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Jewel - Runaway Bay, Jamaica
All Inclusive Resort - Family Friendly
A valid US passport is required for travel outside of the US. Your passport must be valid for 6 months following your return date of travel. The real ID is not valid for international travel.
This resort checks all the boxes for a great, budget friendly, all inclusive, vacation in paradise. Jewel is located in Runaway Bay, Jamaica. You fly into Montego Bay airport, from there it is about an hour drive to the resort. The resort itself is small, very outdated, and in need of major renovations. Don't let that stop you!!! The rooms may not have the latest and greatest decor or furniture, but they are clean, and the beds are comfortable. How much time do you actually spend in your room anyways? This was our second trip to this resort and it doesn't disappoint.
What all is included? Everything! When you book this resort the fee covers the room, unlimited food, unlimited drinks (including alcohol), non motorized water sports, all activities, and the waterpark. One important tip to remember when visiting Jamaica, you are on island time. Nobody is in a hurry to do anything and everything takes longer. Grab a drink, be patient, and enjoy! Tips are also included but I highly suggest tipping anyways. They greatly appreciate being tipped, their weekly wages would shock you. I also believe service is better if you are tipping. We did encounter minor issues during our trips. They went above and beyond to be sure it was taken care of.
Why choose Jamaica over the Dominican Republic, or Mexico? Yes, the Dominican Republic and Mexico are less expensive to travel to. However, Jamaica was the better option for us traveling with kids. The water in Jamaica is safe to drink. The water in the Dominican Republic & Mexico is not safe to drink. The locals in Jamaica speak english very well. The Dominican Republic & Mexico do not speak english. Another bonus is Jamaica accepts US currency. Overall we felt Jamaica was a much safer option and worth the extra money.
The resort has 2 gift shops on site. Souvenirs inside the gift shops are priced as you would expect but perishable items are very expensive. To give you an idea, a can of Pringles inside the gift shop was $5 USD. A bottle of sunscreen is $35 USD, don't be skimpy, pack way more sunscreen than you think you will need. The Jamaican sun is fierce. Our family of 4 over 8 days went through, 1 face stick, 2 sunscreen spray bottles, & 2 large bottles of No-AD lotion.
The resort has multiple restaurants on site, caters to all palates, and those with allergies. You won't go hungry. Everything is included, no need for reservations at any restaurant except for the Jade. I recommend making your reservation for Jade as soon as you arrive. It does fill up quick. I tend to be a food snob, I can't say the food is outstanding, but it is not bad by any means. Basically I didn't come home craving anything I ate on vacation because it was THAT GOOD. Remember, food snob here. Dress code is very casual at this resort, no need for formal wear at dinner. Polos, shorts, sundresses, sandals, etc. were allowed. They even allowed t-shirts. No sleeveless tanks for men, and no swimsuits with a wrap for women.
Jade Samurai - teppanyaki-style dining and table-side entertainment.
Golden Saber Sushi (located inside Jade)- Sushi
Moonstone - Italian dining
Court Jesters - fire oven pizzas - they are amazing!!!
Platinum - The only restaurant located inside with air conditioning. Caribbean cuisine with a Jamaican flair
Coral Cafe Buffet - This is the only restaurant that serves breakfast. It is also open for lunch and dinner, buffet style with several options available.
Jerk Hut - Jerk Chicken, Jerk Pork, Corn on the Cob, Rice & Pease and Festival
Grill - made-to-order sandwiches, burgers, wraps, and fries
Blue Bayou Grill (Waterpark) - wings, sliders, salty dogs, wraps, nachos, and quesadillas
Coffee shop - located next to the lobby bar. it serves coffee, tea, bakery snacks, and little sandwiches.
This is an all inclusive resort, drink up, don't be afraid to try new things. Most drinks can be made without alcohol as well. Kids LOVE being able to go to the bar and order a daiquiri, pina colada, miami vice, or a surprise drink. The bar tends to be their favorite part of the trip. I am not a mixed drink person but when I visit here, I drink all the drinks... haha! I will even tell them a flavor I want to try and they will whip up some deliciousness. Another good tip, take your favorite yeti mug, or even better your McCaffry Photography mug. The bartenders will fill these up for you. Also take a reusable straw. Jamaica has banned the use of disposable straws in their country.
