We're on Mystic Mountain in northern Jamaica and nine-year-old Ethan thinks he's died and gone to heaven. I, meanwhile, am just thankful to be alive after the vertigo-inducing chairlift that brought us up here over the treetops at a height of nearly 200m.
It was worth the agony just to see Ethan's face when we get to the top. The infinity swimming pool and waterslide overlooking Ocho Rios Bay are good enough, but they hardly compare with the thrill of riding your own Jamaican bobsled down through the forest on stainless-steel tracks, reaching speeds of 40km/h (if you dare), or of the zipline, which also takes you hurtling over and through the forest, this time at nearly 60km/h. I bail out of the latter when told that it involves a vertical rappel, but Ethan – a zipwire connoisseur - insists that it's the best he's ever been on.
'Another nice touch is the opportunity to visit a local school supported by the Sandals Foundation. Here, Ethan and I took it in turns to read to local children and to chat to them about their and our lives, and when questioned about what snow is like, Ethan drew one of the girls a picture of himself sledging to give to her.'
The minimum age for Mystic Mountain is eight, but Jamaica is jam-packed with activities for all ages, making it a superb place for a family holiday. Around Ocho Rios alone, you can horse-ride through the waves of the Caribbean, go jungle-river tubing, take a dune buggy safari, and much more besides.
Of course, the cost of your holiday will rise dramatically if you do lots of tours and excursions, but on the other hand, if you stay at an all-inclusive resort such as Beaches Ocho Rios Resort & Golf Club, you don't have to worry about extras – Beaches Luxury Included® holidays cover all meals, drinks and snacks (with premium-brand drinks), supervised kids' activities, tips and hotel taxes, and airport transfers, plus championship golf and scuba-diving and watersports. Plus your kids have so much to do in the resort, there's no pressure to do lots of external activities, tempting as they are.
Ethan would have been happy enough spending our entire trip at Beaches, which has a great waterpark with some slides that were way too scary for me to contemplate plus some tamer slides for younger kids and a kids' zone with a misting crab, squirting sea turtle and other water games. Similarly, I'd have been happy enough floating up and down the main pool with its swim-up bar – so handy for rewarding myself with yet another pina colada after a few exhausting laps.
Ethan also loved the well-kitted out Games Garage with its huge choice of Xbox 360 games, which was useful for chilling out in after dinner in one of the hotel's four very good restaurants. Teens also get the temptation of their very own nightclub, Liquid Lounge. For us, after activity-filled days, it was relatively early nights to the sound of the tree frogs singing their little hearts out.
We didn't try out the kids' club, but we did do an entertaining scratch DJ session that helped kill some time when the sun was hiding behind some clouds in the build-up to a dramatic storm that we watched from the balcony of our family suite. We also took a trip along the Ocho Rios coast aboard an Island Routes Dunn’s River Catamaran Cruise, giving us the chance to see flying fish and the famous Dunn’s River Falls that you might recognise from the Bond movie Dr No, whizz down the slide into the ocean for a spot of snorkelling and dance to a few reggae hits.
Ethan also enjoyed golf tuition on Sandals/Beaches' own 18-hole championship course with its views of the ocean and mountains, the green fees for which are included in the cost of your holiday (the 30-minute transfer is also free). Junior clinics take place every Wednesday morning, or there's private instruction for kids for a charge.
Largely because it attracts so many American families, Beaches has an affiliation with Sesame Street and hence offers themed entertainment including character breakfasts (extra) and stage shows featuring the Cookie Monster, Bert and Ernie, et al. Another nice touch for slightly older kids, and one likely to create lasting holiday memories, is the opportunity to visit a local school supported by the Sandals Foundation (minimum age eight). Here, Ethan and I took it in turns to read to local children and to chat to them about their and our lives, and when questioned about what snow is like, Ethan drew one of the girls a picture of himself sledging to give to her.
Other on-site activities at the busy Beaches resort are cookery demonstrations and science fairs, and kids can even get treatments at the on-site Red Lane Spa – although Ethan declined the offer, leaving me to enjoy a relaxing yet extremely intense half-hour's hot-stone and oil massage.
On top of all this, guests at Ocho Rios can take advantage of shuttle buses to and from Beaches Negril. This free service means that guests at either resort can use the facilities of the other at no charge. If you're here for a couple of weeks, your kids may well like trying out Negril's very different waterpark.
Read more about Beaches' award-winning resorts in the Caribbean, including any current discounts and special offers.