Jamaica has so many great locations for a vacation that the hardest part of your vacation will be choosing which one to go to. Each area has a very different atmosphere which could be very helpful in your planning. One question which many ask themselves is “Montego Bay or Negril?”. Montego Bay is busier and may appear to have more to offer but it really depends on what you truly desire.
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Negril is famous for miles of beach coastline filled with beautiful sunsets and tranquility. The closest airport to Negril is in Montego Bay so you’ll still have to go through Montego Bay to get to Negril. Maybe passing through is enough or you might even want to split your time between the two.
If you’ve cruised to Jamaica a few times, you may have already been to Montego Bay or Ocho Rios so the next best thing would be getting to an area that you can’t cruise to, like Negril.
How far is Montego Bay to Negril?
Montego Bay to Negril is about 81 km via A1. This route takes about 90 – 120 minutes. A1 is the main road which stretches from Kingsgton to Montego Bay, then along the coast ending in Negril.
Getting from the Montego Bay Airport to Azul Beach Resort took almost 2 hours because it was the Saturday before Jamaica Labour Day. (It commemorates a labour rebellion in 1938 that led to Jamaica’s independence.) There were many people out doing their shopping as we passed the different towns and shopping centers along the way.
How to Get to Negril?
There are many Montego Bay to Negril transportation options. It is possible to take regional buses (Knutsford Express) for a cost of $12 – 15 but the savings may not be worth the effort.
You can hire a taxi at the airport or schedule a taxi pickup ahead of time. Our taxi was pre-scheduled with Cross Jamaica Tours, our driver was very reliable and provided a good service for our round trip transportation needs at $120 for 2 people.
You could drive a rental car, you’ll find Budget, Hertz, Dollar, Avis, Thrifty, and Sixt are available at Sangster International Airport. An American with a valid state-issued driver’s license can drive in Jamaica, remember that driving is on the left side of the road. There are other caveats to maneuvering Jamaican roads as an inexperienced driver there that may increase reason for caution with this option.
You can also take a shuttle and if staying at an all-inclusive hotel like Azul Beach Resort, you would’ve already been offered this option. Typically it is about $70 roundtrip to add on to your reservation and is for a shared shuttle. It can have limited times for pickups and drop offs which may not work well if you have a delayed flight (like we did). On checkout day, the last pick-up was at 9:20 AM which means that you would have to cut your trip a little short of the 12 PM checkout.
Arriving and Parking at Azul Beach Resort
When you arrive, there are 2 entrances. One is for premium guest reservations and the other is for regular guests. This distinction is not made clear in writing beforehand so we arrived at the regular entrance despite having a premium reservation. For this reason, I can’t say what happens when you do arrive at the other entrance.
Upon arrival, you are given a welcome glass of champagne and greeted warmly. You can sign into the WiFi very easily with signs everywhere while you check in. However, if your room is in the premium area, you will need to walk to the other side of the property. It’s not a bad walk but for someone who has a physical need, this would not be the start of a good stay. This also caused confusion when being picked up for excursions and the return taxi.
If you are driving and need parking, there is limited space across the street from the entrance. Both entrances are gated and you need to state the name on your reservation in order to gain entry. The street itself is A1 and feels like a country road, not very difficult to cross but can get busy at times.
There is an app to download that they tell you about at check-in. This would also be a plus if you were sent an email with the download prior to check-in so that you can familiarize yourself with the daily schedule and plan your time. It is a nice app but has a few drawbacks. There is a virtual map that seems to work great in theory but when you try to find a resort location on it, it doesn’t always work well. It would’ve been nice to just pull up a regular layout of the resort in addition to the virtual map.
You are supposed to be able to order food through the app, although it didn’t work for me on the one occasion that I tried it. The app kicked me out and I had to reboot it in order to make things work but I was able to order hand towels through it. I was also able to make dining reservations easily through the app.
The dining spaces are absolutely beautiful and a gourmet inclusive dining experience is what is promoted. I had the pleasure of dining at Ackee for Caribbean cuisine, it is only open from 6 PM to 9 PM so it is very important to make your reservations as early as you can for your stay. Casual resort dress is required.
