Ocho Rios, Jamaica & The Jewel Dunn’s River Beach Resort

I like to think of my travel style as adventurous – always exploring new places and pushing myself to the limit physically and mentally. However, we all need a relaxing getaway every once in a while. All-inclusive beach resorts are the perfect venue for that. Honestly, the world would be a better place if we all did this more often. I recently took a trip to Ocho Rios, Jamaica to celebrate a friend’s 30th, and want to share my experience and recommendations here…

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View of the ocean and our resort from the balcony

Why Ocho Rios?

Ocho Rios is in the parish of Saint Ann on the northern coast of Jamaica. We chose it because it was more affordable than Montego Bay, but still had plenty of what we wanted to do. And honestly, all I wanted to do was sit on the beach in the sunshine with a tropical drink! Ocho Rios has several different resorts and tourists activities and is famous for being featured in the very first James Bond movie.

Getting to Ocho Rios

We flew into Montego Bay (Sangster International Airport) and our resort included airport pick up and drop off which was AWESOME! There was a traffic jam and the bus stopped at other resorts first, so we were on the bus for several hours. Not as fun, but still worth the trouble and cost savings.

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The Resort: Jewel Dunn’s River Resort 

Maker:0x4c,Date:2017-9-25,Ver:4,Lens:Kan03,Act:Lar01,E-YWe stayed at Jewel Dunn’s River Beach Resort and Spa, part of the Curio Collection by Hilton (btw, when I’m not in an Airbnb while traveling, I’m probably staying in a Hilton!). We got a great bundle deal on flights and resort from Cheap Caribbean and were able to upgrade our room to an ocean view balcony! I truly enjoyed my stay here and here’s why:

  • Adults only
  • Several pools and outdoor bars
  • Small feel to the resort, and it wasn’t crowded at all
  • Variety of food options and pretty good food! The buffet serves Caribbean/Jamaican food so it was fun to try new things (always plantains. I love plantains!). We also had SO much fun at the hibachi/Japanese restaurant
  • Dive shop on site that can take you on snorkel, scuba and sailboat trips for a very reasonable price
  • SO MANY free activities: water sports (sailboats, water bikes, kayaks, paddle boards, etc.), volleyball, fitness center, tennis courts, shuffle board, basketball and more
  • Free entertainment at night and bars open late (other resorts I’ve been too are basically dead after dinner!)
  • Coffee bar – not the best but definitely took advantage of it!
  • Clean beach with lots of seating
  • I took advantage of one of the spa specials and had a nice massage
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One of the pools at the Jewel Dunn’s River Resort

Excursions: Scuba, Blue Mountain Coffee, Dunn’s River Falls and Park

You know how I said this was a relaxing trip? Well that still doesn’t mean I’m going to do nothing! While lots of lounging at the pool and beach happened, I also took the opportunity to get off of the resort!

Scuba (through the resort)
As I mentioned above, the resort has a dive shop on site which made planning our dive super easy and affordable! We went to the dive shop the day before, paid $100 per person for a two tank dive and met the dive master the next morning. We took a boat from the resort out to the water. We dove around the reefs and saw some fish and rays – first dive was down to 60 feet and the second was to 30 feet. Nothing spectacular, but it was nice to get a dive in!

Blue Mountain with Dr. Fun Tours (Click here for the direct website | click here for Trip Advisor)
Delton (aka Dr. Fun) will basically take you on a custom tour based on what you want to do! We wanted to see the famous Blue Mountain coffee of Jamaica. So he picked us up from our resort and the road trip to Blue Mountain began! It was a great time and the highlight of the trip. It was a long ride to Blue Mountain, but Dr. Fun made it FUN! Delton talked almost the entire ride telling us about Jamaica and the area, plus we added some extra stops!

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We learned about and tasted the local fruit from a fruit stand and straight from the trees (Jamaica Apples which are kinda like pears and only grow two places in the world, Coconuts, Sugar Cane and more).

