When I told people that I was staying in Ocho Rios for a few nights during my trip to Jamaica, most were already somewhat familiar with the city. It is a popular stop for many Caribbean cruises, so a lot of people tend to roam the town for a day and then leave at night. That’s too bad for them, because there is so much more to Ocho Rios than being a cruise stop. Ochi, as it’s called, has a distinctive culture and character all its own and is just 2 to 2.5 hours away from the airport in Montego Bay. I spent an amazing 4 nights there and now I’ve got the low down on everything you should do during your own visit.
WHERE TO STAY:
If you want a unique, exclusive experience, then there’s only 1 place to stay: the Jamaica Inn. We wanted to avoid large, generic all-inclusives, so the Jamaica Inn was perfect. It is a hotel that is steeped in history, with past guests like the glamorous icon Marilyn Monroe, and even British dignitaries (including Winston Churchill). It’s absolutely amazing that they saw the same, virtually unchanged, beautiful view that you see above of a lush lawn and gorgeous sandy beach. There are employees here that have worked at the Jamaica Inn for over 40 years, and guests know them by name. It’s truly a classic, romantic destination. (more…)
After a 30 minute flight from Naxos, we checked into the Herodion Hotel, which I chose because of its ideal location, comfortable accommodations, and beautiful roof deck. The fifth floor of the hotel offers a spectacular view of the Parthenon, along with sweeping views of the city itself. There were many chairs and ample shade, so one could go and enjoy the scenery at any time of day in comfort.
While we were only in Athens for a day and a half, I think we saw more sites and covered more ground then most people could do in at least double our time. I literally mapped our most logical route through the city, marking museums, sites, boutiques, and restaurants which could not be missed.
Even though we arrived to our hotel in the late afternoon, we were determined to visit the Acropolis before sunset. Late afternoon happens to be an idea time to visit the Acropolis, as the heat isn’t as extreme and the light is some of the best for photography. Embarrassingly, we rode the Happy Train and briefly toured the Plaka before disembarking at the Acropolis stop. While the Acropolis itself is a collection of structures dating back to the 432BC, the monument is best known for the Parthenon, built by Pericles in the fifth century BC. The Acropolis was one of the most beautiful sites I had ever seen, and it was surreal knowing that I was standing in history dating back thousands of years. Unfortunately, age and pollution have taken a tole on the Acropolis, and many parts of the sites have been replaces with replica casts. However, one can view many of the original pieces at the new Acropolis Museum, which we JUST missed the opening of! Disappointing to say the least, but I guess we’ll just have to go back! (more…)
After a fabulous five days in Santorini, it was time for us to proceed to our next Greek island, Naxos. Naxos is the largest island in the Cyclades, and I chose it because of its unique history, picturesque beaches, and withstanding tradition and culture.
After a two hour ferry ride from Santorini, we arrived in Naxos at a not-to-be-named hotel, where our one and only trip failure took place. We realized that due to a variety of reasons, we could not stay there and thankfully quickly found different accommodations at the Nissaki Beach Hotel, a beautiful boutique and family run place located on St. George Beach, an inlet about a five minute walk from Hora (downtown Naxos). Nissaki Beach Hotel was easily one of the nicest hotels I’ve stayed at; the decor, location, service, AMAZING breakfast buffet, and even their hydro-massage shower made our stay absolutely fabulous. (more…)
For the past 24 years, I have been dreaming of a Greek Isle vacation. School, work, money, and life in general had always gotten in the way of traveling the highly sought-after destination, but my mom (and traditional travel companion) and I finally decided that May 2009 would be the perfect time for us to take our dream trip. After much research, message boarding, and TripAdvising, I decided on a two-week Greek holiday in Santorini, Naxos, and Athens!
The beginning our our trip was spent in Oia, Santorini, a picturesque seaside village located high above the Adriatic Sea. The typical pictures used to showcase “Greece” are typically ones of Oia’s caldera view. Itis undoubtedly the most beautiful and sought-after area of Santorini to vacation. Fira, the cruise ship port which also offers many accommodation, is unfortunately overrun with motorbike and ATV rental shops, not to mention the thousands of tourists who flood the sidewalks nearly every day during the high season. While Fira is still a beautiful destination, Oia is indeed quainter, quieter, and undoubtedly more picturesque. We unpacked at Alexander’s Boutique Hotel, located slightly outside the downtown, and were blown away by our (highly upgraded) accommodation and service from the general manager, Vicki. She was an integral help throughout our entire trip and provided us with THE best restaurant and excursion recommendations which we share below. (more…)
In May’s Lust List, I wrote about Goldeneye, an exclusive resort in Oracabessa, Jamaica. I saw it featured on the Travel Channel show Bridget’s Sexiest Beaches and had lusted for a visit ever since. A few weeks ago during my vacation in Jamaica, I had the chance to stop in for lunch and a tour of the property — and it was everything I expected and more. I shouldn’t have been surprised though, as Goldeneye is another member of the Island Outpost group of hotels. Started by Island Records founder Chris Blackwell, Island Outpost has some of the most exclusive resorts in the Caribbean (the Caves is one as well).
