Photos and Review by Oyster.com Investigators
A sprawling, 110-acre all-inclusive that's popular with honeymooners
This sprawling, 110-acre all-inclusive is essentially split in half by the road, with the Riviera Seaside Village and Ochi Beach Club on the water side, and the Great House and All-Butler Village set back in the gardens. Both sides have a lobby; the main lobby on the Riviera Seaside is larger, with several levels of seating, a private lounge, and the Polo Lounge with views of the resort. The smaller lobby in the Great House is surrounded by lush tropical landscaping. Both lobbies are open and decorated in warm, neutral colors, with dark woods and brown leather furniture. Free coffee, ice water, and cookies are available, and flat-screen TVs are generally tuned to CNN. Both sides have nearby entrances to resort shops with souvenirs and travel necessities. Jitneys run between the lobbies regularly, and guests in butler level rooms get on-call rides from their butlers in private golf carts. Those who prefer to walk should stay on the beach side of the resort in order to avoid crossing the busy road.
Split between two sides of the road, close to downtown Ocho Rios
This 110-acre resort is located a five-minute drive from the main center of Ocho Rios, and its two sides of have distinctly different feels. The beach resort and seaside rooms are a short drive from the main road, with large archways and a grand entrance. The villa side is up in the hills and is a farther drive, with the villas spread out behind the main plantation-style Great House. While it is possible to walk around on each side of the resort, guests wishing to cross need to use the continually circling jitneys, as the roadways are too dangerous for pedestrians and the main road separating the two sides is very busy. A free shuttle brings guests to the golf course at scheduled times, and drivers are available for travelers who wish to explore downtown Ocho Rios and nearby attractions like Dolphin Cove and the Green Grotto Caves. The shuttle to the airport is free but expect anywhere from an hour to two for the drive. Sandals Montego Bay is much closer to the airport and still offers free transportation, but the property isn't as large and guests there report airport noise.
Sandy and private, but small
If you're looking for a white powdery beach, you should check rates at Sandals Negril Resort & Spa, which is located on a long stretch of Seven Mile Beach. The beaches at this property are clean and private, which means you won't encounter the seemingly endless parade of vendors found on public beaches in Jamaica, but it's broken up by wooden docks and not long enough for a stroll. The main beach for lounging includes tightly packed rows of comfortable sun chairs on golden sand. The swimming area is divided from the rest of the ocean by a U-shaped wooden dock with a palapa style roof and more sun loungers; it's the only shade available on a beach without umbrellas. An adjacent beach holds all the water toys like kayaks, paddleboards, and colorful water bikes. The water is crystal clear and bathwater warm. A docked raft floats in the center of the swimming area.
Seaside standards and suites, plus butler villas on the Riviera side
Rooms at the Sandals Grande Riviera have upscale colonial-style decor; they are decorated in dark woods and elegant, soothing neutrals with bright pops of color. Four-poster beds topped with fresh white linens. All rooms include air-conditioning, mini-fridges stocked with free water and sodas, coffeemakers, microwaves, amenities kits, and patios or balconies.
Couples who prefer to be by the beach should choose rooms at the Riviera Seaside; categories range from the standard Riviera Bamboo Grove Deluxe to the Club Level Rooms and Villas to the Beachfront Butler Suites. Across the street is the All-Butler Village, with suites in the plantation-style Great House and a variety of quiet poolside villas (each unit shares a pool with three others).
Club Level Rooms offer additional amenities, like access to the Club Sandals lounge, private orientation, free Wi-Fi, a dedicated concierge for help with reservations and activity bookings, in-room bars, and free room service. Butler suites on both sides include dedicated butlers that can assist with just about anything, from bringing snacks and drinks to transporting guests around the property in golf carts. For guests seeking a truly luxurious experience, villas are very spacious and private, with private patios, semi-private pools, and beautiful views. Guests have occasionally complained of noise from golf carts and late-night revelers.
Enormous resort with wide variety of activities and amenities
Sandals Grande Riviera is absolutely massive at over 100 acres, put to good use with seemingly endless features. Limitless scuba diving and golf are free, while scuba certification is offered for a fee. Other water sports include snorkeling, sailing, waterskiing, and paddleboarding. Glass-bottom boat rides are on offer as well. On land, there are tennis courts, croquet, billiards, and beach volleyball. Entertainment includes everything from cocktail parties to talent shows to impromptu beach parties.
Free shuttles transport guests around the expansive property and to the airport and golf course. Services include laundry, dry cleaning, photography, money exchange, and a gift shop for beach essentials and souvenirs.
