Our love affair with Jamaica shows no signs of letting up. With plenty of flights from Montreal and beaucoup de sunny packages offered by Air Canada Vacations, Sunwing and WestJet, Jamaica is on a roll.
“Canada is very important to us as Jamaica’s second largest market,” said Hon. Edmund Bartlett, tourism minister. “We welcomed 405,173 Canadians last year and projections are for 450,000 visitors by the end of this year.”
Hitting the bullseye with the holy trinity of sun, sand and surf, the island is also red hot with rum, reggae and ritzy resorts.
“Jamaica has always been a go-to destination for Canadians,” said Nino Montagnese, managing director, Air Canada Vacations. “Whether you’re visiting Ocho Rios, Montego Bay or Negril, you’ll encounter a unique charm with many truly authentic experiences that make travellers want to return year after year.” — www.visitjamaica.com
New on the northwest coast, Jewel Grande Montego Bay is already making a splash with vacationers looking for beachfront fun in the sun. Fifteen minutes from the Sangster International Airport, the all-inclusive all-suite all-butler resort sits pretty on a cove between the hills and Caribbean Sea. A boatload of perks includes airport transfers, spa, 12 restaurants and bars, 217 suites in three seaside towers… oh, and did we mention butlers?
Foodies have plenty to choose from like Orchids (we recommend the banana bread for breakfast), Mediterranean-inspired menu at Waves and Le Bouchon for steak and frites. For families, there’s a Kids Club, Teen Lounge and water sports. “Jewel Grande Montego Bay takes it to the next level with butler service, large rooms and pool and beach concierges,” adds Montagnese of Air Canada Vacations.
Inspired by island remedies, Grande Spa is, indeed, grand with the only sand massage table in Jamaica and the Caribbean’s first and only Himalayan Salt Therapy Lounge. “We are very proud of this unique room that is illuminated with carved salt blocks that act as natural relaxers,” said Sienna Creasy, spa director.
Stay awhile at the Ortanique Café & Juice Bar for a Beet of the Heart smoothie made healthy with ginger and apples, soothing cuppa herbal tea and make it a day in the steam room and mineral pool. For the active crowd, there’s golf at the nearby White Witch and Cinnamon Hill and day trips to Dolphin Cove and Dunn’s River Falls. If a wedding is in the cards, go beyond the beach and head up, up and away to Mystic Mountain where the ‘I Do at 700 Feet’ takes the cake as the most creative wedding on the island. For history buffs, Great House at Rose Hall is the island’s most haunted attraction with spooky tours day and night. www.jewelgrande.com
Jewish Jamaica: Who knew?
As the song goes, there may be a cheeseburger or two in paradise but in Jamaica, jerk is the real deal. Yes, you’ll find spicy jerk island-wide, but you’ll only enjoy kosher jerk at the Kosher Hot Spot on the Hip Strip in Montego Bay.
“We are here for every occasion — from bar mitzvahs and weddings to serving kosher food in our new restaurant,” smiles Rabbi Yaakov Raskin, who was born and raised in Montreal and moved to Jamaica in 2014 with his wife Mushkee. “I am the only Rabbi on the island which is a responsibility I take seriously — not only for the Jews living in Jamaica but also for the 200,000 Jewish tourists that visit each year.”
In addition to conducting prayer services, Rabbi Raskin also officiates at weddings, offers tours of the Jewish heritage museum and gets groovy at the Kosher Hot Spot where the Monday night barbecues are irie, mon. “This is a combination of grub for your tummy, food for your thoughts and a lot of authentic Jewish-Jamaican schmoozing,” he smiles noshing on a jerk falafel.
Adding holiness to a holiday, Rabbi Raskin arranges kosher food to be stocked in villas for those keeping the dietary laws. “Jamaica has long been an ideal destination for Jewish families looking for a tropical island getaway and a healthy dose of Jewish heritage, “said Donovan White, director tourism, referring to the many historical sites including the 100-year-old Shaare Shalom Synagogue, one of four sand floor synagogues in the world. With plans to open a synagogue in Montego Bay, Rabbi Raskin is feeling the vibe, “the warmth of the Jamaicans is undeniable and why the island is home to my family now.” www.jewishjamaica.com
For the birds
For a slice of authentic Jamaica, Rocklands Bird Sanctuary in Montego Bay is a world away from the touristy coast. With a storied past, the sanctuary was once home to Lisa Salmon who lived there until her passing in 2000. Fond of strolling through the hills and feeding the birds along the way, she noticed the birds started to follow her home to the rustic cottage where they still flutter about today. As the story goes, on the day she died, the birds flew away and on the day she was buried, the birds returned. Today, the gardens are as peaceful as they were at the turn of the century and where the birds are so tame they will sit on your finger while feeding from a bottle of sugared water. The tour is $20 per person with travel time from the resorts in Montego Bay about 20 minutes.
Save the [date]
July 15-July 21: The largest music festival in the Caribbean, Reggae Sumfest is jam-packed with dancehall and reggae concerts. — http://reggaesumfest.com
By: Melanie Reffes