Sandals Ocho Rios
Jamaica! Land of the perpetual chill. I needed to take a break from months of working nearly 50 hour weeks. I love the city but I was dying to to just sit and enjoy the warm sun with cocktail in hand. Back in October, my friend Rachel sends me a text that said "Jamaica this Spring. Deposit of $200 due at the end of the week." To which I replied, "Sure." Because why the hell not? If your friend texts to you to go visit a tropical paradise, you go to the paradise. No questions asked. Even when explained the true reason for the trip (our friend Mika was getting married), I didn't care because I was already picturing myself with a face full of Jerk Chicken while floating on a raft in the clear blue sea.
Hospitality is the name of the game in Ochi, as the city is affectionately named. From the second you land in the country, there's a person to help you with your bags or put a drink in your hand. In fact, when we stepped off the shuttle, we were greeted with a glass of champagne which is basically the best way to get a 5 star rating from me. Good thing I don't give out the ratings or most locations could bribe their way to a top listing with a few complimentary drinks.
Sandals Ochos Rios is an absolute couples retreat. But don't feel awkward or discouraged. It's a great location for a girl trip and fantastic location to spend less time worrying about how you look and bonding with your best friends. More importantly, it means there are no children! Be sure to bunk with your best mate, because there are no double beds. Only queens and kings. Ideally, someone who doesn't snore, toss and turn or have nightmares. Rachel and I have been friends for 8 years, so we had no problem splitting up and doing separate activities while the other took some time alone in the air conditioned villa. I spent the least amount of time indoors, because Hello, kayaking in the Caribbean! As part of a wedding group booked through a travel agent, we got a great deal of $1300 person for 6 days. The rate included travel insurance (we added it in), flights from Atlanta to Montego Bay, a shuttle from/to the resort located nearly 2.5 hours aways complete with an hilariously, entertaining driver/guide, room, all you can eat meals at 16 restaurants, drinks and water sports. That works out to less than $100/day!
The resort was a low key dream with beaches and pools at every turn. Nothing too elaborate, but we weren't looking for cater waiters and black tie events. The landscape is simple and bright with cute blue and green buildings along the tropical resort. Sandals is an all-inclusive space with a whopping 16 restaurants featuring various international cuisines and unlimited alcoholic and non alcoholic beverages. Each morning I skipped coffee in favor of a strawberry-mango daiquiri made with dark Jamaican rum and I'm not sorry about it. I'm pretty sure 5 days of free drinks doesn't make you an alcoholic, but virgin versions of these drinks are available.
I wrote this post while sitting here, double- fisting daiquiris.
Located about 2.5 hours from Montego Bay. A bus or shuttle is required to reach resort. Arrange in advance or you may be swindled.
The Rabbit Hole speakeasy requires a password to get in so make friends with the staff and other guest to figure it out.
The restaurants aren't all open at the same time or even everyday, so play close attention to the newsletter that gets delivered everyday.
Service can be an exercise in patience, so plan to spend lots of time in the less formal restaurants. The more casual, the longer you will wait.
Reservations must be made with the individual restaurant and can't be made with your concierge or the front desk. Same with water sports. You must walk to the sporting shack and sing up.
Booking your room early could result in a $75 spa credit.
Hotel has laundry service but it's quite expensive. $13 to press a dress! Use the iron in the room.
Ocho Rios Jamaica
OPEN 24 HRS A DAY