Budget-Friendly Ocho Rios Accommodations
Turtle Beach Towers is not for everyone, but it is a noteworthy choice for certain people. Depending on your style of travel, or your personal circumstances, it may be right for you. For me, it’s well suited to my purposes and the price is a good value when compared to other alternatives. On any number of travel review sites, you will see a wide array of opinions on this property. More than a few are negative. In most cases, I think the people who give negative reviews did not have an accurate idea of what they were booking in the first place.
With this article, I intend to set realistic expectations of a property that is unique, but often misunderstood. Before proceeding, I should say that when I’m in Jamaica, I hire a rental car and have independence of movement. Getting to and from the airport to Turtle Beach Towers is a separate issue. I won’t cover that in detail here. If you don’t wish to rent a car, you’ll need to work out alternate arrangements. The Knutsford Express bus service is a good option if you’re flying into Montego Bay.
Set Realistic Expectations
It’s important for people to have realistic expectations (including of what not to expect) from Turtle Beach Towers. First of all, it is not a resort. By contemporary standards, it’s also very basic. Although Turtle Beach Towers used to operate as a hotel, it is now, essentially, a high-rise apartment complex. Some tenants are permanent residents, but many of the units are rented to vacationers. Think of it more as renting an apartment, rather than booking a hotel room.
Aside from the people living there, a significant percentage of guests have a personal affiliation with the island. Maybe they’re originally from there, have extended family there, or are otherwise personally connected to the island. This gives Turtle Beach Towers a local vibe you won’t get at most places. It’s not so much, though, that a first time visitor should feel out of place, or uncomfortable.
One thing you should definitely know is that the property is at least 50 years old. When I was a boy, living in Jamaica, I first stayed here way back in the early 80’s. This is where my family would come when we wanted to get away to the beach for a few days. It has not had any major renovations or upgrades in the 30 years since then. I mean that literally.
Turtle Beach Towers has been relatively well maintained. While it is in decent shape, it does show its age. There is no other way to say it than to be blunt; it’s a little on the run down side – clean, but a bit shabby. To be clear, this was never some fancy or high end resort, but even at that, its heyday has passed. I’m not saying the place is a dump. I’m saying it’s getting old and you can tell.
Booking Your Stay at Turtle Beach Towers
If you dig around online, you will find information for Turtle Beach Towers on a variety of websites. The quality of the information out there on the internet varies quite a bit. Usually, it skews toward the worthless end of the scale. You’re getting the straight scoop from me right here and you’re unlikely to find it elsewhere.
You can book these apartments through different portals. The individual owners can rent them out when and where they see fit. Several are managed through a company called My Silver Sands (they manage other properties, as well). I would suggest using them, especially if you’re new to visiting Jamaica, or at least new to Turtle Beach Towers. It makes it a little easier and more convenient. If you like to use AirBnB, you will probably be fine. I have used AirBnB to book accommodation in Jamaic with no problem. It was for a different property, though. Other than my blog, I would recommend getting your info directly from the MySilverSands website. (Incidentally, I get no kickback for referring you to them). Even if you don’t book through them, their info is good. What I find on other sites is, most most of the time, simply incorrect.
What They Don’t Have
Here are a few things to know, regardless of what other sites may say. There is no free Wi-Fi on the property. Individual units may have free Wi-Fi, but the property itself does not. To be on the safe side, even if your unit is supposed to have it, confirm ahead of time. Check directly with the management company, or the unit owner. There is not a functioning restaurant and/or bar on the property. There used to be, back in the day, but not anymore. Unfortunately, I have seen signs on the property itself for their now nonexistent restaurant. They should change the signs. Maybe they have since I was there last. I don’t know. Lastly, there is also not a children’s playground, which is another claim I’ve seen on some sites.
Since the units are owned by different people, you can expect different amenities in each. The level of quality and upkeep may vary, as well. Generally speaking, I would say that they are all kept in clean condition. It’s unlikely, though, that any of them don’t show their age. Still, look at the pictures carefully before you book a unit to make sure it is what you want. There are studios, one bedroom and two bedroom units available. Unless you’re overly picky, you can probably find something to suit your needs. If you’re extremely picky, this probably isn’t the place for you, anyway. Jamaica is full of luxury resorts and all-inclusive properties. I’m sure you’ll find something.
Things To Know Before You Go
I’ll throw out a few examples of things I’ve encountered, to help give an accurate idea of what issues you might come across. These are thing that a typical North American tourist might not expect in a rental unit. There may be poorly patched and unpainted spots on the walls, where damages have been repaired. The amount and quality of dishes and utensils in the kitchen may vary widely. If kitchen equipment is an important to you, check ahead of booking. Cabinets may be rickety, plumbing fixtures may have seen better days. In my experience, everything is clean and taken care of, but once again, it’s an older property.
When Turtle Beach Towers was built, it did not have central air conditioning. Heck, when I was a kid, there were very few places in Jamaica that had air conditioning, including our home. We had windows and fans. Luckily, these days there are wall mounted A/C units in the rooms. Be forewarned, if you’re out and about during the day, your housekeeper may turn off your A/C to conserve electricity. If so, you may find yourself returning to a muggy room. That means you will have to wait for it to cool back off. They’re not trying to make you uncomfortable when they do this. The cost of electricity in Jamaica is very high.
