A Natural State of Bliss - Page 3

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Riu Ocho Rios Hotel in Jamaica
RIU OCHO RIOS: The all-inclusive resort makes guests never want to leave the property  (courtesy, Riu Hotels and Resorts)

Riu Ocho Rios
Spending a week with the family at the all-inclusive Riu resort in Ocho Rios, I can understand why guests never want to leave the property. Three miles before the center of town, two immense lavender-colored horseshoe-shaped buildings overlook a long stretch of beach and a great expanse of aquamarine waters. Most of the 865 rooms have balconies with ocean views, while some of the rooms face a garden and pond teeming with fish.

We spent our days swimming up to the bar for frozen mango daiquiris (with or without alcohol) at one of the two swimming pools, or venturing out for a warm dip in the Atlantic. There were Hobie Cats available to whip back and forth across the bay, but you had to be careful not to snag a reef, which we managed to do on two occasions. The reefs are far better suited for snorkeling. A boat from the hotel took us to one of the outer reefs, where we snorkeled for an hour and saw squid, colorful sergeant major fish, and the highlight, a stingray. The many ping pong tables were a hit with the kids, while their parents reserved one of the two tennis courts found just off the main lobby.

The Riu excelled over the dozen other all-inclusives I've visited with the family in the quality of their food. By day three at most other resorts, you grow tired of the same fare. Indeed, at the last all-inclusive we went to in Jamaica, they didn't even serve any indigenous fare. Not here. The line started forming at 11:30 for the jerk chicken, lamb, and sausage they prepared on a grill at a beach hut. Be forewarned that the darker jerk sauce packs a wallop, so you might want to opt for the sweet barbecue sauce. Notable dinner entrees included the tender lamb at Sir John restaurant, the miso-glazed salmon at the Japanese restaurant, Tushima, and the juicy tenderloin at the steak house, Mammee Bay. My son loved the meat so much that he downed his first steak here. We also befriended the chef, who brought out his specialty, Jamaican-style lobster tails, for a little surf and turf.

With any resort this size, it had its share of problems. The Hobie Cats never seemed to be rigged properly, it was a hassle to reserve restaurants by phone between 9 a.m. and 10 a.m. (so book the week in one call), and the musical numbers at night seemed amateurish. But, with a glorious beach to stroll along under the stars, you really don't need any other form of entertainment. That said, do leave the property at least once to get a taste of the country beyond the all-inclusive vibe.

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