‘I turned an all-inclusive holiday in Jamaica into a DIY wellbeing retreat’

beaches negril all inclusive resort in jamaica
Turn an all-inclusive trip into a wellbeing breakAmanda Statham

Far-flung all-inclusive resorts can be a brilliant way to holiday with family: beautiful beaches, near-guaranteed sunshine and unlimited food and drinks with no nasty bill at the end. Joy.

However the possibility of Pina Coladas at lunch, Prosecco with dinner and dessert stations to rival Wonka's chocolate factory comes with its own set of problems. You get the picture: it takes an awful lot of will-power to step away from free fries and rum punches, even when you're committed to a healthy lifestyle.

I didn't want to be the Fun Police during our one-week family break to all-inclusive Beaches Negril in Jamaica, but nor did I fancy lying around all day piling on booze and cookie calories. So I set myself the challenge of creating a little wellbeing retreat amid the free-flowing cocktails and ice cream dispensers. Here's what went down...

So how easy is it to stay fit?

negril beach, jamaica
Negril beach is paradise Beaches Negril

I flew to Montego Bay with my two kids (Sonny, 10, and Sol, 6) on a cold, grey day in January, so when we landed in dazzling sunshine it was smiles all round. A short transfer along palm-lined roads delivered us to the resort, where we were greeted with delicious fruity welcome drinks - I opted for the non-alcoholic option. So far, so healthy.

the glass bottom boat at beaches negril in jamaica
All aboard the glass bottom boatAmanda Statham

The resort edges Negril's seven miles of pristine soft sand, hands down one of the best beaches on the island. After settling into our swish family room (two double beds, spacious balcony), we headed to the watersports centre and signed up for pretty much everything. Over the next seven days we went on a gorgeous glass-bottom boat ride (spotting turtles, Dory, even a ship wreck!), pedalling around the bay on giant sea tractors, kayaking, paddle-boarding and snorkelling in the blissfully warm ocean.

Scuba diving's included if you're certified (a real bonus as it usually costs around £100+ per session), but if you want to learn to dive it'll set you back a bargain £125 (aged 10+).

pirates island waterpark at beaches negril
Pirates Island Waterpark Beaches Negril

Back on shore, I raised my heart rate on the waterslides and Lazy River at the resort's colourful Pirates Island Waterpark - jumping on inflatable rings and chasing the kids against the flow of water definitely felt like it burnt more calories than HITT. I also joined an aqua fit session and threw a ball around the swimming pool with a gaggle of enthusiastic youngsters for what seemed like hours.

If cardio with kids isn't hitting the spot, Red Lane Fitness Centre has a really great air conditioned gym and daily classes, like 8am power walks and Caribbean Shred (think low weights, high reps, cool tunes). You can also book a PT session.

While I avoided the midday sun and worked up a sweat, the kids escaped the hottest hour of the day in the Xbox Play Lounge. They LOVED it in there and, thanks to action-packed mornings and afternoons in the fresh air, I wasn't too worried about screen-time, plus life's about balance, right?

a person and a boy playing chess
Late night giant chess action Amanda Statham

There's also basketball, beach volleyball and tennis to try, and in the evening we played outside games like shuffleboard, giant chess and dipped our feet in the warm water while listening to the chirruping frog chorus.

Is there a spa to take things up a level?

Yes. The Red Lane® Spa's set in a large, tranquil building, tucked away from all the busy bars and restaurants. I booked as many treatments as I could get away with during the week, including Earthly Harmony, a massage with CBD-infused oil which was fantastic for aiding sleep.

a couple of people in clothing by a pool
Elmo and the Cookie Monster made an appearance Amanda Statham

Where were the kids while I was on the massage table? Being pampered at Sesame Street Kids Camp, which is as noisy and fun as it sounds. The HQ has a splash pool, play areas and regular appearances from the TV characters (we saw Bert and Ernie have a dance-off. Unforgettable). There’s no danger of anyone getting bored, with loads of activities on offer for all different ages (even tweens and teens), think baking with the Cookie Monster, talent shows, treasure hunts and pool Olympics.

And how do I avoid all the sweet treats?

Nine restaurants makes it relatively easy to swerve fries, doughnuts and ice creams and keep mealtimes nutritious and healthy (give or take the occasional frozen yogurt).

a pool in a backyard
Soy restaurant Beaches Negril

Best of the bunch was Soy, where we sat beneath cherry blossom murals and chop-sticked our way around plates of wonderfully fresh bites like nigiri rolls, wanton soup, tender sashimi octopus and edamame beans. It was so good we ate there twice.

kimonos restaurant at beaches negril in jamaica
Watching star chef Lenroy in action Amanda Statham

Kimonos was another highlight. Teriyaki chef Lenroy whipped up a sensational noodle and rice-based supper at our private cooking station while singing, throwing bits of food into the children's mouths (well, almost) and juggling utensils. They gazed at him in awe, it felt like watching a pop star.

Mariachi’s an open-sided Mexican joint, where we all got our hands messy tackling fish tacos, guacamole and sizzling platters of meat and corn. And The Mill is the resort’s main restaurant where breakfast and dinner are served daily buffet-style. We ate there on Italian night but I stepped away from the carbs and piled my bowl high with mussels, while the kids loaded up steaming plates of spaghetti.

When I needed a caffeine fix, I popped into Cafe de Paris for a cup of Jamaica’s own Blue Mountain Coffee (best beans in the world, so it would be rude not to), but refrained from joining the kids demolishing freshly made crepes.

frozen yogurt yoyo's at beaches negril in jamaica
Yum frozen yogurt YoYo’s by the pool Amanda Statham

A considerable amount of their time was dedicated to visiting frozen yogurt shop YoYo's, where dispensers labeled things like ‘birthday cake’, ‘chocolate cake’ and 'lemon sorbet’ plus a sprinkle station, with hundreds and thousands and gummy bears, caused great excitement. To say it was a hit would be an understatement. Even I was lured in for the occasional pot of YoYo's, though only after ditching dessert in the restaurants.


A sun-soaked holiday packed with incredible activities and delicious, healthy food with no nasty big bill at the end? It’s a big yes from me. Ok this wasn’t a high end spa retreat in Switzerland or an intense yoga getaway, but I can't take the kids on those anyway. Plus I returned home feeling rested, restored and really well - surely the point of any wellbeing trip? I also loved the fact you could so easily build your ideal holiday - whether that's swimming, hanging out in an Xbox lounge and eating frozen yogurt sprinkled with gummy bears all day, or fitness classes, spa treatments and fresh seafood salads.

Go there!

Seven nights in a Grande Luxe King room from £3558 per adult, all-inclusive accommodation, return economy flights with Virgin Atlantic and transfers. Visit Beaches to book or call 0800 5970002.

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