Our Winter Escape to Jamaica
It’s the middle of winter back in Chicago, and here we are: sipping on frozen drinks, cooling our bodies off in an infinity pool, and gazing off into the Caribbean Sea. We were looking for paradise, and we sure found it.
For my birthday back in August, my boyfriend gave me a special gift that was so thoughtful and generous; he made me a fake plane ticket which said it was good for a vacation of my choice (I know, it’s adorable!). We travel a lot together—which is something I absolutely love—and I was so grateful that he gave me something he knew I’d truly appreciate.
And that brings me to our vacation destination itself: Jamaica.
Over the past couple weeks, I have been posting pictures from vacation with my boyfriend and I have gotten so many comments and messages from friends and followers telling me that they are planning on going to Jamaica and want recommendations on where to stay, what to do, and just want to know how my experience was overall. After sharing some insight with them, I decided that I needed to share this whole experience with all of you in hopes that you too will have some of your questions answered and you can finally book your trip to the stunning beautiful, and incredibly enjoyable, Jamaica.
Montego Bay, Jamaica
My boyfriend and I took our most recent trip to Jamaica to enjoy 8 days of much-needed vacation and escape from the cold weather for a bit. To be completely honest, in true Millennial fashion, when looking for a destination, we typed into Google, “warm weather destinations in December,” and Jamaica was a top hit.
From what I’ve researched, there are six main resort areas in Jamaica: Montego Bay, Ocho Rios, Negril, Port Antonio, Kingston, and South Coast. Each one is known for having a specific vibe. For example, South Coast is known for being more naturalistic and luxurious because of its mineral baths.
Montego Bay is known for being the “number-one” destination in Jamaica. It’s filled with welcoming sunshine, pearly white beaches, and absolute leisure—which is exactly what we were hoping for. Montego Bay is one of those places where you definitely can make it a party if you want to. It is a very tourism-heavy part of Jamaica, so if you’re looking for something a bit more rural, I’d consider exploring other parts of the island as well.
Typically on vacations, my boyfriend and I explore and go on excursions often, but for this trip, we mainly stayed on the resort property. I’ll get into which incredibly excursion we did take later on in this post, so stay with me for a bit.
We stayed at the Grand Palladium Lady Hamilton Resort & Spa in Montego Bay, Jamaica. Keep in mind that the resort is roughly an hour away from the Montego Bay airport. We recommend booking your transportation through the hotel (roundtrip) to get the best rate. Don’t forget to bring tipping money with you. Although this is an all-inclusive resort, it is important to remember that Jamaica is very tourism-heavy and in the hospitality industry, tips are likely a central means of living for many employees.
Grand Palladium Lady Hamilton Resort & Spa
Before we get into the resort itself, I just want to talk about something first. When looking up the resort, you’ll see it listed as both Grand Palladium Resort & Spa and Grand Palladium Lady Hamilton Resort & Spa. Please don’t get confused by this and think one side is better than the other. When it all comes down to it, it’s basically the same resort. They share the same pools, restaurants, beaches, amenities, etc. The only different I noticed while there was that there are two different lobbies, but they look like mirror images of each other. I know that we stayed on the Lady Hamilton side because of the booking itinerary.
For sake of this post—and to know for myself—I decided to ask what the difference between the two resorts are. A hotel representative kindly told me that the Lady Hamilton is more recently renovated, therefore the rooms are decorated and set up more modernly.
The resort itself is absolutely breath-taking. The lobby and main layout of the resort is adorned with white marble floors, gorgeous columns, tons of greenery, and regal light fixtures. It’s open and airy, which is something I love from design aspect.
The Grand Palladium is an all-inclusive resort filled with three buffet-style restaurants, seven a la carte service restaurants, 13 bars, five pools, in-room minibars (restocked daily), and tons of activities—I’ll get to some of my favorites later on in the post!
When it comes to the rooms, I couldn’t help but pick up on the Versace-inspired decor as soon as we walked through the doorway. Everything was white, black, gold, and featured dark wood. The patterns on the throw pillows and bedding screamed Italian-meets-contemporary. The bathrooms were gorgeous and had nice, bright lighting—a detail I always hope for on vacation.
