After more than a year without traveling abroad, I finally went on a vacation to Jamaica, to be precise to Beaches Ocho Rios.
This was a family vacation that my son waited so long for and we have to say that we enjoyed our time there even though there were some struggles.
Our flight going to Jamaica was delayed for more than 2 hours due to a tropical storm; another tropical storm that became a Hurricane in Cancun (Grace) hit the island in the middle of our vacation and our flight back home was delayed again and we lost our connecting flight.
Airlines are struggling like everybody else in the travel industry, we need to carry a gigantic dose of patience with ourselves because there will be hiccups no matter how well we have planned our trip.
Jamaica has very specific regulations for travelers, when you choose to travel there make sure that you understand and follow their requirements.
At the time that we traveled, August 2021, we had to be tested for Covid 72 hours before our trip, I admit that is nerve-racking because the best test would be the PCR test but due to the high raise in Covid cases is hard to receive the results in the next 72 hours.
Another test that is approved is the Antigen test but must be done at one of the approved labs, have the CLIA or ISO certification number and that can be tricky.
To avoid problems, I did the PCR test that always comes with the laboratory information and CLIA certification, my results turned around in 48 hours.
I have to say that you need to be prepared with extra doses of grace and kindness because things are not like they use to be before the pandemic.
Everywhere you look or go is understaffed and you might find long lines at airports. None if you are wise and purchase Club Mobay Vip Arrival and Departure. They will wait for you and take you to the fast-track line where a customs agent is waiting for you; in few minutes you are at your lounge or transportation to your hotel.
Beaches Ocho Rios is a nice small hotel with a lovely beach but it does need a facelift, several areas of the hotel look worn out and old; rooms are comfortable and have several activities for families with kids of all ages. The Sesame characters brought real smiles to my son that never cared for them before.
We sat one evening watching families dancing around the main pool in a silent party. The neon headphones were awesome!
During the day we enjoyed the beach and water activities that the resort offers, definitely we want to do a private snorkeling trip again, that was an unforgettable experience for both of us!
We will never forget Sonia who was the companion of our captain; she took pictures and videos for us while we were snorkeling. Our captain, sadly I can’t remember his name was super kind, brought drinks for us and took us on an island tour, showing is the fishing villas, the area where sea turtles are released, the place where one of the James Bond movies was filmed and more!
We went to two different places to snorkel, is sad that in both places the coral reefs are dying but we still got to see and experience the marine life! Is fascinating to be able to see anemones, colorful fish, urchins, corals, etc.! Our captain allowed us to touch female sea urchins, told us never to touch the black ones (males), captured for us a lobster, and the cherry on the top was that he allowed my son to drive the boat on the way back to the resort!
I am a foodie and I love good food and like to try local dishes. In the past I never had any dish at Sandals or Beaches properties that I didn’t love; this time the food was not at the same level of variety and not as flavorful as before the pandemic, but I could notice that they were struggling with a lack of personnel.
We tried the Italian restaurant called The Venetian and I was not impressed, to me the food was just okay and my son that is a pizza lover was not happy with their pizza either. The ambiance is super romantic with candle lights, and I love the area where you can get different types of bread, cheeses, olives, prosciutto, and similar. The service was good!
La Parisienne is a small restaurant, you need to go there really early, at 5 pm to get you a table or make a reservation in the morning hours with your concierge. I enjoyed the Ragout aux champignons, an appetizer with wild mushrooms, garlic cream, and puff pastry that was tasty and looked great! We had to wait for our food for at least one hour, but we could see that they were very busy and with just two servers that were completely overwhelmed so we decided to enjoy our drinks and the nice ambiance while we waited instead of complaining, sometimes we need to show grace to people, understand that we are in the middle of a pandemic and everybody is doing the best that they can.
What we did to keep us safe and not catch the covid-19
We avoid crowds whenever was possible.
