When travel agents are invited to attend a FAM trip, we are given the opportunity to become more knowledgeable on different resorts and activities in the area, which helps us to advise clients and provide useful information. I was fortunate enough to be one of the few invited recently to travel with Delta Vacations on my first ever trip to Montego Bay, Jamaica. What an experience!
Until I physically touched down in this island paradise, I honestly did not know much about this island other than the allure of its beautiful waters, delicious cuisine, and friendly people. As you can imagine, I was especially eager to learn more about the people, culture, and the many resorts available for tourists.
IBEROSTAR Grand Rose Hall
From the Montego Bay airport, it was an easy 20-minute transfer to The Grand Rose Hall, where we would be staying for the next four nights. Located on the northern shore of Montego Bay, nestled in a secluded enclave, this adults-only resort offers European elegance and 5- star luxury. As soon as you walk inside, you are quickly greeted with a cool towel and mimosa to enjoy your first views of the resort and a smooth check in process. Just walking into the lobby was like something from the Renaissance, with a modern influence.
Offering 189 Grand Suites with sea or garden views, 104 Grand Suites with direct beach access, and 2 beautiful Presidential Suites, this resort also features concierge and butler service, 24-hour room service, sporting activities, one complimentary round of golf, and free Wi-Fi. If your budget allows, the ocean view rooms are definitely worth it especially because you get your own private balcony to relax after a day at the beach.
The Grand Rose Hall offers four specialty restaurants and two buffets, where you can taste a wide variety of cuisine from Jamaican to Japanese, Italian, or even gourmet. But you can also just relax by the beach with a simple and casual lunch.
In the entertainment theater, every night has a different themed show nightly such as reggae, jazz, and comedy featuring talented dancers and singers. This is a fun little activity stop in to after you’ve had a nice relaxing dinner.
All of the staff were very friendly and helpful, and really make their guests feel right at home. This was the perfect spot for our group to stay.
When staying at the Grand Rose Hall, another amenity you can enjoy is having full access to both the Rose Hall Suites and the Rose Hall Beach. So if you are looking to try out another restaurant or spend the day at a different pool or beach, it is definitely worth it to stay here.
IBEROSTAR Rose Hall Suites
Right next door to the Grand Rose Hall is the Rose Hall Suites, which is in the middle of all 3 IBEROSTAR properties. Guests at the Rose Hall Suites have full access to the Rose Hall Beach section. This property is perfect for a family vacation, romantic getaway, or large groups and offers 317 spacious Junior Suites and two Presidential Suites with Jamaican flare and incredible views.
There are many family friendly resorts in Montego Bay, but if you are looking for something a little more upscale, while still maintaining a budget this is the place to go.
For families, this resort offers activities for both kids and adults. Kids get to enjoy their own pool, waterpark, lazy river, and kids club for organized games and free play. For the adults, there is a casino, swim-up bar, billiards, live entertainment/music, dance club, and dancing lessons. Guests can also enjoy the spa and wellness facilities at SPA Sensations that includes hydro massages, healing mud treatments, cell renewing facials, outdoor treatments on the beach, couples massages, etc. If parents are wanting to get away from the kids for the night, this property offers babysitting services for an additional charge.
Guests can enjoy a wide variety of dining choices such as gourmet, Italian, Mediterranean, gourmet, steak, and two buffets. Access to all of the Rose Hall Beach restaurants is included if guests are wanting to do something different.
I would also highly recommend this property for groups, especially for the groups that require meeting space. The Rose Hall Suites offers different options for conference rooms depending on the group size, and if you’re wanting to book a cocktail reception they have options available for those events inside or outside. I recently had a group of doctors from the MSU College of Osteopathic Medicine stay at this resort for their annual Seminar in the Sun, and the hotel was very accommodating for all of their meeting requirements.
Iberostar Rose Hall Beach
Out of all 3 IBEROSTAR properties, the Rose Hall Beach is the largest and most booked. This 366-room property caters mostly to families on a budget just wanting to get away and into the sunshine. Even though this is the lead in property, the Rose Hall Beach still offers a wide variety of amenities similar to the Rose Hall Suites.
The décor at this property is a little more basic compared to the other IBEROSTAR properties, but are still kept very clean and comfortable. If larger families are wanting to share a room, this hotel offers an adjoining room option when booked in a family suite.
Guests can enjoy a number of different activities (especially the kids), but what is really cool is there is a Diving Center called “Dressel Divers,” right on the beach where guests can book excursions, hire equipment, and even do PADI (Professsional Association of Divers) courses for SCUBA training.
Hyatt Ziva & Zilara
Just down the road is the lovely Hyatt Ziva & Hyatt Zilara, once known as the Ritz Carlton. Every guest is welcomed by staff members with a genuine hand over the heart gesture meaning, “thank you for being here.” These two properties truly make you feel like right at home.
The Hyatt Ziva section has 277 rooms with standard, ocean-view, and ocean-front options, as well as a selection of one-bedroom suites. The rooms offer a fresh, clean look with a modern twist using colors to reflect the Caribbean sunlight and the blue waters. There are seven restaurants to choose from including Italian, Asian, Brazlian, seafood, etc.
