Gordon "Butch" Stewart might have started his Sandals legacy when he opened this flagship resort in Montego Bay in 1981, but you wouldn't know it by looking at the modern 5-star property. The adults-only resort, located on a private, white-sand beach, saw a number of new features introduced after a recent renovation, like an open-air lobby, an over-the-water bar and several seriously high-end restaurants.
If the word "buffet" has you running for the hills, you might have something in common with Sandals Resorts. The Jamaican operator was the first all-inclusive resort to offer à la carte restaurants back in the 1980s, and the chain of hotels is sticking to its culinary roots in 2019. The 5-star Global Gourmet program brings authentic, restaurant-quality dining to the world of all-inclusive resorts.
Plus, if you need a vacation from your vacation, there's more to explore just around the corner. Guests can benefit from the "Stay at One, Play at Two" privilege, which allows them to visit and dine at nearby Sandals Resort, Sandals Royal Caribbean (accessible by free shuttle service).
Our Honeymoon Club level room was blessed with stunning oceanfront views, overlooking a lagoon-like pool below. Design is clean and simple with plenty of extra touches to enhance comfort, like a spacious walk-in shower, a double sink and a very comfy king-size bed during your stay. Plus, guests in this price range can reach out to concierge throughout their stay for assistance with any bookings.
Not only is the fridge stocked with the local beer like Red Stripe, plus wine and champagne, it also comes equipped with a full bar rail. Help yourself to spirits like rum (when in Jamaica) and vodka, which will be replenished by hotel staff.
The real draw, though, is the balcony. Our outdoor space boasted a huge tub, meaning you can start (or end) your day with a bubble bath. Prudes needn’t worry about privacy since all balconies come equipped with a curtain. However, we personally recommend doing a swift robe drop and settling into a soak with perfect views of the ocean – and a glass of the other type of complimentary bubbles.
There’s no need to fill up on bread at Sandals Montego Bay. Recognizing that for many holidaymakers food is not an afterthought, the 5-star Global Gourmet program has masterminded a collection of impressive epicurean offerings.
The cuisine has a wide-ranging international scope across a diverse selection of casual and upscale restaurants (12 at Sandals Montego Bay), meaning that you can dine at 20 restaurants across two properties (8 at Sandals Royal Caribbean). Grab pastries and ice creams from Cafe de Paris, order something spicy from the Jerk Shack on the beach or enjoy traditional ackee and saltfish for breakfast at Cucina Romana.
Don’t miss Soy Sushi Bar, aka the best sushi we’ve ever had at an all-inclusive resort (plus some of the cutest interior restaurant design). Carnivores will find much to love at Butch's Steak and Seafood (named after Sandals chairman Butch Stewart).
Head over to Sandals Royal Caribbean for dinner, a Georgian style resort with manicured gardens that's also home to the Caribbean's first over-the-water bungalows. Take a dragon boat over the water to the Royal Thai, a stunning offshore spot serving authentic dishes that's helmed by a Thai chef.
Gratuities are included so you can pair your meals with all the Robert Mondavi wine or premium liquor you want without worrying about how much you need to leave your server.
In addition to a fantastic food offering, Sandals Montego Bay has all the amenities you'd expect from the chain. A dive shop on-site lets certified guests explore the reefs nearby, while daily snorkelling trips offer beginners a chance to go under 'da sea. There's also a state of the art gym, a spa and a tour operator in the lobby where you can book trips like the 4x4 Jeep Safari Tour around the island.
Sandals Montego Bay is only a ten-minute drive from Sangster International Airport, which means you can be on a lounger within an hour of touching down on the tarmac. This does mean you’re on the flight path (guests can see planes from close range on the beach) – and while we’re deep sleepers and were never disturbed by them, some fellow travellers were woken up by aircraft in the night.
If you feel like leaving (and we're not sure why you would) there are plenty of sights in the Montego Bay area. Doctor's Cave Beach Club, one of the most famous beaches in Jamaica, is a great place to while away an afternoon in its gift shops. Meanwhile, Gloucester Avenue (aka the "hip strip") has a mix of art galleries, jazz bars and attractions like Rose Hall Great House, a ruined Jamaican Georgian style mansion.
Rooms start at $827 per night
Kent Avenue, Montego Bay, Jamaica, +1 888-726-3257; sandals.com/montego-bay