24-hour entertainment via a theater, nightclub, and sports bar
Modern Renova Spa with beachfront massage huts and salon services
Free bottled water
Style is fairly dated and beds are uncomfortable
Dinner reservation system is frustrating
Nothing of interest within walking distance
Only suites have free Wi-Fi; fee in standard rooms
Only on-street parking available
ClubHotel Riu Ocho Rios is among Ocho Rios’ largest all-inclusive resorts, with more services and entertainment than some U.S. towns. The massive, upper-middle-range property feels like a city unto itself. Seven restaurants, an enormous private beach, and two large pools (including an adult-only pool) all top the list of features. The 846 rooms are typical of the Riu brand, with dark, traditional decor that's pleasant, but dated. In-room amenities are excellent, including daily-stocked minibars, liquor dispensers, and private balconies, many with ocean views. While downtown Ocho Rios is less than 10 minutes away by car, there's little of interest within walking distance. The Jewel Dunn's River Beach Resort & Spa is a more affordable, four-pearl alternative for those looking for adult-only fun.
Beachfront mega-resort with off-colonial style and lively vibe
For those in search of a massive resort that feels like a town unto itself and leaves little reason to venture beyond its gates, look no further -- this massive property fits the bill for what many travelers have in mind in an all-inclusive vacation. That being said, this isn't the most stylish hotel on Jamaica's north shore (though, to be fair, there aren't many of those). The decor is similar to Riu’s other resorts. Dark, traditional furniture, cathedral ceilings, and endless expanses of polished marble flooring adorn every common area. It's all done as a riff on colonial motifs, but the aesthetic feels better suited to a European train station than a Caribbean resort.
With 846 rooms, the property is large, even by mega-resort standards. Inside and out, it’s cavernous, and it’s hard not to feel like just another nameless guest. The wide beach and two large pools provide expansive social space, and with bars set up throughout the property, there’s a constant, lively, party-centric atmosphere. However, it never rises to the level of spring-break raucousness (in fact, the resort specifically forbids spring breakers from staying here). This makes the Riu ClubHotel equally well-suited to families, singles, and couples -- there's even an adult-centric Deluxe Wing for those looking to escape the glut of kids that can be found elsewhere in the hotel.
Beachfront spot about 10 minutes from Ocho Rios by car
The hotel is situated on a resort-heavy road 10 minutes west of Ocho Rios’ cruise terminal and downtown tourist district. There are a few restaurants and bars within walking distance, but little else. Dolphin Cove and Dunn’s River Falls are both less than 10 minutes away by car. Those interested in learning more about Bob Marley will find the Bob Marley Mausoleum about an hour inland -- the drive itself is quite scenic, too.
No airport transportation is provided. With Sangster International Airport about 90 minutes away, guests may find that renting a car is the most convenient and affordable option. Several brand-name rental agencies boast counters in the terminal. Taxis are another option with rates on par with similar Caribbean resort destinations. Shared shuttle service is the island’s cheapest mode of transportation and rides can be arranged at the airport or through the hotel concierge.
Dark rooms with a classic look and modern amenities (plus readily-available liquor)
While this is one of the newer resorts near Ocho Rios, the look in rooms isn't exactly contemporary. In fact, the traditional, colonial-inspired decor is fairly dated. Color palettes are at least bright, which is good given the abundance of heavy fabrics and materials, and light tile floors do a bit to remind guests of where they are on the globe (which is to say, right next to some of the world's most beautiful beaches). Dark wood, drab floral-pattern fabrics, and classic furniture are all in good shape -- and are meant to evoke high-class hotels -- but the overall aesthetic is reminiscent of resorts from a bygone decade.
Entry-level Guest Rooms are the smallest on the property, with floor plans slightly larger than a typical mid-range chain hotel. Junior Suites offer a one-room, split-level floor plan that’s large enough to include a distinct living area and a sleeping area. Suites are the largest and come with substantially more floor space, including a living room with a sofa. A dedicated Deluxe Wing -- which has all of the same room categories listed above -- is located closest to the beach and has the best water views on the property. The wing is adult-centric (though not adult-only), and meant to feel quieter and more relaxed than other parts of the hotel. Ocean View Suites in this wing offer much larger, oceanfront balconies, some with open-air, outdoor whirlpool tubs.
Every room and suite includes a daily-stocked minibar and a premium liquor dispenser (with unlimited gin, vodka, and Appleton rum). Most rooms feature flat-screen TVs, however, some still boast old-style tube units. In-room Wi-Fi is paid in all Guest Rooms, while it’s free in Junior Suites and Suites. The resort’s king beds are oversized, but in fact are only two double beds pushed together, meaning they aren't always the most comfortable.
