My husband and I went to Sandals South Coast in Jamaica for our anniversary trip in January, and it was honestly one of my favorite vacations. I was worried that I would be bored since I am not always a sit on the beach kind of person, but I love the ocean and there was so much more to the resort than lying on the beach (though there is plenty of that, too!). Sandals as a brand was incredible, and I will absolutely be staying with them again. I loved everything about the resort, and I would recommend it in a heartbeat to anyone.
What I Loved:
- EVERYTHING IS INCLUDED. I mean everything. The only additional money we spent the whole time we were there were on pictures we chose to purchase and t-shirts from the gift shop.
- The resort is beautiful. I would say it absolutely exceeded all of my expectations. It enhances the gorgeous landscape and does not take away from it.
- It seemed apparent to me that Sandals is invested in the communities where they build resorts. All of the employees are Jamaican, and many of the restaurants are tributes to local cuisine and culture. They even have the Sandals Foundation which invests in the development of Caribbean communities.
Where to Stay:
- Italian Village– This is the village I would probably choose if we go back. It is the one closest to the main piazza with most of the restaurants and the large pool. There seemed to be more beach chairs available in this area as well. The main pool had a fantastic swim up bar and was pretty low key.
- Dutch Village– The property is basically a long line, stretching from the French Village to the main Piazza. The Dutch Village is in the dead center. It has a very small pool, and will require a walk to either end.
- French Village– We stayed in the French Village. I enjoyed it very much—we had our own pool with a swim up bar and Schooners was right next to us. However, This was a 5-10 minute walk away from the main “piazza” with all of the restaurants. We didn’t mind the walk, but we found ourselves walking down there every morning anyway to get a seat on the beach closer to the restaurants and the water activities. Our pool was also definitely the party pool where all of the drinking games took place every day. If that’s your thing, the French Village may be the place for you.
What to Eat:
We ate at 5 out of the 7 main restaurants while at the resort (they also have a coffee shop with pastries and crepes and the “Jerk Shack” on the beach—both of which were great), and all were wonderful! The only reason we didn’t eat at Neptune’s or Sushi on the Sand is because neither of us really like seafood. We certainly did not have a bad meal once. I thought the portions were perfectly sized, especially considering you can order as much as you like off of the menu. I have heard people complain that the portions were too small (which baffles me), but if that’s the case for you, then just order more food.
I don’t know if it was the time of year that we went, but the resort didn’t feel crowded at all. We didn’t make reservations anywhere and never had an issue getting in.
- Giuseppe’s– Excellent Italian food. I loved the antipasti bar and the pastas were delicious. We also ate here one day for lunch where they have a huge array of Pizzas. You can go in and place a pizza order to go during the day if you want to eat it by the pool or on the beach.
- Jasmine’s– This was a very unique Asian food restaurant. The chef was the nicest man from the Philippines, and I was thrilled to see mie goreng (fried noodles) on the menu since I grew up in Southeast Asia. The mie was excellent, and it was so surprising to find it in Jamaica! If you’re a super picky eater, this restaurant may be challenging. But, the chef seemed willing to make adjustments if necessary.
- Bayside– Bayside is open for breakfast and lunch every day as a buffet. I was very impressed with the quality of food from the buffet. We preferred to eat here for breakfast since Eleanor’s took quite a while, and we normally had things we wanted to run off and do in the mornings. The omelet station was excellent, as was the selection of pastries.
- Schooners– Schooners was a cute little outdoor restaurant on the beach right by our room in the French Village. We ate here multiple times for lunch and it was excellent.
- Eleanor’s– We ate at Eleanor’s once for breakfast and once for dinner. The breakfast was delicious, but we were some of the first people in the restaurant in the morning and it still took over an hour to get our food and eat. Normally this wouldn’t have been a huge issue, but we had a snorkeling trip planned that morning. We decided to eat at Bayside every other morning since it was the same food and much quicker. Our dinner at Eleanor’s was fantastic. The Caribbean flavors were wonderful and we really enjoyed the atmosphere.
- Private candlelit beach dinner– This was by far the best meal of the trip. Yes you have to pay extra for it, but if it is for a special occasion I think it is worth it. Since we had booked it ahead of time, when we checked in we received a form to select our menu items for the dinner. The selection was wonderful, and they were accommodating of my pickiness (I don’t eat seafood). The dinner was really amazing as we enjoyed a sunset dinner right on the beach. It was truly an incredible memory and a fantastic dinner.
- New Year’s Celebration Dinner– If you are here over a holiday, they may have some sort of special dinner. Sandals set up the entire main pool deck with gorgeous decorations and a sprawling buffet. The food was incredible, and the champagne was flowing. I do recommend getting there a little early to claim a table if that’s important to you. There were a few tables just for two close to the pool, which we were happy to grab. I am an introvert who doesn’t love to socialize with strangers on vacation, but maybe that’s more your thing.
What to Drink:
They of course have the requisite piña coladas and strawberry daiquiris, but I liked to ask each bartender what his or her favorite drink was. I came away with some new ones thanks to their recommendations! Our favorite bar was called Latitudes. It was an over-water bar with hammocks that extended out past the deck. It was a magical place to hang out in the evenings. Here were a few of my favorite new frozen drinks:
- Jamaican Smile– combination of piña colada mix, strawberry daiquiri mix, banana liqueur, and of course, rum. Literally a smile in a glass.
