Kids club, teen lounge, and nightly entertainment and activities
Main buffet restaurant, three specialty restaurants, and delicious poolside jerk hut
Tennis courts, coconut tree climb, and fitness room
Diamond Club upgrades include top-shelf bar, exclusive beach area, extra room amenities
Free parking and resort-wide Wi-Fi
24-hour security and gated entrance
Beach areas are small; second only accessible to Diamond Club guests
Room decor presents flaws in workmanship and signs of wear and tear
Speciality restaurants are small, fill quickly, and only accept reservations from Diamond Club guests
Limited late-night scene
Debuting in late 2013, the 352-room Royalton White Sands Resort is an stylish all-inclusive in Trelawny, just 30 minutes from Montego Bay. Rooms come with comfy pillow-top beds, mini-fridges, private patios, and large rainfall shower heads. Unfortunately, they also contain hip but cheap decor and many are already starting to show wear and tear. This upscale resort has multiple bars and restaurants (including a delicious jerk hut), large hydrotherapy spa, family-friendly features, two pools (one with swim-up bar), and a water park, though, some may be disappointed at the limited beachfront and late-night bar options.
The drive to the hotel has some nice scenery -- the area is sparsely developed save a few spots for local villages and high-end shopping malls -- but can feel long. This is especially true for those driving themselves, as the hotel does not come up on GPS devices. From the highway, the resort sign is slightly plain and almost missable, unlike the hotel's large entrance just down the bumpy road. Upon entering the guarded gates and following the drive up beyond the large garden fountain, guests are greeted with a welcome drink in the open-aired, upscale lobby. It's a sophisticated space with curved lines, cream and topaz colors, natural woods, and artifact-style decor accents; outside decor remains upscale with bleached whites, vivid blues, and a few pops of patterned fabric. Unique outdoor tiling is made of coral segments.
As cliche as it may sound, the vibe at Royalton is what you make it. With plenty of spaces that cater to different types of guests, families, friends, and couples young and old all seem to mingle as well as find their own niche area to either party, relax, indulge, or play. However, even though the resort is full of activity and foot traffic during the day, things die down once the restaurants close. With only two small bars open late at night, most people retreat to their rooms.
Located in Trelawny, a 30-minute drive east of Montego Bay
While this property is marketed as being in Montego Bay, in truth, it is actually a 30-minute drive east of the city in the small, quiet agricultural parish of Trelawny, just outside Falmouth. There is nothing notable within walking distance, so be prepared to either join tours or stay on-site for your stay. The closest tourist attraction is the J Charles Swaby Falmouth Swamp Safari where guests can join a 45-minute eco-tour to learn about some of the animals and plants on-site. Architecture buffs may also be interested in visiting the 19th-century Gregorian buildings throughout Falmouth, famed for their gingerbread woodwork. The closest airport is Sangster International, a 30-minute drive away in Montego Bay.
Clean and contemporary rooms with cheap furniture, private patios, and mini-fridges
For such a new hotel, we were surprised at how dirty, broken, and worn some of the room decor was. Upon first glance, the rooms -- outfitted in dark "wood" furniture, white canvas-style couches, accent lighting, and light wood floors -- look upscale, sleek, and hip. But stay awhile and tiny flaws, nicks, and dirt-worn details will start to pop up, as well as obvious workmanship flaws such as ill-fitting bedroom doors, crooked alignments, and sloppy paint jobs. While the faux-wood floors and furniture aren't a deal breaker, it is all a bit disappointing. (This property once housed the much less upscale Breezes Trelawny Resort, and though the buildings were entirely renovated, we wonder if not all of the underlying issues were fixed). The best part of the rooms are the bathrooms with enormous rainfall showers, array of toiletries (including conditioner) and kits, soft robes, and deep soaking water jet bathtubs.
All Swim Out-style suites come with private dipping pools, and Family Suites have a narrow second room for kids with bunk beds, bean bags, and separate TV and patio entrance. Luxury Rooms (with or without ocean view) are the smallest and most modern feeling of the bunch, but only have just enough room not to feel cramped. Upgrades are most noticeable at the Presidential Suite level where a dining room, wet bar, living space with a large chaise couch, an half-bath occupy a separate space from the bedroom and bathroom (the large patio can be accessed from either side).
All rooms have exclusively designed pillow-top Dreambeds with 250-thread-count sheets, mini-fridges stocked with drinks, coffeemakers, private outdoor patios, and large flat-screen TVs with cable. Diamond Club rooms have additional amenities and services such as butler service, extended room service selections, pillow menus, and humidity bags in the closets.
While guests have 24-hour access to food at Royalton Sands, depending what time is it, it can be slim pickings. Outside of late-night room service dining, breakfast and lunch options are limited to the main buffet at Gourmet Marche or grab-and-go pastries at the Cafe (Diamond Club guests can access an additional continental breakfast spread in the Club lounge). The Cafe serves coffees, pastries, and gelato all day, but there's a tasty poolside jerk hut if you get hungry between lunch and dinner (there are often lines of guests waiting for the slow-smoked pork and chicken). Doors to the resort's three specialty restaurants toting Japanese, Italian, and Steakhouse cuisine open for dinner, but it's nearly impossible to grab a seat without either reservations (allowed for Diamond Club guests only) or waiting upwards of two or three hours -- even if the restaurant doesn't appear busy.
Even though this resort is compact, Royal White Sands has implemented its kid-friendly features so well that, unless you are choosing to hang out in the family pool, you may not notice the place is crawling with kids. There's the impressive, multi-room kids' club where kids can spend time playing video games in comfy chairs, creating culturally themed arts and crafts, watching TV or head outside to the astroturfed playground. There's also a slightly grotty teens' lounge near the live entertainment stage, although most younger kids can be found in the connecting outdoor area outside the Sports Bar shooting pool or just hanging out. One of the resort's pools is a dedicated family pool in two sections (read: full of kids), the more lively of which has a volleyball net and shallow waters. But the real draw is the dual water park. Here, there is a water playground with slides and dumping buckets of water on on side, and adult-sized tube and water slides on the other. The layout of the resort is ideal, keeping families with kids and couples or groups of friends moderately separated.
Nice features include multiple pools, large spa, sports activities, and a beach (with an exclusive Diamond Club section)
This small property is packed with features, but luckily doesn't seem cramped. Multiple bars, a handful of restaurants, shops, a large hydrotherapy spa, and even a water park and tennis courts are all within a two-minute walk from one another. Unfortunately, the hotel's beach area is quite small (even smaller for non-Diamond Club guests who are unable to access the club's exclusive beach area and bar), so many guests are crammed into either the infinity pool, hot tub, or family pool; others are stretched out on one of the many loungers. There's also a small, private "island" with loungers and palm trees within walking distance of the beach which is surprisingly uninhabited most of the time.
Daytime drinking is mostly centered around the pool area thanks to a split shack serving up drinks as two bars, although some die-hards are holed away in the dark Sports Bar. Kids have multiple spaces to be themselves, singles and smokers mingle in the lobby bar, and more casual drinkers hang out at the Martini Bar.
There are a gym and beauty salon located inside the spa building. For those who want an extra layer of luxury and attention, the hotel offers upgrades to the exclusive Diamond Club. Entertainment is sporadic throughout the day and can include a pool quiz or impromptu beach games, while movies and live entertainment fills the early evening hours. Wi-Fi and parking are free.
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