Being fans of the Office, my wife and I did not know what to expect with our honeymoon at Sandals Ocho Rios. Would we have the romantic tropical getaway that we had always hoped for, or would we get the raucous party atmosphere that Michael Scott brought back with him to Scranton?
Booking Our Honeymoon
After scouring the internet for every possible honeymoon destination, my wife and I zeroed in on a few tropical hot spots in the Caribbean. We found a few places that were within our price range, but we never even considered one of Sandal’s many resorts. After a few weeks of vacillating, we attended a wedding convention where we met a travel agent who convinced us to at least take a closer look at Sandals.
We began to feverishly compare Sandals to the other places we had chosen. Should we go all-inclusive or experience the local culture and eat and drink on our own? How much would it cost to book our flights separately? What sort of amenities would we get for the price?
Ultimately, we decided to book with Sandals. It was simple. It was painless. We went online and booked our resort for a week and purchased our airplane tickets at the same time. We did not have to worry about searching for cheap flights on Priceline or Expedia. A big weight had been lifted on our shoulders because we booked everything at the same time. It was easy to see that Sandals knew exactly what they were doing.
For those who have been on any international flights before, the entry into Jamaica was uneventful and normal. After going through customs, we made our way to the Sandals welcome center in Montego Bay where we were to wait for our bus and enjoy a beverage or two (Red Stripe beer was the drink of choice).
A bus will greet all Sandals visitors and will take them to the resort. The driver will be the only person on your entire trip who you will need to tip, as he is not a Sandals employee. The drive will take you through some very beautiful and lush terrain as it hugs Jamaica’s northern coast. Visitors will amaze at the green foliage and crystal clear oceans contrasted with the very much impoverished dwellings of many of the Jamaican people.
The Sandals Ocho Rios is split up into two parts—the beach side and what is called “the Manor.” A main road splits the resort in two, and travel between the two sides can only be done in vans that Sandals provides. Service is frequent and very rarely a hassle. At Sandals, you could practically throw your watch away. There was no need to worry about being somewhere on time.
The beach side of the resort features most of the action—it had the most pools, the most restaurants, and most of the resort activities. Most of the accommodations on the beach side were hotel style although there were also a few villa style dwelling units as well.
The manor side of the resort is much more secluded. Not secluded in a mountain woods sense, but just more open. On the manor side, there is only one main pool and a few restaurants. There are a few gathering spaces for resort events as well. All of the accommodations on the manor side are villa style, the most common of which is a four-unit villa with its own private pool.
The grounds around our villa, and indeed on the entire resort, were impeccably groomed. Flowers seemed to bloom everywhere and the paths to and from our villa were kept neat. When we arrived, our private pool was somewhat dirtied, so we made a call to the front office, and it was cleaned right away.
The beaches at Sandals Ocho Rios were just plain gorgeous, and there are pools seemingly around every corner. If guests wish to something more than just lounge around the pool or beach, the staff offers a range of activity equipment available to all, including kayaks, snorkels, paddle boats, and sail boats.
Each night of the week, Sandals organizes different activities for the guests. One night there could be a chocolate party with a local reggae band and another night the staff might perform a show for all of the guests. These activities are different every night and are well publicized to guests.
As one might expect, there are also many things to do in Jamaica outside of the Sandals resort. If you wish to tour one of the local attractions, Sandals has many available tours that can be booked straight from the resort. This is a very easy and care-free way to organize any outside activities. All tours are presumed to be safe and secure. Some of the tours include visiting Ocho Rio’s Dunn’s River Falls, ziplining in the jungle, and visiting some Bob Marley historical sites.
Between the beach side and manor, Sandals Ocho Rios has eight different restaurants and a number of different bar and grill type places. Each restaurant has its own specialty. Two restaurants serve Italian food, one Asian, and one Caribbean along with a few more. The food itself was delicious and was generally well presented. During our entire stay, there was not one meal that was a disappointment.
The only option for breakfast at Sandals is a buffet. The food is delicious and abundant, but just beware if breakfast buffets are not your thing.
My wife and I wound up staying a villa on the Manor side of the resort, and we loved it. The villas themselves were extremely nice but perhaps a little dated. All of the furnishings were of a very traditional Carribean style, which worked extremely well, but the kitchenette and bathrooms were a little drab. That was of little consequence though. We had a kitchenette, a large living room, a balcony with an ocean view, and a bedroom with a very luxurious four-post bed. It was like something out of a dream.
Make no mistake though, this was not the Ritz Carlton. I have stayed in nicer hotel rooms than the villa suite at Sandals, but none of those rooms had the same ambience as our villa. Our room was what I would consider fully Caribbean—comfortable, tropical, and romantic.
As mentioned before, guests are never to tip the staff. This makes dealing with the staff very easy—you never have to deliberate or decide how much you are going to tip.
Every staff member at Sandals seemed to be extremely happy and easygoing. They were always helpful and never rude. Both my wife and I were thoroughly impressed by their professionalism and general cheer. The staff was one of the many bright spots at Sandals Ocho Rios.
Book With A Travel Agent
Prior to my honeymoon, I had never book anything with a travel agent. Our agent did not get us any great deal for our stay in Sandals itself, but she gave us a premier wine credit with a meal and a credit at the resort spa. House wine is available for every meal at no extra charge, but each restaurant also has a wine list available for an extra cost. Because of our agent, we indulged in a great Chilean red wine at no cost. And then the spa credit. There was no way my wife and I would have actually spent $200 for a couples massage, but it was well worth the experience.
One Last Word
This entire article has been spent raving about the merits of Sandals Ocho Rios. I loved my stay and hope to one day make it back there. My wife and I felt very safe within the resort, but it is worth noting that Jamaica has a less than stellar reputation for safety. It is definitely worth noting that on the property lines of the Sandals resort locals sit and offer guests marijuana. These people are not violent, but they are not what you expect to see at an upscale tropical resort.