It’s no secret that I think villas (or houses) are ideal for extended family vacations. But choosing a villa may mean foregoing many resort amenities offered by hotels. Amenities such as beaches, kids clubs, tennis, golf, water sports, lifeguards, beach attendants, restaurants, extensive security, gift shops, walking/running trails, and large “safe” area for tweens/teens to explore on their own are usually exclusive to large hotels. One exception is the villas at the Tryall Club, outside Montego Bay, Jamaica, and therefore, for me, a favorite family vacation destination.
The Tryall Club is located on 2,200 acres on the northeast coast of Jamaica, about a 40-minute drive from the Montego Bay airport. It consists of 90 privately owned villas, ranging from one bedroom condos attached to the Great House to massive ten bedroom estates. Most of these villas are available to rent at least part of the year.
Each of the Tryall Club villas is privately owned, but all have access to the resort amenities and come with a private staff employed by the villa owners. Thus, unlike renting a house that is owned and operated by a resort, each of the Tryall villas is unique, ranging from luxurious tropical homes to incredible modern estates. In fact, touring the different villas is a treat onto itself. Many of the villas are decorated with amazing pieces of local art, while others feature incredible pools, gardens, and game rooms.
I will have a series of posts reviewing the Tryall Club villas which I have been fortunate enough to stay at or visit. However, in this post I will explain the resort features accessible to all guests as well as the (very few) cons I have about the resort.
The Staffed Villa Concept
All of the villas at Tryall are staffed. The individual owners of every villa employ their own team of people to clean, cook, and maintain their properties. The Tryall Club helps out by providing some centralized HR functions for the owners.
The smallest, one-bedroom Great House villas may have only one staff member who does both the cooking and cleaning. However, the larger villas often have staffs of seven or more. There is the private chef who will prepare all of your meals and do the grocery shopping for your group. Housekeeping and laundry will be attended to constantly. Typically the houses also have a butler and a gardening team as well.
The staff we have experienced at Tryall have been among the best of any villas at which I have stayed. And for me, it is the staffed villa that makes a true vacation. No longer am I responsible for the cooking, meal planning, cleaning, tidying, laundry, whatever. All I do is relax and enjoy myself and my family.
Your villa staff will not only know the house you are renting inside and out, but also typically have extensive knowledge of the entire club and surrounding area. In short, they are there to ensure that you have a wonderful and relaxing vacation.
The Tryall Club offers many of the features of a large resort hotel, without the volume of people. You can easily stay within in the confines of the resort for your entire holiday – which I usually do.
While there are cars and tourist mini-vans on the roads around the property, most of the traffic consists of golf carts. Each villa seems to have a small fleet of carts for guest and staff use, along with a larger fleet of golf carts. These golf carts are a big hit with our family during our vacations there. While you need to be 18-years-old to drive the carts, my kids loved riding in them. Plus, we find it way less stressful climbing into a golf cart with sandy and damp swimsuits for a ride up to the villa than to strapping everyone into a hot car.
The Tryall Club also offers most of the amenities you might expect at a larger resort. The beach has both a bar and a restaurant. There is another restaurant and bar at the Great House, which serves as the central lobby. The Great House also has a gift shop full of Tryall embroidered clothing and the essentials for a family beach vacation, a small spa/hair salon, an activities/tour desk, and a small, but well-stocked grocery store. There is also a large, shared pool at the Great House that all guests can use. However, most of the larger villas have pools that are nicer than the Great House pool.
There is a kids club available from 10am Monday through Saturday with a break for lunch from 12-1:00pm. The club is adequate, but would not be a real treat for any child. The several times my family visited, there were not lots of other kids and the staff did not seem overly engaged with the kids. You can also book reasonably priced, certified nannies through the club. These nannies will not only come to your villa, but also take your children to the beach or other activities around the property.
In addition, there is a nurses office. We had the opportunity to test out the services at the nurses office and found them to be good. Fortunately, we did not need more than the services of the on-site nurse, but they were happy to refer us to a local doctor with whom they regularly work.
The Tryall Club is home to its own private golf club, originally designed by Robert Plummer. Not being a golfer, I am not the best judge of courses. The golfers in my family are keen to go and play, but it doesn’t get the rave reviews of being stunning. The convenience factor of having the course so close is a big plus, and as the course isn’t usually too crowded, it is also good for a round of golf with kids or novices.
The Tryall Club takes its tennis seriously. There are nine courts (four with Agile Turf and five with Nova Cushion hard courts). The club also has 24 pros, hitting partners and ball boys in season. Lessons, both private and semi-private, are offered. Throughout the year there are also special day camps specifically for children.
The courts are located at an elevated position on the resort, so you can actually enjoy wonderful views and, more importantly, the ocean breeze, while you play.
Tryall has a lovely beach for the exclusive use of its guests. Located in a protected cove, its sand is great for building sandcastles and its shallow water for swimming. There are plenty of lounge chairs, umbrellas, and straw tiki huts, all attended by an attentive beach staff. There is usually a fun water trampoline, which my family enjoyed immensely. I, in fact, refer to it as the “nap-maker” as it did an amazing job of tiring out three little boys.