This section is for all ages, but is really catered to families, with loads of amenities and activities. Activities include swimming and water sports, a fitness center, beachfront yoga, dance lessons, cooking demonstrations, and theatrical performances galore. For families with litte ones, the Kidz Club has beach sports, arts & crafts, games, etc. The best part… all of this is included. Adults have the privilege to go to the neighboring Zilara resort to participate in activities at night.
While parents are out having a dinner or seeing a show kids can come down in the evening and participate in pajama and disco parties while the older kids can hang out at the teen club to enjoy foosball, air hockey, and video games. For parents staying on the Ziva side that are looking for a night out, do not worry. Adults have the privilege to go to the neighboring Zilara resort to participate in activities at night.
On the other side of the resort is the adults-only section Hyatt Zilara, consisting of 344 rooms and suites which have been recently renovated. Just like the Ziva, the rooms present a modern look but still gives guests a coastal and tropical atmosphere.
Zilara offers a wide variety of activities for whatever the occasion, whether if it is a honeymoon, girls’ weekend, or bachelor/bacherlorette parties. Amenities include the Zen Spa & Salon, nightly entertainment, secluded adults-only pools, swim-up bars, and water sports.
Dining choices include traditional Jamaican, French, Italian, Brazilian, & Mediterranean. For guests who get the late night munchies there is also a snack shop open daily until 1 am.
If you want to step into a James Bond movie, and experience traditional Jamaica, look no further than the Half Moon. Once known as a sugar plantation, the Half Moon opened its doors in 1954, and has a longstanding history of being the chosen retreat for royalty, presidents, and well-known entertainers. The Kennedy's chose this resort for a month long retreat before John F. Kennedy was inaugurated for President of the United States.
This 400-acre luxury resort has 153 rooms and suites, but also has villas available for big families looking for a the ultimate combination of space and privacy. These villas include a private pool, golf cart, and staff with a cook, housekeeper, & butler. What I liked the most about these villas is you can still enjoy the resorts activities and facilities, but still have private time for some R&R.
This property offers many activities to allow their guests to design their dream trip. Activities include horseback riding on the beach, sailing, water sports, golf, scuba diving, tennis, and squash. At the fitness center, guests have the opportunity to schedule classes such as kickboxing or aerobics, but also private yoga or Pilates session on the beach. The Fern Tree Spa is also available for guests looking for some serious pampering through physical and spiritual treatments, offering amenities such as bath soaks, scrubs, massages, facials, hair treatments, and pedicures.
The award-winning Sugar Mill Restaurant is one of the top restaurants in Jamaica. This restaurant cooks traditional Jamaican dishes but with a unique twist. It is also located on the historical former Running Gut Estate on the Rose Hall Sugar Plantation.
One thing to be aware of before you book this resort is that it is not all-inclusive, meaning any beverages or meals are not included. However, you can purchase beverage/meal packages either beforehand or when you arrive.
Zoetry Montego Bay
If you are looking to connect with nature and to clear the mind, the Zoetry Montego Bay is the place to be. This boutique resort is smaller than the other surrounding resorts with only 49 rooms in total, and offers a healthy and intimate experience.
Their main focus is health and the well-being of their guests. The relaxing atmosphere is surrounded by lush island life and beautiful white sand beaches
When making your booking at this resort, for an extra cost guests can enjoy the Endless Priveleges Amenities. This program offers 24-hour concierge services, complimentary wi-fi, spa services, a motorized snorkeling tour, as well as a shopping shuttle to the Shops of Rose Hall. Another added bonus for those wanting to go outside of the resort is their Sip, Savor and See deal to the Secrets St. James, and Secrets Wild Orchid when booking a minimum of five nights in a Master Suite or Swim Out Suite.After staying at this resort you will come home feeling like a whole other person. I was only at this property for a couple of hours and I have never felt more relaxed.
Breathless Montego Bay Resort & Spa
This luxury, adults-only, 150-suite resort is surrounded by the Montego Bay Marine Park and features the only rooftop bar and pool in Jamaica. For those wanting to let loose and have some fun, this resort is the ultimate party atmosphere with daytime & nighttime entertainment, pool parties, DJ’s, and daybeds. The resort spares no expense, granting you access to the latest technology and services. The in-house tablet in each of the rooms gives you the options to order your morning coffee, open the shades, and more – all while you remain in bed!
Guests staying at this resort also have full access to the neighboring resorts, Secrets St. James and the Secrets Wild Orchid to experience their restaurants and spas. Again, a perfect choice for young adults looking to party for the duration of their vacation.
The Excellence Oyster Bay
Just 30 minutes from the Montego Bay Airport, this adults-only, 350-room is the smallest property of all Excellence properties, but is the most gorgeous resort I toured on this trip. This waterfront Victorian-style property features unparalleled oceanfront beach-houses, expansive living spaces, panoramic ocean view suites, and 2 miles of secluded and pristine beaches. This is the perfect place to send honeymooners or for folks that just want to get away.