Duval and Marcus in the lobby are the best! There is another bartender at the swim-up bar who we found at the end of our last trip who was amazing, sadly I didn't get his name. The resort has 4 bars total. One in the waterpark, the infinity pool swim-up bar, one next to the buffet, and the lobby bar. Remember this resort is small. You are never more than a few feet away from a bar at anytime during your stay.
This beach is a natural beach, not manmade. It is GORGEOUS!!! Crystal clear, warm water, waist deep all the way to the ropes. The beach is surrounded by beautiful reefs, full of life. A portion of the reef actually sits inside the beach ropes. No need for water shoes. The sand is soft, no rocks, just be mindful of the coral. However, I recommend wearing them at all times to avoid hookworm, or stepping on a sea urchin. The beach at this resort is the selling point, one of the most beautiful beaches I have seen.
Cabanas are available to rent, they run $50 a day. Your cabana rental comes with a personal server. The server will bring you drinks from the bar, and food from 10a-4p. We did splurge and rent a cabana on the beach for 3 days, well worth it. The convenience of having someone bring you lunch, drinks, and snacks for the kids was great. Not to mention the pampering was nice for a couple of days. Cabanas are also located at the pools & waterpark.
The ability to snorkel right on the beach without leaving the resort is a huge bonus. Take a snorkel with you, trust me when I say you don't want to miss this part of the trip. A large reef is located right by the beach ropes, we saw several species of fish. A small tip, grab a banana from breakfast and take it with you, the fish will eat it right out of your hands. Do NOT feed them bread!!!! All of these pictures were captured at the reef right near the beach ropes.
3 pools & 2 hot tubs on property. The infinity pool has the swim-up bar and hosts all the activities. The foam party is a blast, don't miss it! The smaller pools are the plunge pools. They are private pools attached to the rooms. Not every room has a plunge pool, they are provided with certain room categories. They do allow floats in the pools and on the beach. Bring one from home and the life guards near the water-sports will inflate it for you.
Beach towels are provided. You get towel cards when you arrive, one towel card per person. You exchange the cards for your beach towels near the waterpark entrance. You also exchange your dirty towels here daily for clean ones. At the end of the your trip, turn the towels back in for cards that you give to the front desk at checkout. Don't lose the cards, they will cost you $25 each for lost cards or lost towels.
The waterpark is attached to the resort and free to Jewel guests. It is also open to the public. Occasionally cruise ships will be bused in with day passes causing it to get crowded. It has a great lazy river, 2 large slides, and a couple areas for smaller children to play. The waterpark also has a fully stocked bar, restaurant, popcorn, and snow cones. Tubes are provided for you but you may bring your own from home if you choose. They will inflate them for you.
Activities & Nightly Entertainment
After 2 trips here we never made it to everything they offer, always something to do for all ages. I took some pictures of the daily entertainment schedules and included them below.
Pools, Waterpark, Beach, & Snorkeling - The foam party is a blast, don't miss it!
Land Sports - basketball, tennis, and beach volleyball
Water Sports - Kayaking, Hobbie Cat Rides, Beach & Pool Volleyball, Sailing, Windsurfing
Scuba diving - This is an additional fee. You can take lessons to dive just while visiting at the resort or you can choose to become PADI certified during your visit. The PADI certification will allow you to dive anywhere in the world.
Kids & Teen Camp (nanny service available as well) - They will keep the kids busy from sun up to sun down if they choose to participate. You won't have to worry about them at all, the staff here is amazing. They will become life long friends. Our kids were too shy to participate, I can't give any personal feedback on this.
Red Ruby Ranch - Kids, tweens and teens night laser tag, Beach Olympics, Glass bottom boat rides , Cooking classes, Horticulture classes, Horse grooming lessons, Mommy and Me spa day, Mother/son and Father/daughter dances, Make-over day- inclusive of costume make-up, and nail art for your little princesses and costume face painting and washable tattoos for the boys, Kids disco party, Hay rides, Beach Bon fires, Dive-in movies
Radiant Spa - This is an additional fee. Splurge and get a massage, you won't regret it!
Arts & Crafts on the beach with Clive - This is a treat for everyone, adults can paint too. Clive is very entertaining to talk to and great with the kids.