The Amber Oceanfront Bar is a great place to enjoy views of the sky and sea while listening to music.
There is an Italian restaurant, Di Romagna, that is a favorite for many, although I did not have time to try it.
The Garfield Beach House has great Caribbean BBQ on the beach and is the center of fun nightlife and casual lunches. This is where you can observe the Fire Show, swing on a tree branch, watch the dancers, and join in fun games.
Beans Gourmet Coffee Shop is near the main entrance and is the best spot for an iced caramel latte each morning and a quick pastry. It seems like a simple thing but this was my favorite way to start my mornings after a walk on the beach.
Hua Hin serves Thai cuisine and was by far the tastiest thing I ate during my stay. Unfortunately, it was also the worst service but I enjoyed it nonetheless. My server brought me the wrong dish at every course despite repeating back to me exactly what I ordered. I ordered a fried fish appetizer and she brought me vegetable spring rolls. I actually didn’t mind once I realized the fried fish was calamari and I was torn between the two options anyway. I ordered vegetable stir-fry and she brought me beef. I asked for vegetable fried rice and she brought me plain rice. She was sweet but there was a definite disconnect.
The Indigo Denim Bar was very cute but a little small and very loud. The outside terrace was far more entertaining to me.
Mahogany is where you could get breakfast or lunch each day, unfortunately it is served buffet style which is less appealing to me. You can get a fresh omelet though and that is always delightful. Mahogany is on the premium end of the property.
Nesta Rasta Lounge is stunning and definitely where the best parties are.
The Palms is also open for breakfast and buffet style as well. If you get there early enough, you can have a quiet breakfast alone but it fills up quickly after opening. This eatery is right near the main entrance which may be why it fills up quickly as well.
One of my favorite spots was the Seven Mile Oceanfront Bar. This is also where the weddings happen and is on the quieter premium end of the resort. The bartenders here were always a bit more friendly and fun.
The Swim-Up bars were great ways to get a quick drink without having to go too far from your room.
This lovely property feels bigger than it is when you’re walking the grounds but it is quite intimate in its size and the amount of guestrooms. For this reason, it may be hard to find the lodging you want without planning well ahead of time.
All rooms have a daily stocked in-room mini bar which you have to request the first time you want it stocked. The website description states that all rooms also come with rainforest style shower, plush bathrobes, slippers, turndown service, aromatherapy pillow menu, and circular shaped day beds on every terrace/balcony. Having been in 3 of the rooms during my stay, our experiences were a bit inconsistent. One room had no slippers. None of the rooms had the aromatherapy pillow menu or received turndown service.
The Ocean View Deluxe Suite is the smallest of the rooms available and gives you a comfortable covered outdoor space. These are typically on the 2nd and 3rd floor, although the 3rd floor has limited coverage. A room in early August can be priced from $595/nt for 2.
The Premium Ocean View Suite is larger than the deluxe suite with over 600 sq ft in a space that covers a dining area for 2, a sofa bed, large bathroom with double sinks and ample closet space. Premium amenities include a beach butler. This room starts at $649/nt for 2 in early August during the Summer Sale.
The Premium Ocean View Swim-Up Suite is the same as the Premium Ocean View Suite, although depending on the location, you may experience better ocean views and you’ll have your own personal entry into the lazy river/pool outside your balcony. If you are lucky enough to get the first one, it is absolutely wonderful. If you have the opportunity to request it, I stayed in room 11002 which is building 11 and it was a great room. An early August stay is currently pricing from $853/nt for 2.
Premium guests are given bracelets that act as keys. When you enter the Premium Ocean View Swim-Up Suite, it has a chic look matching the pictures on the website. There is a minibar across from the door and a sofa with a coffee table next to it. On the other side there are sliding entry doors to the bathroom dressing area, closets on both sides which include plenty of drawers and hangers for all of your belongings. There is a large mirror behind the sofa but also another long mirror on the opposite wall.
The clock/radio next to the bed had a convenient USB port on it.
