Experiencing Jamaica For Couples

There's a thing writers do when they begin a story, something I like to call "the stare"—we look off into the distance, focus our thoughts, and think about what we want to say. As I sit here at my keyboard, my mind's eye is flooded with blue-on-blue ocean-meets-sky imagery, the sounds of sleepy waves lapping at the shore, and the smells of brightly hued Caribbean flowers.

I'm reminded of winding rock walkways, a fish-filled grotto that Spanish soldiers believed to hold healing and strengthening properties in the 1700s, and a Balloon Bar, where handmade fabric balloons and papier-mâché figures modeled after famous balloonists festooned in each ceiling arch. I spent a few days with my husband at Couples Resorts in Ocho Rios, Jamaica, a place lovely, peaceful, and full of beauty at every turn.

"Welcome home!" said Emoryth, the gentleman who carried our bags, with a saucer-sized smile.

We woke before the sun every morning, walked down to the pier with coffee in hand and watched the sunrise paint the sky with peaches, pinks and purples — a new beginning. Although we spotted a few couples doing the same, for the most part, we had our sunrises to ourselves. The days were spent lounging by the pool, soaking in the open-air hot tub, and wiggling our toes in the sand. We indulged in a couple's massage at Oasis Spa and strolled around the surrounding gardens, listening to the choral birds' songs.

Serenity was at every turn — there were no kids running around pool loungers and no disruptive beach parties with house music. Nature infused every nook and cranny, and guests were able to revel in the peace.

It wasn't all rest and relaxation, of course. There were many adventures to be had while in sun-kissed Jamaica. The all-inclusive Couples Resorts experience includes glass-bottom boat reef snorkeling excursions, catamaran cruises (owned by Couples Tower Isle Resort), trips off property, and nightly entertainment. Meeting other pairs while on these excursions gave us insight into the Couples' ethos — people loved to share the friendships they've built over the years, and one couple we met even planned their future trip to coincide with the friends they had just made at the resort.

It was vitalizing to take a vessel out on the water, swim around the reefs, and see fish poking in and out of little coral caves. The music-at-eleven catamaran booze cruise was super fun too. We anchored at a private cove, jumped off the boat, and splashed around like nobody was watching.

Dunn River Falls was a highpoint and must-do. Fun fact: There are not eight rivers in Ocho Rios, there are four: Cave River, Roaring River, Turtle River, and of course, Dunn's River. Imagine a 600-foot waterfall, positioned in stair-like terraces that you climb, but only while holding hands in a long human chain — it's a group effort to reach the top of Dunn's River.

Finally, the night entertainment at Couples Resorts included a young band called Positive Vibrations that whaled on steel drums, covering Michael Jackson, Bob Marley, Donna Summer, and more. In addition, Couples Tower Isle has a fantastic piano bar, with old black and white photos of Hollywood stars like Walt Disney, Eva Gabor and Debbie Reynolds lining the walls. Here you can enjoy libations and jazz ear candy well into the night. Guests interact and mingle, making the social hour, well, social.

Couples Resorts caters heavily to returning guests, honoring them with a weekly Repeat Guest Dinners as well as celebratory t-shirts through its Romance Rewards Program. There's also Au Naturel Island. We kayaked around this private and lush island, noting a bare-it-all man, taking a Captain Morgan posture at the edge of the cliff. And, since we're a "When in Rome..." sort of couple, we decided to check it out for ourselves. It felt risqué and brave standing at the end of the dock, waiting for the boat to take us over to the island. Were we really going to do this?! The Garden of Eden island was full of palm trees, bushes dotted with flowers, two-by-two lounge chairs, a pool and bar, and a little castle with an interior ladder to reach the turret. So there we were, swimming in the buoyant Caribbean while laughing like teenagers in our birthday suits and sunning parts or our bodies that I'm sure have never seen UV rays in our adult lives. The pièce de résistance? We moseyed out to, what we dubbed, Pride Rock to seize the day with full-on superhero stances, noses pointed to the sun.

Each morning we had fresh omelets, pain au chocolat, and juices at Patio Restaurant. We ate amazing veggie burgers, smothered with Jamaican jerk seasoning, at The Pool Grill; coconut smoothies from the Veggie Bar; and banana leaf-steamed snapper at Bayside, which has the most stunning view, delivered from gazebos over the water. Eight Rivers is an upscale Caribbean Fusion restaurant, with a dress code, where you can taste local belly-warming delights.

At Couples Sans Souci, we took part in an interactive cooking demonstration for lunch, hosted by chef Andre Simpson. We learned how make fried plantains, Escovitch fish with garlic and thyme, and Jamaican Bammy, a golden brown doughy nibble made with milk, cinnamon and sugar.

"We're big on food and service — our dining budget is larger than most resorts," said Couples Resorts general manager, Pierre Battaglia. "Guests return year after year for our dining experiences."

There was a certain culture palpable at Couples Resorts, a place that applauds duos, that is made special by all of the repeat guests. Everyone I came in contact with had been to the resort before—everyone. Charles, from Chicago, who was visiting with his wife for the fifteenth time with his extended family, said that he was sold when a staff member overheard him talking about these coconut cookies that he loved and, without requesting them, warm cookies were brought out to his family so they could enjoy them back in their rooms. Whether you want undisturbed alone time, lively social interaction with new friends around a meal or activity together, Couples Resorts has created a space for your vacation interests. Although all-inclusive resorts got a bad reputation, there are more than 100 others where the food, service and accommodations are top notch.