Luxury Travel Mom writer Lindley Pless flew her whole brood to Jamaica for a family vacation at the Tryall Club. According to Lindley “This was the first vacation I can remember taking with small children where I actually relaxed.” Enough said, we are IN.
As we got off the plane we were embraced by bright sun and the warm winds of Jamaica. Sunglasses were donned and sweaters were peeled off. It was hard to imagine that just over 3 hours earlier we were boarding our direct flight from JFK to Montego Bay…
Jamaica welcomed us with the hustle and bustle of bright colors and crowded streets as we were shuttled in a small van for the 30-minute ride through the city and along the coast to the resort. As we turned off the small highway we were greeted by a serene hillside resort that immediately took me back to times gone by.
The Tryall Club is a tropical oasis where ripe fruit dangles from mango trees that cling to the lush hillside. The bright white stucco buildings are clean and well kept but you sense they haven’t changed much since the club was opened to visitors in the 1940s. Once a sugar cane plantation, there are traces of the storied history hidden amongst the 2,200 acre property.
The villas are nestled among 50 foot palm trees – almost every one offering views of the Caribbean Sea. Golf carts (included with each villa) shuttle visitors from place to place and sarong-covered bathing suits are standard attire. We loved the casual feel of the resort – dressing up only for the all-island cocktail party Monday night (where we had the chance to meet and speak with hotel management) and for the Beach BBQ on Wednesday. I guess it was three times that we donned our island-chic attire because we also headed to Reggae night on Friday down on the beach – and it was fabulous! While at the villa we dined in sundresses and khakis with casual polos. Each villa comes fully staffed and has its own pool. We went from table to pool – lingering over our morning coffee and Times Digest while the kids scampered away from the table to take a dip in the pool.
The staff at our villa Serenity was soft spoken and kind – eager to meet our every need. I personally liked that a hotel manager called to check on us each day as well, making sure that everything in our villa was satisfactory. As usual I over-packed, not realizing that it is customary for the villa staff to do your laundry. Each morning as we headed to the beach they made the beds, cleaned the rooms, and collected the previous days clothes. They were delivered back to our rooms each evening after having been washed, line dried, and ironed.
The in-villa chef was spectacular – impressing us with local fare like jerked chicken and rum bread pudding. I can’t speak to the talents of other chefs because each villa has a chef that works only within that one home. That perhaps might be the risk of “villa style” housing. I subtly interviewed others who were at the resort at the same time as us and I can report back that they all said their food was very good.
(One bit of advice – do not eat your meals at the Main House. They are not used to many people using their services and while the food was very good the wait was painfully long. With great chefs in the villas – breakfast and lunch are best eaten at home. I never had a chance to eat at the beachside restaurant but I heard the wait there was also quite long.)
At the beginning of the week our chef asked us what types of foods we liked to eat and from that point on his interpretation of our tastes were spot on. Once or twice we requested special things – like pancakes for the kids or lobster for the adults. The day we ate lobster the fishermen came to our door and the chef introduced us to our evening meal. The 2 lobsters (a little more than 1 lb each) were paid for with $60 cash. This was probably the priciest expense of the week.
I love that all the water sports are included at the beach. Free services included incredible snorkeling (gear provided) 100 yards off the peer. We also had a blast trying paddle boarding. The beach staff worked quickly and upon request set us up with chair covers and towels. The beach is a little smaller than what I was used to in Mexico and Turks & Caicos but the sand was clean and the water clear. Because of the reef the beach is almost wave-less. That makes it ideal for toddlers who can play along the edge without getting knocked down. The big permanent straw umbrellas are necessary since the sun is intense in Jamaica. One note –beach chairs and umbrellas were almost all being used by 11:00am. If you want them – get there by 10am.
While at Tryall I was given a tour of 5 other villas. They really ran the gamut – and I returned home to tell my husband that Tryall did have something for everyone. Hummingbird House, which had just been renovated, would be ideal for 2 or 3 families to share. It is one of the most expensive homes on the island but the open aired spaces and views seem well worth it. I did see a few homes that felt a little dated – I think getting a housing recommendation from those who have been there before is the best way to pick a villa.
The golf course is incredibly well kept considering it was the dry season. The caddies couldn’t be nicer – although I must admit that the “Just relax mon!” mantra was grating on my nerves by the tenth time I drilled my golfball into the thick trees that line many of the holes. The “Cocktail Waitress” who cruises the course in a cart at all hours and the water views made me forget about my terrible playing.
It was blissful to be able to sneak in 2 rounds of golf – knowing that our kids were happily playing at the Kids Camp with our babysitter Antonise. The sitter service is a dream come true. Babysitters cost just $5 an hour ($2 fees are added for additional children) and we were able to book the same person each of the 7 days we were there. She was full of energy and our kids liked her immediately. I felt better knowing she was CPR certified and an excellent swimmer. The kids camp is open all day and children 5 and up can hang out there on their own. Children 4 and under must attend with a sitter or parent. The Kids Camp staff was fabulous and very creative. The girls enjoyed making tie-dyed t-shirts, beading bracelets, and doing mini-Olympics on the beach most of all.
Wednesday night’s beach barbecue was a highlight of the week. The girls stayed up until 10pm (a first for them) – dancing the night away after enjoying a buffet full of traditional Jamaican food. The beach ride on a friendly donkey adorned with flowers, and a show that included limbo, fire eating, and traditional Jamaican dance was being talked about long after we got home. The other people staying at the resort at the same time as us couldn’t have been nicer. It was great getting to know them over a cocktail as all our children who recognized each other from Kids Camp danced nearby.
We also treated ourselves to in-villa one-hour spa-treatments on our last afternoon in Jamaica. My husband and I both remarked that we had rarely had such good massages on vacation. Both women who came to the villa and set up in 5 minutes flat, had lovely relaxing demeanors and were excellent at their craft. Rumor has it that the spa is ripe for a redo – so we had been told to get our services at home. We felt the breeze and listened to the exotic birds chirping in the background during our treatments – clearly staying at the villa was the right choice.
Lastly – I did make a quick trip to the commissary mid-week to see what it had to offer. I was surprised to find a full grocery store where you could buy everything from fresh fruit to candy. I grabbed 6 bottles of Grace’s hot sauce to bring home with us and a container of Jamaican Curry Powder. The hot sauce has been used many times since our return. A spicy remembrance of our fabulous week at Tryall… Would I go back next year? Absolutely!
Kids Shampoo (Our villa provided us with Molten Brown. Ideal for adults but stings kiddy eyes!)
Cash/Small Bills (Prices are very reasonable and tips are expected by caddies/tennis hitting partners/ball boys so save yourself the cost of converting money while there)
The staff at the villas do laundry so pack light!
Towels are aplenty at the beach so no need to lug towels from your villa
Babysitters are $5/hour (that is not a type-o)
The golf course has great views and you don’t need to bring clubs (I rented brand new Taylor Made RBZ’s)
Jet Blue flies direct to Montego Bay, Jamaica-the kids loved the free TV and snacks
Lindley is a guest writer for Luxury Travel Mom. This is her review of a family vacation, she was not hosted by Tryall nor compensated for her article. Although I do plan to crack open a nice bottle of pink champagne with her. Find more of Lindley’s writing on her blog The Sentimentalist.