Tag Archives: all inclusive

Resort Review: Sandos Caracol Eco Resort

A truly unique resort in the heart of the Mayan jungle!

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Sandos Caracol Eco Resort stands apart from the myriad of resorts lining the beautiful beaches of Riviera Maya. What sets it apart? They didn’t clear land to build this resort, they built around cenotes, mangroves, Mayan ruins. It is literally built in the jungle.

All about the experiences!

This family friendly resort in Playacar boasts 40+ activities that you won’t find anywhere else by simply walking out of your resort room. Eco tours across suspension bridges where you learn about the wildlife and trees of the jungle around you. Snorkling in a beautiful large  cenote, a river through a mangrove with various fun experiences, sensory experiences offered by the spa, exploring Mayan ruins, a waterpark,  a lovely beach with all the usual water sports, tennis courts and several pools of course. The main pool has a swim up bar and another pool in the family section has entertainment and music during the day and the adult only section has a large quiet pool.

A cenote is a natural pit, or sinkhole, resulting from the collapse of limestone bedrock that exposes groundwater underneath. Especially associated with the Yucatán Peninsula of Mexico, cenotes were sometimes used by the ancient Maya for sacrificial offerings.

Wildlife!

The mission of this resort and the entire hotel chain is about preserving nature and the culture of the locations their resorts sit in. They built this resort in the jungle and the animals that called the jungle home, still do. In addition to the animals native to the land, spider monkeys, iguanas, birds, coatis, turtles and more… the resort rescues animals that are in danger. They have donkeys, pigs and other rescues. Helping the caretakers feed the animals is one of the activities kids can partake in.

Nature!

My favorite experience at this resort was swimming in the cenote. We took and snorkel tour then were able to just lounge in the cool water. This water is refreshing! The resort boasts 7 cenotes, but only 4 are considered swimmable.  Honestly, you’ll want to stick with the main cenote off the lobby, it’s large and maintained to keep the water circulating. A sacred cenote is off towards the ruins and hidden away, the spa uses it, but we did find people in it one day. A cenote in the Select Club section by building 60 is also swimmable.

Culture!

The resort has entertainment nightly and is focused on the Mayan culture. You can watch fire shows and ceremonies and participate in a survival game too. It’s great for the whole family. For something romantic, couples can take a private boat ride in the Jade river or enjoy a couples massage surrounded by the jungle.

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Accommodations!

You’ll find the best of both worlds at this resort with a family section and their adult only section called Select Club. On my trip, my room was in the Select Club close to the adult only pool and restaurant. There is also a Select Club area on the beach with some special amenities.

Newly renovated Eco superior and family rooms feature bunk beds and are very nicely appointed.

Royal Elite is family friendly, but offering perks as well with their own beach area and private pool and restaurant.

Time to Eat!

There are plenty of options for food at Sandos Caracol. The usual buffets, an Italian restaurant, Teppanyaki, Brazilian, Mediterranean, and a Steak & Fish restaurant. Of course the usual snack bars and options. A favorite of mine was the restaurant catering to the Select Club, great breakfast here too, mix of buffet or a la carte.

A special feature of this resort that is unique is their vegan restaurant. I am not vegan, nor will I ever be and normally would never have chosen to eat here, but I have to say, it was really good. It’s a great choice for something different and of course, it’s all-inclusive so you have nothing to lose. Don’t feel full, go somewhere else and eat more! I will say, this was a meal I did feel full from, more so than any other. It was surprisingly delicious. Give it a try!

Kid Friendly!

There is plenty for the kids to keep them entertained. A massive waterpark, all the animals and fun eco activities, a kid’s club, pools, beach… By the center of the resort, you walk through another great spot for kids to get to the main pool and beach. Here you’ll find a bar and pool tables, ping pong, tv’s with sporting events, etc… and while the kids are having the time of their lives…you can hit the spa!

Sandos Caracol Eco Resort is a truly unique resort where you can swim in a cenote, explore Mayan ruins and culture, view wildlife in the wild and still enjoy the usual all-inclusive resort benefits of the pools and beach and kid’s club, etc…It’s the best of both worlds! I am looking forward to bringing my kids here as I know they will love it.