Guests have the option to pay extra to be part of the Excellence Club when making your reservation. The amenities included in the club are: private check in/out, Concierge desk on every building (7am to 11pm), 2 Private lounges (7am to 11pm) with concierge service, smart buffets & premium bar service, Private restaurants for breakfast & dinner at lounges, Private bars at lounges Private Beach Bar, Bvlgari toiletries, Upgraded minibar & room service menu, 2 Private pools, and Private beach areas.
Excellence Oyster Bay offers 8 irresistible all-inclusive international dining options, 1 buffet restaurant, and 10 different bars throughout the resort. Guests should be aware, that some of their restaurants do have a dresscode policy which are posted on a plack outside of the restaurant.
Beach houses are also available, but you have to be in the Excellence Club category. To have the best view in the houses, you can request a location. Either building 5 or 6 is recommended.
The Royalton White Sands
Established only five years ago, the Royalton White Sands Resort offers a wide array of amenities. Boasting eleven different restaurants, the 352-room White Sands offers much for both adults and their children. Despite there being a large presence of children, the amenities are largely separated, with an adults-only pool being offered alongside the water playground for children. A kids' club is also included, offering multiple rooms to create arts and crafts, watch TV, or play video games in a relaxing environment.
There is limited beach access, but more becomes available to Diamond club members. Other benefits to being a Diamond Club member is that you have more access to food at times of the day where only the main buffet and its limited options are what is available for food. The resort's three specialty restaurants don't require a reservation, but be prepared for a wait. You can make reservations if you are a Diamond club member.
Overall, this resort provides a budget-friendly option for families who travel here, but still want their own time and space for activities separate from their children.
The Royalton Blue Waters
Next door to the Royalton White Sands is the Royalton Blue Waters. Both are very similar to each other as far as amenities for adults and children, but this side of the property is a little more luxurious.
All rooms are suites, but there are different categories available such as swim-out or ocean view. Just like White Sands, when you book your reservation in the Diamond Club you are offered amenities such as complimentary early check in/out, upgraded room service menu, 10% discount on spa and hair services, private butler service, and an exclusive beach area.
This resorts offers 11 different dining choices, such as an international buffet, Indian, Mexican, Italian, Jamaican, Asian, etc.
Sandals Royal Caribbean
10 minutes away from the Montego Bay airport is the lovely adults only Sandals Royal Caribbean property. This resort primarily attracts older couples because of the intimate setting and luxurious amenities.
The beaches at this resort are relatively small and secluded, but for the guests looking for a private experience this is a great choice, especially for honeymooners.
We had the fortunate opportunity to tour one of the over-water private island villas, but other rooms and suites are available with poolside, beachfront, and ocean views. When staying at one of the over-water villas, guests can enjoy breathtaking views of the Caribbean Sea on their very own private deck that includes floating water hammocks, an infinity pool, and outdoor shower. Guests in the villas also have their own personal butler that will bring you meals, book excursions, or schedule a spa appointment.
There are many activities included at this resort such as scuba diving, water sports, daily entertainment, spa treatments, and land sports. But what I found most unique is that there is a private offshore island available for all guests to experience, and only a 5 minute boat ride away. Here guests can enjoy a private pool with a swim up bar, private beaches, and a Thai restaurant.
Guests who are staying at the Royal Caribbean also have full access to the Sandals Montego Bay to enjoy their restaurants, beaches and entertainment. A shuttle is available to travel to/from each of these resorts and these transfers can be arranged at the front desk.
Jewel Runaway Bay
The Jewel Runaway Bay is a very family oriented resort, and offers a lot of activities for kids. This resort is especially good for families that are on a budget but still have a good time.
In addition to their large white sand beach, this resort also has their newly built water park located right on site for families and kids to enjoy for free.
Guests can choose from 7 different casual and formal restaurants on property, where families can enjoy a full range of dining experiences. For parents wanting a night out, there are also 4 bars available, and nannies available to stay with the kids.
Grand Bahia Principe Jamaica
This resort was by far the largest property we had the pleasure of touring. With a total of 850 rooms, 6 restaurants, 3 pools, and 4 bars this is the perfect location for any sort of occasion, especially for large families wanting to travel together and are on a budget.
Not only was their beach large, it was amazing to learn just how many activities are available at this property. Such as water sports, Kids Club, tropical parties, scavenger hunts, Olympic games, contests, karaoke, and theme nights. When you arrive at the hotel they will give you a list of activities going on daily during the duration of your stay.
On the other side of the resort is the adults only Luxury section. For couples, large groups of friends, or solo travelers you will never be bored at this resort. From foam parties to dance parties this is the perfect resort to let loose and have fun. This section of the resort is more upscale and has 525 rooms, 3 pools, 5 restaurants, and 4 bars. For adults that do not want to stress about money and still have a good time, this is a great resort to travel to and I really enjoyed it.
Katie is a leisure and group travel consultant, traveled to Ireland, Italy, Jamaica, Mexico and the Dominican Republic, specializing in group and individual travel in the Caribbean, Europe, United States, etc. Katie’s list of “Places To See” includes Thailand, Australia, New Zealand, Hawaii, India, France, England, Scotland, Iceland, Nova Scotia, and many many more.
If you’d like to work with Katie, please contact her at Katie@ClassicTravelUSA.com