The kitchens are small and dated. Even though the dishes and cooking equipment may vary, the fact that there is a kitchen at all is a big plus for me. If you’re staying several days, it’s nice to be able to cook some meals for yourself. In town you’ll find seasonal fruits and vegetables available and there are a few supermarket options in Ocho Rios.
Is grocery shopping in a foreign country a new adventure for you? No worries. The Progressive Foods Supermarket, in particular, is very comparable to the grocery stores in the U.S., or Canada. The layout will feel familiar and there will be many of the products you’re used to. You’ll also find a variety of Jamaican products that may be new to you. Be adventurous and try something new. Oh, and here’s another tip for you. The supermarket is a good place to buy alcoholic beverages. They have a good selection and the prices are geared more towards locals than tourists, so it may be a little easier on your wallet.
On-Site Swimming Pool
I’ve pointed out things the property does not have, but something it does have is a clean, extra-large swimming pool. Most of the time, there is a lifeguard on duty. Sometimes, they may not be paying a lot of attention. As likely as not, they won’t be sitting up on the raised lifeguard chair. For that matter, they may not even be sitting where they can actually see the swimming pool. I don’t say all that as a criticism. The point is, if you have children in the pool, keep an eye on them. Many places don’t hire lifeguards, anyway, so taking responsibility for your own kids should really go without saying.
While the pool itself is clean and fairly nice, don’t expect the same from the surrounding lounge area. Some of the chairs may be in a rather dilapidated condition. Some may be downright ragged. Others will be okay. Hopefully, this has been addressed since my last visit, but I wouldn’t assume so. Despite these issues, you can still find a place to relax by the pool. Nothing is so bad that it keeps my family from enjoying the pool on a daily basis.
You’re a short stroll to the beach. It’s Jamaica, so the water is gorgeous. I learned to swim at that beach, many years ago. Despite all that, the main beach in Ocho Rios is not my personal favorite and we don’t spend a lot of time there. If you don’t have a car, though, maybe you’ll spend most of your time there. It’s not a bad beach, mind you, it’s just not my favorite. I prefer to go somewhere less crowded and less heavy on tourists.
However, if you’re staying at Turtle Beach Towers, it’s right there. There is absolutely no beating the convenience factor. And there’s some stuff to do. You can buy a beer from a vendor, you can book a ride on a glass bottom boat. If you’re not looking to venture too far afield from where you’re staying, it should work out fine for you. I would be remiss if I didn’t mention that you may encounter another collection of ragged chairs. The good news is – they’re free to use. I guess they have that going for them. If you’re like me, though, you don’t mind spreading out a blanket and plopping down on the ground.
Safety and Security in Jamaica
What about security, you may ask. Clearly, this is not some all-inclusive compound where you are detached from the surrounding world. Right? I know some people get a little a fidgety about such things. Unfortunately, Jamaica gets some negative press abroad regarding crime and safety. Please know that Jamaica, like most developing countries does have its struggles with both poverty and crime. However, it is nowhere in the ballpark of being some lawless war zone. Like in the U.S. and elsewhere, high crime areas are not really where the tourists are flocking. Furthermore, tourists are very rarely targeted by criminals.
I use common sense safety precautions when I go about my life at home. Do the same when you travel, in Jamaica or anywhere, and you should be fine. Making yourself an easy target for petty criminals is a bad idea wherever you might be. All that being said, Turtle Beach Towers is a fenced property. I would not call it a high security property, though. Personally, I don’t feel like there’s enough of a risk to require it to be a high security property. They do have a security guard manning the gate into the parking lot. There’s another at the walk-in gate that leads to the beach. A lot of people that live in these apartments full-time and that includes quite a few children. The property is safe enough that young children can be found playing freely on the grounds at most any hour.
Getting Around Ocho Rios
The location of Turtle Beach Towers is great. You are in walking distance of most of the shopping in Ocho Rios. You’re right across the street from Island Village and Margaritaville (the only place nearby with free Wi-Fi). Just around the corner is the Taj Mahal shopping center. At Taj Mahal you can find a cambio for exchanging money. It’s the closest money exchange to Turtle Beach Towers. The shopping center also has a bar. There are shops to buy souvenirs and places to eat a meal. If you want an authentic Jamaican breakfast, get the ackee and calaloo at the downstairs bar/restaurant. A relatively short stroll to downtown Ocho Rios gets you to even more souvenir shops. The ever-popular craft market is there, too.
Attractions such as Dunn’s River Falls and Dolphin Cove are easily accessible from Turtle Beach Towers, but may be farther than you want to walk. If you don’t have a car, taxis are never far away. Ask someone in the office if you have questions about how to hire taxi. Ocho Rios is a major tourist location in Jamaica, but it is also a town with a local population. If you get off the main drag, there are other restaurants and shops that are not necessarily geared toward tourists. Ask people for recommendations and see beyond the beach a little.
Turtle Beach Towers – Best of Both Worlds
Turtle Beach Towers is a place where you can enjoy local tourist attractions, while absorbing more of the local lifestyle than you likely would in other venues. The best of both worlds, you might say, as long as you have realistic expectations of the property. Primarily, I recommend Turtle Beach Towers to people on a budget , or looking for a local experience that’s missing in the big resorts.
Yes, it has its shortcomings, but they really aren’t that significant. I think it is actually one of the better dollar values to be found on the north coast of Jamaica. If you’re picky, or high maintenance, looking to be pampered, or completely unadventurous, I doubt this is the place for you. After all of my long winded description, I guess the single thing I would say in terms of a recommendation would be this: it’s where I stay with my family.