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Stopping at a local fruit stand to drink coconut water and try coconut jelly (flesh of young coconut) for the first time!

We visited the James Dennis Coffee Farm where we learned about the coffee process from start to finish. We then tasted fresh, fire roasted coffee and enjoyed an authentic Jamaican lunch. You can buy a pound of beans for $30 – much less than you’ll find at the airport! The coffee was very unique and fresh tasting. As someone obsessed with coffee, I loved being able to try this.

The last stop was Bob Marley falls for a dip in the refreshing water – OK, I totally fell in on accident 🙂

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Bob Marley Falls on Blue Mountain

We booked a tour with Dr. Fun through Trip Advisor, but I also linked to his direct website above. I would totally trust booking with him directly. (Click here for the direct website | click here for Trip Advisor)

Dunn’s River and Falls Park (through the resort which included admission and transportation)
These falls are famous in Jamaica and they basically made a water park out of it. After entering the park, you’ll be grouped together and hike up the falls. You’ll be asked to leave your hat, sunglasses, etc. behind so you don’t lose them! Groups were holding hands to help each other up, but we opted not to do that as we were very comfortable with hiking (wear good water shoes!). It was pretty crowded but we still had a good time climbing up the falls and getting in the water. I wouldn’t go again (I’m glad I did it once, though!), but if I were to, I’d try to go much earlier to beat the crowd!

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Weekend in Portland, Oregon: Hiking, Tiki Bars, Shopping and Coffee

The Pacific Northwest United States is one of my favorite summertime destinations (after Colorado). I recently spent a long weekend in the Portland, Oregon area and want to share some highlights!

Wander Opal Creek Trail

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That’s my mom in orange. We found a great spot to eat lunch by the water!

According to AllTrails, Opal Creek Trail is 6.4 miles out and back and rated easy. Take a relaxing hike through lush forest trails, explore an abandoned saw mill and stop for lunch or take a dip in emerald colored pools. This was a fun and easy hike. After about 4 miles, we veered down to the creek for a relaxing lunch near some falls. I couldn’t believe the color of the water! We arrived to the trail parking lot around noon on a Friday. There was plenty of parking lot and the trail was not crowded at all.

Have Dinner at a Tiki Bar

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So, Tiki Bars aren’t really a thing in Dallas (where I live now), but they totally are in Portland. I’m not mad about it. We had dinner and drinks at Hale Pele and it did not disappoint! They have an overwhelming cocktail list with  more than 50 exotic choices. Honestly, I don’t even recall what I ordered but I don’t think you can go wrong. We ordered an array of small plates for dinner – I loved the wings, tacos and Hawaiian bread! The atmosphere is fun and intimate – I won’t give away all the surprises though!

After Dinner Coffee

Weird = awesome. And Rimsky-Korsakoffee House is totally that. They only serve coffee and dessert (not even booze) and don’t open until 7 p.m. It’s intimate, weird and fun with delicious coffee. We came on a Saturday night and there was live music which was nice! I had a cappuccino with hemp milk. If you’re in Portland – go here for your after dinner drinks!

Eat Oysters at EaT: An Oyster Bar

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I had a blast at EaT: An Oyster Bar – not to mention delicious fresh oysters, fried oysters and maybe a couple oyster shooters! Whenever I’m in a region with fresh seafood, I love to indulge. This is the perfect place for that and in an adorable neighborhood in Portland.

Sprinkle in Some Shopping, Coffee and Lunch on 23rd Street

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I spent the morning and afternoon exploring 23rd street with my mom and had so much fun! I started the day off with a cortado from Barista and some treats from Blue Star Donuts. The injectable creme brulee donut was fun, and I LOVED the lavender and pear fritter. Yum!

Then we shopped around the numerous boutiques – I really liked 3 Monkeys, Ipnosi and Hip Hound. Hip Hound is a pet store that also has a coffee bar called Java Hound, how cool is that? They have a great selection of flavored lattes with house-made syrups and will add CBD oil to any drink. Probably the most Portland thing ever. If you bring your pup and get a drink, he/she gets a free puppaccino!

