“Mom, it’s a mongoose!” Ross says in a hushed voice. We watch the slender creature slink through the lush jungle underbrush a few yards from the sparkling pool, where my nine-year-old and I just had a swim. We’re down in Negril, Jamaica, for a few days’ R & R, at an enchanting resort called Sunset at the Palms. (Think Swiss Family Robinson meets The Jungle Book). Ross christens the mongoose Rikki Tikki Tavi as we head back toward our tree house cabin nestled among colorful flowers and towering palms.
In fact, it’s this resort’s tropical environment and unique tree house accommodations that inspired me to book our getaway here. Families can choose between staying in spacious cabins perched on stilts or split-level suites, which offer a separate bedroom for kids. All rooms feature island-style furniture and decor and large balconies overlooking verdant gardens. Since the resort is all-inclusive, the cabins don’t have kitchens—which is fine with me: I’m delighted someone else will do the cooking for a change.
On our first day Ross and I head down to the cozy beach facing Bloody Bay, named by the real pirates of the Caribbean. I scan the horizon for pirate ships, but see only sailboats, a few jet skis, and lots of smiling vacationers enjoying the warm turquoise waters of the Caribbean.
“Mom, look how clear it is,” Ross exclaims and runs full speed into the sea. Ideal for families with young children, the water stays shallow a hundred feet from shore, and gentle waves lap languidly on the beach. While Ross swims, I grab a cold drink at the Palm Breeze Beach Bar, relax in a shady lounge chair, and watch the world go by.
A little later Ross and I climb aboard a sunfish for a sail around the bay. Next we paddle a kayak, gliding smoothly on the sea’s calm surface. Snorkeling equipment is also available, but as Ross discovers, except for sand and seaweed, there’s not much to see near shore.
While Sunset at the Palms doesn’t offer specific children’s activities, its family-friendly environment is perfect for parents and kids who want to relax and have fun—which is just what Ross and I are here to do. We’re totally happy hanging out together at the beach and by the pool and dining in the resort’s open-air restaurant, where the food is good and plentiful.
One morning Ross and I learn about Jamaican wildlife during a guided nature walk. “Do you have bears?” Ross asks, thinking perhaps of Mowgli’s buddy, Baloo.
“No,” our guide answers, “But we do have lizards and crabs and toads.” He points out giant coco leaves, a calabash tree, and brilliant fire lilies as we stroll along. A bunch of bananas hangs from a tree, too green to eat, and coconuts lie scattered on the ground. Later we drink from a fresh coconut, the juice sweet and smooth, especially on thirsty tongues.
Another morning we go on an excursion to Mayfield Falls, an hour inland from Negril. After renting water shoes, Ross and I join two other adventurous families and our guide for a hike up a waterfall. That’s right: we actually travel a quarter of a mile along the path of a waterfall in the water! We loll in natural jacuzzis formed by rushing water—or leap from logs into deep pools, where lovely aqua water cools and refreshes. Afterwards, we dine in an open-air tiki hut on Jerk chicken that tastes tropical and sweet.
Back at the resort, Ross orders yet another fruit smoothie at the swim-up bar and makes friends with a girl whose blonde hair, braided and beaded, dances around her tanned face. Ross looks up at me and smiles. “This is the life,” he says, and I have to agree.
For more information:
• Sunset at the Palms – Ph. 876-957-5350 or www.sunsetatthepalms.com.
• Apple Vacations – If you book your visit to Sunset at the Palms through Apple Vacations (via your travel agent or www.applevacations.com), your package will include airfare and transfer from the airport. If you book direct, ask the hotel to advise on transportation options to the resort.
• Mayfield Falls – Ph. 876-971-6580 or www.mayfieldfalls.com. This outing is suited for children ages six and up.
U.S. Tree House Accommodations:
Hotel rooms have never been this much fun! Check out three tree-top destinations closer to home.
• Out ‘N’ About Treesort in Cave Junction, Oregon www.treehouses.com
Stay in one-of-a-kind tree houses shaped like a cavalry fort, a Wild-West saloon, or another amazing design. Your family can swing on a floating pirate ship, ride a zip line, go on guided hikes, swim, or take a summer course on building your own tree house.
• Dragonfly Guest Ranch in Honaunau-Kona, Hawaii www.dragonflyranch.com
In the lush setting of the Pacific, this Swiss Family Robinson-style bed & breakfast offers a variety of tree-house rooms. Spend your day swimming with the dolphins, snorkeling, or sailing in a Hawaiian double-hulled canoe on a guided tour.
• Treehouse Cabins in Hot Springs, N.C. www.hotspringstreehousecabins.com
Located 40 minutes from Asheville, this rustic destination features three different types of tree-house cabins, all of which offer spectacular mountain views. Take your kids hiking, fishing, or to visit the animals at a nearby working farm.