Our contributor Vera shares her experience at three of the Sandals Jamaica properties. If you’re considering a visit, come see what makes each one unique.
*Vera was hosted by Sandals Resorts for the purpose of this review. As always opinions are 100% our own.
Bob Marley playing on the radio was the perfect welcome to Jamaica. The reggae beat made it impossible to sit still as we made our way to Sandals South Coast resort from Sangster International Airport. The 75 minute ride didn’t bother me one bit. It was a great way to see some of the “real”, non-resort side of this Caribbean island and I soaked it all in. The lush forests and fields, the small villages strung along the main road, kids playing, colorful street vendors, even the random police check points. The police were there to ensure everything was under control and everybody, tourists included, felt safe.
Overall Impressions of Sandals Jamaica
When we reached our destination, the staff welcomed us warmly, offering big smiles and cold, refreshing towels. Tasty tropical rum drinks followed. I was very excited about the next four days as I would be visiting three different Sandals properties in Jamaica. This was my first experience with Sandals Resorts and I was intrigued to learn more about the company. Not only do they offer all inclusive luxury vacations for “couples only” at their Sandals properties they offer the same format for families, at their all inclusive Beaches resorts.
There are many fun and impressive things I learned about Sandals. The company clearly has a passion for pursuing game changing initiatives in the increasingly competitive and demanding all-inclusive industry. Their Culinary Concierge service, several new restaurant concepts, a partnership with Robert Mondavi Winery, the company’s Autism certification, and noticeable environmental sustainability efforts are just a few things worth mentioning. However, there were also two simple things that stood out and equally impressed me:
1. A friendly, energetic, and luxury oriented team. Each of the Sandals employees I encountered seemed to genuinely enjoy their job and had a genuine passion for making each guest’s experience special and memorable. It was clear Sandals knows how to recruit and expertly train the right people.
2. Small, but thoughtful details. I’m not a spoiled traveler, but I definitely notice and appreciate the fine details. If you’ve ever had apply make-up on your balcony due to bad bathroom lighting, keep half your clothes in the suitcase because there was no space in a tiny two-drawer dresser, or move the nightstand in order to charge your phone, you understand what I mean.
Things I noticed at all three Sandals properties: plenty of storage space, ample lighting throughout the room, built-in shower benches, plenty of electrical outlets in the right places, and an assortment of pillows with differing firmness (as well as extra ones and blankets in the closet).
After spending time at each of the following resorts, here is my summary:
Sandals South Coast
This resort, known as the “jewel on the south coast”, borders a 500-acre wilderness preserve on the south coast of the island. It is an ideal location for both adventure travelers and those seeking relaxation. There’s a two mile stretch of pristine sandy beach with views of both sunrise and sunset. The property offers three European-style beachfront villages, Italian, Dutch and French. Sandals South Coast has an Italian-style piazza with shops and restaurants, along with four pools and whirlpools. Guests will find unlimited fine dining at nine restaurants including the resort’s latest addition, Sushi on the Sand, and seven full-service bars.
You can review everything Sandals South Coast has to offer on their website, but perhaps most striking are the amenities with an “over-the-water” theme. The property has unique over-the-water butler serviced honeymoon bungalows strung together in the shape of a heart. A cool over-the-water bar offers 360 degree views, and hammocks suspended over the turquoise water allow you to lay and sip your cocktail for as long as you please. There is also a seriously stunning over-the-water wedding chapel.
Sandals Royal Caribbean
Sandals Royal Caribbean is Jamaica’s only resort with its own private island. Similar to Sandals South Coast, it has over-the-water honeymoon bungalows laid out in the shape of the heart and, in addition, exquisite over-the-water private butler villas, each equipped with private infinity pools. They were jaw dropping.
If you prefer something slightly less over-the-top, the resort has magnificent, swim-up lagoon suites or suites with large tranquility soaking tubs, located on the mainland. On the beach, you can enjoy Bali-inspired cabanas by day and resort organized parties each night.
On property is a British pub offering an authentic pub dining experience and if you like even more British touches, a British-style afternoon tea is served daily. If you prefer down-to-earth, authentic Jamaican cuisine or feel like some Thai food, there are The Jerk Shack and Royal Thai Restaurant on the aforementioned private island. I did not have a chance to sample, but they looked delicious.
As if there were not enough water features where you can simply chill, there are also a zen garden and the resort’s signature Red Lane Spa on the property. This property is only about 10 minutes Sangster International Airport.
Sandals Jamaica Montego Bay
Sandals Montego Bay, had me shortly after hello. This magnificent resort, boasts the longest private beach on the north coast of Jamaica. It was the very first Sandals resort and it is still affectionately referred to as the “Flagship”. The brilliant white sand and very long beach, which separates the property from the turquoise ocean, was magnificent. I liked the open, spread-out feel of the resort, which is just 5 minutes away from the Sangster International Airport (though you would never know it) and about 10 minutes from the town center.
Similar to the first two properties, there is a wide range of things to do. Guests can enjoy gourmet cuisine at any one of the eight restaurants located on the property or sip on an island cocktail at one of the resort’s four bars which serve unlimited premium spirits. Another option is to take a swim in one of four pools or three whirlpools, participate in a number of complimentary water sports or work out in the Red Lane Fitness Center. Be sure to make time for pampering at the signature Red Lane Spa and the nightly entertainment or simply do nothing at all.
This last choice is perfectly OK and many of the guests I saw were doing just that. If you are like me and want to explore more of Jamaica once you’ve had the chance to chill for a few days, there is a tour desk where you can easily book all kinds of excursions.
Also, while many guests may not see the need to ever leave the resort, they can enjoy full exchange privileges with two nearby sister properties, Sandals Royal Caribbean and Sandals Inn under the “Stay at one, play at three” concept. Each resort has their own distinct personality and Sandals invites their guests to experience them all at no extra charge.
My four days in Jamaica flew by. On the very last day I learned perhaps the most impressive fact about Sandals Resorts: more guests return to one of their resorts (it happens to be Sandals Montego Bay) than any other Caribbean resort, which speaks volumes.