by Marcia Simon, CTA, APR
Couples Resorts are exactly what the name implies - a place for couples – to unwind, chill and choose from a long list of complimentary options, such as water sports, yoga, snorkeling, how-to classes and of course - unlimited food and beverages. Solo travelers are welcome and will feel comfortable. Couples is adult-only; the rooms have king beds (no doubles).
Exclusive to Jamaica, Couples owns four properties – two in Ocho Rios and two in Negril. Couples Tower Isle in Ocho Rios, which opened in 1978, was a trendsetter back in the day as the first all-inclusive property in Jamaica. Today, Couples is often perceived as an affordable alternative to Sandals. The vibe between the two is very different. Couples is laid back, smaller, more authentic to Jamaican style, although some may feel that the intentionally-preserved retro feel of Tower Isle may be a bit old fashioned. There's no doubt, though, that Couples provides great value for all its amenities and perks. Free airport transfers are always included, and so are green fees for golf. The nonmotorized water sports equipment is clean and in good condition. If you want to take out one of the catamarans (holding up to four people) or try your hand at windsurfing or paddleboarding, they'll get you set up. If you want a lesson, that's included, too, which is nice because some other all-inclusive brands charge for instruction.
Whether you stay at Couples San Souci or Tower Isle in Ocho Rios, or Couples Negril or Swept Away on Negril's beautiful fine-sand seven-mile beach, you'll receive a complimentary excursion or day trip. In Ocho Rios it's a visit to the famous Dunn's River Falls. Bring (or buy) watershoes for a good grip on the rocks as you join a hearty group walking up the falls. It's not steep, but it can have challenging moments. You will get wet, and it's a must-do when given the opportunity. In Negril, all guests are invited for a sunset catamaran cruise and swim. The ocean water is warm, the sunset view is fantastic and gets you prepared for dinner upon your return to the island.
Surprisingly, a large number of guests are repeat visitors to Couples who come back year after year for the laid back attitude and the comfort of a resort that's not too big.
Some of the coconut trees on the properties are very old, and Couples has a policy of not disturbing nature's intention of letting them be. So, even from the waterview rooms, trees may obstruct your view as you gaze from your balcony to the sea. After a day, and realizing that you don't really spend much time in the room, it's all fine.
Tower Isle, San Souci and Couples Negril all have allocated space for an au natural (aka nude) beach during daytime hours. It's private, has a separate bar area and attracts a decent-sized crowd.
Swept Away is known for its 10-acre sports and fitness complex. If you're not into sports, you won't even know it's there, but if you cross the street from the beach to the complex, you'll find an Olympic-size lap pool, tennis and pickleball courts and a fitness center equipped with top-notch workout equipment that has attracted pro teams to come and train.
In a nutshell, San Souci has neat nooks and crannies, a mineral pool and jacuzzi, and also a lot of steps around the property, which some people love and others would rather avoid. Tower Isle is very walkable for people who prefer a flat landscape. It preserves its vintage Jamaican style. Couples Negril has escaped the modernization of many resorts on the island. It's unpretentious, with four restaurants. Swept Away is on the gorgeous seven-mile beach.
All four resorts offer interesting day trips, from waterfalls, rafting and ziplines, to ATV riding, to the Appleton Rum and Blue Mountain Coffee tours, allowing you to stay as busy as you want to be. There's morning yoga and plenty to do onsite.
Throughout the Couples brand, the food is quite good. The bartenders are super friendly. You'll find authenticity in atmosphere. It's not too rowdy, not too quiet. There's nightly entertainment that adds to the Jamaican spell of hospitality. With affordable nonstop flights from New York, Couples is one of the best values you can find for a tropical getaway.
Marcia Simon, a Connecticut-based travel writer, is owner of Friendly Group Travel, specializing in trip planning throughout North America, Europe and the Caribbean. Connect on Instagram @friendlygrouptravel, Facebook @friendlygrouptravel, Twitter @friendsgotravel, or drop a note to email@example.com.
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Marcia Simon, CTA, APR, has been exploring new places since she was 17 years old and traveled around Europe on a Eurailpass with her best friend. Decades later, she still considers travel the best investment of time and money she's ever made for herself and her family.