Given that it was James Bond author Ian Fleming‘s home, the property does have a certain element of mystery. It’s a long stretch of uninterrupted nature right on the water, with trees and beaches as far as my eyes could see. With only 4 villas and a main dining area, it can be as private or social as you’d like. Goldeneye owns several jet skis and a glass-bottom boat for guests to venture with. There are even secluded beaches that can only be reached by water! As for the cuisine there, my lunch was amazingly delicious Jamaican food, including curry goat (which my boyfriend deemed the best we ever had in Jamaica) and jerk chicken. But the jewel of the property is definitely the Fleming Villa, the author’s personal residence. With multiple bedrooms and a private cove beach, it would make for an unforgettable experience with your friends or loved ones.
So now I’ve got some good news and bad news for you. The bad news is that Goldeneye will be closing soon. The good news? It’s closing to develop some of the surrounding acres of the property and building more villas for guests. Keep up with the development schedule at goldeneyedevelopment.com as when it reopens, it’s definitely the place you’ll want to see and be seen in the Caribbean. For some of the photos I took during my sadly too brief visit, keep reading on… (I’m particularly fond of my food pictures, as it makes me really miss Jamaican food!) (more…)
My newest obsession is more of a luxurious paradise — the Caves resort in Negril, Jamaica, located in the West End, and known for its limestone cliffs and the caves that lay beneath them. When I was planning my vacation to Jamaica months ago, this was the only place I wanted to stay in Negril. I was traveling with my boyfriend and looking for somewhere private, romantic, and breathtaking. The Caves is all of this and more, and much of it is also due to the spectacular level of service. It’s a small property with only 11 cliff-side cottages, and it has an air of exclusivity without any pretentiousness at all. The hotel employees are friendly, kind, and always helpful. We were welcomed with a Cliffhanger, their signature drink made with fresh watermelon juice, a touch of ginger, and Blackwell rum. I felt right at home.
We stayed in the Blue Dolphin, a first floor, one bedroom cottage. Each cottage has its own distinct character and feel, and the interiors are uniquely decorated with lovely, almost rustic, island colors. I really began to feel like Blue Dolphin was our cozy home away from home. The Caves is an all-inclusive property, so our cottage was stocked with fine liquors and snacks. Much of them were left untouched though, because we ate delicious, authentic Jamaican meals every day. Say goodbye to the yucky buffet foods at most all-inclusives — the Caves cooks to order, and will even make specific meals to your taste. This was never even an issue for us, as we enjoyed every meal on the menu. The dining areas have amazing views, and we even had dinner inside a secluded, candlelit cave. Hearing the waves crash against the rocks and sitting by dozens of candles and flowers was like something out of a dream. There are 2 private caves available for dining, and you can only reserve them once you have checked in. It’s definitely a must-do! (more…)
Mexico is just can’t catch a break these days. Acapulco has been on my radar to visit since I was like 12 and learned that it was the most glamorous holiday spot for all the Hollywood starlets back in the 1950s. Even the Kennedys honeymooned there.
It’s obvious that the city is trying to bring back its once legendary status. I’ve been seeing features pop up in numerous travel magazines and learned that just last week, they newly formed an Acapulco Destination Marketing Office to raise awareness for potential travelers. Despite worries about safety in Mexico, I put the city on my shortlist of places to visit. Plus, the travel gurus over at The Jet Set Girls assured us that it was safe.
But now, I’m worried enough about this swine flu situation in New York City- never mind have any desire to head to the source of the troubles. Then news just broke a couple hours ago that Acapulco was rocked by a 6.0 earthquake. Pretty quickly, the city went from my A list to..not.
Mexico certainly has a slight PR crisis on its hands right now. What do you think? Would you travel there? Have you been recently and have any recommendations? I’ll be honest- Acapulco has fallen off my list for 2009, but hopefully next year will be better for them!
Apparently anticipating the influx of travelers to the gem of an island, both JetBlue (Oct 09) and Air Jamaica (summer 09) announced new flight routes from JFK to Bridgetown today. Rihanna is back there this week and has brought gal pal Katy Perry with her, setting off every gossip rag trying to figure out if they’re new BFFs. And according to her twitter, New York’s favorite Voguette/fashionista/socialite Lauren Santo Domingo is also on the island and with a bag full of S/S Proenza Schouler. We’re sure she’ll be the most stylish on the beach.
Just in case they’re reading TDO, here’s our recommendations below: (more…)
The recession’s got you planning a staycation? Sure a trip to St. Barth may have to move down a few notches on your 2009 to-do list but that doesn’t mean you have to kiss travel good bye this year. Consider Asia, where the combination of the exchange rate, a heavy dependence on tourism and the weak economy means you can do five star luxury travel for shockingly cheap.
I just got back from a whirlwind week in China, and TDO editor Kathleen is currently spending time in Taiwan. We figured that if we are to do Asia right, then we can’t miss one of the most iconic Asian hotel and resort brands: The Shangri-La. Simply saying the name evokes decadence, as it is derived from the fictional location set in the 1933 novel Lost Horizon and has since become synonymous with paradise on earth. The Shangri-La Hotel and Resorts certainly deliver on this mythical ideal with some of the most luxurious properties in the world. But what I found to be a true shocker is when I went to look at rates, expecting something astronomical in the $500+/night range and came up with prices for under $150. (more…)