Bathrooms are adequately sized in Guest Rooms and large in Junior Suites and Suites. Fit and finish is decent enough, but also dated -- there's fake marble tiling on the floors and walls that looks a little cheap in lower-category rooms, while higher-category rooms have marble walls and granite countertops. Dual sinks and a deep shower/tub combination are found in all Standard Rooms. Suites upgrade to a stand-up glass shower stall and an open-concept two-person whirlpool tub that’s exposed to both the bathroom and the sleeping area.
A massive private beach, two beautiful pools, six full restaurants, and a modern spa
The massive resort offers almost every imaginable amenity travelers might expect in a single property. Most notable are the wide, private beach, two large pools, six full restaurants, and a modern, full-service spa. For an all-inclusive resort of this size, it's a bit surprising that Wi-Fi isn't completely free, though many activities are available and built into the hotel's rates.
The private beach is large, even for a nearly 850-room resort. With staff raking and cleaning the sand on a twice-daily basis, the space is immaculate. Hundreds of white plastic lounge chairs provide ample relaxation space. While there are few umbrellas, rows of tall palm trees provide plenty of shade throughout the day. The pool bar near the east end of the beach provides a full liquor menu while a small, dedicated beach bar near the center of the beach offers beer, wine, and cocktails along with a handful bar stools. Security is always present, ensuring that there are no hawkers or tchotchke peddlers to bother guests.
While there is no breakwater offshore, the seawater is generally calm and swimmable. The resort provides a variety of free water-sports equipment including kayaks, snorkel gear, sailboats, and windsurfing equipment. An introductory, pool-based scuba lesson is also available to all guests.
Two clean pools with swim-up bars and whirlpool hot tubs
The two pool areas each provide a different atmosphere. Near the Deluxe Wing is a quieter, adult-only infinity pool aptly named the Deluxe Pool. The vibe is considerably quieter and more relaxed. A small, swim-up bar with a dozen stools services the pool while staff provide poolside drink service as well. Immediately adjacent are two hot tubs, each capable of accommodating a dozen guests.
The Main Pool is larger and situated closer to the action, including the restaurants and kids’ club. With an additional swim-up bar and volleyball nets, the vibe is louder and livelier. Both pools are surrounded by scores of plastic lounge chairs while palapas provide ample shade. In-water lounge chairs provide additional seating.
All-day dining via six restaurants and a jerk chicken shack
A total of seven restaurants and six bars service the entire resort. However, the main buffet and jerk chicken stand are the only spaces that don't require reservations at dinner time. With nearly 850 rooms and limited seating at the five specialty restaurants, securing dinner reservations can prove frustrating.
The St. Ann buffet serves a buffet breakfast, lunch, and dinner in a casual dining hall. Like the property itself, the space is so dark and cavernous that it feels sterile and not unlike dining at a university cafeteria. Even with such a large space, the hall fills up fast and the seating process can be slow as guests line up early at every meal. The list of menu selections is lengthy, with typical Western favorites, plus themed stations (such as Italian or Jamaican), dessert stations, and draft beer taps.
In addition to St. Ann, a buffet lunch is also served at Mammee Bay (in the Deluxe Wing) and Plantation (in the family side of the resort). The menus are basic and similar, with burgers, pizza, salad, grilled chicken, and dessert stations. A no-frills jerk chicken shack on the beach also provides excellent, traditional Jamaican barbecue chicken and meats.
Each of the five specialty restaurants centers around a theme. The largest, Mammee Bay, is a casual a la carte steakhouse that also provides buffet sides, salad, and desserts. Sir John Gourmet and Sir Richard offer similar gourmet menus in a fine-dining atmosphere and are only open to Deluxe Wing guests. The small Tushima restaurant serves Japanese cuisine in a fine-dining setting, but is only available to Deluxe Wing guests. All require dinner reservations which, in many cases, must be made 24 hours in advance to guarantee seating.
Piccola Italia is the most casual of the specialty restaurants with a self-serve setup that offers mediocre Italian-inspired dishes (mostly pizza, pasta, and salads).
Modern Renova Spa provides a full menu of massage treatments and salon services
The Renova Spa building is clean and modern, with a warm, Zen-inspired, earth-tone color palette. The stand-alone building also includes the hotel’s fitness center and is moderately-sized, although it feels small given the massive scale of the property. A list of typical treatments is available, including Swedish massage, body wraps, scrubs, and even couples massage. The adjoining salon provides a regular menu of nail, hair, and other beauty services.
An elaborate theater, a nightclub, kids' club, and a 24-hour sports bar
There are three, on-site, adult-centric entertainment options as well as a kids' club to keep the little ones busy. The theater adjacent to the lobby blends a large outdoor seating terrace with an open-air section closest to the stage. The shows are elaborate and well-reviewed, with ever-changing theme nights (like “Michael Jackson Night” and “Reggae Night”). An unnamed sports bar in the hotel’s basement (technically its first floor) is dark, with modern furnishings, televisions, and 24-hour drink and snack service. The late-night Pacha disco club opens well into the evening for a few hours almost every day. With more than 800 rooms' worth of guests, this venue is busy most nights of the week.
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