Starfish Trelawny, Jamaica

Author: Chris & Pat VandenHeuvel

Tags : All-Inclusive Resort, Baby, Beach, Caribbean, Cheap Vacation, Christmas Holiday, Couples, Family-Friendly Hotels, Golf, Kids, Kids Club, Multigen, Resort, Spa & Wellness, Spring Break, Teens, Tennis, Watersports, Winter Getaway

Starfish Trelawny: maximum fun at minimal expense? You decide after reading Family Travel Forum's comprehensive review of the Jamaican Resort

Starfish Trelawny is a budget-minded, kid-and adult-friendly, all-inclusive resort just 35 minutes from the Montego Bay airport. Recently taken over by SuperClubs, the resort is in the process of upgrading to attract more families from a broad, international clientele. Its flexible pricing is designed to accommodate guests who want to eat, drink and lie on the beach and pay for water sports separately.

Designed like a large motel, 350 rooms rise seven stories and 37 cottage rooms sprawl toward the beach amid colorful, flowering trees. The bright, open-air lobby overlooks a rambling pool and several restaurants. Our cottage room was comfortable and functional, with a TV and rather noisy window air conditioner, which frankly helped drown out the noise at night. Complimentary cribs and bunk beds are on hand to alleviate the need for an adjoining room, but our family of four was just fine with the two double beds.

The beach at Starfish is terrific for younger kids, protected by a small artificial island a stone's throw offshore. The clear, calm water (assuming good weather) allows little ones to chase fish and snorkel while mom and dad laze under a palapa on the island. Older kids and active adults can take advantage of free non-motorized water sports or pay extra for banana boats, scuba diving and fishing trips. Like other beaches in Jamaica, numerous "entrepreneurs" hawk their wares on the beach, which some find charming and others find annoying, even frightening. The resort employs security guards along the beach to protect its guests. 

Just off the beach is the center of activity at Trelawny: a crowded, sprawling pool complex with a fun water slide, entertainment stage, lunch/snack/adult bar and even a rock climbing center and flying trapeze (small fee). Kids and adults can find plenty to do, but the noise level rises with the sun. Some of the play areas are in need of a repair (mini-golf, basketball hoops, billiard tables in the pools, a "fragrant" swim up bar), but the diversions are welcome.

Similar to other all-inclusives, there's plenty to eat. Breakfast at the buffet was a treat, with a host of Jamaican and continental foods to please just about anybody. After repeated visits to the buffet restaurant for other meals, we wanted to branch out but found the choices a bit tricky for our family. We love Japanese (Munahana: $12 extra per person) but our kids are a bit skittish. The Italian choice (Giuseppi: $12 extra) was closed when we wanted to go. Casablanca (surcharges on choice menu items) does not permit kids under 10. The one restaurant that took advantage of the pretty beach setting (Reggae Cafe, $5 surcharge) served Jamaican fare that we enjoyed. Although not on the menu, we cajoled our friendly waiter into serving our kids grilled chicken and French fries -- the setting and service turned this into the most memorable meal.

The Kid's Club is open from 9am to 5pm daily for children six months through 10 years of age. ($5 per child per day). The club is housed in a basic, beachside building, always locked to protect the kids, and counselors are CPR and first-aid-trained. Four to twelve-year olds are kept busy with the usual beach games, crafts, fashion shows and video games. Younger children nap in a separate, quiet room with five cribs and a bunk bed, and counselors log their naptime. In-room childcare is available in the evening ($10 per hour for up to two children)..

If you are looking for a budget minded all-inclusive resort with a friendly staff, Starfish Trelawny fits the bill. The flexible pricing plan accommmodates those seeking a true all-inclusive experience (all restaurants and meal privileges, all water sports except parasailing and jet skis, kids club, trapeze and rock-climbing session) with their Platium Plan, or the a la carte option for those not interested in participating in everything that is offered.  While it doesn't provide a particularly Jamaican experience, the beach, activities and gratuity-free atmosphere makes for a relaxed, carefree vacation. 

Resort Report Card

Name: Starfish Trelawny Resort
Address: Montego Bay
Phone: 877/467-8737
Seasonal Rates: $$ - $$$$
Hotel Setting: B-
Hotel Staff: B+
Choice of Activities: B+
Quality of Amenities: B-
Bonus: Super-friendly staff, and water slides that the kids will adore.
Note: Families on a budget will appreciate paying a la carte for activities.