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Final Whirlwind in Jamaica

It’s been a whirlwind few days in Jamaica and now it’s Monday, our last full day. And it is a full day. We’re off touring in Ocho Rios today, but luckily everything is close by, no long drives.

We start with a tour of the resort we are staying at, Sandals OCHI Beach which I reviewed here.

01-IMG_2898Next, we hop on our bus to go next door to Sandals Royal Plantation, the All-Butler resort in the Sandals lineup. This is a small resort, only 74 all ocean view rooms tucked into a magnificent coral bluff.

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Royal Plantation features Villa Plantana, a private 3 bedroom villa with its own private pool and stunning views.

Sandals Royal Plantation offers many of the land and water sports as all other Sandals and full use to Sandals OCHI next door as well.

Afternoon tea service, private cove beaches, 5 restaurants and unlimited golf at Sandals Golf Club nearby. Roaming peacocks, manicured lawns and Jamaica’s only champagne and caviar bar make this the perfect romantic hideaway.

Back on the bus to nearby Beaches Ocho Rios for a tour of this family-friendly resort. Beaches is for everyone, single, families, groups, girlfriend getaways and family reunions.

Beaches Ocho Rios makes everyone happy! Grownups can unwind with margaritas at the pool while the kids play at the exhilarating waterpark. Unlimited play for everyone, even kids, at nearby Sandals Golf & Country Club.

Beaches Ocho Rios offers all the inclusions of Beaches Negril, unlimited land and water sports, 7 restaurants, 3 pools, teen club, Xbox Lounge, etc…

We ended our tour with a lovely lunch and Sesame Street photo op.

After lunch, we were off to Sandals Golf Club for a brief visit before returning to Sandals OCHI Beach Resort for some free time to explore the resort before our farewell dinner.

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When dinner ends, a group of us head out to find the infamous Rabbit Hole speakeasy, we got the password earlier in the day. Jackpot! The Rabbit Hole is a great entertainment venue harking back to the 1920’s style, think HBO’s Boardwalk Empire. Good fun and creative drink menu.

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Next morning it’s checking out and a trip back to the airport and the end of a great learning experience with Sandals Resorts. As they say in Jamaica…

We had lots of fun and learned a ton!

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Soon Come Back!

 

Join the party at OCHI

The Jamaica FAM Trip continues…after a lovely lunch on the beach at Beaches we boarded our bus for Ocho Rios. It’s almost a 3-hour drive from Negril to Ocho Rios, so we stopped in  Montego Bay for a brief rest at  Sandals Montego Bay.

It was close to 7pm and dark by the time we reached Sandals OCHI, formerly known as Sandals Grande Rivera.

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This Garden of Eden is Sandals largest resort…

Recently undergoing a 60 million dollar transformation, Sandals OCHI Beach Resort is the ultimate party and entertainment resort in Jamaica!

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OCHI is divided into the hillside and seaside sections, all with lush landscaping. 529 rooms, villas, suites offer fantastic mountain and ocean views and an exclusive all butler village on the hillside.  As with all the others,  this Sandals also offers Club Sandals and Butler Elite.

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The Hop is a shuttle that takes guests between the Seaside and Hillside and OCHI Beach Club. It runs continuously all day.

Gourmet Discovery Dining

With one of the largest assortment of dining options, you won’t go hungry at OCHI.

Hillside: Dino’s Pizzeria (pizza), Great House Cafe (Jamaican), Le Gourmand (French), Manor Houses (Jamaican), The Jerk Shack (Jerk), The Southern Table (buffet breakfast and lunch, American South dinner).

Riviera/Seaside: Bella Napoli Pizzeria (pizza), Kelly’s Dockside (grill – Butler only), Reef Terrace (pan-caribbean), Tapas on the Riviera (international), Valentino’s (Southern Italian), Vista/Sky (buffet breakfast and lunch, seafood dinner).

Club Level and Butler Level also have room service option.

Luxury Included…

As with all Sandals Resorts, a myriad of land and water sports are available, weekly events, entertainment, bars, 7 main pools and 22 hot tubs.

