General: You will love this resort! We had an amazing time and would (and have) recommend this place to our friends.
This review is a bit overdue. My boyfriend and I stayed at Sandals Grande Riviera Ocho Rios in mid-March 2013. We are both in our mid-20's. This was our first Sandals trip, and our first caribbean trip together. It was a beautiful resort, with lots of things to see and do. I think it would be impossible to not find a restraunt or bar you liked here - there were 15 dining options! The staff were wonderful, very friendly and wanted you to have a great time. The resort itself is huge, and well maintained. You can see that they have put money and effort into the renovations, and it looks like a brand new resort.
Flight: We flew through Air Transat from Toronto to Montego Bay. Great uneventful flight. We would fly with Air Transat again for sure. Comfy seats, good in flight entertainment system, and decent food.
Arrival/airport: We arrived at the same time as a few other planes, and there was a bit of a lineup. Nothing TOO crazy and the line did move quickly. They had every lane open to process people through so that really helped. In short: it looks like a huge line, you might have to wait a bit but it goes by quicker than you would expect so don't let this stress you out at all. Try to make sure you have your forms and passports ready so it speeds everything up. You could feel the heat when you got off the plane, so definitely either change when you are at your departing airport or wear layers you can remove. I had on a hoodie over a short sleeved shirt so this was good, but it would have been nice to be in shorts for this part because of the temperature. Something to think about.
Once we got through there, it was easy to find the Sandals lounge - they have airport porters who will carry your bags but it's not that far - and they do expect a tip. We used the porters for taking the bags from the lounge to the bus, and tipped appropriately, but I don't think you need them to help you get the 10 steps to the Sandals lounge. The Sandals staff at the lounge were all very friendly welcoming us "home", and the lounge itself was very clean and well decorated. The bathrooms were nice. The lounge had Red Stripe beer, Rum Punch and Juice. We brought bubba mugs and filled up for the first half of our ride.
Ride to the Resort: As others have mentioned, it's about an hour and 15 min/ 1.5 hour ride with stops. We researched ahead and knew this going in, so it wasn't a big deal. The ride didn't actually feel that long, because the bus was air conditioned, the seats were comfy, and the driver was really friendly and gave us a tour of the Jamaican sights we were passing on the way. About half way through he will ask if you want to stop (we did) for bathroom breaks, and to buy beer/jerk chicken/snacks at a store on the way. The prices were kind of expensive for snacks ($6 CND for pringles) so if this will bother you you might want to pack some extra snacks in your carry on for this part of the trip if you think you will want them.
Arrival at the resort: We were staying on the beach side, but there are two sides to this resort. The bus stopped quickly and dropped everyone off on the Manor Side, which we noticed looked beautiful right away. Our first impression was that the grounds are nicely manicured, and lush. Very romantic looking.
Once we dropped everyone off on the manor side, we went over to the beach side of the property where we were dropped off, and greeted with cool wet towels, and rum punch. We immediately felt relaxed. We sat in comfy chairs in the lounge to check in, and they let us know our room wasn't quite ready, so they had someone escort us to get something to eat. They let us check our bags in at the front desk. Everyone was so friendly welcoming us "home". Neither of us had seen such genuinely friendly, happy people at a resort before. It was so nice!
After we had a quick lunch we went back to the front lobby, and found that our room was ready! They had someone carry our bags for us, which was nice.
The room: We stayed in the two story cottages (Hummingbird Hideaway) which are now club-level (weren't at the time, but now include club level/conceirge service and in-room bar which was awesome).
We absolutely loved these rooms. We were on the top floor (the cottages are only 2 stories high) which was nice because there was no one above us. I would stay in these rooms again, because the location was close to everything, but you didn't have to use an elevator to get anywhere and you didn't have tons of people nearby. The first floor also looked nice, but we had a small view of the ocean as well as of the beautiful gardens being on the second floor - so if you can request the 2nd floor.