We started off in a Junior Suite—perfect for the two of us! We had everything we needed, a king-size bed, air condition, a beautiful view of the sea, shower and hydromassage bathtub, wifi, a hairdryer, balcony/terrace, etc. We absolutely loved our room and definitely made it our home throughout our stay.
There was a “resort credit” book that we received—which included a credit for a room upgrade. Honestly, we weren't huge fans of the resort credit book we received; a lot of the credits in the book had many restrictions and majority of the time, didn't make sense financially to use them. However on our last day there, we decided to use the room upgrade credit.
We upgraded to the Suite which is a bit bigger than the Junior Suite. The main difference we noted was that our new room featured two balconies and a separate living room. We thought that this type of room would be perfect for a family with 1-2 kids due to the living room and bedroom being separate, allowing for more space and privacy.
Overall, we were very satisfied with our rooms! Both buildings we stayed in were close to where all of the restaurants, activities, spa, pools, etc. are, but distant enough from any noises or loud crowds, which was ideal for us location wise.
If you’re familiar with any of my previous travel posts, you know that we are all about exploring and activities. This trip, we kept things relaxing, but did manage to sneak in a few activities.
At the resort, we learned that activities such as yoga, pilates, volleyball, tennis, mini golf, archery, and so many more!
While we were playing a fun round of pool basketball one afternoon, we saw some of the instructors putting these large paddle boards in the water. As it turns out, they were setting up for paddle board yoga—so we jumped right in! This was one of my favorite activities that we did at the resort! After we finished, we noticed a foam party starting in the pool as well, which was a ton of fun!
I want to say that our favorite activities at the resort had to be the paddle board yoga, archery, giant chess, and beach volleyball.
One very exciting surprise we encountered on the trip was the amount of feral cats and kittens on the resort’s property. Obviously, it’s not advertised, but for someone who loves cats (like myself), this will be something that will make you that much happier on your trip. They’re honestly adorable, so keep your eyes open for them!
As I mentioned earlier, there are a ton of food options at the resort. For breakfast everyday, we headed to one of the buffets. Each buffet restaurant was very similar to one another and had a wide variety of options. You could get anything from fresh juices to jerk chicken. The options reminded me more of a brunch menu, so if you’re not really into breakfast foods (pancakes, crepes, fresh fruits, etc.), there are still many options to choose form.
When it came time for lunch, we headed to one of the other buffets as well. Our favorite lunch buffet was called the Blue Lagoon; it overlooked the main pool and had a gorgeous view of the sea. It had typical selections for lunch such as a salad station, burgers (veggie ones too!), pizza, chicken, seafood, rices, and desserts.
Since we were at the resort for 8 days, we decided to try all of the a la carte restaurants.
Chez Bubba (the steakhouse) was my boyfriend’s absolute favorite. He kept saying how impressed he was with the quality, cut, and taste of the meat. He told me that it was the kind of steak he’d expect at a downtown steakhouse in Chicago.
For me, I really loved Bhogali (Indian cuisine). Being a vegetarian, it’s difficult for me to find dishes that I really enjoy while traveling, but this restaurant was absolutely amazing! We went here twice and both were incredibly impressed with the dishes!
The other two that I would place in my top three are Arte E Cuccina (Italian cuisine) and Xaymaica (Jamaican cuisine).
Here are all the restaurants we tried:
El Agave (Mexican cuisine)
Xaymaica (Jamaican cuisine)
Poseidon (Mediterranean cuisine - mainly seafood)
Arte E Cuccina (Italian cuisine)
Bhogali (Indian cuisine)
Lotus House (Asian cuisine - hibachi reservations available)
Chez Bubba (steakhouse)
In addition to the buffets, restaurants, and huts, room service is also available. We didn’t order room service, but just know that it is available should you want/need it.
Bars & Beverages
After breakfast and after dinner, we visited Miss Lou, which is a coffeshop/bar on the second floor (right above the Blue Lagoon). We came here twice everyday for coffee/lattes and to look out at the gorgeous view of the sea and resort. This was something we both really enjoyed doing.
