First Time Travel: Feeling Absolutely Irie In Montego Bay, Jamaica

Jamaica had never crossed my mind as a vacation spot. I’m not sure why, but having traveled to Puerto Rico, Costa Rica, the Bahamas, and the Dominican Republic, I didn’t see myself making another trip to an island destination in my future. But as always, yours truly had the usual itch to travel and in looking up places to visit at the last minute, a quick search online pointed to Jamaica as the destination for me and my mother, who would be spending the holidays with me.

We arrived at Hartsfield Jackson International Airport in Atlanta, GA right in time for our 9:10 am flight, and within two and a half hours, we landed in Montego Bay, Jamaica. I was surprised that the flight had been so short, but even more surprised that the weather was simply gorgeous. We picked up our luggage from baggage claim and made our way to the Amway representative who directed us to the location of the chartered bus that would be taking us to our hotel. We entered our bus and waited for the driver to take us to our resort, the  Holiday Inn Sunspree.

Once we arrived at the Holiday Inn Sunspree,  I tipped our driver (it’s the holiday seasons y’all), and we walked to the reception area where we are immediately approached by one of the staff with the sunspree, a delicious alcoholic drink that was named after the resort .We very happily took it (my mom opted for a virgin pina colada), gave our luggage to the porter to hold for us, and made our way to the buffet since our rooms were not yet ready. There was quite a decent spread for lunch, so after stuffing ourselves, we took a walk around the resort. The resort – the Holiday Inn Sunspree – was quite pleasant in size and in attractions. They had several pools, four bars, a casino, the regular buffet spot, three mid-scale restaurants which served Jamaican, Japanese and Italian cuisine and lots of outdoor activities for kids as well as a game arcade.

After our walk, we made it back to the reception area, got our key, and made it to our room. I have to admit that when we arrived at the resort, it didn’t really meet my expectations of this grandiose attraction of other resorts on the island, like the Riu Montego Bay, where some of the visitors from the airport had been dropped off. However, on entering our room, I was pleasantly surprised with the décor and amenities of the room. The scenery from our balcony was breathtaking, with panoramic views of the ocean and the hills.

From left to right: Our hotel room at the Holiday Inn Sunspree; getting our dance on during some late night entertainment; a drive by of Harley Davidson Jamaica and a day at beach.

From left to right: Our hotel room at the Holiday Inn Sunspree; getting our dance on during some late night entertainment; a drive by of Harley Davidson Jamaica and a day at beach.

The next couple of days were spent eating, drinking, sleeping, laying on the beach, shopping, learning more about the culture through interactions with locals, and trying to use our *naija street smart acumen to bargain with the locals on the few occasions we left the resort. Before we knew it, three days were up, and it was time to make the two and a half hour flight back home to the United States.

My experience overall was great. Of course, no vacation is ever perfect and we experienced occasional snafus like the hotel key not working perhaps one too many times and the fact that the hotel was going to charge US$60 for a round trip into town, we had a great time. The locals we encountered reminded me of New Yorkers – nice folks, but always on the go.

With an overall experience score of eight out of ten, would I make it back for another vacation? I think so, but I would like to explore other countries first and then maybe stay for about a week or two to give myself enough time to explore other cities in Jamaica, like Kingston.

So, based on my experience in Montego Bay, here are a few tips to share:

  1. If coming from the United States, Canada, or Europe, don’t change your currencies – my experience was that you got more bang for your buck with your money. For other currencies, you’ll need to do some research.
  2. Take small currency denominations with you – to help with your haggling and bargaining power with the locals.
  3. Do your research on what it is you’d like to do while on vacation (e.g., stay on the beach, go on adventures, sleep, shop) – this will help you when planning your vacation, particularly in a place like Montego Bay where there is so much to do.
  4. Practice your bargaining skills – check out the article by yours truly, Bargain Like a Rockstar for some serious tips.
  5. Take some sunscreen with you and drink lots of water – the weather and setting of the vacation spot may lead you to forget to protect your skin and take in your much needed H2O.
  6. Don’t take anything or anyone’s attitude towards you too seriously – Trust me, it’s not personal.
  7. Enjoy yourself – you’re going to be on vacation, so just relax. Vacation time is not the time stress over what the plans for tomorrow will be. Tomorrow will take care of itself. So, be like the Rastafarians and know that everything is **Irie.

Yah man!

*Colloquial word for  Nigerian

**in a state of peace


Adeyelu Asekun is a contributor to the The Voix portal and an avid traveler. Catch her on her latest adventure!