Perks and Recreation – Episode 6 – Touring Day 3 & 4 – Sandals Royal Plantation and Beaches Ocho Rios

We wrapped up our touring with Sandals Royal Plantation and Beaches Ocho Rios.  Sandals Royal Plantation is a boutique style, ALL BUTLER, ultra luxury accommodation.  The fortunate folks who stay at this small but stunning resort can party at their neighbor, Ochi Beach (but the poor saps from Ochi Beach cannot visit the Plantation).

The views from Royal Plantation were amazing – they were getting ready to set up for a wedding while we were there and MAN! I can’t even imagine what those pictures will look like.  This even more exclusive offering from the Sandals brand hones in on the opportunities presented by having a small and more private experience.  Each guest reservation is assigned not one, but TWO butlers – your Beach Butler and your Room Butler – Say What???  Talk about service!!!

Our last stop (other than a pretty fun golf cart tour of Sandals Gold Club in Ocho Rios) was the Beaches Ocho Rios Resort.  This family friendly resort boasts a wonderful kids club and of course, Sesame Street characters!  Beaches specializes in vacations for all families, with special training in autism and special needs, making the Beaches brand the perfect family vacation.  Another cool fact – most resorts and resort brands begin to offer kids clubs at age 3 or 4; Beaches is from birth – with a 3 to 1 ratio for babies.  Families will not find a more amazing opportunity for rest, relaxation, and memory making than a Beaches resort.

I loved the water park at this Beaches resort, and the service was fabulous and fun – but the resort itself was a bit run down and outdated.  Its quirkiness was interesting, but it lacked continuity.  It was created out of three different resorts in the 1980s and that is evident in the differing styles.  Interesting facts – the Gift Shop is the place that used to house Liz Taylor when she came to visit the part of the resort that USED to be the Playboy Resort back in the day.  In fact, the penthouse of this Beaches resort was Hugh Hefner’s penthouse.  Kind of ironic, I think!

Strangely enough, there are NO Butler suites at this resort (not even the penthouse) – which I find a bit strange – but it is the lead in resort in this brand.

Overall – it is a fun resort but not one I would feel comfortable recommending unless certain criteria were met. 

I know there are people that wonder what the heck I am doing traveling all over the place during a pandemic.  Well, it boils down to the fact that this is my job and I believe there is still no better way for people to bond and have memory making experiences than through travel.  I cannot and will not PERSONALLY live my life in fear.  I will not allow What Ifs to determine my quality of life.  I do not judge people who have other opinions – but these are mine and I stand by them.

Life is short.  Make sure you are living it!

Perks and Recreation – Episode 5 – Touring Day 3 – Sandals Ochi Beach Resort

After touring South Coast, Sandals Royal Caribbean and Sandals Montego Bay, we hopped on our bus and headed two hours to the Ocho Rios resort area for our three night stay at Sandals Ochi Beach.

This resort is different – it has a beachfront or seaside area and a hillside area.  95% of the Butler Suites are on the hillside and all with either private or semi-private pools.  In fact, the Sandals Ochi Beach property has 120 pools!  THAT is pretty cool! 

The Seaside Area – a beautiful waterside area with private dining gazebos over the water that double as spa treatment areas during the day – and the ocean here is gorgeous!!!!  Now, the beach leaves a lot to be desired – it is small, pebbly and not very appealing in the middle section – but the left and right beach areas of the resort are lovely!

The seaside area has much of the entertainment and dining areas – including Soy Sushi and Kimonos hibachi style dining.  The seaside has the watersports area and also a large stage where Sandals puts on some super fabulous shows!!!  The grounds are mature, lush and absolutely breathtaking!  The resort is well laid out and the staff is attentive, helpful and FUN!

The Hillside Area (which you must take a shuttle called the Hop to reach – and you can go between the two areas freely all day and night) is more recently renovated and I loved the large pool area.  We arrived very late on our second day of touring and ate dinner at the Southern Kitchen (think fried chicken, grits and comfort food) and had to check out the party on the pool deck outside.  This was the night of the week (Wednesday at this resort) that the resort partied in their White Clothes (known as a white party) and danced to the beat of their own drum at a silent disco.  Guys, this was so fun to see!!!  People dancing with headphones on the blacklit pool deck – and it was quiet!!!  So cool!

Since we stayed at this resort for three nights, I’ll just say that overall, I didn’t mind going back and forth between the seaside where I stayed and the hillside, where I enjoyed visiting.  Sandals Ochi Beach has a fun, party vibe with couples of all ages – oh – and another cool, one of a kind experience at this resort – a SPEAKEASY – with a secret password and everything!

As much as I loved Sandals South Coast for its layout, its size and its overall feel, I really enjoyed Sandals Ochi!  It was fun.  It was fresh (even though I had folks tell me they visited in the late 80s) and it’s fun (I know I said that already – but it IS)!!!

Perks and Recreation – Episode 4 – Touring Day 2 cont… – Sandals Montego Bay and Royal Caribbean

After departing South Coast, we took a bus across the island back towards the Montego Bay area to tour the flagships of the Sandals’ brand in Jamaica – Montego Bay and Royal Caribbean. 

Sandals Royal Caribbean – just 15 minutes from the airport makes this Sandals a very popular destination, especially for quick 4 or 5 night trips.  The proximity to the airport also leads to the occasional very loud plane noise, but some people can easily over look this.  Folks staying there told me that after a day or so, they really didn’t notice it any more!