At the airport, we stay away 6 feet from the person in front of us while making the TSA lines, sat down at the empty area before boarding our plane, paid for the Club Mobay VIP at our arrival and departure and we wear our N95 mask all the time from the moment we arrive at the airport to the moment we arrive at our room at the hotel.
We choose outdoor activities
We stay on the beach in the empty area or just one more family with us and keep a distance of at least 12 feet.
The water park was more crowded but we found an area in the shade where nobody else was and my son waited for the water slides to be empty before he use them.
We choose outdoor breakfast and lunch
We ate breakfast every day at Josephine’s Creperie, very few guests were there around 9 am
We ate lunch at Bar. B.Q where we tried the jerk chicken or at the Bayside restaurant that offered buffet lunch that was served by the staff only so guests didn’t touch utensils.
In all the restaurants they have a host that makes sure to give you hand sanitizer before you are seated.
Dinners were indoors but the hotel makes sure that occupancy was limited and there were more than 6 feet between tables, we feel safe eating indoors at night. We wore our masks all the time unless we were eating.
We constantly sanitize our hands
I had a hand sanitizer with me all the time and it gave me peace of mind that we disinfect our hands every time that we touched a high traffic area or before we eat anything
Build up our immunity
A month before our trip we started taking vitamins that promote immunity like Vitamin C, Vitamin D, Zinc, and Elderberry.
We wore our masks all the time
No matter what outdoors or indoors we wore our masks when we were around a crowded area.
Is a different way of travel but the beauty of the destination and the time bonding with my son was priceless and completely worth it, it shows us that is possible to travel and be safe while you are doing it.
My father turned 80 years old last October and we celebrated at a villa rental in Costa Rica.
The big benefits that we loved from the villa rental were the following:
Thanks to our concierge we visited places like:
Depending on the date of your trip, the hour of your visit and your luck you will see wildlife, we went around 11 am and saw monkeys and blue crabs.
The entrance to the park for adults and kids was $16.
Our chef recommended a beach that is not well known but where he likes to take his children, it was 5 minutes ride from the villa, Biesanz Beach where we enjoyed kayaking.
Be careful when you practice kayaking on this beach, the waves can be high and rough.
For us it was our first time doing it, so we have some funny stories to tell about falling from the kayak when the waves hit us. I do not recommend doing it on a day when the ocean is rough like we did.
We tried a local restaurant on our own, Mira Olas Restaurant located at The Malecon in Quepos city. The food had the taste of being prepared homemade, super delicious, great service, and a lovely view of the ocean.
Quepos Farmers Market takes place every Friday night and is a good place to buy good coffee, fresh produce, and yummy bread.
To celebrate my dad’s birthday, Luis, the chef helped us buying the cake and preparing our father's favorite meal that is grilled pork with potatoes, corn, and grilled veggies!
We sang, danced, and celebrated all night long. It was the best trip ever for each one of us!
If you would like to go to this villa for your special celebration, just let me know!
I visited Costa Rica to celebrate my dad’s 80th birthday with my family from Peru and Germany.
It was my first time in the destination and my first time in a private villa with a chef!
As a travel agent I am used to going to all- inclusive hotels whenever there is one available, but this time my brothers preferred a villa instead of a hotel to just spend time together with no strangers around.
When you take your group to a villa, the experience is super intimate, there are no shows, no restaurant options, bar tenders, etc; but on the other hand this experience will let you deepen the bond with the people traveling with you.
In our case the villa came with a chef , Luis Arias that pampered us in many ways and with three cleaning girls: Tatiana, Cherys and Mayra. They kept the villa impeccable and even did our laundry!
Our concierge was fabulous, Ruddy Munoz Abarca, he did all the arrangements for our excursions and transfers.
We stayed in Quepos,which is located 2.5 hours from San Jose airport, if there is traffic it will take you at least 3 hours to arrive there.
The area is super nice and safe, you can go out walking to restaurants and bars. The beach is not easily accessed by walking,it is better to take a taxi or the local bus to go there, the closest beach to our villa was Biesanz Beach but is rocky on the left side so make sure that you just swim on the right side.