Tie Dye T-shirts - make sure to take plain white t-shirts with you. They do tie-dye one day a week, both children and adults can participate.
Vendors - They do bring in outside local vendors to sell souvenirs. They do not hassle you unless you approach them. Feel free to browse but be prepared to be stern with a friendly NO if you are not looking to buy. They have vendors daily at the arts and crafts booth on the beach. They bring in more vendors for the beach party that they hold one night a week. We found the vendors at the beach party to be extra pushy.
Nightly Entertainment - It changes each night of the week. They have a Michael Jackson show, talent show, circus show, beach party, The Silver Birds steel drum band (which is amazing), and so much more!
I saved this for last. Like I said the resort is dated and needs a major update. Don't let that stop you from visiting. The rooms are CLEAN and the beds are comfortable. The maids here go above and beyond, tip them well. I never take pictures of the room and I only have a few. The ones I took are terrible and don't do them justice. We booked what is called the oceanfront junior suite with plunge pool and concierge service. We splurged to have access to the beach within feet of our room. This room comes with a king size bed and pull out sofa. They rolled in another twin bed so each child could have their own bed.
Our last visit we encountered some mildew on the ceiling above the toilet. You could tell they were in the process of fixing it but it was not completed prior to placing us in the room. We didn't complain, you could tell they were working on it. I still found it to be embarrassing for the resort to have placed someone in the room prior to completing the work. Anyways.... all rooms come with a refrigerator that they keep stocked with beverages. Bottled water, coke, sprite, juice, beer, & wine. You also have a safe to keep important personal belongings. Along with the usual items such as a TV, ironing board, iron, hair dryer, etc. All outlets in the room are the same as the US no need for an adaptor of any kind.
More Travel Tips:
- Tips - When to tip and how much? First make sure you bring lots of small bills with you. Nobody will be able to make change for you. We usually take $200 in ones and $200 in fives, we are a family of 4 and never spend it all. Drivers - $10-$20 at arrival & $10-$20 at departure. Luggage handlers - $2-$5. Bartenders - $1-$2 when you order drinks at the bar. We also give our favorite bartenders a large tip at the end of our trip. Maids - minimum $5 a day. Breakfast buffet - $3-$5. Dinners - minimum $5. Cabana servers - we tipped $20 for the entire day. Massage Therapists - $10-$15 for an hour.
- What is Club MoBay and do I need it? No, you don't NEED it. I highly suggest it, I wouldn't travel to Jamaica without it. It is literally a VIP service at the airport for arrival and departure. It is a private escort and fast track through customs. It also comes with free drinks and food. Yes, alcohol is included with this. It is an additional cost but we find it to be well worth it.
- What about cell phone service? We have AT&T, they offer an international plan that is $10 a day. Call your carrier and let them know you will be traveling out of the country. They will be able to inform you of your options. To avoid fees we set our phones to airplane mode prior to getting on the airplane and never taking it off until we returned to the US. We would access WiFi at the resort and use facebook and text to communicate. We did use our international plan one time both trips combined. That was due to my husband breaking his foot, leg, and ankle, on an excursion. Yes, this really happened. If you want to know about Jamaica's healthcare and hospital I know all about that as well... haha!
- WiFi is available at the resort but it is very iffy. It would only work in certain locations.
- Things to pack that you might not think of:
- passports & travel documents
- snorkel mask. We love the full face ones, they can be bought on amazon.
- plain white t-shirts if you want to do the tie-dye day.
- water shoes
- lots and lots of sunscreen. I cannot stress this enough. And aloe!
- bug spray with deet - you are in a tropical environment, better safe than sorry.
- Yeti mugs or your McCaffry Photography Mugs with reusable straws.
- pool float if you wish to use it in the pools or ocean.
- a beach bag is handy to have for transporting stuff to and from daily.
- GoPro or underwater camera
- medications - i use a plastic tackle-box to put these in. Makes traveling with them easier.
- we always pack a football for the kids to throw at the beach, along with beach toys.
- ziplock bags come in handy
- closed toed shoes if the kids want to play laser tag
- we also take a deck of cards & Uno.
- take 2 swimsuits - it is hot and humid, our suits would take 2 days to fully dry hanging outside. By taking 2 we never had to put on a wet swimsuit.