We took a break between shopping with brunch at The Fireside. They had a cool atmosphere, great menu, tasty food. It was a little overpriced in my opinion, but hey, I’m on vacation.

That was my whirlwind of a trip in Portland. I’ll definitely be back, so let me know what you recommend for next time in the comments below!

 

View of the famous Sedona, Arizona red rocks from the patio of Creekside Coffee

5 Spots for a Perfect Weekend Getaway in Sedona, Arizona

I’m not here to tell you about spiritual vortexes and healing crystals, but I will rave about the beautiful weather, views and community of Sedona, Arizona! I went to Phoenix for Thanksgiving last year and took a road trip up to Sedona for a couple days. Here are a few highlights of the visit…

West Fork Trail

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West Fork trail is 7.2 miles out and back and rated easy on AllTrails. The trail is mostly flat and takes you along the west fork of Oak Creek with 13 creek crossings. Bring your waterproof hikers for this one! There’s lovely views of canyon walls and forest sprinkled with autumn colors (in late November at least!). You know when the trail ends when you approach the narrow canyon enclosing on the creek (pictured below). We explored a bit further and found a spot to perch for lunch before turning around. There was ample parking when we arrived around 8 a.m., and while the trail was populated, it was not crowded.

Devil’s Bridge (via Chuck Wagon Trail and Devil’s Bridge Trail)

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Chuck Wagon Trail offers a better experience and scenery than taking the Devil’s Bridge trail directly.

Devil’s Bridge via Chuck Wagon trail is 5.6 miles out and back and rated moderate on AllTrails. This hike takes you along a desert trail (with some inclines) and gorgeous views of the red rocks to your final destination, Devil’s Bridge. Devil’s Bridge is the largest natural sandstone arch in Sedona and even more stunning in person. You can walk over the bridge for a breathtaking photo opp.

PRO TIP: Start at the Chuck Wagon Trail and follow signs to Devil’s Bridge. Starting at Chuck Wagon offers beautiful scenery and a more enjoyable experience. If you take the Devil’s Bridge trail directly, you’ll either hike up a dusty, dirt road (less enjoyable) or need to take an all-wheel drive vehicle to the trail head. Going via Chuck Wagon, you’ll share the trail with bikers, but that’s preferred to motor vehicles in my opinion. Check out this resource for details on the trail, different trail options and maps.

Creekside Coffee

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Going to Creekside Coffee after a long hike made me SO happy! They made really great coffee and offered magical views of red rocks on their patio or from the comfort of inside. They roast their own beans too, Rattle & Hum. As far as the view, I was amazed with “Snoopy Rock,” which looked just like Snoopy laying on his dog house, look for it while you’re there!

They have a bistro as well if you’re looking for a lunch or dinner spot. I’ll definitely dine-in next time!

Oak Creek Brewery

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We enjoyed a beer flight and dinner at Oak Creek Brewery, Sedona’s only craft brewery and brewpub. Great food and even better craft beers! I recommend checking this out and having a flight of beers, if not dinner as well. There are also art galleries and shops nearby you can check out before/after dinner.

Shopping

OK, I’m not one to shop much while traveling. But in our down time, we did explore the local shops of Sedona and had a great time. There’s a unique array of shops that sell everything from local arts and crafts, clothing, jewelry, crystals, animal skins, used books and more! Visit Sedona has a great shopping guide available here!

Bonus…

Where to Stay: You know I LOVE Airbnb for all kinds of travel. There are wonderful options in Sedona that are fit for a solo trip, romantic couples trip or a family get away. Many have gorgeous views of Sedona’s famous red rocks.

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View from our AirBnb patio at sunset. This was a great place and affordable option for our stay in Sedona, Arizona!

Getting There:  It was a two hour drive from Phoenix – perfect for a quick two night stay like ours. Check out other nearby airports here. The Southwestern U.S. is beautiful with a variety of scenes. If you ever get a chance, make a full road trip out of your visit.