Jamaica Retreat Recap – get ready for tons of pictures from my trip to Jamaica last October for the Eat, Love, Sandals Food Blogger Retreat!
Last October I was given the opportunity to go to Jamaica, without my husband or kids, to meet up with some of the most amazing food bloggers for a retreat. Destination Sandals Ocho Rios Resort!
I’ve been hesitant to write up this Jamaica retreat post. One of the reasons is because of the passing of my friend, Joan. She passed away in her sleep a few months ago from a heart attack. You can read my post dedicated to Joan and see more picture of her there. She was the entire reason I went on this retreat. She locked in a spot for me and pushed me out of my comfort zone to go. I didn’t know many of the girls going so was feeling a bit nervous about that and also overwhelmed at the thought of leaving the country. It had been years since I’d left to go anywhere that far.
I agreed to go because, well, you can’t say no to Joan. She wouldn’t let you. 😉
When we arrived, we took a bus shuttle all the way to Ocho Rios. It was a good 30 minute drive from the airport in Montego Bay. I had no idea driving in Jamaica would be so intense! The drivers drive like maniacs! They drive on the opposite side of the road than we do in America and often pass the car(s) ahead by going into the opposite lane. Cars are literally coming right at you! Then they swerve at the last minute into the left lane again. OMG I swear I almost had a panic attack right in the bus! It was insane!
But then we get there and after dealing with check-in, we go to our rooms to freshen up. The atmosphere is gorgeous. I mean, breathtaking. Even with the humidity and heat, the views are out of this world. They had little golf carts to take us to our suites.
My room was beautiful. Above is the view from my little deck/patio. I had a sitting room, kitchen and huge four poster bed in my suite. Oh, and it had the best air conditioning which was necessary for getting out of the Jamaican heat! 😉
We had our first dinner, a welcome party that evening. Enjoy some of the pictures of the food below! My favorite was the coconut shrimp on skewers. So yummy!
The next day we had a crazy delicious breakfast of the Jamaican National dish: Ackee & Salt Fish and Jamaican hot chocolate. You guys, this hot chocolate changed my life!!! Best hot chocolate ever!
After breakfast, we had a roundtable discussion about the best thing we’ve ever done for our business. Because, you know, we were there for a food blogger retreat not because we wanted a vacation, right? (wink, wink!)
I had to leave a bit early from the meeting to go on a special date. A special FIRST date. I went snorkeling for the very first time EVER!!!
What Jamaica Retreat recap is complete without a selfie pic?! Ha! This is me terrified, below. I might look excited, but I was terrified. I have a little fear of the ocean. Okay, it’s a huge fear of the ocean. Even if it’s gorgeous and blue, I don’t want to go in it. I think it’s because I’m not a strong swimmer. I can doggie paddle and swim under water, but I don’t know how to do strokes. So yeah, water without set boundaries like a pool, scares me a bit.
The boat was really fun though and I was in good company…
…so I put on my big girl panties, sucked up the fear and went snorkeling! I took my oldest son’s GoPro and snagged a few cool pictures..
It was awesome!! It was the perfect “first” snorkeling experience for me because the water was pretty shallow and there weren’t a ton of sea creatures. Just harmless little fish. I think Leslie and Meghan, who went with me, were a bit disappointed it wasn’t cooler, but it was perfect for me, lol!
After snorkeling, the boat took us to Dunn’s waterfalls. We got to hike up this series of really cool waterfalls with a tour guide leading us up.
The only other waterfall I’ve seen was one in Kona a couple years ago, so I thought the experience was really neat. This picture below totally cracks me up!
One of the best memories from that snorkeling/waterfall trip was the ride back to shore on the boat. The boat driver went the long way and went really fast over the waves in the process. They turned up the loud reggae and other pop music on the speakers and we totally jammed out with the tour guides that went with us. Yep, there was definitely a few renditions of “Watch Me Whip” going on. 😉
After we got back to the resort and cleaned up, we had the opportunity to make a few dishes ourselves at the Jerk Shack in the resort. We dined on Jerk Pork, Fish in Foil Packets, and hush puppies. It was all so delicious!
This picture is not the best but it’s of the group altogether after dinner. 🙂
The following morning, we had another roundtable discussion after breakfast, which was super useful. After that, we headed out in a bus to The Seville Golden Preschool. We each brought a backpack full of school supplies from home to give to the children at the school.
I’m tearing up as I write this, because it was such an amazing experience for me. The area that the school is located is gorgeous, as you can see by the pictures. Right by the ocean. But the area surrounding it is not. Most of Jamaica is poverty stricken. You see it everywhere you look.
Yet these kids at Seville. Wow. They are vibrant. They are thriving. They are happy. It’s contagious. I fell in love with these kids!
I’m feeling absolutely humbled right now. We were able to take a trip to a local Jamaican school, hand out school supplies and stuffed animals we brought, read books, color and play with some of the sweetest little kids. I am so grateful for such an amazing experience!! I’ll never forget it. ? #eatlovesandals #packforapurpose #readingroadtrip #jamaica
A photo posted by Jen Nikolaus (@jen_yummyhealthyeasy) on
We read them books, chatted with them, hugged them, colored with them and then gave them the items we had brought with us. You guys. They were beyond thrilled to get something as simple as a pencil sharpener. Thrilled! A stuffed animal? The best present ever!
They were so sweet! I’m so thankful for the opportunity to be with these amazing kids. It really made this Jamaica retreat the most special. Please donate to the Sandals Foundation to help this and other schools like it! They need every donation!
Our farewell party was that night. It was a 50’s themed dinner with French food. I ate escargot! The food was my favorite of the whole trip. The best French Onion soup I’ve had in a long time! I have some pictures but the room was so dark, you can hardly tell what it is. 😉
The next day it was time to pack up and go. I was so sad to say goodbye to Jamaica, but even sadder to say goodbye to friends, old and new. I learned so much on this Jamaica retreat.
This picture below means so much to me. It’s the last picture I got with Joan. It was the last time I saw her. I will miss her dearly. She was insistent on taking this picture in the airport by all the duty-free goods. I’m so glad we did because I’ll cherish it forever.
Thanks for letting me tell my story of Eat, Love, Sandals. It was the Best Jamaica Retreat Ever!
Check out the sponsors that made it possible:
Kendra Scott – Graze – Tieks – SugarWish – Heirloomed – New West Knife Works – It! Cosmetics – Nielsen-Massey – Sweets and Treats Boutique – Minted – Fiestaware – ProFlowers – Inkspot Workshop – Partners Crackers