The bars pretty much had the same type of drinks at each one—perfect for if you want to keep drinking your same drink all day—and the bartenders were very quick! Most of the bars had frozen drinks ready-to-go which was very convenient (and delicious)! Since they have the frozen drinks in a machine, you get to add whatever type of liquor you want. Since I’m not much of a rum drinker, typically I chose a vodka, but sometimes I went for a cordial such as Peach (it’s so sweet and smooth with the strawberry daiquiri).
There is a hut that opens that is on the beach near the kids’ pool, I believe, that serves fresh coconut drinks. They literally give you a fresh coconut that you can drink out of (with or without rum added). It was the ultimate island drink that I decided I needed to have the day before we left. I recommend getting there early (around 10:30 or 11 in the morning), because they do run out. However, we were able to get one and it was delicious! I can’t remember the name of the hut, but you can ask anyone that works there and they will tell you exactly where it is!
One hidden spot we found was the Sports Bar. It’s open 22 hours a day and is the typical “late night” spot. There are tons of televisions with sports games on, in addition to bar games available to play like ping pong and pool. You’ll also find drinks and snacks here too!
Near Miss Lou’s we always found live music being performed at night. We typically watched while we drank our night coffees after dinner before going to the show downstairs.
Every night, the resort has these incredible shows that they put on. They had a Michael Jackson tribute show, a “decades” show filled with songs from various decades, and even performers such as acrobats, jugglers, and fire dancers. Each show varies each night, and they’re all a lot of fun to watch!
After the show ends, the audience is usually invited to go up near Miss Lou’s again to enjoy an after party—whether it’s a live band, signers, or a DJ. There’s always something to do!
Spa & Wellness
One of my favorite things we did on our trip was visit Zentropia, the spa and wellness center. At the spa, we decided to get a couples massage; I decided to get a Swedish massage and my boyfriend got a deep tissue massage. It was nice because although they were different types of massages, we were still able to share the same room like a typical couples massage.
When you get a spa service you also get access to the spa’s hydrotherapy area. This area ended up being our favorite spot. We came back on our last full day at the resort to go to the spa’s hydrotherapy area. There were several pools, showers, and jacuzzis; in addition to a sauna, steam room, and stone walk.
Even if you’re not interested in getting a spa treatment, I highly recommend getting a day pass to the hydrotherapy area. It’s so relaxing and it’s something you could even enjoy if it’s raining/overcast. The hydrotherapy area is an indoor/outdoor area; when you get in one of the pools, you can actually swim to the outdoor entrance of Zentropia.
On our third or forth day at the resort, we decided to book an excursion. We were able to book it at the resort, so we walked into the travel agent’s office and booked a trip to see the Luminous Lagoon.
The Luminous Lagoon excursion is one that you take a night. You are picked up at the hotel and brought to a dock where you get on a boat and tour the lagoon. If you plan on swimming in the lagoon, you are encouraged to bring your swimsuit and a change of clothes. The Luminous Lagoon is filled of “bioluminescent” microorganisms that light up when they’re disturbed/touched. Basically, when you swim in this lagoon at night, it lights up temporarily. It’s the most magical thing, and in my opinion, it’s something you absolutely have to do in Jamaica!
Montego Bay, Jamaica is truly such a dreamy spot filled with the kindest people. It’s complete relaxation spiced with the perfect amount of excitement and adventure. I’ve met people who go to Jamaica every year for vacation, and at first, I didn’t understand why someone would want to go to the same spot year after year while there’s a whole world to be explored, but now I get it: it’s an escape to paradise; and sometimes, you need it.
We had the best time in Montego Bay and I would definitely recommend that everyone visits at least once in their lives. We had a great experience at the Grand Palladium Lady Hamilton Resort & Spa and it’s truly a place for everyone. It’s family-friendly, but still has activities and accommodations that even honeymooning couples can enjoy.
There are plenty of places in the world I’d like to explore, like Greece, Italy, Australia, and a ton more, but I know I’ll definitely be making my way back to Jamaica again.
As always, if you have any questions or need some recommendations, please let me know. I’m always happy to share my experiences, give my advice, and hear about your travels. Feel free to shoot me a message on Instagram, or email me! I try to respond to all messages/emails as quickly as possible.
Thank you all so much for reading! Please make sure to keep up with future posts and to share this with any friends/family that may be traveling soon!
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