In room amenities include plenty of toiletries such as a shaving kit, shoe cleaner, and a sewing kit but you can also request additional items like a shower cap through the app. Although the bathroom is larger in the premium rooms, some people might not like the frosted glass doors on the water closet and shower (I loved it!).
While my room was pretty nice, I could see some of the reviews I’ve noticed on TripAdvisor about general upkeep. It seems to be more about the wear and tear that older ocean font properties can take on, they age more and it can be noticed in the halls a bit. There were a few areas with unpleasant smells that I passed but nothing that upset my sleep or stay.
Room Service is easy enough although some people complain about the limited items available. There’s no extra fee and they bring it to you so I’m not complaining. I enjoyed the lunch although I had to be a bit creative in my ordering because there wasn’t much that fit my eating style. I ordered a caesar salad, although an option for it without chicken would’ve been nice. I just moved the chicken over and enjoyed the salad. Unless you’re a vegetarian, the room service menu has a good amount of items to choose from.
Room service did take about 40 minutes for delivery so plan early. When ordering through the app, there may be some substitutions that don‘t match what you ordered exactly. For instance, you order a sprite and receive a 7Up, nothing too drastic.
Tip: If you want a ginger ale, ask for a ginger beer or a “Bigga”.
When you call or use the app to stock your mini fridge, go ahead and let them know what you want. Otherwise, they will bring you 4 waters, 2 sodas (Pepsi and 7Up), 3 local drinks such as “Bigga”, and 4 Red Stripes (Beer). Snacks might include bags of plantain chips, a rum cake, a fruit & nut bar.
On the West End of the beach, you will see an open beach area that is often used for weddings. Followed by the Prestige Members Reserved area. The rest of the beach is open to you with plentiful round day beds, cabanas, cabana beds, lounge chairs, and a yoga studio area that also gets dressed up for private beach dinners in the evening. You can walk all along the beach but you will be stopped by security to leave your name and room number as you leave the property.
You can see the daily activity schedule on the app and can add events to your own list. This is how you will know when the Fire Show takes place and you should stake out a spot before dinner in order to get a good view. There were actually more kids activities available than adult activities and some of them looked like good fun that my kids would’ve loved. During my stay, there was aquacise, basket weaving, painting, dance lessons, and morning yoga sessions.
I was looking forward to aquacise one morning but never saw anyone show up to do it so I assumed I had the location wrong. The day I was leaving, they were right in front of my terrace, so I guess the location was right but maybe something else wasn’t.
For the most part, I was always greeted with a genuine smile. I wish my check-in had been more informative about what was included during my stay and a better explanation of how to set up my covid test for returning to the US but I’m always mindful that maybe I just missed something.
Housekeeping was good but seemed to get better with each day, for instance, when I first entered my room, there were no hand or face towels but they started appearing the next day. The bed was always made and the room vacuumed or swept which is always nice when you keep bringing back bits of sand with you.
Azul Beach Resort is a beautiful resort and if Negril is your destination, then this is definitely a good place to enjoy a relaxing vacation on Seven Mile Beach. The food was okay, not especially memorable but I didn’t go hungry either. The beach and beach amenities are absolutely stunning while also being comfortable and amazingly relaxing. I enjoyed my stay but I cannot say that I’ll be planning a trip back anytime soon.
If I were there any longer than 4 – 5 days, I would be a bit bored after that point. I prefer a little more to do and to be closer to a walkable city center. I highly recommend it for couples, families, and honeymooners looking for relaxation and quiet time.
There were several weddings during our stay, all of which were beautiful to see. Some were small and intimate, a couple were large and a bit wild. There’s no guarantee that you won’t see the groom completely wasted and heaving with his entire wedding party trying to take care of him and help only for him to threaten to beat everyone up (true story). It happens, it’s an all-inclusive so someone is bound to drink too much. Too bad it was the groom.
The drive from Negril to Montego Bay is a journey that I’m not sure I would be too keen on doing often either. I would go back though, at least once more to share such a beautiful place with my children and enjoy the beach.