Fifteen all-inclusive restaurants and five bars -- hours and reservation requirements vary widely
With 15 restaurants and five bars serving throughout the day and into the wee hours, even the pickiest eaters will likely walk away from the resort well-fed. Figuring out which restaurants are open and require reservations may take the assistance of a butler or concierge. Dino's Pizzeria does wood-fired oven pies served al fresco for lunch and early dinners. Neptunes is popular for Mediterranean seafood in the evenings. Kimonos offers show cooking and Asian food, but is open for a short window and reservations are required. Valentinos is probably the most elegant and romantic restaurant at the resort. Bayside serves buffet-style breakfast on the pier with made-to-order omelets.
Sandals prides itself on serving top-shelf liquor for no added cost, so expect Beringer wines, Jim Bean, Bombay Sapphire, and Smirnoff. The swim-up bars are popular for obvious reasons and there are several other bars for unlimited cocktails and beverages.
Candlelight dinners for two can be arranged on the beach for an extra cost. Room service is free. Tips are included in the all-inclusive package and staffers are not allowed to accept them (except for butlers).
Given the couples-only rule at the resort, any guests traveling stag, or with children, will have to stay at Beaches Boscobel.
Weddings here can be very cookie cutter and affordable, or personalized and expensive with a mind-boggling list of add-ons from flowers to invitations to cake and more. Thankfully, the bride and groom have access to a free travel and wedding planner who will make sure the travel, accommodations, and big day go smoothly for the couple and their guests. However, given the hotel's couples-only policy, any families or non-coupled guests will have to stay at the hotel's ultra-family-oriented sister, Beaches Boscobel. If your wedding guests stay anywhere else, there's an extra fee for each guest visiting the Sandals property. TTwo hundred people per wedding are allowed and children need to be approved by the hotel in advance. For couples with kids, consider having the big day at Beaches Ochos Rios Resort & Golf Club, which is family-friendly. Note that the weddings aren't private and you may have an audience of bikini-clad onlookers who weren't invited. Ceremonies can be held throughout the resort, in a gazebo, on the beach, or in a garden.
Seven pools and multiple whirlpools -- plus cabanas for rent
Swimming pools are a huge draw at Sandals Grande Riviera Beach & Villa Golf Resort -- there are seven public to all guests and a total of 105 of them spread out over the expansive property (this figure includes the many semi-private pools in the All-Butler Village). The main pool is massive and includes a swim-up bar, water fountains, and dolphin statues. Blue rubber water mats are nice for floating. Comfortable sun loungers are covered with white umbrellas and the total absence of children screaming and splashing is a nice change of pace. Some guests can get boisterous with the free drinks, but there are enough pools and chairs to find a quiet spot. Poolside cabanas for two cost extra and include a personal butler who delivers suntan oil, drinks, and meals.
The Ochi Beach Club pool is smaller than the main pool, but as the name implies, beachfront -- and it also has a swim-up bar.
Red Lane Spa for an additional cost, and a free fitness center
The Red Lane Spa is worth a visit if you don't mind paying the additional costs. Dedicated therapists offer a wide variety of beauty treatments, massages, and body wraps. There's an indoor whirlpool tub and sauna. Couples massages can be arranged on the beach. All guests have access to the spacious fitness center with LifeFitness cardio machines and strength-training equipment. Fitness classes are provided in the aerobic rooms and there's an indoor squash court.
18-hole golf course overlooking the sea
Unlimited golfing is providing for all guests staying at Sandals Grande Riviera. A free shuttle takes guests to and from the links throughout the day. The par-71 course includes views of the mountains and sea. A caddy is required and costs extra, as do optional golf carts, club rentals, and lessons. There's a driving range and practice putting course. A jerk shack sells chicken and pork off the 10th hole or golfers can eat and drink (not included) at the clubhouse. Free golf clinics are held twice a week.
This large, 529-room upscale all-inclusive is adults-only, drawing many younger couples and honeymooners. The sprawling, 110-acre resort is split into two halves by the road, and jitneys run between the two lobbies regularly. The Riviera Seaside Village and Ochi Beach Club are both on the water, while the All-Butler Riviera Villas and Great House are set back in the gardens, and offer butler service. There are lots of restaurants, bars, pools, whirlpools, and activities (including an 18-hole golf course) on the premises, and it's a five-minute drive to downtown Ocho Rios for more spots to shop and dine. Just know that the beach isn't large and the hotel is an hour-and-a-half ride from the airport on the resort's free shuttle bus; those who prefer less travel time may want to compare rates at the smaller Sandals Montego Bay, and those in search of a better beach may want to consider the Sandals Negril Beach Resort.