold the White Witch Golf Course and a zip-line excursion.

Margaritaville Mobay-The Hip Strip: Home to shopping, restaurants, and clubs, the Hip Strip is the tourist activity center of Mobay. By day, the Hip Strip is one of the city’s many opportunities for souvenir shopping, dining, people watching and is home to a couple beach clubs popular with both tourists and locals. At night, the strip heats up at Margaritaville, Blue Beat, and Pier 1. If you like to drink and dance, you’ll definitely want to check out one of these clubs during your vacation.

Reggae Sumfest: Plan your travel during mid-July and be in Montego Bay for this annual Reggae festival. This multi-day event features popular Jamaican artists as well as international superstars. Resorts in the area sell out quickly for the festival dates…Be sure to plan your Sumfest vacation months in advance.

iberostar-grand-hotel-rose-hall-pool-view-2Accommodations in Montego Bay range from large all-inclusive resorts including luxury options for both families and adults-only, to smaller boutique offerings (both all-inclusive and not). Villas are also available. Work with me to find the best value accommodation for your needs.

Next up: Negril!

Jamaica Part 2: Ocho Rios, the adventure spot

You love the beach, but you’re not the kind of person who can lie on a beach for a week and call it a vacation. You want more. More activity, more excitement, more of everything. Ocho Rios is so much more than just a beach vacation. It’s the adventure capital of Jamaica and is just the spot for a vacationer like you.

Ocho Rios cruise port from the chair lift at Mystic Mountain
Ocho Rios view from Mystic Mountain

Known as “Ochi” by locals, Ocho Rios is located on the North Coast of the island. While Ocho Rios literally means “eight rivers” in Spanish, there aren’t eight rivers in the area. The city’s name is likely a British corruption of the original Spanish name for the village, “Las Chorreras”, which translates to “the waterfalls”…a more fitting name for the town. This part of the country features lushly forested mountains sloping down towards small cove beaches. From the airport in Montego Bay, its a leisurely 1 hr and 45 minute drive on the main highway. The city is a popular cruise port and resort destination and offers plenty of shopping opportunities as well as local eateries. Accommodation ranges from large all-inclusive resorts to small boutique luxury hotels and private, fully-staffed villas for rent.

In Ocho Rios, you’ll find some of Jamaica’s top tourist attractions! Bored on the beach? No problem, mon!

Here’s a sample of the active adventures you’ll find:

Dunn's River Falls
Dunn’s River Falls
  • Dunn’s River Falls- Probably the most famous tourist attraction in Jamaica..for a good reason. This multi-level waterfall is both picturesque and a fun way to spend a few hours. Adventurers form a human-chain by holding hands as they climb from the bottom of the falls (a beautiful sandy beach) to the top. Guides lead the way, take pictures of your progress, and make stops at key spots on the way up to allow you to enjoy the fall’s unique features, including a small natural water slide!
  • DSC05729
    Mystic Mountain zip-lining

    Mystic Mountain- The Jamaican Bobsled Team was made famous by the movie, Cool Runnings. No trip to Ocho Rios would be complete without a thrilling ride down the Jamaican Bobsled attraction at Mystic Mountain. The bobsled cars are attached to a smooth, gravity-driven rail track..and you control how fast your bobsled zips around the corners. Need more of a thrill? Mystic Mountain also features a zip-lining course and you can access the whole park by taking a scenic chair lift ride up the mountain.

  • Blue Mountain- It’s the highest peak in Jamaica and where the world-famous Blue Mountain coffee is grown…and, luckily, it’s not far from Ocho Rios. For a day trip, take a drive up the mountain’s slopes and cruise back down on a bicycle, making stops along the way to cool off in waterfalls and learn about the Jamaican culture. If that’s not enough, schedule a sunrise hike. You’ll sleep in a cabin up high on the mountain and wake up bright and early to ascend to the peak for a gorgeous sunrise. On the clearest days, Cuba can be seen from the top of Blue Mountain.
  • Getting some kisses at Dolphin Cove!
    Getting some kisses at Dolphin Cove!

    Dolphin Cove- Have you always dreamed of swimming with a dolphin? Make your dreams come trueat Dolphin Cove. On offer are several options for getting your fins wet, but the top package is the Ultimate Swim where you interact in the water with not one, but two of these friendly marine mammals. After your session (and a few dolphin kisses), enjoy the rest of your day snorkeling with the stingrays, visiting the parrots and reptiles on the informational Jungle Trail, or relaxing at the sandy beach. Do not, I repeat, DO NOT MISS the comical Shark Show, where you just might have a chance to swim with, and feed, the resident nurse sharks. Dolphin Cove also holds a special spot in my heart….it’s where my husband worked with the staff to create a fantastically memorable marriage proposal.

In addition to the ideas above, you can also enjoy horseback (or camel) riding, river tubing, thrilling dune buggy or ATV tours, and deep sea sport fishing. I’ve only just scratched the surface on all the activities that are available within easy reach of Ocho Rios.

Which adventures just made it to your “must do” list?

Next week: Montego Bay!

Jamaica, Land I Love!