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OCHI features one of the best night spots, a genuine speakeasy that will take you back to the 1920’s! The Rabbit Hole offers wonderful entertainment, signature drinks and a  fabulous time. The thing is, harking back to the speakeasy time, you’ll need a password to get in and you have to find the place…there is no signage.

I’ll give you a hint…it’s on the hillside. That’s all I’m sharing. It’s well worth the effort of finding it, don’t miss out!

Complimentary green fees at Sandals Golf & Country Club including transfers.

Sandals OCHI is on a15 minute drive from Sandals Golf Club. Green fees and transfers are included which makes this resort a great choice for a golf group or avid golfers.  Designed by PK Saunders and rates 4 star by Golf Digest magazine. They offer complimentary “welcome to golf” clinics for adults and kids. Caddies are required for a small fee and club rentals are available and you can room charge.

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Available at an extra charge:

The Red Lane Spa offers a complete list of treatment options. (The Red Lane Spa offers a sauna and steam room and hot and cold plunge pools in the zen garden which are free for anyone to use.)Touring offered by Island Routes, laundry/dry cleaning available, private airport transfers, a photo shop, and special occasions options like a candlelight dinner on the beach.

*Sandals has a “no tipping” policy for all team members except Butlers and Spa Therapists.

Overall, this resort is lively and fun with lots going on all the time. A great choice for a group of couples vacationing together, active couples or golfers. Lots of excursions are available in the Ocho Rios area as well, including the famous Dunns River Falls waterfall climb.

Full photo tour on my Facebook page.

Beaches Negril Resort

Next we’re off to nearby Beaches Negril where we are treated to lunch on the beach! Beaches is the family version of Sandals, offering families the same amazing luxury inclusions couples enjoy at Sandals.

Beaches is located on the widest stretch of Negril’s seven-mile white sand beach!

It is very much tailored to kids of all ages, in addition to all the usual Sandals inclusions, Beaches offers Kid’s Clubs with all day supervision of children of all ages and lots of activities, including Pirate Island, and water theme park with 8 slides and a lazy river.

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Beaches is also in partnership with Sesame Street and Xbox. The Xbox Lounge is appealing to the older kids, as will be the Xbox in each room. You can ask them to remove it before you arrive if you prefer. 😉 Sesame Street characters make appearances at special times for a parade and a few other special things.

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A unique extra is having a Sesame Street character of tour choice come and tuck in your child and read them a bedtime story.

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Gourmet Discovery Dining

Arizonas (Tex Mex), Bar B Q Park (Jamaican), Cafe de Paris (cafe), Dino’s Pizzeria (pizza), Kimonos (Japanese), The Mill (International), Soy (Sushi), Stewfish (Jamaican Seafood), The Venetian (Italian), Sweeties (ice cream), Doggies (hot dog stand)

Accommodations

The architecture blends Caribbean influences with tropical greenery. Beaches Negril offers Concierge and Butler Level rooms.

Luxury Inclusions

All the usual water and land sports you can imagine! The beach, pools, Teen Center, Kids Camp, Fitness Center, Pirates Island Water park, weekly events..

Kids Camp is open from 9am to 9pm daily offering a wide range of activities supervised by trained Nannies. Xbox Lounge open from 9am to 11pm.

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Luxury Extras

Red Lane Spa treatments, beach cabanas, Scuba Certification, Island Routes excursions, laundry/dry cleaning, photo shop, special private dinners and more are available at an extra cost.

As always, there is a “no tipping” policy for all team members except Butlers and Spa Technicians.

Find a full album of photos of Beaches Negril on my Facebook page.

 

Sandals Negril Resort

Sandals Fam Trip continues Sunday as we leave Sandals Whitehouse and travel to Negril to tour Sandal’s Negril and Beaches Negril before heading to Ocho Rios, our home for the next two nights.

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The drive is about an hour from Whitehouse to Negril. Upon arrival, we are greeted with cold towels and a refreshing drink. We tour the resort and enjoy a goodbye drink, no alcohol, we’re working!

Sandals Negril offers some of best sunsets in the Caribbean!

