By Eileen Ogintz
MONTEGO BAY, Jamaica — John Bartels has no interest in going home.
“I’d like to move here or at least come every month,” the 10-year old declares.
It’s easy to see why. He, his two sisters, and his parents have been spending a vacation week at Half Moon, a Rock Resort in Montego Bay, Jamaica, that has been setting a high bar for resorts here for more than 50 years. There’s everything a kid, and a parent, could want—beautiful beach and pools, including an Olympic- sized lap pool, Equestrian Center (think horseback riding on the beach!) tennis, golf, water sports, even a Dolphin Lagoon (ready to get in the water and kiss a dolphin?) all on 400 spectacular acres.
You can take your pick of a suite, a room, or a staffed villa with as many as six bedrooms. You can gather your family under one roof but still have the resort amenities from Fern Tree, the largest spa in the Caribbean (68,000 square feet) to the Anancy Children’s Village with charming brightly painted cottages, its own wading pool, and a playground covered by an awning. “They arrive on Saturday, are with us by Sunday, and then the parents are telling us they have to have time with the children—they don’t want to leave,” says the Children Center Manager Terese Chapman Barr. There are daily activities for kids aged 3-12 and an expansive teen center as well; younger siblings may come if accompanied by a parent or nanny.
John Bartels and his older sister Buchanan happily reported that they saw a moray eel and a lion fish while snorkeling. They rode bikes around the resort, went out in a paddleboat, and explored on a golf cart. This is an expensive resort “but definitely worth the money,” said Bridget Bartels. “Everyone is so nice and really engaging with the kids. It’s not like any other resort we’ve been to.”
Jamaica is famous for its private-staffed villas—we, in fact, are spending most of our stay at one owned and managed by Villas by Linda Smith. I see the advantages -–if you can afford the freight—of being within a resort with all of the amenities you and the kids could want from the kids’ club to the fitness center to the spa and restaurants. All of that, of course, is accessible at other villas but a short drive away.
We stayed in an expansive suite overlooking the beach and the ocean; we had dinner in the historic outdoor Sugar Mill restaurant feasting on Caribbean lobster and yam risotto, steak, and more. The smiling bartender whipped us up a frothy confection. We luxuriated at the Spa with its own pool and all varieties of treatments. My facial started with a foot bath in water with a local herb. (Apparently, the spa is very popular with teens as well. We checked out the resident dolphins that were jumping and playing—seemingly giving us a private show. We ended our stay at the Pepper Pot eating local dishes while overlooking the ocean.
I know how you feel John. We didn’t want to leave either.