Anyone who knows me is keenly aware that I hate the cold. So in the midst of another record breaking Canadian winter, I was desperate for an escape. Every year when the winter becomes unbearable (-30 degrees is my breaking point, people), I go on the hunt for an easy trip to a tropical destination to get me through the rest of the bleak season. Last year it was Freeport – and Nassau before that.

This year, we decided to try Sandals Montego Bay I’ve always heard Sandals resorts described as the ‘be all and end all’ of all-inclusives. Resorts with such an entrenched reputation that people who’ve never even visited Sandals praise how great they are. I was curious to see if it would live up to the hype or if our expectations had been too built up.

It was also our first all inclusive experience. We’ve always been ‘off the beaten path’ travellers, but in recent years we’ve enjoyed the R&R of nearby resorts, allowing us to return from vacation relaxed rather than exhausted. We decided to take this vacation to the next level, eliminating having to think about anything other than when to have a drink and how to strategically try as many restaurants as possible during our stay.

With the trip now behind us, it’s fair to say that we enjoyed the experience quite a bit and better understand why so many are passionate about the chain and continue to return to their favourite Sandals properties year after year. Here are a few reasons why we’d consider returning again next time the mercury drops.

Sandals Resorts - Royal Caribbean Pools

1. There are no kids.

Don’t get me wrong, I like kids. But I find that being around them isn’t particularly relaxing. It just takes one aggressive cannonball in close proximity to where you’re lounging to bring a flood of daily stress back into your day. With Sandals, once you leave the plane and the customary crying baby behind, you’re in the clear. Also, as Sandals resorts tend to be geared towards couples, you won’t get the young spring breaker “kids” trying to consume their body weight in alcohol. I’ll drink to that.

2. There are no hidden fees.

Many all inclusive resorts have hidden costs or expensive extras, which are only apparent after you arrive and find out what their definition of ‘all inclusive’ really is. Some only offer buffet dining and charge for a la carte restaurants or room service, many offer only local or rail spirits and make you pay for premium brands, and more often than not activities are all over and above your all inclusive fare. With Sandals resorts there’s no restrictions on dining, you have your pick of top brand alcohol, and there’s unlimited activities like diving and golf. With that said, there are some amenities you should expect to pay for at Sandals resorts including spa services, beach cabanas, and off resort activities. We rented a cabana on both days and it was well worth the nominal fee.In addition to their all-inclusive policy, Sandals resorts also have a strict no tipping policy (except tipping your butler if you have one). This means you don’t need to worry about having cash on hand or stressing about how much to tip locally.

Sandals Resorts: Montego Bay View

3. Expect great service across the board.

Sandals resorts is renowned for their excellent service, which brings people back to their properties year after year. We encountered returning guests excitedly reconnecting with their favourite staff members daily, often embracing them as old friends. This is truly a reflection of the strong service-oriented culture that Sandals resorts have been able to cultivate, especially given the anti-tipping rules. Employees are encouraged to get to know guests personally and are empowered to find ways to enhance their experience. While we were only there for a few days, we found that many of the staff went out of their way to ensure that our trip was the best it could possibly be.

In discussion with staff, we learned that guest reviews on sites like Trip Advisor are reviewed daily and shared with the team, giving praise where due when a guest had a good experience and looking for ways to improve if a review was less than positive.

Sandals Resorts - Montego Bay Building

4. Local ambiance over cookie-cutter approach.

While some resorts house hundreds of guests in large buildings, with bland, cookie cutter rooms, Sandals resorts are unique. Often rooms are scattered throughout several low rise units with furnishings that reflect their surroundings. Four poster beds, hand crafted mahogany pieces, and unique island accents differentiate these lodgings.

Sandals resorts are often smaller and more intimate, with fewer guest rooms than at other all inclusives. The resorts are laid out with open common spaces but also many remote areas to wander and explore.

Sandals Resorts - Royal Caribbean Cabana Jamaica

5. All access. All properties.

If you’re staying at any Sandals resort, you have access to all of their properties. This is particularly advantageous for areas such as Montego Bay or St. Lucia where there are multiple resorts in close proximity and shuttles to transport you. While we stayed at Sandals Montego Bay, one of our favourite experiences was on the private island of Sandals Royal Caribbean, a short ride away. We were surprised at how much these two resorts varied, both with their own unique character and clientele.

