We had a wonderful time at Couples Swept Away in Negril, Jamaica!!
The resort was beautiful, the food was outstanding and the activities were plentiful (including lots of lounging on the beach!). Although we generally like to explore new places, if I were to book another Caribbean resort in the future, it would be very tempting to skip all research and unknown and book another week at Swept Away. We felt the resort was a great value for the price (see more on that at the end) and while this was our first tropical resort, we spoke to several guests who had traveled to tons of Caribbean resorts and felt that Couples Swept Away (CSA) was the very best.
After arriving in Montego Bay, we were guided to a lounge with free beer and a small bathroom where we were told to wait for about 15 minutes until our luggage was packaged up and we were instructed to follow a guide to a bus. This process was a bit confusing, which made me nervous just arriving in a foreign country, but everyone was friendly and we boarded the bus OK. After an hour and a half ride, we arrived at the resort. [While our ride to the resort was a bit crowded and long, our ride from the resort back to the airport was great with a bigger bus and a really friendly driver who told us stories and history the whole ride.]
Check in also took a bit of time, but a complimentary glass of champagne helped ease the wait. Once we were settled into our room, everything else went very smoothly the rest of our stay.
The grounds of the resort are gorgeous, tropical and well kept – especially the beach, which stretches a good ways and is filled with palm trees that provided awesome shade for those who, like us, didn’t want to burn. There were plenty of wide parts for those who love their tans too though.
The beach chairs were plentiful (although some people would claim them early in the morning and by late morning it was sometimes hard to find an empty one). And staff often came ‘round asking if we would like anything to drink. We had fun waiting for the cigggggggggggggsss guy to come by everyday, who I talked about at the end of this post.
I loved the squishy mats that you could use to cushion your chair or float on too!
The water at the beach was plenty warm for swimming, and the waves were very tame so you could float and swim. It wasn’t too deep either. The swimming area was roped off so the watersports boats were no risk to swimmers (and this made me feel safer from fish attacks too : ) )
We also enjoyed the hammocks!
Both pools were nice, a bit on the small side, but we never really got in them. The ocean was where the fun was. We did get in one of the jacuzzis one night, which was fun!
Our room was “rustic, colonial, tropical” and very nice – we were in the ocean view rooms about a 100 yards to the beach.
I loved the bed (and the giant down pillows!) and being able to wake up in the morning to billowing curtains and an ocean breeze. Our room had an air conditioner that we turned on at night with a remote control and turned off in the morning with that same remote from bed. So convenient! The temperatures were great.
The staff kept the room very clean, and we had a mini fridge full of water, beers, and sodas that was kept stocked daily based on our consumption the day before. You could also request to have even more things like juices and full bottles of liquor, all for free.
The bathroom wasn’t anything special, but it was nice enough. The shampoo and body wash smelled great, but do bring a deep conditioner from home! There was just shampoo and it wasn’t enough to get all the tangles out of my ocean hair (and for some reason I didn’t bring any extra in my cosmetic bag!)
The resort has a variety of restaurants from upscale to casual. We tried them all over the course of 5 nights and our favorite was definitely Feathers, the fancy restaurant that required reservations at least a day in advance. The meal we had there was matched in quality to one in a fine dining restaurant in the US. We would have loved to go a second time when the menu changed on our final day, but we planned to go to the beach party instead, which unfortunately was held indoors due to rain : (
We also really enjoyed Lemongrass, the Thai restaurant. It also required reservations, but these were a lot less competitive to come by. The menus at the restaurants seemed to only change twice a week or so, which was nice because it encouraged you to try all the restaurants for variety’s sake, but we also would have been pleased with a different menu every meal : ) Lemongrass was delicious, and the pan-seared snapper was fantastic! The atmosphere was also really fun – it was on the second floor with open air.
Our third favorite meal was at Patois, which featured some Jamaican favorites as well as wood-fired pizzas and plenty of seafood. We didn’t love the atmosphere here as much, but the food still tasted great.
The breakfast we had at Patois was awesome!
Finally there was the Palms, which is the big casual dining hall. On Monday they had an amazing looking International Buffet, but we didn’t realize this was a special night and had already made reservations for Lemongrass. We are still sorry we missed all the amazing looking buffet foods that night!
Friday night there was a Shipwreck Beach Party which for us was sadly moved inside due to some rain. But the buffet was awesome and included tons of Jamaican traditional dishes like shrimp, jerk chicken, sweet potatoes, plantains and lamb curry. Of course the dessert portions of the dinner buffets were my favorite part! When they didn’t have a buffet going, the Palms has an a la carte menu, which was just OK. The best part of dining in the Palms is that you could catch the beginning of live music or a show from your table if you were still dining around 9pm.
The breakfast buffet was in the Palms, and we LOVED it. From custom smoothies to omelets to oatmeal and yogurt to tons of tropical fruit to pastries to fish and vegetables, they had it all. Just like at home, breakfast was my favorite meal of the day!
I loved the made to order whole wheat coconut waffles, the smoothies and the museli oats. The overflowing coffee was also good!
Another restaurant to mention is the Sea Grape oceanside café, which served vegetarian food and fish. We LOVED this place for lunch!! It had a healthy spin and the best sweet potato chips ever! The fish tacos were also really good. Sea Grapes also has self serve beer and an ice cream machine! We liked eating lunch right by the ocean.
Everywhere you look on Couples there are vita-mixes blending away smoothies! I think the smoothies were my very favorite part. All the fruit was totally fresh and blended into a frothy mix with ice.
A special treat at Sea Grape was the fresh coconuts cut open to enjoy fresh coconut water. These are a little hard to come by so you have to know when to go and see if they arrived. But boy was this delicious!
