Every year my dad throws a huge birthday party for himself and 300 of his closest friends. And because he refuses to get old, it’s always his “Annual 50th Birthday Party” with some sort of P.Diddy-inspired dress code. The first year was an all-white attire party and he’s gone through the entire rainbow since then. While these soirees are good fun, the week it takes to set up followed by the week it takes to recover has started to wear on my entire family. So imagine our surprise when my dad announced that instead of a smurf blue themed party this year, we were going to take a family trip to Jamaica to celebrate his 16th Annual 50th Birthday! It was a little last minute so it took a small miracle to get everyone’s schedules coordinated and with one delayed flight, an obligatory rescheduling of a connector flight because of said delay and one brother who kept on getting bumped from his standby flight, our road to Jamaica felt like one of those Chevy Chase vacation movies. But eventually me, my dad, my stepmom and my three brothers all made it to Montego Bay, Jamaica.
We took a shuttle to our hotel, an all-inclusive adults only beachfront resort called Riu Palace, or as I like to refer to it: Heaven. Upon check-in we were greeted with complimentary drinks they called “liquid marijuana,” which was really just rum and a very sweet green syrupy mixer. None of us really liked it so Auntie Ruby (my stepmom) ended up drinking all of our liquid marijuana and was pretty much out for the rest of the day. Our hotel was right next door to Riu’s larger, but not as impressive, family friendly counterpart and we were able to access all the amenities of that hotel by crossing a bridge on the back end of the hotel. A man with a missing hand hung out by the bridge all day selling weed.
The good part about all-inclusives is that everything you need is right at your fingertips. You can get food and alcohol at any time of the day (or night) and even weed if you trust the man under the bridge. The beach is just steps away and there are hammocks and lounge chairs everywhere encouraging you to take a nap. The bad part about staying at an all-inclusive is that there’s no incentive to leave your hotel. We didn’t leave our resort until day three when we took a day trip to Ocho Rios to climb the Dunn’s River Falls and visit the Blue Hole. I’d done Dunn’s River Fall the last time I’d visited Jamaica (I won an all-inclusive trip on the radio, which is a story for another time), but the Blue Hole was something I’d never heard of until I stumbled upon it online. It was down a very sketchy and bumpy road with lots of turns and our driver, a Jamaican native, had never heard of it so everyone was wary of what I was getting us into. Even once we arrived at the Blue Hole, it still looked lackluster. It wasn’t until some of the locals showed us around (kind of like unofficial guides) that it turned into the fun-filled destination I’d imagined. They guided us around the entire river, taking us to cliffs to dive off of, ropes to swing into the water and they even made crowns out of leaves and flowers for us. One of my brothers said it was the best day of his life. The Blue Hole isn’t an official tourist site and it’s a little hard to find compared to Dunn’s River Fall, but I highly recommend it if you’re in Ocho Rios.
We managed to leave our hotel a couple other times to check out Margaritaville, a club that’s made up of equal parts tourists to locals and we did a little souvenir shopping at a local market. I guess you could say that our trip to Jamaica was a true vacation that mostly consisted of relaxation, Red Stripe beer and a few rounds of pool volley ball. This was my first time traveling with my entire family and it was such a beautiful experience. I’m looking forward to doing it again on my dad’s 17th Annual 50th Birthday!