Another advantage of having the opportunity to visit neighbouring Sandals properties is that you have access to more dining options. We had quite a bit of difficulty deciding on which of the 19 restaurants to dine at during our quick stay, but more choice is always better than less.


6. Activities for everyone.

We enjoyed that Sandals offered a range of activities for all types of visitors, especially since we were traveling as a group. For those who are adventurous, the many water sports like scuba diving, snorkelling, water skiing, and wind surfing will keep you busy. For people like us longing to relax in the warm weather, the secluded beaches and private island is where you would find us day after day. There are also plenty of bars happy to offer you a seat.

Sandals Resorts - Montego Bay Airport

7. First class all the way.

Once you pass through customs, your trip really gets going. You’re escorted to the Sandals lounge for a drink and a comfy seat until your shuttle is ready. The Sandals crew that greets you are very helpful and gets you pumped for your imminent stay.

I have to digress here away from Sandals. Our all inclusive experience began as soon as we de-boarded our plane in Montego Bay as we took advantage of Club Mobay, an excellent independent service out of Montego Bay airport. A Club Mobay rep meets you as soon as you leave the plane and takes your through a priority customs line, effectively bypassing the queues that can reach up to 3 hours during peak periods/season.

Sandals Resorts - Montego Bay Party Boat
Loading up the Sandals Montego Party Boat

8. It’s fun.

As I mentioned earlier, Sandals is not a crazy party place where university students and bachelor parties come to go wild. But that doesn’t mean they don’t know how to have a good time. We had tons of fun at the Piano Bar, common across Sandals. We would head over often after dinner and were thoroughly entertained by the talented and energetic pianist. Other guests would trickle in as the night progressed and the singing would become increasingly boisterous. The British pub, again consistent throughout the Sandals family, kept the party going late. The DJ happily played all requests from current hits to 70s rock classics, with everyone getting some exercise on the dance floor.

Balcony View - Sandals Resorts Montego Bay

9. Sandals can be done on a budget.

Sort of. Along with a perception of high quality, Sandals is often associated with a high price tag as well. Well this can be true, especially if you opt for the more exclusive packages like butler service or honeymoon suites (although I do honestly believe you get what you pay for), you can still score a good deal. Sandals routinely has deals including up to 60% off the rack rate, first night free, and substantial airfare credits. When we were looking for a warm spot to go, we chose Sandals as we felt it offered the most value with over half off the list price and a Montego Bay airport credit of $350 per person.

Further, while the price can seem high at first, keep in mind that there really are no additional costs during your trip. All your meals, drinks, entertainment and most activities are included. And remember, you won’t be tipping.

Sandals Resorts - Montego Bay Basketball Court

10. It’s never -30°C (that’s -22°F…)

One of the best things about Sandals is that they’re all located in lovely tropical countries that boast excellent weather pretty much year round. And if you’ve read this far, you’ll understand how important this one is to me. I think I should move this up to number 1.

Here are some more photos from our recent trip to Sandals Montego Bay and Sandals Royal Caribbean to contrast again the subpar winter weather you’ve likely experienced.

Sandals Resorts Jamaica Photos

Sandals Resorts - Royal Caribbean

Sandals Resorts - Royal Caribbean Watersports

Sandals Resorts - Wildlife

Sandals Resorts - Royal Caribbean

Sandals Resorts - Royal Caribbean Sunset

Sandals Resorts - Royal Caribbean Sunset

Sandals Resorts - Montego Bay Fire

If you’re thinking about a Sandals Resort for your next vacation, go for it!

Sandals Resorts Photos courtesy of Departful contributors Lauren Barth and JP Bervoets.

Some of the links in this article are affiliate links, though we always only recommend things we fully endorse. If you’ve enjoyed this content and are thinking of booking a Sandals Resort vacation, consider using my affiliate link so that we can continue delivering quality travel content for free. Thanks for your support!

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Lauren Barth co-founded Departful in 2012 and is the Managing Director of Departful Media. Since then she has worked between North America and Europe and has published content in partnership with a variety of tourism boards and businesses based around the world. Lauren is currently based in Toronto, Canada.

Departful is a full service travel agency for busy professionals seeking unique and transformative custom travel experiences. We create memorable holidays that are 100% tailored to our clients, saving them time and energy by handling all of the little details while providing value by leverage our expertise and network of travel partners. We are based in Toronto.


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