On this beach you can also do kayaking and snorkeling.
The food in Costa Rica is awesome, we enjoyed Gallo Pinto, fresh fruit, cheese, and avocado in our first breakfast and our chef prepared Caribbean Chicken on our last day that was spectacular! We ate grilled meats, fish, Costa Rica style ceviche and all the food was super yummy!
We enjoyed days on different beaches: Espadilla, Manuel Antonio and Biesanz. Each one is completely different.
Espadilla is a big beach where kids can run the waves in boggie boards, the waves are strong and even good for surfers.
Manuel Antonio was my favorite because is small, intimate and has white sand. Lovely for young children because it has no waves.
Biesanz beach is where you can do snorkeling and kayaking but the beach itself is rocky, you can get in the water to swim only on the right side but still have to wear swim shoes because of the small rocks.
The locals suggested that we go to Campesinos Eco Lodge instead of Rainmaker because we didn’t want my dad to walk long trails. The place was espectacular, just a short walk to the hanging bridge and another short walk to the waterfalls where you can swim.
For families with kids and elderly parents is highly recommended!
If you are in Manuel Antonio National Park area, visiting this park is a must! To see the wild animals it is better to go very early in the morning or at night with a guide, they know where to find them.
I enjoyed so much the diversity of flowers, the monkeys chasing us and the thousands of blue crabs!
Friday nights they have a small farm trade show in downtown, there you can buy specialty coffee, bread.
We just tried one restaurant that has a lovely location on the oceanfront , is called Mira Olas. Located in Central Avenue, just to the left of the name “Quepos” that is shown on the boardwalk that goes around the beach. The food was superb and we pay $13 dollars for 2 meals with natural passion fruit juice. The meal was a choice of meat: chicken, pork or fish, rice and black beans.
Costa Ricans also known as “Ticos” are extremely warm, happy and caring people, they do everything they can to make you feel welcome and they will go the extra mile to make sure that your stay in their country is enjoyable!
As my friends there say, “ Hasta la vista, PURA VIDA!!
Lomo saltado is a popular, traditional Peruvian dish, typically served with white rice. The dish originated as part of the "chifa" tradition, the Chinese cuisine of Peru, though its popularity has made it part of the culture. Like many others dishes in Peru, it is one of the favorite ways to mix cultures that influence Peruvian cuisine . As a Peruvian it is one of my favorite dishes and the best part is that I can prepare it here in the USA where I have lived since 2004.
Prep 30 m
Cook 20 m
Ready In 50 m
Peruvian Lomo Saltado
How to make Lomo Saltado
Courtesy of Promperu
If you are the type of person that enjoys getting to know the citizens from the place you are visiting, these are some tips to help you to get to know better the culture of the country you are visiting.
Eat in places that aren’t for tourists, you should go to a restaurant out of malls and even far from touristic places. Walk a little to get away from these places to look for restaurants in which you see the most locals eating.
Before traveling to a country you want to visit, would be good for you to read about its culture, customs, what are people like there, or some idioms used when talking in a daily basis. This information will help you to understand their behavior so you can act according to their culture.
Speak the country’s language or at least try it. If a language seems weird, take with you a paper with some words or basic phrases that might be useful for you to have a better time there. Something that can help you is even talk to some people and ask the meaning of some words. Letting them know that you are interested in their culture may open doors to many opportunities.
Ask. The best way to learn about something you don’t know is asking, so anytime you have the chance, talk to the locals and ask them. So you can comprehend better the people you speak with. It would also be good to know a little bit about the religion, from where they precede (the countryside or the city), who their parents were, maybe what’s their job or anything that can give you a reference of your surroundings.
Don’t judge. Remember that you are looking forward to learn, but it won’t be possible if you set limits. Don’t qualify customs as good or bad; just accept it as something different.