Overall we were very impressed by the food for such a big resort feeding so many people. [And coming from us, that says a lot!] Everything was fresh and tasted on par with any restaurant I would go to at home. Of all the food we enjoyed over 5 days, there were only a few dishes we didn’t think were that great, but most of it was exotic, flavorful and creative. And since I haven’t mentioned it yet: the resort is all-inclusive!
All inclusive on drinks too!!
The bars were well stocked high and low with all kinds of liquors and mixers. I worried that they might only have the cheapest varieties that you’d expect at an all-inclusive resort, but they had a wide selection and nice brands too. The bartenders were pretty good too – they could make just about anything, including some nice virgin drinks when I didn’t want the alcohol during the day [like the papaya + nutmeg + milk smoothie I got!]
The best bar was the Martini Bar next to Lemongrass, which had all the high end liquors. So of course that was our favorite bar : ) Matt got several Maker’s Mark Mint Juleps (his favorite drink of the trip) and I fancied the Lemon Drop Martinis.
A word to wine (and beer) folks: One of the only complaints we do have with the resort was the lack of wine variety. There were just two kinds: a red Cabernet and a white Chardonnay to choose from. While I wouldn’t expect the finest of wines, I would have really liked to have a few more varietals of grapes to choose from. I felt like they favored the liquor drinkers with Grey Goose and Maker’s Mark but had so few wine options for the wine lovers! Perhaps wine is just that much more expensive per drink than liquor. Feathers did have an additional Sauv. Blanc, but you needed reservations to get to it! And one night we were handed an a la carte wine bottle list, but they were really expensive.
One good thing was that the servers were excellent at refilling your glass (for wine and coffee!) and it rarely went empty. A good thing for drinking but a bad thing for hangovers!
Beers were also quite slim pickings: Red Stripe and a few more Caribbean brands in cans, but that’s what I would expect and was OK with us. Can’t expect craft brews overseas!
When you aren’t eating, drinking or lounging on the beach, there’s an awesome fitness facility across the street. I took a spin class on some pretty nice spin bikes the first day and would have loved to do some beach yoga if I could have gotten myself out to the beach by 8:30 am! They had several boot camp classes and aerobics, but this trip was more about the beach than fitness. Maybe next time I’ll do more classes! There was a great jogging track that was about 1/3 a mile long and a great selection of cardio machines and weight machines. Tons of tennis courts too, with free lessons if you wanted! Plus racquetball and squash. And a huge lap pool! Definitely a great resort for staying in shape! We made it over there 3 times for workouts and it was nice to be able to sweat a little away from the beach.
The resort had tons of activities like kayaking, sailing, wind surfing, scuba diving, paddle boating, water skiing and more. Matt water skied and had fun, but we didn’t partake in any of the other boating activities – too much relaxing got in the way. If we’d stayed another few days, I’m sure we would have gotten to do more of these things!
Two activities we did do (all inclusive!) were a catamaran booze cruise and a snorkel trip.
The catamaran was lots of fun – a 2 hour ride down the shore line to a pirate’s cave where we got off to swim.
The snorkeling trip was great too – a 15 minute ride out to a reef and then 30 minutes in shallow water with lots of marine life to see. I LOVED that both of these activities were included. Even if they’d been only $10, the hump of paying might have deterred us. Another reason why we felt the resort was such great value.
The one thing we did pay for was a spa treatment. The spa was very nice with a beautiful long hot tub to visit after treatments. Matt said his massage was great, and it was priced just as you’d expect. They offered tons of spa treatments from facials to pedicures and seaweed wraps.
We felt there could have been a bit more entertainment (like a cruise ship with shows + comedians) but every night they had live music (and to be honest we didn’t do a lot of late night partying). One night there was a romantic bonfire on the beach with a wonderful guitarist that we enjoyed very much.
And we caught a great steel drum show once
One small thing to note: the staff was very friendly and also very laid back. So laid back that they forgot several of our drink/food orders and the service wasn’t quite what we’re used to when servers are eager for high tips in the US. This wasn’t a big deal, but we realized we occasionally had to ask 2-3 times for something, so mentally prepare for that if you visit.
When we started talking about a Christmas Caribbean vacation back in the summer, I began to research resorts and prices. While our budget wasn’t huge, we also did not want to risk going anywhere really inexpensive (you get what you pay for, right?) or under-reviewed where we might leave disappointed. We wanted something all-inclusive, well-traveled and very tropical island-y where we could just sit on the beach and read. After some preliminary research, I was shocked to find how much many of the trips cost (super expensive flights included.) I knew going Christmas week was going to be at a premium, but since it was our only week of the year to travel, I didn’t realize it would be that much. At this point we decided not to go – it was just too much money for one week.
A month later the trip was still on my mind, and a bit more searching of different islands led to me to discover that flights to Jamaica were much less than the surrounding smaller islands. Couples came up as one of the top resorts in Jamaica. A search on cost and availability showed that it was reasonably priced. The trip was back on!
The same day I came across Couples, our friends Eileen and Stephen came over for dinner and said they had honeymooned at CSA and that it was fabulous – word of mouth was enough of a review for me to book the trip. It made for a wonderful Christmas present and the most relaxing week together, which was priceless.
As I said in the intro, our temptation would be to try something new next time. But we really had such a good experience at Couples Swept Away and coupling (ha!) our good experience with the reviews of other travelers who have “seen it all,” I think we would definitely consider a trip back in the years to come. What I do think we would do next time is take a day trip (or perhaps split or time) to one of the other three Couples resorts on Jamaica – just to try something new yet stay in territory we know and love.