“No thanks, I’ve got it”, I say to the helpful concierge at Jamaica’s Melia Braco Village as she asks to take my bag, “I’m an independent girl!”
She smiles at me and says in that divine Jamaican lilt, “Yes, my lady, but so am I! And I’m here to make your stay comfortable.”
Who am I to argue?
Nestled halfway between Montego Bay and Ocho Rios, on the north side of Jamaica, the Melia Braco Village is a boutique, all-inclusive resort. Sitting at 232 rooms, it has six restaurants, 5 bars, a nightclub, a kid’s club, and a luxurious spa. The colonial style architecture and village-like layout of the property make it a welcoming, relaxing, never-overwhelming, and never commercial feeling resort.
The white sand beach and crystal blue seas are the big draws for all ages and the comfortable lounge chairs, and cabanas offer the perfect place to doze. Or if your family is anything like certain sand hating members of mine, there are two large, heated pools to splash away the day. Are you the more active sort? No problem! The resort also includes a fitness centre, tennis court, basketball court, obstacle course and soccer field. Or spend some time on the water in a kayak or small catamaran, all included with your stay.
After a strenuous day at the beach, the spa may be in order. The YHI Spa is a serene space, offering many services from massage to facials, aromatherapy, body scrubs and more. Children are allowed in the spa accompanied by an adult, but they’ll be much happier at the kid’s club! Kid’s & Co Adventure program is for children ages 5-12 with different themes each day. Various activities include magic shows, crafts, sandcastle building, dancing, and treasure hunts.
Travelling with your parents and your children is a growing trend. They may love spending time with their kids and grandkids, but many Baby Boomer grandparents like to have their own space. The 52 suites at the Melia Braco Village have adjoining hallways so everyone can have some separation, yet stay together. And I could find no fault with the spacious rooms, comfortable furniture, or the balconies – a welcome retreat for someone unable to sleep past 6:30 am while her family slumbers until nine! Other highlights are the flat screen TVs, 24-hour room service and resort-wide Wi-Fi. And not your usual spotty tropical Wi-Fi, but fast, full bars, all the time. There is no YouTube lag here!
While the Melia Braco is a luxury resort if you really want to go over the top, book the resort’s premium section, The Level. These rooms are situated on a separate side of the resort with its own private pool and beach area. It features private check-in/out, the Level Lounge with 24-hour snacks and drinks, and full concierge service to make you feel ultra pampered. The same sweet concierge who almost arm wrestled me for my bags checked on us daily, making sure everything was perfect in our rooms, oversaw the turndown service (with chocolates naturally), and the bedtime snacks that were delivered to our room daily. The Melia Braco Village is a 5-star resort; The Level is a step above!
Regardless of how much fun you’re having, a family has to stop for meals, and you will eat well! Choose from a steakhouse, pasta restaurant or an Asian inspired restaurant if you want to dine a la carte, but my favourite was The Marketplace. The quality at buffets can be hit-or-miss with lots of mediocre food prepared to feed a big crowd as efficiently as possible — but not this one. Sitting right on the beach, there was always a selection of well-prepared local foods like jerk chicken or pork, ackee, saltfish, pigeon peas, and plantains (because when I go to another country I like to try the local foods), fresh fruit and some more straightforward (and yes, child friendly) dishes.
Because I love local flavours, you can only imagine my glee when we came back to the resort after a day of excursions for “Jamaica Night”. On this theme night, they bring the buffet tables outside onto the cobblestone square where all guests are treated to a rousing Jamaican street party complete with vendors, live music, and fire dancers. I may have squealed with delight when I saw a pig roasting on the spit, and I went back for a second helping of curried goat. They put on a heck of a party!
The next day, the party atmosphere was muted when word came in that Hurricane Matthew was growing in strength with the island in his path. We were scheduled to depart before the expected landfall, so I was not concerned about my safety, however I was impressed with the hotel’s swift actions to ensure the safety of its guests. Notices were delivered to our rooms informing us of storm shelters and emergency plans; staff began securing the property (including picking the potentially projectile coconuts from the trees), boards went up on the windows of the lounges and sandbags appeared at the doors of beachside rooms.
We left Jamaica a bit apprehensive about the coming storm because we’d grown very fond of the people at the Melia Braco who lavished such care on us. Fortunately, Matthew passed the enchanting green jewel of an island without significant impact, and we can once again dream of going back the lovely Melia Braco Village.
The author was a guest of the Jamaica Tourism Board. Opinions are her own.
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