Also on offer at the beach is a variety of watersports. Non-motorized sports, such as stand-up paddleboards and kayaks, are free. Waterskiing, tubing, and banana boat trips can all be arranged for a fee. SCUBA diving is also available, including PADI open water certification.
You can snorkel directly off the beach or trips can be booked through the on-site watersports center. We have found that the snorkeling in front of Tryall, and around much of Montego Bay, to be underwhelming . The undersea life just isn’t as spectacular as in other parts of the Caribbean. Fishing is also an option, but sadly, this is not a fisherman’s paradise. In addition, for a quick, enjoyable excursion, the Tryall Club offers daily glass-bottom boat tours from the beach.
In addition to all of the activities at the beach, there is also a full bar, showers, and beachside bathrooms. Additionally, there is a restaurant overlooking the beach. Behind the beach is a croquet/bocce court, volleyball court, and half-basketball court. The watersports office loans out the equipment for these sports.
Overall, the beach is great for families. Given the private nature of the resort and that most villas have their own private pools, the beach does not get overly crowded.
Other Activities on Site
Beyond the main activities (the beach, golf, tennis, and the luxurious privacy of each villa), there is still more to do on the Tryall Club grounds.
There is a small spa/hair salon. While the staff seem skilled, the facilities of the spa are small and outdated. I would recommend receiving these treatments in the privacy of your own villa which is usually available. The hair salon would likely be perfectly suitable for getting a hair style for a family photo shoot or big event, but I think it really specializes in fun Jamaican-style hair wraps.
The Tryall Club occupies an old sugar plantation and the water wheel and original stone aqueducts are still working. This makes for a fun, and quick, excursion for the family, as well as a unique backdrop for pictures. My kids thought it was fascinating and loved exploring the old water wheel.
There are hiking trails in the woods around the club. But for most runners or walkers, the roads around the club are very good for morning or evening exercise when it is not too hot. Going along the various villas also gives you the opportunity to check out the other amazing homes in the club.
And speaking of checking out other homes, the front desk is happy to arrange tours of villas which aren’t currently occupied, usually on Tuesdays and Thursdays. As a “villa connoisseur” (and blog writer) I find these fascinating, but the unique architecture, decorations, gardens and pools make it very interesting for anyone with the slightest interest in design.
Next to the tennis courts and pro shop is a fitness center. While small, it offers a good selection of equipment. Outside there is a yoga platform where yoga classes can be arranged. The yoga instructors will also conduct private classes at your villa.
Twice a week the club hosts a themed dinner. On Mondays there is a Jamaican Beach BBQ, complete with live entertainment. When our family attended the Jamaican BBQ, the entertainment included fire eaters and dancers. On Thursday evening the club hosts Reggae Night. This evening not only includes a Jamaican themed buffet and, of course, Reggae, but also crab racing. We did not find the buffet dinners to be a great value, even with the entertainment. But if your group wants a break from eating in your villa, these are good, fun, and convenient options.
There are a number of adventures available within a short drive of the Tryall Club. Some of these are group tours that can be arranged through the Tryall Club tour desk. Others are easier to do privately with a driver. Private drivers can easily be arranged through your own villa staff or the front desk of the Tryall Club.
- Beach Horseback Riding Just a five minute drive from the Tryall Club you can ride along the beach and in the ocean on horseback. This is a fun, light adventure for older kids through seniors.
- Zip Lining Zip lining is one of my favorite “light adventure” activities in Jamaica. The closest zip line facility is about a 45-minute drive, but it is a really great experience. My nephew, aged just 6, loved it, as did the grandfathers on one of our recent trips. Chukka does a very nice job with the zip lining and we all felt very safe.
- Negril This is a popular day trip. You can check out Seven Mile Beach, and if you are brave enough, go cliff jumping at Rick’s. This is a trip best organized with a private driver and I would ask your villa staff for recommendations.
In addition to these activities, there are lots of more “touristy” day trips that can be arranged, including outings to Dunn’s River Falls, swimming with the dolphins, river rafting, and rum distillery tours.
I think the Tryall Club is an ideal destination for a luxury, multi-generational vacation. Everyone in your group should find plenty to do. The staffed villa concept ensures that you are able to have time together, yet more than enough space for everyone. It is great for kids and gives tweens/teens the opportunity to have some structured freedom. My extended family has been multiple times and everyone is very keen to return.
The only people whom I think would not enjoy the Tryall Club are those seeking an active nightlife. For the most part, Tryall is a make-your-own social scene with your group. The bars and clubs of Montego Bay are not convenient to the resort
The Tryall Club is currently planning a major refurbishment and upgrade of the beach, Great House, and club infrastructure. While I am sure they will do their best to minimize disruption, I would advise you to check with the club before booking to ensure you won’t be negatively impacted by construction works.
Most of the villas available to rent can be reserved through the Tryall Club’s central reservation office.
Make sure you subscribe to the Grand Family Getaways blog to read my upcoming reviews of several of the best villas on Tryall for family groups.