Long, sprawling beachfront with adult-only nude section
Fantastic, winding pool with hot tubs and loungers
Spacious rooms with sitting areas, flat-screen TVs, and minibars
Furnished balconies come standard, plus some with ocean vistas
All-night dining options, buffet restaurant, and poolside jerk shack
Well-regarded a la cartes serving Italian and Japanese cuisines
Full-service spa and gym hosting free fitness classes
Karaoke bar, disco, and daily entertainment
Kids' club and fun water park
Soccer and volleyball courts, games, and water sports
Evident wear throughout, plus some dated decor
Frequent complaints of maintenance and service issues
In-room Wi-Fi and name-brand liquor costs extra
Guets have limited dining at a la cartes, which require reservations
Slightly pebbly beach
A massive, beautifully landscaped 850-room Spanish mega-resort, the Grand Bahia Principe is a beachfront property with a ton of features to keep families busy. The spacious, junior-suite-style rooms are on the old-fashioned side and showing some wear, but they come with jetted tubs, furnished balconies -- some with stellar ocean vistas -- and coffeemakers. A large stretch of beach with a nude section is lovely, plus there's a huge pool, free non-motorized water sports, a water park, kids' club, and daily entertainment. A spa and gym are also on-site. The all-inclusive rate covers a decent buffet, tasty a la carte eateries serving Japanese, Italian, and Jamaican fare (reservations required), and alcoholic beverages. Unfortunately, top-shelf liquor and in-room Wi-Fi requires a fee, and maintenance and service complaints are common. It's worth considering the smaller Jewel Runaway Bay.
Huge resort with bustling atmosphere but some hiccups
From afar, the Grand Bahia Principe looks like a whitewashed castle with clay-roofed gables, drawing inspiration from its Spanish ownership. The gargantuan, U-shaped complex looks out over the serpentine pool and the beach. Well-manicured paths crisscross in every direction to the various restaurants and the waterfront, though the hub of activity centers around the winding pool and the ocean-view terrace outside the second-floor lobby. Due to the huge number of rooms (850), visitors should expect a busy lobby with tour operators, lines at the buffet, and a la carte eateries to be reserved early. Many past guests have also complained that maintenance and service issues are common. Hallways are also done in old, worn carpeting. Still, laid-back travelers seeking a property with ample features for the whole family will find the Grand Bahia fits the bill, with standouts being the long beach, water park, and poolside activities. Be aware that many stray cats are often seen roaming the property.
Coastal setting an hour's drive from the airport in Montego Bay
Grand Bahia Principe has a beachfront location in Runaway Bay, a small town on the northern coast of Jamaica. Sangster International Airport in Montego Bay is an hour's drive from the hotel, while it's a 35-minute drive to Ocho Rios in the opposite direction. Popular Dunn's River Falls is 30 minutes away by car. Because the hotel sits along a busy highway, Grand Bahia Principe isn't really within walking distance of anything. However, the shops and banks in the town center are only a few minutes' drive away. Most guests who choose to go to outside clubs make the 30-minute trip to Ocho Rios.
Pleasant rooms with four-poster beds, older bathrooms, and terraces
Rooms are done in a pleasant, albeit old-fashioned, style consisting of dark-wood furniture that includes four-poster beds, terra-cotta tiling, neutral-tone linens, wrought-iron lamps, and artwork of the hotel. As they're junior suites, all rooms include sitting areas with sofa beds and rattan chairs, in addition to furnished balconies either overlooking the pool or ocean. Gray-marble bathrooms have showers and separate jetted tubs, as well as hairdryers, magnifying mirrors, and toiletries. Also standard are minibars, tea- and coffee-making facilities, air-conditioning, flat-screen TVs, closets with ironing boards, irons, and safes.
Notable downsides include noise reaching rooms and in-room Wi-Fi requiring a fee.
The water here is clear and warm, but the beach is filled with pebbles and shell fragments, which may be a con for some. Ocho Rios generally has better beaches than Runaway Bay, and none of these compare to Seven Mile Beach in Negril. The resort actually has three beaches: the snorkeling beach is directly in front of the resort beyond the pool; the main swimming beach is off to the side of the resort, just past the Piscis Snack Bar; and the adult-only nude beach is on the far western edge of the property and blocked off by a tall fence. Loungers and umbrellas line the sand, and a reserved section is available for Privilege Club guests with its own bar serving premium liquor.
Decent buffet and tasty a la carte restaurants that require a reservation
The resort has one main buffet restaurant, Orquidea, and five a la cartes: Mikado (Japanese), Garden Grill (steak and seafood), Don Pablo ("gourmet"), Dolce Vita (Italian), and Tallawah Jamaican. All are centrally located around the main courtyard near the lobby and pool, and are all an easy walk from the rooms. Mikado is the most popular, and it features both sushi and a hibachi grill. While meals and snacks are part of the all-inclusive rate, the hotel has a policy that guests may only eat at three a la cartes per week. Gold Club members always get their first pick of restaurants, so guests are bound to spend a lot of time at the buffet. Fortunately, it has a fairly wide variety of foods and great ocean views, though it can get crowded. A popular pick at lunchtime is the poolside jerk shack, which also has late-night eats.
Most of the alcohol is of the generic variety, save of course for Red Stripe beer on tap and Jamaica's famous Appleton rum, which is included until 2 a.m. Brand-name liquor requires an extra fee.
Ample land and water activities, spa, and shopping plaza
The resort's large pool snakes around the entire beachfront of the resort. It has two kiddy pools, a few bridges, gradual-entry spots, a swim-up bar, and built-in hot tubs. It's a popular spot with lots of kids, activities such as pool volleyball, adjacent loungers, and a smattering of umbrellas. Another popular spot is the 2016-opened water park, with various colorful structures and slides.
The Renova Spa is pleasant and offers a standard assortment of treatments, ranging from facials and massages to hair braiding. The adjacent gym is a decent size and hosts free classes, but it closes at 8 p.m. For more physical activity, non-motorized water sports are free, including kayaks and paddleboards. Snorkeling, scuba diving, sunset cruises, and additional excursions are available for a fee.
Daily activities and nightly entertainment are family-friendly, plus there's a karaoke bar and disco. The hotel also features a large kids club which is open throughout the day and is free for kids 4 to 12 (you'll have to pay a babysitting fee for children three and under). A shopping plaza near the kids' club has a variety of stores selling various sundries and souvenirs, plus it's where entertainment often occurs.
Wedding packages are available and ceremonies are common here -- the resort can host several a day during peak times. On the downside, Wi-Fi is only free in the lobby bar and must be purchased for access in rooms. Day passes are sold here.
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