Nearly 15 years after opening as Sandals Whitehouse, the Sandals South Coast resort is the only major hotel development on the south shore of Jamaica.
And as long as that remains the case, this all-inclusive hotel will remain a special place.
The Sandals resort chain has six resorts in Jamaica, scattered from the Negril to Montego Bay to Ocho Rios. Each has their fans — Negril for its Seven Mile Beach location, the Mobay location for its proximity to nightlife on the Hip Strip, for example.
For sheer serenity and natural beauty, however, none can touch Sandals South Coast, which reopened in 2017 under its new name after a major renovation to bring it more in line with Sandals’ “Luxury Included” standard.
Sandals specializes in consistency —amenities remain constant from resort to resort.
In Jamaica, that means that most of the properties have a Jerk Shack among their multiple dining options, for example, and water sports options tend to be about the same from resort to resort.
It would be a mistake, however, to think that one Sandals is just like all the others.
And even when they do share common features, like the overwater bungalows found at both the Sandals Royal Caribbean and Sandals South Coast, which resort you choose can make a big difference.
The Royal Caribbean overwater villas are only reachable by boat, while those at South Coast are connected to the mainland by a long pier. And yet the latter seem much more secluded, thanks to their location at the north end of the resort, which in turns sits on a point facing an otherwise minimally developed section of Crab Pond Bay.
The overwater villas sit in water deep enough that you can jump (but not dive) off the decks behind each unit, while the Royal Caribbean villas stand over relatively shallow waters that recede dramatically at low tide. At South Coast, it’s pelicans that frequently fly overhead, not jetliners.
Each bungalow features on-call butler service, an amenity that’s also available with the couples-friendly Love Nest suites on the mainland. Rooms at Sandals South Coast are divided into three “villages” — four-story Italian, French, and Dutch themed buildings. Every room has a water view all have king beds and spacious bathrooms with modern appointments; upgrades will get you amenities like in-room soaking tubs, robes, and included room service. The wide variety of Sandals’ room classes include one-bedroom suites and penthouse and concierge level rooms. Ground floor “walkout” rooms have oceanfront patios.
The villages are minimally themed, but do have some distinctive characteristics. The French village has the liveliest pool area, with a swim-up bar and organized activities like pool volleyball games, while the Dutch and Italian villages have higher-end suites and share the services of Club Sandals, including butler and concierge service and private check-in.
The Italian village is closest to the main hotel lobby, largest pool, and most of the resort’s restaurants, including those serving breakfast — the buffet at Bayside, sit-down dining at Eleanor’s, and the sophisticated grab n’ go at Cafe de Paris, including a sweet selection of fresh-made crepes and Jamaican Blue Mountain coffee.
Top dining choices at the resort include the authentic Jamaican jerked meats, grilled sweet potatoes, and traditional “festivals” at the waterfront Jerk Shack, the diverse and well-prepared rolls and sashimi at Sushi by the Sea, and Schooner’s Seafood Grill, where lobster and steaks are served under open-air canopies on the beach. The Latitudes overwater bar is the best place to be for sunsets and cocktails made with local Appleton Estate rum.
A broad, sandy beach has ample space for everyone at the resort to stake out a beach chair, hammock, or cabana of their own, and the resort has several short piers and gazebos set up for romantic couples’ dinners.
The beach volleyball court is busy most days, and other active options include Hobie cat sailing, snorkeling, and tennis on a trio of lighted hard courts. The fitness center is well-equipped and blessedly air-conditioned. And we highly recommend the twice-weekly catamaran trip to the famous Pelican Bar, perched on stilts near the mouth of the Black River and a welcome taste of local Jamaican culture after a few days in all-inclusive land.
The courtyard setting of the Red Lane spa is lovely, with treatment rooms surrounding a decorative foundation and hot and cold plunge pools. Services include assorted scrubs, facials and massages, but resort guests are welcome to use the pools, steam room, and other spa amenities even if they don’t book a service.
The entertainment crew at the resort works hard to keep things lively at night, including shows with fire-eaters and a new burlesque show in the cabaret. But it’s easy enough to slip away to a hot tub, the beach, or one of the outdoor lounge areas with their gas fire pits for a peaceful drink or cuddling, as well. The resort’s remote location also means lots of stars visible overhead and minimal noise or commotion from the surrounding community.
In short, there’s plenty of party time at Sandals South Coast if you want it, but it’s also the rare all-inclusive with enough elbow room that you’ll truly feel like it’s you own personal paradise, too.
For more, visit Sandals South Coast.