by Andrea Guthmann
They say Jamaica’s Runaway Bay got its name from slaves who ran there to escape the local plantations on their way to freedom in Cuba. Today, it’s an idyllic vacation spot where families are more than happy to spend their own vacation escape. Located an hour east of Sangster International Airport in Montego Bay, Jewel Runaway Bay is an all-inclusive resort. It’s big enough to offer a great selection of dining options and activities, yet small enough to have an intimate ambiance.
Your first encounter with generous Jamaican hospitality comes when you step off the airport shuttle and are greeted by a gracious valet handing you an ice-cold rum punch. It’s that way for the rest of your stay. I’m not referring to the free-flowing alcohol, which is complimentary; I’m referring to the staff, who are about the friendliest you’ll ever meet. They seem genuinely happy to work here, and will quickly get to know you and your children on a first-name basis. “Yeah, mon” or “No problem, mon” seem to be the answer to every guest request.
Formerly Breezes Runaway Bay Resort & Golf Club until 2012, Jewel Runaway Bay underwent a major transformation when it was sold to new management and turned into a family-friendly resort. You’ll still find elements of the former adults-only resort, such as private plunge pools (only available to guests 15 and older), but they’re now joined by a gleaming kid’s club and teen lounge. Also, children up to 5 years old stay free and ages 6 to 14 are $50 per day.
Our Editor Loves
- Kids' club
- Laser tag
- Water Park onsite
- All Inclusive Rates
- Water Parks
- Water Sports
- Children Programs
- Connecting Rooms
- Family Room 5+
- Free Wi-Fi
- Meal Plan
- Onsite Dining
Rooms & Rates
Jewel Runaway Bay's 266 guestrooms are simply decorated in crisp whites and wooden furniture. Guestrooms are spread throughout two and three story buildings that offer both ocean and garden views.
Standard rooms offer one king bed or two double beds with complimentary cribs or bed railings. Standard rooms are intended to fit two adults and two children, a third if he or she can sleep in a crib.
One-bedroom suites have a king bed in a separate bedroom and a sleeper sofa in the living room. A rollaway bed can be added to fit two adults and three children. Again, a crib could fit an additional small child in the bedroom. There are also 62 connecting rooms, giving families plenty of options.
Inside Jewel Runaway Bay's spacious rooms, you'll find a flat-screen TV, CD player, air conditioning, alarm clocks, refrigerators, coffee makers, a safe, ironing board and a hair dryer. The exquisite modern bathrooms are a real indulgence. Stepping inside these huge slate showers is like entering your own private water park, as multiple jets and showerheads shoot water from a variety of directions. These bathrooms are without bathtubs, but you can request a room with a bath if that's a priority.
This is my second visit to this resort. Both times for business, I found it to be very conducive for my purposes. Although it's a family themed resort with a water park I was never disturbed at night by any of the night time activities. I spent two nights at the resort and found the staff to be very accommodating and professional. The food options were also good, I would recommend the Sashimi at the sushi restaurant. The buffet options were also diverse so you definitely have dining options.
I would definitely recommend this resort for family or business excursions. I look forward to my next visit.
by Karyl B
I am most disappointed about my stay at Jewel Runaway Bay. I arrived at about 7:30 p.m. I received no towels on arrival, neither did I get any welcome fruit punch. I got all of this at Jewel Dunns River. Also, the overall state of the buildings left much to be desired. I know that it is an old building, but that should be no excuse, as this is not the only hotel built more than 30 years ago. It needs serious updates urgently. It is not even up to a 3 star. Certainly not from what I've seen. I was assigned a room that clearly has not been cleaned properly. It smelt of mold, I had to get a room change. The front desk rep did so quite happily. The 2nd room I was assigned to was better than the first, but still, needed updates, tiles, fixtures etc. I noticed that I did not have any face towels, washcloths or bath mats in my room and called the front desk for at least washcloths to be sent to my room that night. I fell asleep near midnight waiting for housekeeping to bring them. The following morning I was scheduled to leave by 7 a.m. I had to call the front desk again and remind them about my request for washcloths the night before. They were more responsive and I received them soon thereafter.
I wanted to dine at the Italian restaurant the evening I arrived, but the waitress at the front was so ungracious that I decided, after a long, hard day, traveling almost 3 hours, I owe it to myself to be comfortable and happy. I opted for the buffet restaurant instead. The food was mediocre, and the variety was not as wide as expected.
