Jamaica’s Best All-Inclusive Family Resort

My 9-year-old daughter had to be excited. She was going to miss four days of school. Even better, she was going to Jamaica … with Dad. Except, well, it's clear that I'm not as cool as I was two years ago. This trip to Beaches Ocho Rios Resort & Golf Club (an all-inclusive sibling to Sandals) would change her perspective — and mine. Here are 20 reasons why.

The Beach

It is called Beaches. This beach is in a cove, with the resort hugging each side, giving it a European flair. And our room looks directly over it.Courtesy Beaches

The No Wallet Policy

I’m a pretty decent tipper. I’m also a sucker. It’s a bad combination. Thankfully, tipping is forbidden at Beaches. Eat. Drink. Eat. Drink. And whenever my daughter asks (which she always does) “How much did that cost?” I repeatedly say, “Nothing.” Because of this, Dad is really relaxed. And really cool.Courtesy Beaches

The No Wait Policy

She wants to kayak out near the reef. So we grab life vests and paddles, and are gone. “Can we get something to drink?” she asks. A Beaches team member is stirring up a non-alcoholic Bob Marley over there. We’ll take two, please. “What’s it like to paddle board?” she asks. I tell her to leave her Bob Marley in the sand, so we can find out.Courtesy Beaches

Smoothies for Breakfast

Maybe we should do this at home. Take slices of papaya and mango, plus strawberries and watermelon. Toss them into a blender. Breakfast is served. My daughter asks, “Can I have another one?” Have another three.Zach Stovall

Pizza for Lunch

Her jerk burger is a little hot (I finish it). So we order a pepperoni pizza, which seems kind of mainstream, until we see the pizza guy plying the dough and sliding it into a brick oven. It’s Jamaican-style pizza. “The best!” she says. The pizza? Or me?Robert Stephens

Chocolate for Dinner

Dessert on Friday night is laid out on a row of tables as long as our driveway. Those tables are clothed with chocolate-covered cherries, strawberries, honeydew, apples, tarts, you name it. The grapes smothered in chocolate taste so good we eat the stems. Chocolate covers everything, including our faces. Best dinner ever.Robert Stephens

The Beachside Room

We walk along the terrace and enter our room overlooking the ocean and sand. The big room requires a big TV, a big view and a big welcome platter of cheeses. “There’s Sprite in the fridge!” my daughter says. Help yourself, I say. And grab one of those Red Stripes for me, please.Courtesy Beaches

The Beach Party

It’s hard to tell which night scores the highest mark: the chocolate on Friday or the bonfire on Saturday. The only downer is when my daughter has to shout down a 12-year-old spoiled brat who’s bossing around the staff at the beach party. Not cool.Courtesy Beaches

Learning to Speak Jamaican

Thanks to the Beaches staff, we learn how to have conversations in Jamaican: “No problem, mon.” “Definitely.” “Yeah, mon.”Robert Stephens

Bobsledding through the Jungle

The two of us sit in a bobsled car at Mystic Mountain for the first time in our lives. The female attendant says, "You want to go fast, push down on the bars. You want to slow down, pull back on the bars. I suggest you go as fast as you can." She pushes us off. I start to ask a question. Too late. We're going 40 mph through the jungle.Courtesy Rain Forest Adventure

Flying over the Jungle

She’s zip-lined once in her life, and didn’t care for it. It’s different at Mystic Mountain. The guides call her Soldier Boy (“I like that,” she laughs). The rides are long, fast and scenic. She sums it up in one word: awesome.Robert Stephens

Funny Creatures

It takes 10 minutes to get to the reef by glass-bottom boat. With snorkel mask smashed into place, we tool around together, pointing at puffers, eels, clownfish, angelfish and each other. Those masks do amazing things to the face.Courtesy Beaches

Making New Music

My daughter loves singing and playing guitar. But she’s never seen a record, let alone scratched two of them simultaneously to create music. She enters the Scratch DJ Academy as Noelle, the girl who wears basketball shorts. She leaves two hours later known as DJ Dunk.Robert Stephens

Making New Friends

We cannot make eye contact with a team member at Beaches and not feel good. Beaches and Sandals employ 10,000 people on the island, and the loyalty is mutual. The fun is constant.Robert Stephens

Pool Rules

Have you ever watched a 9-year-old the first time she sees a barstool in the water? Now wait. Here it comes … a strawberry colada. Sit and sip, without leaving the pool. My daughter is stunned. Another Red Stripe, please, and another notch on my cool belt.Courtesy Beaches

The Waterpark

Back at home we’d pay $50 apiece to go on water slides like these. At Beaches they’re 60 seconds from our room. I’m leading the way.Courtesy Beaches

Waking Up

The coconut palms are this close to our room. My daughter jumps out of bed each morning to pull back the drapes. “Best room ever!” she writes on a note to the housekeeper.Robert Stephens

Holding Hands with My Daughter

She doesn’t always reach for my hand these days. But at Dunn’s River Falls, about 20 minutes from Beaches, she has no choice. Hiking up 200 feet of travertine rock, through gushing water, for nearly an hour requires us to create a human chain. Her hand squeezes mine until our fingers turn as white as her smile.Courtesy Dunns River Falls

Seeing the Bigger Picture

While on the snorkel boat, Noelle notices shacks along the hillside. She asks about the children who live in them. So we arrange to go to one of their schools the next day. It’s one of eight schools in the area supported by Beaches and Sandals. Part of our nightly rate goes to computers and paint and medical needs. We read books to the kids. They share snacks with us. We all sing together. This could be the most amazing moment of the trip.Robert Stephens


Yeah, I know. Sunsets are expected on lists like this. But my daughter likes action. Until now, I’ve never seen her actually linger to watch the sun go down, anywhere. And then I hand her another strawberry colada. How cool is that?Robert Stephens