Renowned throughout the Caribbean for their ‘luxury included’ all inclusive deals, Sandals Resorts offer international visitors Jamaican character in contemporary settings.
Here Breaking Travel News editor Chris O’Toole lands in the south coast town of Negril for a look at one of the flagship resorts.
Arriving in Jamaica just a few days after Tropical Storm Nicole I was a little apprehensive as to what I might find at Sandals Negril Beach Resort & Spa. Reports suggested the damage had been moderate, but can a tropical island really remain unscathed by a passing tempest?
Luckily, I was pleasantly surprised.
Just hours after the impact, a team of labourers were feverishly working to repair the damage. As resort manger Carl Beviere pointed out, the events of the preceding week were an opportunity, not a setback. While repairs will be quickly completed, Sandals has also taken the chance to develop a new restaurant at the property, as well as revamping many of the existing rooms.
It says something for the indefatigable spirit of the Jamaican people that a tropical storm can be seen as a boon for the island, not a disaster.
Compare this to a light dusting of snow in London!
Sandals is a haven for love-lost couples
High on the list of priorities was the restoration of the pristine beach. Negril has built its reputation as a top holiday destination in the Caribbean on the seven miles of pure white sand which greet the Caribbean Sea – recognised as the longest beach in Jamaica.
Some 1,100 metres of this stretch is reserved exclusively for Sandals guests, with a few thousand tonnes of sand having been transported down from Sandals Whitehouse European Village & Spa to rebuild the white coastline following the storm. Following such a vast effort, the impact of the tropical storm had been all but erased after just a few days.
Good news for us guests!
On offer from the restored beach were glass bottom boat rides through the surrounding shallows, PADI qualified diving opportunities and a host of non-motorised watersports – everything from kayaking to windsurfing. A number of freshwater pools – some with swim up bars – also accommodate guests looking to stay a little closer to the shore.
Back on dry land, sports facilities at Sandals Negril are also top of the line. Four tennis courts offer lessons to beginners and a real challenge to those who know how to handle a racquet, while a fully equipped – but suspiciously sparsely populated – gym is also on hand.
During the week Sandals also presents a range of engaging entertainment. Unsurprisingly, for a resort aimed squarely at couples, many take a cue from romance. Island Romance is one of the more popular evenings of the weekly schedule while ‘Sunsational’ brings a taste of the cultural diversity of Jamaica to the resort.
Before boarding the plane to Jamaica I was counselled never to leave the resort, that the island was dangerous for visitors. This is simply not the case. The town of Negril is just a short drive away – with transfers arranged by the hotel – and offers a glimpse of the real Jamaica.
Bustling bars, colourful shops and authentic restaurants all vie for attention under the sizzling sun, with overseas guests very welcome.
More adventurous visitors will also find local operators offering holidaymakers a chance to indulge in everything from Dune Buggy trips around the area to horse trekking in the surf. In the evening the Jungle nightclub is the place to be, for locals and visitors alike.
Negril has one of the finest beaches in Jamaica
Back at the resort, deciding where to eat is the biggest challenge many visitors face. Among the most popular destinations is Kimono’s Restaurant – serving teppanyaki with a Jamaican twist – or the more informal Sundowner Restaurant.
A personal favourite, however, was Chef Adrian’s Barefoot Restaurant. Each Sandals resort has an eatery dedicated to the resident executive chef and Negril is no different. Offering world-class chefs an opportunity to express their culinary skills, these restaurants offer an intriguing blend of local cuisine and international flair, with the pan seared swordfish proving a highlight during my stay.
Potentially awkward incidents are minimised by Sandals’ ‘No Tipping’ policy. However, this is relaxed for Butlers.
Guests lucky enough to stay in the Swim-up Crystal Lagoon Suites will be offered a personal butler, who is just a quick phone call away at all hours. While the rooms are already stocked with a selection of drinks and light bites – your personal butler will be delighted to bring cocktails to the pool, make reservations at the restaurants, arrange (complimentary) transfers and take care of all the small details.
One exciting opportunity I was, sadly, unable to indulge during my, all too brief stay, was the wedding service offered by Sandals. Teaming up with Martha Stewart, the resort offers a range of locations – including an idyllic beach setting – for the ceremony, as well as taking care of everything from the cake to the flowers.
My butler even suggested I find a bride and take the plunge. Hurricanes permitting – I’ll be back next year to take them up on the offer!
Seven nights stay at the Sandals Negril Resort & Spa in a Tropical Deluxe Room on a Luxury Included basis costs from £1,259 per person during November this year.
Return flights and resort transfers are included in the price, while excursions on the island are pre-bookable through Island Routes.