Since I was scheduled to leave at 7 a.m. (time the restaurants open for breakfast), I asked if I could arrange to get something to take away. At first, I was told by the concierge rep that breakfast is at 7:30. I had to correct her and she checked and said, well even so my request could not be met. I asked her if she could talk with the chef. She called another staff member, senior to her, and she was unsure that this could be done. Luckily another hotel staff member overheard our conversation and he told them who to call and what to do. Clearly, it was not the 1st time that such a request was made at the hotel. So, a call was made and I was told, you can pick it up in the morning. They told me who to ask for. When I went, the following morning, and asked forhim, the 1st person told me no one by that name works in the restaurant. I insisted that that was the name I was given. He then asked someone else, and she too had no clue. She then asked someone else who happened to be the person I was to go to. Unfortunately, however, the information was miscommunicated to me. I should have gone earlier and would have been allowed to dine early. He was not aware that I wished to take away the meal and had to see if he could find containers as they had none. I must say though that he was very gracious and accommodating. I eventually, ate a little and took some baked goods and was on my way.
I must say that overall the service was fair, but this property need serious updating and some of the staff need better training. I don't see myself returning to this location any time soon. Jewel Dunn's River was my first introduction to this hotel chain and I was blown away by their service, facilities, food and overall experience.
Jewel Runaway Bay's children's center is a spacious and bright facility built in 2012. Included in resort rates, it welcomes children of all ages, including infants. The hours are 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. and 6:30 to 9 p.m. for infants to 12 years old. Children are divided into specific age groups at the kids' club, with special activities arranged for each age range.
Ages 18 months to 2 years are "Sparkles" and play games and sing songs. There's also a dress-up closet, oversized dollhouse and an actual barber's chair in which kids can have their face painted. Ages 3 to 5 are "Glistens" and get to do a variety of crafts, including shell painting and jewelry making. The 6 to 9 year-olds "Glow," get to tie-dye, visit the horse stables and play a variety of beach games. The 10- to 12-year-old crowd "Tiger Eye," gets to play laser tag and have the disco to themselves on specific evenings.
For those reluctant teens between the ages of 13 and 17, the "Fossils," there are scavenger hunts, beach soccer, basketball, Ping-Pong, pool volleyball, laser tag and the use of the teen lounge. Throughout the week, early evening hours at the disco are set aside for different age groups to have their own dance party. The teen activity hours are 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. and 8 to 11 p.m. The teen lounge is located next to the kids' club and kids movie theatre. Teens can enjoy XBox and the hands-free XBox Kinect. Teens will also love entering the soundproof audio booth to record their own music. They choose a background soundtrack, put on headphones and start singing into the microphone, recording their own lyrics onto a CD. It's a great souvenir of their vacation in the world's reggae capital.
Jewel Runaway Bay has invested in other kid-friendly entertainment as well. The most anticipated new kid-friendly element is the outdoor laser tag park for kids 10 and up. During busier times, a hayride takes kids just beyond the golf course to horse stables where they can groom the horses and go on short rides. A playground area features horseshoes and handcrafted play equipment where kids can practice lassoing on wooden horses.
Just beyond the horse stables, there's a fire pit with rustic handcrafted seating surrounding it. During the hotel's busier times, there's Jamaican campfire storytelling for families, complete with marshmallow roasting. Kids' movies are also shown every evening in a brand new theatre with its own popcorn machine. Before you book your trip, ask the hotel what activities will be available during your stay. There are also several well-maintained tennis courts. Complimentary onsite tennis instruction and rackets are a real score.
There are three pools and two Jacuzzis, including an infinity pool with a swim-up bar. Throughout the day, there are also a variety of poolside games for the entire family, including bingo and the whacky Caribbean crab races. They've painted the shells of live crabs different colors for a Parimutuel spectacle. Place a dollar on the crab you think will win big and let the fun begin! There's also a pool table located right by the pool for family games.
Jewel Lagoon Water Park
For an additional day-pass fee, families can enjoy the onsite water park with multiple slides, a lazy river, splash zone and geysers.