- Blue Hawaiian– I don’t know what’s in this but it’s blue and frozen and amazing
- Dirty Banana– some sort of Bailey’s and banana liqueur frozen goodness
- Literally anything else you could dream of!
What to Do:
You can of course always lounge in the pool or on the insanely gorgeous beach, but for someone who has a hard time sitting still, it was fun to take part in a few of the other activities that were available.
- Water Sports– One of my favorite inclusions at the resort was all of the water sports that are available. My husband loves to sail, and you could take a Hobie Cat out for 30 minutes at a time. We had the best time on these little sail boats, and we did it every day. We also took advantage of the snorkeling, the stand-up paddle boarding, and the ocean kayaks. It is safe to say we kept ourselves busy and had a great time. If you dive, you can also dive for free, but make sure you plan ahead and take care of all of the paperwork and bring your diving certification.
- Excursions– Sandals offers every kind of excursion you could hope for. There are catamarans, rum cruises, and even an excursion to the infamous Dunn’s River Falls. If you are super adventurous, it is fun to climb the falls. But be aware, it is only for those who are in great shape and pretty athletic. You need water shoes if you want to climb the waterfall (see below).
- Spa– We loved the spa! My husband surprised me with a massage, and it was such a relaxing experience. The technicians were wonderful, and the products they used were so incredible. I also appreciated that there was no pressure at the end of the treatment to purchase anything! The spa brand of products are what you are given in the rooms, which I was very excited about
- Sports– If you are athletically inclined, there are tennis courts, running paths, and other sports available. Make sure to bring workout gear if you are interested!
Things to Know:
- You’re on Island Time- Everyone is so laid back and not at all worried about time. It was hard for me at first to relax.
- The app- I do suggest downloading the Sandals and Beaches app before you go because the free wifi isn’t excellent, and it took about 2 hours to download once we were there. But, this app will be your best friend if you have it. It has a map, restaurant times, and other important event information.
- Getting there- It is an hour and a half (at least) drive from Montego Bay to Whitehouse. The road is unbelievably windy as you go up into the mountains and come down the other side. The second half of the drive is filled with potholes and bumpy roads. If you get the least bit motion sick, I suggest Dramamine or Sea Bands. Even though it’s a rough drive, the seclusion of the resort was worth it, in my opinion.
- Tipping- Tipping is included which was amazing. It took us a minute to realize that. The only places you may want some small bills for tipping are for the van drivers to and from the resort. We ended up tipping a few of our favorite staff members who waited on us all week and made our experience exceptional, but I know that was certainly not expected.
- Club MoBay– I can’t speak to doing this for arrivals, but we were talked into it when we left. They sell the tickets at the front desk when you are checking out. It is $30 per person, and that includes expedited security and immigration processes and a “lounge” in the airport as you wait for your flight. The lounge has snacks and unlimited alcohol, and the ability to order off of the Margaritaville menu and have it brought to you in cushy leather chairs. It’s a little crowded in there, but it was nice. The Montego Bay airport isn’t terrible though and has a lot of food options. I don’t know if it was worth it, but we did get comfy chairs and more alcohol to help us with the pain of leaving Jamaica. This might be useful on the way in, because the immigration line was insane. If you have purchased Club MoBay tickets ahead of time (we didn’t know about this), you are greeted by someone at the arrival gate and escorted to the front of the immigration line immediately.
- Best time to visit- I can only speak from when we were there, but we traveled in January and the weather was perfect. The highs were in the high 80s or low 90s every day, and the weather pattern was very predictable. The mornings were still and hot, and the wind always picked up around 1:00 pm. On a couple days we had afternoon rain showers that would blow in for 15-30 minutes and then clear out again. If you fall asleep, just make sure someone will wake you up before you get stormed on (looking at you, husband).
What to Pack:
- Yeti– If you don’t have a Yeti or something similar, you should invest in one. And bring it. I wished I had mine many times to keep my frozen drinks cold or to put water or diet coke in when sitting on the beach. I thankfully did have a Tervis which worked fine, but it was very hot so drinks melted quickly.
- Mini tide packets– I normally travel with these to beach destinations, but forgot them this time. It is always nice to clean swimsuits after a few wears, especially in the salt water.
- One nice outfit- The whole place is pretty casual, but they won’t let you eat at Eleanor’s if you aren’t reasonably dressed up. This pretty much means no shorts (guys had to be in at least jeans and a collar) and ladies were expected to be in a dress.
- Water shoes– There is definitely some sea grass near the beach. It isn’t terrible, but I might have walked into the water more if I had my water shoes with me. It’s a beautiful beach, but there is some seaweed, so just be prepared. You will also need water shoes if you climb Dunn’s River Falls.
- Tennis shoes and athletic clothes- I honestly just didn’t have room in my bag for these, and I wish I had. There are gorgeous tennis courts and other things to take advantage of that I would have loved to participate in.
- Bug spray– I am lucky enough to never get bitten by bugs, but my poor husband attracts everything. I don’t think they were mosquitoes but rather something more like gnats in the sand that bit just his feet and ankles. Bug spray would have helped.
- Chub rub protection– Ladies, this is an issue and it hurts. I suggest this Body Glide to prevent against chub rub when walking around in a swim suit. I wish I had this.
*Please note that this post contains affiliate links, but all recommendations are my honest opinions!
Have you ever been to a Sandals resort? Which one is your favorite! I am so excited to pick a new one and go back!