We were looking for a warm, relaxing winter get-away for my birthday, and Jamaica fit the bill. I got a fabulous deal on Cheaptickets.com for airfare and accommodations at an all inclusive resort on the North Coast.
The Starfish Trelawney isn't in one of the famous (and crowded) locations like MoBay, Ocho Rios, or Negril, but I think this fact turned out to be the reason I really liked Jamaica. We were tucked away on the northern coast, with a 3 mile white sand beach.
The only other hotel in the area is the FDR Pebbles, but it was closed for renovations. So it felt like we had the whole area to ourselves, especially when we lounged around on t he man-made private island.
The Starfish is about 2 miles west of Falmouth, and the only thing really walking distance is the bamboo village where locals peddle their goods. The locals aren't allowed to harass the guests on the beach, which was a definite perk and the one aspect of Jamaica we had beend dreading.
The uncrowded beach has beautiful white sand, and it was nice and soft walking out into the water. We talked to a bunch of guests who had stayed at a number of other resorts across the island, and liked Trelawney Starfish best. After our visit, I can see why.
The rooms weren't luxurious, but clean, and a great value for the money. The food was average, but at least there were a few good things at most meals (e.g., omelet station at breakfast, jerk chicken, sandwich and pasta stations at lunch.) Dinner at the Casablanca had a great atmosphere with wonderful white tux service, complete with a player piano. The food was better than the buffet...not superb, but not bad.
For the most part, the service at the Starfish was great, and the entertainment staff made it a fun and enjoyable place to be. The evening entertainment was a little hit or miss, but it was probably because the resort wasn't full, so it was hard to get critical mass at the evening dance party at the on site club (Bubbles). The concert by A.J. Brown on Wednesday night was probably the highlight - he has a great voice and the house band provided good back up. The piano bar on Tuesday night and the circus show on Friday night were also pretty good. The beach party on Tuesday night and Karaoke night on Thursday left a little to be desired, however.
We wanted to primarily relax on our 4 night vacation, but we also wanted to "get off the reservation" and see a little more of Jamaica. There was no public transportation that we could find, and we couldn't get ahold or bicycles anywhere, either. So we ended up hiring a taxi driver, Robert, to take us around. We were able to bargain on prices with him, since we walked to the end of the resort and found him outside the gate.
On Wednesday night, we took a boat ride and evening swim on the Luminous Lagoon, where the water glows when you agitate it because of the dinoflagellite in the water. Our guide told us it had something to do with the warm water and the mix of fresh water from the Martha Brae river and the salty ocean water.
On Thursday, we took a relaxing bamboo rafting on the Martha Brae river, where our guide Sewell pointed out the local flora and fauna. He was also pretty talented, and used a single knife to carve interesting patterns out of the local plants.
We also did a self-guided walking tour of the decaying Georgian town of Falmouth. You could tell that the buildings were once nice, but they hadn't been maintained over the last 150 years and were in various states of preservation. Although it felt like a third world country with goats wandering the streets and sipping water from the toppled gravestones in the church cemetery, it didn't feel the least bit unsafe, which was a pleasant surprise.
Most of the time we spent enjoying the many amenities at the hotel, such as waterslides, sailing, lounging on the hammocks, climbing the rock wall, sea kayaking, and, of course, swimming. My favorite activity, though, were the morning trapeze lessons, where Gregory and the rest of the circus crew taught us to swing by our knees, flip, and do the splits.
Would I go back to Jamaica? Surprisingly, yes!