Although the beach here is tranquil and scenic, it doesn't quite compare to the grand stretches of soft sand on the western side of the island in Negril. Some guests might miss being able to take long walks along the beach, as you can on Negril's famous Seven Mile Beach. A neighboring resort property and rocky area prevent you from wandering far. In the other direction, beach vendors have set up a string of tin huts. Some guests will find this entertaining and authentic, while others might find it uncomfortable. Two hotel security guards posted along the beach insure guests won't be harassed by vendors as long as they stay on property. Beach highlights include a volleyball net set up in the sand and plenty of padded lounge chairs. The staff organizes fun beach games for guests in the afternoon, or you can lounge on a daybed in your own complimentary shaded cabana.
There's an onsite water sports center where you can rent a Hobie Cat sailboat for $30 or be taken out by boat to a snorkeling reef for $15. The water sports center will also organize dive trips; you can get four dives for $105. Onsite dive certifications are also available.
Another gem at Jewel Runaway Bay is the 18-hole golf course with complimentary green fees. Guests have to cover the cost of either a cart or a caddie. Golf club rentals are also available for a fee. On Tuesdays and Thursdays, children are invited to use the putting green. There's no view of the ocean from the golf course, but the grounds are well maintained.
Evening Family Entertainment
After dark, the fun continues with fantastic family-friendly entertainment on the main stage. Some nights feature world-class reggae or steel drum bands; other nights, the staff will put on their own variety show. Shows feature a reggae band, Jamaican dancers in traditional costumes and a fire-breathing performer. To say the show is impressive would be an understatement! It was great fun and felt like an incredibly authentic Jamaican experience.
Jewel Runaway Bay has seven restaurants included in the all-inclusive meal plan.
The Coral Cafe is the onsite buffet restaurant open for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Perched over the beach, you'll find omelet bars and salad bars, while also being able to sample Jamaican specialties like pepper pot soup, achee and saltfish and boiled banana. Kids will love being able to serve themselves at the kid-size buffet table. The casual beachside/poolside grill, Aquamarina, serves up burgers, tortilla wraps and a tasty jerk chicken. And families will find oven-fire pizza at Court Jesters, open for lunch and dinner
Like many of Jamaica's all-inclusive resorts, Jewel Runaway Bay has its own Japanese steakhouse Jade Samurai, complete with entertaining chefs who slice and dice their way through your meal. It's a great way to keep the kids entertained during dinner. Moonstone is a fine dining Italian restaurant where you might choose to have a romantic dinner or Golden Saber Sushi is an option for sushi lovers. Platinum serves a contemporary Caribbean cuisine for breakfast and dinner.
In-Room Dining and Bars
Room service will serve meals right on your balcony or patio, but it's not part of the meal plan. You'll have to pay for each pot of coffee or meal you order. Several bars (including a swim-up bar) and lounges can be found throughout the resort as well.
Planning & Tips
All About the Fitness
There's a staffed fitness center with plenty of equipment and a daily aerobics class. There's no charge for use of the gym or fitness classes. Yoga classes are also sometimes offered.
Wi-Fi is complimentary in your room, in the lobby and there is a complimentary Internet cafe, a rarity in this island paradise.
An onsite gift shop sells a good selection of casual wear, souvenirs, beach toys and sunscreen.
Babysitting services can be arranged with the hotel.
The Art of Smart Timing
High season in Jamaica is mid-December through mid-April. You'll find plenty of families visiting over the summer as well, when kids are out of school.
Jewel Runaway Bay is located in Runaway Bay, just over an hour east of Donald Sangster International Airport in Montego Bay. There are many direct flights to Montego Bay from the U.S., Canada and Europe.
Complimentary transportation from the airport is provided by the hotel. Since Jamaicans drive on the left side of the road with the steering wheel on the right, you may want to pass on renting a car and let your drivers do the work.
For Mom and Dad
Since the kid's club is open until 9 p.m., why not take advantage of the chance to have a quiet dinner alone? Jewel Runaway Bay will set up a candlelit beachfront dinner for just the two of you for $140. It will be the romantic dinner of your dreams and one you'll never forget.
If you're in need of a quick manicure or pedicure, there's a nice onsite spa offering $30 manicures and $35 pedicures. It also offers haircuts and a variety of other Caribbean- inspired treatments. The charming and peaceful couple's massage treatment huts are where you can get a variety of Caribbean-inspired services including a seaweed body wrap or a Caribbean coffee body polish.