Sandals Royal Plantation in Jamaica was our first visit to a Sandals. This all-butler, all-inclusive, adults-only resort sold us on Sandals forever. We became Sandals Addicts. Continue reading to find out why we love Sandals Resorts so much.
In the past, when I heard the name “Sandals” I thought of honeymooners and Michael Scott from “The Office” going to Sandals with Jan. We were planning a special birthday trip for me a few years ago and had decided on an all-inclusive resort in Mexico. Then I started reading about all the tainted liquor, tourists passing out and not remembering what happened to them, and the drug wars in Cancun, and I decided I wanted no part of that. I did some research and ended up on the Sandals Royal Plantation webpage.
What I really liked about Sandals Royal Plantation is that it is adults-only. When we go on a couples vacation, we are all about relaxing, recharging, and peaceful fun. No offense to those who travel with their kids–but there isn’t much peaceful fun when kids are around. I was intrigued by the all-inclusiveness of Sandals, how they had water sports, land sports, and all drinks and food included. I loved their beautiful rooms on the beach, their nice pools and uncrowded beaches. What really sold me on Sandals Royal Plantation was that this particular resort was all-butler and small and intimate. I double checked TripAdvisor reviews, did some web searches, and changed our booking from Mexico to Jamaica.
When you visit Sandals Royal Plantation, you can fly in to Montego Bay or Kingston. The drive from either is about the same. We flew in to Montego Bay. Many airlines service Jamaica, so we could find a good, reasonably-priced fare.
What’s great about Sandals is you can check in online in advance. When you do that, you can write in your butler preferences before you arrive. Some items you can include are the types of liquor and wine you prefer to have in your fridge on arrival, if you want a fruit and cheese tray every day at 5, or any special requests. When you arrive, you are all set to go!
We arrived at Montego Bay (MBJ) and customs/immigration did not take very long at all. The Sandals arrival lounge is easy to find, and we waited there for our shuttle to the resort. We were the only ones on the shuttle, and we had a great conversation with our driver about the culture of Jamaica, famous visitors and Bob Marley. It took about an hour and a half to get to Ocho Rios, where Sandals Royal Plantation sits on a lovely beach with calm water.
When we arrived, we were greeted by very friendly employees. They quickly checked us in and then gave us a resort tour and showed us to our room. We had upgraded to a higher category right before we left, and it wasn’t until after a few hours I realized we weren’t in that type of room. (Note: I was just so happy to be in such a great place!) We went to the front desk and showed them our upgrade confirmation, and they told us they would work on that for us and would show us the room the next day. The manager came and spoke to us on the beach, and apologized for the mix-up.
However, when they took us to the new room, the balcony was not very private (we love our balconies). So we decided we didn’t want to do that upgrade. In a shocking bit of fabulous customer service for this day and age, the manager again came to us and offered to upgrade us to the BEST room for our last two nights there. He was truly apologetic for the mix-up. Of course we jumped on that. This kind of customer service really impressed us.
Our first room category was the Monarch Oceanfront Suite. Sandals Royal Plantation is all “ocean front,” with some rooms closer to the beach than others. Instead of a true balcony, it had a “French balcony” which was basically large sliding doors that open up to the ocean front. It has a king-sized bed, a dining area, and bathroom with a tub/shower. The bed was very comfortable and we loved having morning coffee and breakfast in our suite with the doors open to the beautiful ocean.
For our last two nights, we moved in to the Governor General’s Suite and didn’t leave for about 18 hours! This room had TWO fabulous balconies on the top end of the West Wing, a huge living room and beautiful full bath and a half bath. It was the closest you could get to the water. We lived on the balconies! Our butlers brought us dinner from Le Papillon (the amazing French restaurant) and breakfast each morning to enjoy al fresco. We had absolutely fabulous views, with ceiling fans if we weren’t getting enough breeze. I highly recommend that room. We were totally spoiled.
Butlers and Service
Our butlers for our entire stay were Orayne and Ricardo. I highly recommend them. I know to us Americans, “butler” sounds really over-the-top, and we weren’t quite sure what we should or could ask of them. However, at Sandals Royal Plantation (and all Sandals) the butlers are discrete, friendly, hard-working, and everything we asked for was taken care of. They never said “not possible.” I wasn’t sure we could get dinner in our room from the restaurant, but they did it. Two orders each of appetizers from Le Papillon? YES! They even delivered me a pizza at the gazebo one afternoon, totally surprising me and it truly hit the spot. We absolutely loved them and felt very spoiled. They were truly top tier.