 Dining

There are seven (7) restaurant options available: Barefoot by the Sea (beach dining), Beach Bistro (beach grill), Bella Napoli Pizzaria(pizza), Cucina Romana (Italian), Kimonos (Japanese), Sundowner (Jamaican), Bayside (buffet/French)

Room Service offers 24 hours for Butler guests and 7am-10pm for Club Sandals.

Weekly Chocolate Symphony on Wednesdays.

Accommodations

Sandals Negril offers swim up rooms, these are the Crystal Lagoon Butler Suites. And they overlook the beach and ocean.

There are 226 rooms spread over 14 categories including Club Sandals and Butler Elite. This property features the Millionaire Honeymoon Suite with Private Pool Sanctuary, along with other rooms listed in Sandals Love Nest class.

Luxury Inclusions

Nightly entertainment such as beach parties, talent shows, Caribbean night, etc… compliment the myriad of land and water sports. 3 freshwater pools, 1 dive certification pool and 3 whirlpools. Along with 5 bar/lounges.

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Luxury Extras

Red Lane Spa treatments, beach cabanas, Scuba Certification, Island Routes excursions, laundry/dry cleaning, photo shop, special private dinners and more are available at an extra cost.

As always, there is a “no tipping” policy for all team members except Butlers and Spa Technicians.

Find a full album of photos of Sandals Negril on my Facebook page.

 

Sandals Whitehouse

Sandals Whitehouse European Village and Spa is located on the south-west coast of Jamaica, about one hour and thirty minutes from the Montego Bay airport.

“The jewel on the South Coast.”

The resort offers a romantic elegant setting featuring three authentic architecturally designed villages; Italian, Dutch and French. Set on a beautiful two-mile beach.

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This was the first stop on our whirlwind fam trip. I arrived in Montego Bay and proceeded to the Sandals Lounge after getting my luggage and clearing customs. Sandals have a lovely lounge in the arrivals area for all their guests, you check in for your transfer and they have comfortable facilities to freshen up in after your flight. Nice restrooms, drinks, coffee, food available at no charge of course, it’s included! It was less than 15 minutes before our resort was called and we were led out to the bus for our transfers.

*You do tip the baggage porters at the airport, they are not Sandals employees. You should also tip the driver, not a Sandals employee either.

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The ride to Whitehouse is about one and half hours and it’s a winding drive through the mountains. The driver will make a rest stop about halfway. Upon arrival, we were led to a special area for check in since we were a group of agents. The couple on our bus, not agents, were led off for their Club Level check-in at the Concierge Lounge.

Once in my room, I had a few minutes to wander around and take some pictures before getting ready for our group dinner. After dinner, some of us made our way to Casablancas Martini Bar for a small taste before falling into bed to the sounds of the tree frogs.

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Another morning photo op walk, breakfast at Bayside with excellently made to order omelets and then our 4-hour workshop. After that, group lunch and a tour of the resort. We were done at about 4pm and finally had some free time. The hurricane outer bands made the ocean a bit rough so they had the red flags up, so no water sports going on. We hit the pool and hot tub for a bit before a downpour ended that. Dinner was on our own tonight, so small groups met up to try all the different restaurants. I had a lovely meal at Bayside, which is French cuisine in the evening and later we walked to the Italian Village and Bluefields for lobster.

All rooms and suites are oceanfront!

Sandals Whitehouse offers 12 different room categories including Club Sandals and Butler Elite level rooms and suites. There are thirty-two 1 bedroom Butler suites.

The Club Sandals Lounge is available 24 hours a day with concierge hours between 8am and 10pm to assist with reservations for spa, excursions, restaurants and anything else. Guests also get preferred check-in with chilled towel and champagne. Weekly hosted activities. Premium alcohol stocked in the room with stocked fridge and access to room service from 7am to 10pm.

Butler Elite Suites offer you a 2 person team of professionally trained Butlers to pamper you throughout your stay. Butler Suite guests receive a special phone to connect them with their Butler, ready to meet all their needs.

Gourmet Discovery Dining!