The rooms were newly renovated, and have a plasma TV, good-size balcony with a table chairs and bathing suit drying rack, beautiful bathroom, a super comfy king-sized bed, dresser, coffee maker, and a fridge that was replenshed daily (they now also include in-room alcohol which is great). We loved the modern decor and mahogany furniture in these rooms. So clean and pretty looking. The air conditioner worked great! The room was nice and cool all the time.
Housekeeping: Our housekeeper was so nice! She always seemed to come when we were out, and the room was made up several times a day. Everything was spotless. She even surprised us with some flowers and towel animals a couple of nights. Every night the room was turned down. We did use the "do not disturb" button in the room if we were taking a nap, and they were really respectful of that always. Once or twice we accidentally left it on, and keep in mind if you do they won't come in and make up your room (because youre basically requesting them not to), so we made sure to turn it off after that!
Food: Phenomenial! There were so many options to choose from and we never went hungry. Our favorites were the italian restraunt Valentino's, the Jerk Chicken and nachos by the beach (during the day for a snack), the Manor restraunt (amazing ribs!), and China Doll.
Bars: We loved Jamie's sports bar by the beach. The staff there were so friendly and they never let our drinks go empty. We enjoyed playing pool here too. All of the bars had great service, good selection and friendly staff. If you don't know what you'd like ask them to recommend something - it always tastes good! We liked the Jamacian Smile drinks and Dirty Bananas! The beer here is Red Stripe. I would like if they had more "top tier" brands of alcohol available, but everything was name brand they were serving.
Scuba diving: we tried scuba diving with the PADI discover scuba diving resort course and we loved it!! This made our trip! We were able to go on 2 dives when we were there (because we didn't do the course until late in our trip). My advice is to do the course right away (you can only do it on non-arrival or departure days) and then try to go on a couple of dives throughout the week. Great experience and the staff at the diveshop are so friendly and nice. They made this a worry-free experience. We say a couple of rays, every colour of fish you can imagine and 2 sea turtles! The sea turtles were so cool!
Tours: Definitely go on the Red Locks tour which takes you to Dunn's River Falls! You can snorkel on this tour (we didn't because we had scuba'd the day before so it we were still excited by that), climb the water fall at Dunn's river falls, and afterwards there is a party with drinks and snacks! Very fun time! We also saw dolphins beside the catamaran on this tour which was awesome!!
Beach: The beach was well maintained and beautiful. We never had an issue getting a lounge chair. Keep in mind that this beach isn't huge but it was great for relaxing on and we enjoyed it. It is a man made white sand beach, and they take really great care of it so it always looked amazing.
Overall: Great resort! Very romantic atmosphere! We will definitely come back, and we aren't people who like to go to the same resort over and over - but we always say we will forever be comparing future trips to this one!
- Official Description (provided by the hotel):
- •Situated on over 100 acres of lush hillside gardens overlooking the Caribbean Sea•529 villas, luxury rooms and suites with fantastic mountain and ocean views•94 pools (7 large public pools), 22 whirlpools•16 dining options including room service for butler serviced suites•2 luxurious Red Lane Spas•Complimentary golf at Jamaica’s most elite and popular golf course, the Sandals Golf & Country Club (Transfers to the golf course are included)•Over 5,000 sq. feet of first class meeting and conference facilities•Recently completed US$60 million renovation/refurbishing exercise•Voted Sandals Resorts “World’s Leading All-Inclusive Company” 16 years in a row•Voted Sandals Resorts “Caribbean’s Leading Hotel Brand”, 18 years in a row•Voted Sandals Grande Riviera ‘Jamaica’s Leading Resort’ ... more less
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- Also Known As:
- Sandals Grande Riviera Beach & Villa Golf Hotel Ocho Rios
- Sandals Grande Riviera Beach And Villa Golf Resort
- Sandals Ocho Rios
- Ciboney Ocho Rios
- Sandals Ochi Beach Resort Jamaica/Ocho Rios