DSC05860Christopher Columbus described Jamaica as “the fairest isle mine ever eyes beheld…”

No other Caribbean island offers as much diversity as Jamaica. Sugar-white beaches combine with clear turquoise waters and vibrant green foliage to soothe your soul and replenish your spirit. Explore a rich island culture that expresses itself with fiery hot cuisine and the sultry beat of reggae music. Jamaica is large enough to provide for every taste. From the world-famous adventures of Ocho Rios to the party-vibe of Montego Bay. From the twinkling seven-mile stretch of beach in Negril, to uncharted nooks on the South Coast where romantics can hide away. Jamaica is a paradise for everyone.

In this multi-part blog series, we’ll be exploring my home-away-from home in depth. Jamaica is too fabulous for just one blog post. So, I’m splitting it up and focusing each week on a different vacation destination within Jamaica. In the coming weeks, we’ll visit the top-tourist spots of Ocho Rios, Montego Bay, and Negril. These are the spots you may know a bit about and are probably interested in visiting. Then, we’ll dive a little deeper and touch on the lesser known regions of the South Coast and Port Antonio, hopefully introducing you to some treasures you hadn’t heard of.

Let’s kick it off in a fun way and learn some Jamaican vocabulary! While English is the official language of the island and is taught in schools, you’ll hear most locals speaking something else entirely. Patios (pronounced pat-wa) is an English-based Creole language with West African influences.

  • Wah Gwaan= What’s going on? or What’s up?
  • Mi deh yah= I’m here or I’m good
  • Irie= Everything’s alright, feeling good
  • Jamrock= Jamaica
  • Yardie= Jamaican, local
  • Big Up= give respect
  • Rasta Man= Rastafarian man
  • Pickney= child
  • Bredren= friend or colleague
  • Everyting nice= Everything is going well
  • Nuh badda mi= Don’t bother me
  • Jus a toops= Just a little
  • Tun deh so= Turn there
  • A beg yuh= Can you please…
  • Moreish= tastes good, will want seconds
  • Brawta= extra
  • Yuh mad?= Are you crazy?
  • A who dat?= Who is that?
  • Nyam= Eat
  • Repeck= Respect
  • Link mi latah= Come see me later, call me later


Start practicing these Patios words and phrases. You’ll be ready for your Jamaican vacation in no time!

Next week: Ocho Rios!

Boats painting edit

Houston, we have lift off!

Airplane take-off

(Quick and easy destinations less than 4 hours from Houston, TX)

Extended vacations to far off destinations are exciting, but sometimes all you’ve got time for is a quick getaway closer to home. So, let’s take a look at the sunny international beach destinations accessible from Bush Intercontinental and Houston Hobby within 4 hours or less non-stop.

Jamaica: This island will always be a favorite. Jamaica’s Montego Bay airport provides access to the hotspots throughout the island, and Houston’s airports provide access to Montego Bay. Fly non-stop in around 3 hours from IAH on United and starting in November 2015, use Southwest Airlines out of Hobby.

Mexico: (Cancun, RM, Coz, Cabo, PVR) Houston’s airports provide easy access to destinations throughout our neighbor to the South.

Tulum Mayan Site
Tulum Mayan Site

-Mexican Caribbean: The always popular Cancun is just a 2 hour flight from IAH on United…and they operate flights daily. Southwest is beginning non-stop daily service to Cancun from Hobby starting mid-October. Cancun airport provides access to the entire Mayan Riviera, stretching from Playa Mujeres, just North of Cancun all the way down to the chill Southern beach town of Tulum, famous for its cliff-top Mayan site. If you don’t want to bother with the ferry from Playa del Carmen, take the non-stop flight on United down to Cozumel. This island off the coast of Mexico offers world-class scuba diving.

-Mexican Pacific: For fantastic vistas and true Mexican charm, check out the Pacific Coastal cities of Cabo San Lucas/San Jose del Cabo and Puerto Vallarta. United flies non-stop from IAH to Cabo in just under 3 hours. Southwest offers the itinerary from Hobby. Cabo, at the very tip of the Baja California peninsula, is famous for the popular Lands End Arch and some of the best whale watching (in season). Puerto Vallarta is accessible from IAH in just under 2 hrs 30 minutes via United and the non-stop is also offered on Southwest out of Hobby. It’s a charming colonial town with a rich history…and you can’t beat the spectacular “Mountains meet the Sea” views.

Beach Paradise in the Bahamas
Beach Paradise in the Bahamas

The Bahamas: Crystal clear water and white sand beaches await in the Bahamas. Plus, with easy flights from IAH on United to the capital city of Nassau, it’s doesn’t take long to find yourself on a pristine beach! As an added perk, you’ll clear US Customs at the airport in Nassau before your return flight saving an extra step (and time) when you touch back down in Houston.

Costa Rica: While I wouldn’t typically suggest Costa Rica for a short getaway, it is now in spectacularly easy reach from our Houston airports in under 4 hours! There’s so much more to the destination than a typical beach vacation that I don’t recommend anything less than a week. However, I felt it important to mention that in addition to United’s non-stop service to both San Jose and Liberia, Southwest is beginning service to these airport in the fall! San Jose, the capital, offers access to the central rainforests, volcanoes, and central coastal regions of this fascinating country. Liberia offers easy access to the Northern Pacific coast, a popular area for beach goers and surfing enthusiasts who are still looking to experience all the nature and wildlife that Costa Rica has to offer.