Sandals Gourmet Discovery Dining is a breeze with 8 choices for dining from elegant French or Italian cuisine or lobster by the beach. Or the authentic Jerk  Shack!

Bayside (French Brasserie), Bluefields’s Beach Club (Seaside Grill), Cafe de Paris (French Patisserie), Eleanors (Pan-Caribbean), Giuseppe’s (Italian), Jasmine’s (Pan-Asian), Neptunes (Mediterranean Rim), Jerk Shack (Authentic Jamaican)

Sandals prides itself on offering more luxury inclusions than any other all-inclusive resort. Besides the amazing dining choices, Club Level and above also have access to room service, 24 hours for Butler Level and 7am-10pm for Club Level.

Weekly events enhance the dining experience, including a chocolate buffet and special manager’s welcome party, Butler and Club Sandals cocktail parties.

Nightly Entertainment

Whitehouse offers nightly entertainment, from beach parties to shows in the cabaret. Of course, 6 bars are also available including a Martini Bar, the Cabaret Bar, Neptunes Beach Bar, and several swim-up pool bars.

Watersports are included!

A glass bottom boat, hobie cats, kayaks, wakeboarding, water-skiing, tubing, windsurfing, paddleboarding, kneeboarding, snorkeling….all INCLUDED!

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Did I mention Scuba Diving? That’s included too if you are already PADI certified you can dive up to twice a day, either one 2 tank dive or two 1 tank dives. Not certified, no problem mon. Take the resort course and get certified. (*There is a charge for the resort course.)

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4 Freshwater pools and 4 whirlpools.

Land sports too. Pool, tennis, basketball, table tennis, bocce ball, volleyball, croquet…and more. Of course, fitness center as well.

Of course, there are resort shops, a departure changing facility, resort-wide free WiFi, money exchange, nurse on-site during the day, and complimentary airport transfers.

Available at an extra charge:

The Red Lane Spa offers a complete list of treatment options. (The Red Lane Spa offers a sauna and steam room and hot and cold plunge pools in the zen garden which are free for anyone to use.)Touring offered by Island Routes, laundry/dry cleaning available, private airport transfers, a photo shop, and special occasions options like a candlelight dinner on the beach.

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*Sandals has a “no tipping” policy for all team members except Butlers and Spa Therapists.

Overall, this resort is very romantic and quiet. This is where you come to rekindle the romance, relax and enjoy each other.

 

Whirlwind Sandals Resorts Fam Trip

I recently had the incredible opportunity to attend a 4-night exclusive FAM (familiarization trip ) with my agency to Jamaica. We were invited by Sandals Resorts to learn about their fabulous product and become Certified Sandals Specialists.

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Over the next few weeks, I will review and recap the Sandals and Beaches Resorts that we visited while on our trip.

  1.  Sandals Whitehouse European Village (stayed 2 nights here)
  2.  Sandals Negril Resort and Spa
  3. Beaches Negril Resort and Spa
  4. Sandals Montego Bay (just a rest stop)
  5. Sandals OCHI (formerly Grande Riviera)(stayed 2 night here)
  6. Sandals Royal Plantation
  7. Beaches Ocho Rios Resort and Spa
  8. Sandals Golf & Country Club (not a resort )

Yes! That is a lot of touring…this was definitely a working trip, including a 4-hour workshop to become a Certified Sandals Specialist, lead by the incredible (seriously, didn’t feel like 4 hours, went by very quickly) Iesha Hibbert.

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I absolutely fell in love with Jamaica. The people are so welcoming and friendly everywhere and Sandals Resorts are unparalleled. Luxury Included is the truth. Each Sandals Resort has its own unique vibe and there is a perfect resort for everyone.

I cannot wait to go back with my own family to Beaches, it’s moved to the top of our travel bucket list. And I cannot wait to help my clients plan their wonderful memory making trips, whether they be family trips to Beaches, a nice change from the theme parks. Or a romantic getaway for mom and dad for a complete change of pace.

Stay tuned for the reviews and see photo tours on my Facebook Page.

Contact me if you would like more information on planning your own visit to paradise. 🙂  barbara@atimetotreasuretravel.com

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