“One love, one heart,” Bob Marley once sang. To us, he might have been describing our 10th anniversary in Jamaica.
But, which resort would suit best? There seem to be quite a few all-inclusive resorts on the island and frequent rebranding changes the players a lot. We researched and selected Sandals South Coast, formerly Sandals Whitehouse, and could not have been more pleased.
Location, location, location. The classic real estate mantra fits here. Situated on the south side of Jamaica, where you can see both sunrises and sunsets, the resort sits by itself away from the hustle and bustle of other resorts and the related crowds, noise, traffic, and onslaught of vendors. It’s an oasis of 50 acres surrounded by nature preserves, a natural habitat and nesting ground for sea turtles, and more than 350 species of birds.
The staff appreciates and supports the community and environment. For example, sea turtles, returning to their birthplace, lay their eggs on the property and the on-site naturalist provides measures to prevent poachers and mongoose from stealing the eggs, helping the baby turtles hatchlings make it back to the cerulean blue sea. The Sandals Foundation is involved in the local community, helping to promote education and positive influences in the community and the environment. It also has a system for you to donate at the start of your stay to leave a positive legacy.
Insider tip: The resort lies on a protected long curve of beach, some of the best in the Caribbean, and every single one of the 360 rooms or suites faces the ocean, regardless of category level.
The resort consists of four main areas: the Piazza, the main dining and entertainment area with multiple pools, restaurants, shops, watersports, conference hall/ballroom, and beach; the Italian Riviera, closest to all the activities and restaurants and sporting an enormous hot tub; the more relaxed and quiet Dutch Riviera; and the French Riviera, with its high-energy water volleyball pool area.
Each area has distinctive architecture. With 16 different room categories in the three areas, you are sure to find something to fit your taste and budget. And, with the robust loyalty program, you may be able to enjoy a few upgrades such as Club Sandals, or your own butler. (Imagine having your butler check you in, unpack your clothes, make dinner reservations, and fetch your cocktails so you don’t have to miss a minute of the fun and relaxation.)
Even without a butler, you’ll find very friendly staff, all there to cheerfully help in a manner that has roots in formal British colonial influences combined with that laid-back vibe that makes travelers want to return to this paradise. It’s a paradise that is easy to get to, so you can escape from the winter cold and snow and enjoy warm, sunny days with perfect breezes, delicious food, tropical-inspired drinks, and locally sourced fresh fruit.
Plenty of dining options
Dining options are numerous, with several venues offering indoor and outdoor dining options. Only one requires reservations; butler suites and Club Sandals guests have the option to reserve a table in all locations. Resort casual dress code is the norm.
Insider tip: Arrive early for dinner, before 6:30pm, if you’re not staying in butler accommodations; otherwise there may be a wait.
There are five-star gourmet chefs from the areas where cuisine hails from. These restaurants include: Jasmine’s Asian Cuisine, with its Filipino chef; Giuseppe’s authentic Italian fare; Eleanor’s Caribbean cuisine, including breakfast and dinner a la carte; Bayside’s open air buffet dining venue; Bluefield’s light fare of salads, burgers, and fresh fish; Neptune’s Mediterranean cuisine with seafood; and Sushi in the Sand’s Japanese sushi.
Off the main dining area options include Café de Paris, a French pastry shop serving Blue Mountain Coffee and specialty coffees 5:30am–11:00pm. It also serves lunch, dinner, and a late-night buffet 10:30pm to 5:30am. The Jerk Shack, right on the beach, was recently updated to include tables and serves authentic Jamaican dishes such as jerk chicken and pork.
Insider tip: Try a candlelight dinner on the beach and plan it around the sunset. It’s very romantic and a professional photographer will capture the moments for you.
While top-shelf cocktails are available in at least six locations, our favorite was Latitudes, an overwater bar, perfect for a pre-dinner cocktail while watching the sunset. You can lounge around in the huge hammocks surrounding the bar. There are also a couple of swim-up bars for those days when you are hanging out by the pool.
In addition to the five pools, there are tons of activities. The main pool has organized activities throughout the day including trivia games and exercise options. On the beach, enjoy free sailing, wind surfing, water skiing, and paddle boards. Scuba gear is available or you can become PADI- certified while on vacation.
Snorkeling excursions, reef tours, glass-bottom boat rides, and catamaran cruises with food, drinks, and a stop at Pelican Island are free if you book an upgrade to a butler suite. If you are prone to seasickness — the sea can be rough from time to time — get an anti-sea sickness patch or medication from your doctor before your holiday.
Try the spa or shopping
Are you ready to take a pause during your action-packed day and switch gears to experience some pampering? Try the Red Lane Spa, a tranquil oasis of relaxation. The menu of services and options is large, including an oceanfront couple’s massage.
Try some shopping for high-end jewelry or meander through the gift shop that has everything you need while staying on resort including local artisan crafts, jewelry, resort wear, and souvenirs.
Consider a photo session with the professionals to capture your memories. There are several unobtrusive photographers on staff to take candid shots while you are sailing, hanging out at the pool, or enjoying time on the beach. Sandals has made it easy for guests to view and choose a package or individual photos, which can be purchased as prints or on DVD.
The resort also provides waterfront weddings complete with a wedding coordinator. The wedding chapel is very romantic. It is over the water with panoramic ocean views and a glass floor. Sandals weddings, with several packages to choose from, are also known as “weddingmoons,” since the honeymoon is combined with your destination wedding. The event can be large or small, daytime or sunset.
Coming soon, Sandals South Coast will have over-the-water suites with clear floors and butler service, similar to those in the exotic Pacific islands of Bora Bora, Fiji, or the Maldives. The experience will be so much closer now and perfect for a honeymoon, vow renewal, or the love-filled holiday of a lifetime.
Want to know more? Visit sandals.com or contact Cruise & Land Travel, the Sandal’s experts, at 888-434-6544 or cruiselandtravel.com. Enjoy!