SLEEPING OVER – Breezes Runaway Bay

Imagine starting your day by stepping out of your bedroom and into your own private plunge pool! A waterfall gushes from a wall fountain and the sound of its bubbling flow soothes as you slip into water made blue by small turquoise mosaic tiles. You lean your head back under its invigorating shower. The sun shines overhead and a cool breeze rustles the lush palm trees at patio end that screen this special luxury. BLISS!!!

This is the unique pleasure of the new Verandah Suite rooms of Breezes Runaway Bay Resort and Golf Club, where The Traveler spent an idyllic weekend. It’s one of eleven Breezes resorts in Jamaica, Cuba, Curacao, Brazil, the Bahamas and Panama and though perhaps the oldest property in the chain, a recent refurbish has made the hotel seem new again, morphing from a former incarnation, yet keeping the basic elements that made it memorable.

For instance, the ‘new’ includes the Verandah Suite rooms-with-a-pool, which are a special accommodation option lining the spacious grounds between two room blocks. Once a grassy park, the space between now houses the Breezes Blue Mahoe Spa – a tree-covered oasis set in a tropical garden between the one-bedroom suite blocks.
Also new are the three large free-form pools and 3 jacuzzi overlooking the sea. These came in handy that weekend for vacationers whose tans needed ‘basting’ with water, as the prevailing and very breezy Northern winds that were making the hotel earn its name, had made the sea too rough for swimming. Despite the winds, the beach and sea were as blue and as beautiful as they were when the hotel was first built decades ago.

The coral reef that stretches several miles along the coast of Runaway Bay continues to grind itself into white sand on rough days to keep the beach beautiful. On calm days makes the beach a wonderful and protected swimming pool across the front of the hotel, with ample space for sunbathers and game players. Those hotels that were built years ago with the environment in mind, have been rewarded by endless beaches of clean, turquoise sea.

Another asset preserved at Breezes Runaway Bay is the lush green grounds that are an unusual sight and clearly inspire golfers to lace up their shoes and head for the nearby greens. Tennis is another sport actively played by visitors to Breezes Runaway Bay and there are the usual water sports, but my favourite sport at nice Jamaican hotels is resting, so I did a lot of that, watching plasma screen cable TV from my comfy bed.
One thing that kept me close to my room was the wonderful massage shower which sends six jets of water shooting out as you hold the shower attachment overhead. It was so much fun, I found every excuse possible to take a shower in the two days I stayed.

I wanted to experience the Munasan Japanese restaurant, but arrived too late on Friday night to be seated. So we had a quick dinner while listening to a live roots band and excellent female singer who gave guests a taste of first class Jamaican reggae. On Saturday night I felt it was necessary to experience the variety of the hotel buffet, which is always the test of a truly good hotel. I was not disappointed with my choice of lasagna, pizza , roast potatoes and garlic bread, while my friend feasted on lamb stew, braised vegetables and rice with peas and carrots. There’s always space for seconds at the buffet, so on my return trip I tried the stew chicken, which was tender and tasty in true Jamaican style.

Special pleasure of my weekend was meeting SuperClubs Marketing Manager Zein Issa and her father John Issa – founder of the SuperClubs ‘all-inclusive’ concept that revolutionized Jamaican tourism. It was a lighthearted and ‘breezy’ conversation, as the Honorary Consul and former Senator talked about the hotel’s history and amenities. I was surprised to hear that you can get married for free as part of your Breezes Runaway vacation and even more surprised to learn that you can get married underwater if you are a qualified diver, as the hotel has one of the best scuba diving programmes and there are over 14 different dive sites nearby.

As someone who has been visiting the property for many years, I was glad to see that one special feature of Breezes Runaway Bay has been preserved. This is the collection of Rastafari carvings that has adorned the lobby for decades, long before that aspect of Jamaican culture became the popular image of tourism. Mounted on walls and in special alcoves, these priceless treasures embody the true Jamaican flavour of Breezes Runaway Bay.

Located half way between Ocho Rios and Montego Bay, Breezes Runaway Bay is moderately priced, and welcomes families with children 14 years and older for whom there are games and diversions, including the beach – which Breezes boasts is ‘the best on the northern coast of Jamaica”. All facilities are included, especially the 18 hole par 72 championship golf course and lessons for those who need them. The hotel is close to all the main North Coast attractions such as Dunns River Falls, Chukka Cove and Mystic Mountain.

Another diversion is the Circus Workshop with real circus rigging and nets, which gives you a chance to try out the flying trapeze if you’re feeling adventurous, but as I am not one of those daring people, I just passed as far away as I could in case someone tried to talk me into a trial run.

Sunday afternoon came far too early and it was hard to pack and get back on the road, after such a restful and breezy stay at Breezes Runaway Bay. We will return soon.

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