Sandals Royal Caribbean boasts not only the only private island resort in Jamaica, but also those gorgeous Over the Water Bungalows – and I got to tour one!!!!!  So cool!!!!  Look, here’s the thing – these Over the Water Bungalows are ELITE Butler service accommodations – they are EXPENSIVE (think approximately $1500/day PER PERSON) and the SELL OUT two years in advance!!!!  I’m not kidding!!!!!

Sandals Montego Bay – another smaller resort with a nice beach and well appointed rooms.  I LOVED the ones that were closest to the ocean with the swim out rooms and large soaking tubs!  Our tour guide said that when these soaking tub upgrades were complete, they hadn’t put any type of screens of curtains up on the patios and balconies.  Needless to say, privacy curtains were added quickly to all the patios and balconies!

Sandals Montego Bay is literally right next door to the airport – again – the jet noise bothered me enough that I do not think I would like to stay at either Montego Bay OR Royal Caribbean -but that’s me!  However, the Montego Bay property had a SUPER fun and party vibe!  We saw games being played, music on the beach, volleyball, lots of visiting and friends making and an overall joyful and fun atmosphere!  I loved this! Oh and the Over the Water Chapel!!!

Perks and Recreation – Episode 3 – Touring Day 2 – Sandals South Coast

Folks at Sandals South Coast call it “Sweet, Sexy South Coast” and after touring this property, I can totally see why!  Let me say that I fell in love with this property!  It was VERY different from the Sandals Negril property in not only its size but also its privacy and overall feel.  Let’s begin!

We departed Sandals Negril and drove south west to White House and Sandals South Coast.  The drive took us about 2 hours and it was twisty, turny and ever so interesting.  (The drive from Montego Bay airport is about 1.5 hours).  Our arrival on the South Coast property was stunning!  It instantly reminded me of a Mediterranean resort with its distinct architecture, open plazas and well laid out eateries. 

This resort boasts ALL Ocean View rooms (except for the NEW Rondovals – which really do not need an ocean view – they are so amazing).  The resort is similar in its layout to Beaches Turks & Caicos, with an Italian Village, a French Village, a Caribbean Village and at South Coast, the recently renovate and dynamic Dutch Village.

Something else I loved about this resort was that they have OVER the Water Bungalows!  Oh, and an amazing overwater bar – Latitudes – and they sure know how to make a dirty martini!!!

The one evening I stayed there, I enjoyed sushi for my dinner and took some time to wander around the resort and marvel at the beauty.  Many of my travel agent friends who accompanied me on the trip enjoyed the late-night circus-like show and the martini bar – but alas, I treasure my sleep more that entertainment and turned in around 9:30pm.

The next day we had our official walking tour of the resort – the eateries – the SPA – and also a number of the rooms.  They were all beautiful, well appointed, and with lovely ocean views.  Oh, and did I mention the Over the Water Wedding Chapel????  Stunning!

If I were forced to come up with something I didn’t totally love about this resort, it might the beach – it wasn’t as powdery as Negril and the water was not AS serene – but that would NEVER keep me from staying at this resort.  If I had to personally pick one of the eight Sandals and Beaches resorts to stay at during my own vacation, I would pick South Coast (second choice coming up).

Here are some of my favorite grounds photos from this beautiful resort – Enjoy!

Perks and Recreation – Episode 2 – Touring Day 1 – Sandals Negril

I want to start off by saying that I am going to present my PERSONAL points of view based upon my own observations, likes and dislikes.  I very much enjoyed each of the eight properties I toured – but for different reasons. I believe that each of them have positive attributes – but some have negative attributes as well.  So here we go….

Sandals Negril is a beautiful property, and I would argue, after touring what felt like half the beaches on the island, that the Negril area has the nicest beaches – beautiful, azure waters and powdery sand!  The Sandals Negril property feels more boutique like in its set up.  It feels quaint, intimate and well laid out.  The swim out rooms we absolutely my favorite and I also loved the Barefoot eating area!  It really felt like a tropical paradise!

I can’t say there were any real NEGATIVES about this resort – it was a bit on the small side – which some people would consider a PLUS!  It was small but still not too small.  It was VERY well kept and the grounds, as with all of the properties I saw, were absolutely gorgeous!  Lush, mature tropical gardens and plants really augment the natural beauty of the sea and the build beauty of the architecture.

As with all Sandals and Beaches properties, so many water sports are included in your Ultra-Inclusive pricing.  Diving, sailing, kayaking and even tubing and water skiing in some locations.  Look at these gorgeous sail boats and dive boats!  Talk about a fabulous groups opportunity!

Finally, the Negril resort area is about 1.5 to 2 hours away from the Montego Bay Airport (MBJ) – this is a colorful and enjoyable ride around Jamaica’s coastline and the opportunity to see small towns and villages along the way is a fabulous way to learn a bit about a county and her people. 

While the topography and waters of Jamaica look similar to other Caribbean islands, there is something special about Jamaica.  Her people say they don’t have problems, but situations.  They believe in their “One Love” moto and live life to the fullest!

I heard a number of time that if you visit Jamaica three times, you ARE Jamaican.  Well, I have one more trip to earn my “ya, mon”!