Cómo Aprender de la Cultura de un País
Bellboys’ work is really important, they are a key part in the hotel functions; they probably are the ones who help us the most.
In big hotels bellboys are always recognizable, I recommend you to never give your luggage to anyone that isn’t properly identified. Back to our subject, if you don’t know how the bellboy can help you, here are 4 things that they can do for you.
He can help you with any information about the hotel areas, with the location of the offices or any other hotel employee. So if you want to go somewhere or find someone, the bellboy can help you.
If you are in a city you don’t know well, bellboys are well informed about the city and where everything is locates. They could also recommend you certain places that you need to visit.
He is one of the best informed hotel employees about events going on in the city.
Because they are the ones that give you the best impression of the hotel, they know the services, benefits and characteristics of the hotel by heart.
So the next time you go to a trip just ask the bellboy.
Blog MESA Y BAR (2011) consulted on August 27, 2017 http://mesabar-jorgeantonio.blogspot.pe/2011/05/funcion-de-un-botones-en-un-hotel.html
Highly recommend this hotel for pool lovers of all ages, is fantastic for celebrating milestones in the family like Graduations, Quinceañeras, Weddings, Honeymoons, etc. There is something for every age and the hotel is so big that you do not have the feeling on being in a crowded place. The food at the concert in the Moon Palace Arena was awesome, not a fan of La Gondola Italian restaurant, their food was average.
I was gladly surprise with Wi-Fi every where!! I was able to talk with my family and show them the hotel while I was walking from my room toward the beach and from the beach itself also! The service is already included with your package.
I arrived to Cancun airport on May 20th, 2016 and was received by Elite Transfer ( company that works only with Palace Resorts), they offered me a bottle of water or soda that was great since it was a hot and humid day.
My hotel Moon Palace was only 10 minutes from the airport and my room was in the Sunrise section of the hotel, room 4044 that is garden view but even with that I had an amazing view of the ocean.
My room had marble floors, indoor Jacuzzi, balcony with sitting chairs and a table. The bathroom had a great shower, make up mirror that light up, hair dryer and flat iron to fix my hair.
My minibar was fully stocked with several kinds of beers like Corona, Budweiser, and different sodas like Pepsi, Coca Cola, Seven Up, Canada Dry, Sparkling water, orange juice and apple juice. The bar had a James king whiskey, Bacardi Rum, Jose Cuervo Special Tequila, and Vodka.
This room was a concierge category located in the Toronja building.
The main attraction of this hotel for me is their pools, many of them so everybody can have their own space. Also they have a section that is called the Moon Palace Arena where they have their concerts with famous singers. I saw the concert of Starship and Alphaville that was awesome! You can buy your tickets online in webs like Ticket Masters.
The hotel has a buffet restaurant that is named Bugambilias that offer breakfast, lunch and dinner. Also have specialty restaurants like Fragata that offer sea food, Italian at La Gondola, Pan Asian in the Sunrise section, but they have several other options in the Nizuc and Grand section like Peruvian , Brazilian, Mexican restaurants
This hotel is the biggest all -inclusive in the Caribbean and each section is different from the other one. The Grand section is more sophisticated and elegant, with the feeling of being the adults only section.
Nizuc has also great pools and bars around them, have South American restaurants. Seems to be more for families with young kids.
Moon Palace is great for multi-generational travelers; there is a big playground for kids, teenagers lounge, bars and disco for adults, flow rider and more!
My biggest impression was the service, everybody doing their best to meet your needs; room service is exceptional, they are on time with your request.
I will always remember Chefs Reyes and Monforte from La Gondola for their special attention and service for me and my friends, our server Elizabeth, and in general all of them. Esmeralda from room service, the room cleaning team, our drivers, the guys on the pools and bars make our stay unforgettable!!
Room Tip: Choose rooms in the second level so you can have view of the beach, La Toronja building is quiet and close to the main pool area.
Bilingual English -Spanish Travel Agent