We celebrated my birthday during our vacation and they constantly surprised me with sweet messages, cards, room decor, a delicious cake, and more. At the time, we wondered that maybe that’s what all Sandals butlers do, and we just haven’t experienced it before. But we were very, very happy and impressed with them. They were always fabulous.
Many of the staff throughout the resort told me “Happy Birthday.” My husband booked a private dinner under the gazebo and it was super romantic and delicious. We were able to choose our menu.
In fact, our favorite place from 5-630 pm each night was sitting in the chairs on the gazebo pier, watching the light change as the sun went down, with drinks in hand and just being together.
The resort is small so you never feel crowded or that it is too busy. We had one crazy night in the Wobbly Peacock (the British Pub), and the bartenders there were great as were the DJs. The best food was at Le Papillon, the French restaurant. The Terrace buffet for lunch was also good. Breakfast was always great, we loved the omelets and the coffee was really good. Lunch at the beach bar was good, and the beach waiters were very attentive.
The pool was very small but nice. We had afternoon tea on the verandah one afternoon, and that was delicious as well, with very attentive service. My husband used the paddle boards, and they were very nice and helpful at the water sports desk.
You can visit their nearby resort, but guests at that resort can’t visit you
At a lot of Sandals, you have visitation privileges to other nearby Sandals Resorts. This way you have even more choices for meals, bars, entertainment, beaches, pools, and more. At Royal Plantation, guests can take a quick shuttle next door to Sandals Ochi. However, guests at Ochi cannot come over to Royal Plantation. That keeps Royal Plantation exclusive and much less crowded. You really feel special and that the entire resort is private and uncrowded.
The only thing I would suggest is to maybe have more umbrellas on the beach–maybe optional ones to put up? You do have to play the chair game and get up early to get your best spot on the beach, so make sure you take towels the night before. They have shaded areas, too. And there is always the gazebo, which is actually a great place to while away the afternoon. But these are VERY minor things.
Rebook and save
A great Sandals secret is to book while you are on property and save. We booked to go back in 2020. We typically like to go somewhere different each year, but we were so impressed with Royal Plantation that we made an exception. The service, the people, the resort, the food, the location, and our fabulous butlers were all wonderful. However, after we got home we looked online at all of the other Sandals Resorts, and decided for our next trip to visit Sandals Grenada. That review will be coming up soon.
When we visit again, we would book a different room category. We love our balcony time for morning coffee, breakfast, pre-dinner drinks, watching the sunset and sunrise, and getting shade from the sun. The perfect room for us would be the Grand Duchess Oceanfront Verandah Suite. You have to book that one about two years out, as people tend to return over and over to this resort and that seems to be the favorite room. There are three of them and they book fast. It has a huge balcony, but is farther back from the beach. It is also in the West Wing, which has less obstructed views of the beach than the East Wing (unless they have recently cut back the trees by the East Wing).
I would also suggest that you book a table for Le Papillion as soon as you arrive, especially if you want outdoor seating on the verandah. We didn’t do that and ate inside, which was nice, but we were jealous of all the people enjoying the beautiful evening overlooking the ocean. Also, make sure you get up early if you want front-row loungers and umbrellas on the beach. If you are a sun-worshiper, you will have no problem, as there are lots of loungers on one of the jettys and without umbrellas.
We aren’t big party-people, and aren’t necessarily on our trips to meet new people. But if you visit the Peacock and hang out at the bars, you will meet plenty of new friends. The nightlife isn’t wild here, so if you are looking for a party, I suggest you book Ochi next door instead. But we had just enough party atmosphere for us at Royal Plantation.
If you love an all-inclusive, adults-only, all beachfront resort, and you love being spoiled by all staff and having a personal, super-friendly butler, plus delicious, top-quality food and drinks, I highly recommend Sandals Royal Plantation. It is an excellent place to reconnect with your sweetie and have a relaxing, wonderful time while enjoying amazing views of the Caribbean Sea.