REVIEW: Beaches Ocho Rios all-inclusive family resort, Jamaica
By Helen Wright
- Location Jamaica, north coast.
- Bed comfiness 8/10
- Pool Three pools and a water park
- WIFI Free, medium strength/speed
- Parking n/a - price includes airport transfer
- Best thing? Waterpark
- Worst thing? Distance from airport
- The all-important plug by the bed? No
All-inclusive resorts in the Caribbean are the stuff holiday dreams are made of and Jamaica has always been on my to-do list. Think clear blue water lapping over soft golden sand, cocktails on tap, big personalities and (almost) guaranteed sunshine. When you have kids, you may think those halcyon days of lounging by the pool are gone, but with Beaches Resorts, (the Sandals family resorts), we discovered you can enjoy all the luxuries of resort life, but kids can come too. In this Beaches Ocho Rios review, we feature our trip to Jamaica with kids and review our stay at one of the best Jamaica all-inclusive family resorts. We also take a look at Beaches Ocho Rios Vs Negril (the other Beaches Jamaica family resort) and give our honest and unbiased review of Beaches Ocho Rios.
Beaches Ocho Rios review – All-inclusive Jamaica for families
Before having a family, I’d never stayed at an all-inclusive resort before. Even with kids, we often favour build-your-own holidays or road trips but, as working parents and now with two of the little monkeys on our hands, the opportunity to arrive somewhere beautiful and stay for a week without having to worry about a thing is VERY appealing. Our first experience of all-inclusive was at Heritage Mauritius and it was so positive it definitely gave us a taste for the resort life and I was really keen to see how other brands compared.
I have been itching to go back to the Caribbean for a while now and I had my eye on the Sandals family resorts in Jamaica. The Sandals brand is adult-only but obviously since that wasn’t an option for us, I was thrilled to discover that among the best Jamaica all-inclusive family resorts is the Sandals family division, Beaches. Beaches Resorts are a great mix of child-friendly activities with plenty of ways for adults to relax and have fun too. Beaches has a reputation for being one of the best resorts for kids in Jamaica and I wanted to see what all the fuss was about. With two resorts in Jamaica, it was a choice between Beaches Ocho Rios Vs Negril. We settled on Ocho Rios and this is our honest and unbiased Beaches Ocho Rios reviews of everything we did during our stay:
Beaches Ocho Rios Reviews: what to expect
The gated resort, which is set amidst gorgeous green gardens, has a glamorous drive up entrance with a party of friendly faces to welcome you as you arrive. We were handed a glass of Champagne and a cool towel to freshen up as someone whisked our cases up to our room. The resort is set up in three defined sections: the main building (Caribbean village), which houses the majority of bedrooms, the lobby lounge, kids club, the main pool and the everyday restaurant, Bayside. This looks toward the beach and the other two areas, which both have a European theme and design. To the side of the resort is the French village. This section has a pretty, south of France vibe with Juliet windows and cute balconies that look over the sea. This is the quietest part of the resort where you will also find the spa, fitness centre and a peaceful, less-used pool.
The most striking part of Beaches Ocho Rios is the super pretty beachfront Greek village, which wraps around the beach and has a Santorini white and blue design with flower topped trellises and rooms that open onto the beach.
Beaches Ochos Rios review – around the resort
I have to say, Beaches Ochos Rios is gorgeous – one of the things that really struck me about it was the pristine cleanliness around the whole resort. It really was immaculate, with beautifully manicured gardens, spotless walkways and floors and no mess anywhere. The only time I ever saw any litter was on the beach, but I guess this can wash in from the sea, sadly, so there isn’t much they can do about that. In any case, litter was very minimal and the resort is incredibly well-maintained. Even the beachside toilets, which you can imagine getting sandy and wet throughout the day were kept fresh and clean at all times.
On top of this, all the staff are so friendly! The all-inclusive resort works on a policy that tips are not accepted (or, are already included if you like), so the friendliness and helpfulness of employees – from servers, to housekeeping, to the front desk and the watersports team – felt genuinely authentic. After a few days, the handful of staff we’d see on a daily basis knew all of our names and always made a point of coming over to say hi. There was a definite sense that everyone working in the resort was happy to be there and proud to show off both the resort and their home country, Jamaica. (Special shout out to Shayane at Bayside, Stacey-Ann at Neptunes, Claude at The Venetian, Alex at Bayside and Dywane at the beach).
THE BEACH AT OCHO RIOS BEACHES RESORT
Once you have decided on Jamaica, you then have the choice between Beaches Ocho Rios Vs Negril, on the west of the island. One of the big selling points for Beaches Negril is the seven-mile beach that stretches along the coastline in front of the resort. The beach at Ocho Rios is smaller and I wondered if might be disappointing compared to Negril’s offering, but it turned out to be perfect for us.
The Beaches Ocho Rios Resort’s private beach may be much smaller than the endless sand in Negril, but it is cute and perfectly proportioned for families. Finn can’t swim properly yet, so we were looking for gentle waters where he could paddle safely and lovely, soft, sand to play in. That’s exactly what we found at Beaches Ocho Rios. There was ample space and it never felt crowded.
Along the beach there are sun loungers and shade canopies. Of course you get the usual types who plonk their towel and a book down at daybreak and return hours later to the best spot, but we never struggled to find a place to sit. (There are signs telling guests not to do this. I’m not sure if it is policed during the really high season though). The beach and pool bars open at 10am and there are servers on the beach taking orders and bringing drinks to you. Frustratingly, water is served in individual-sized plastic bottles but hopefully that will soon become a thing of the past. Food isn’t served on the beach but you can order food at the pool bar and bring it down yourself if you want to. The beach is accessed by a lift and is completely pram and wheelchair assessable. Music plays from the bar area, creating a bit of Jamaican party atmosphere but it’s not intrusive and, considering this is a resort for kids, the beach was actually really peaceful!
We visited in January and the water was gloriously clear and warm as a bath. The beach is patrolled by a lifeguard and guests are asked to swim within a roped off area. The waves are really gentle and so it was perfect for swimming and for Finn to play on the shoreline. Tethered a little way out were some floating sun decks (or, as Finn was calling them ‘sea trampolines’). These ended up being one of Finn’s favourite things at the resort! He loved sitting in them and watching the boats go past, jumping into the sea (and pushing mummy in) and just generally splashing about. They are fantastic for topping up your tan as well!
Despite my initial reservations about the beach, it was a real highlight. We spent most mornings playing in the sand before moving up to the pool for the afternoon (where there was more shade and it was easier to walk Isobel to sleep in her pushchair).
The pool at Beaches Ocho Rios
Beaches Ocho Rios has a large pool that forms the centrepiece of the resort. It’s surrounded by the Bayside restaurant, the main bar, entertainment stage and tropical gardens. There are plenty of cushioned sun loungers and parasols, as well as cabanas, which are available to rent for an extra fee. The pool area looks over the beach and there is a choice of hot tubs. During our stay, we didn’t find the main pool that crowded. Apart from the occasional game of volleyball in the pool, it was actually quite serene.
There are two other swimming pools at the resort; a quiet, underused pool in the French village and another sizeable pool in the main resort. There is a daily fitness schedule that includes water aerobics, and these aqua classes take place here with energetic instructors. This area also serves as an exit pool for two of the bigger water slides, and there is a Jacuzzi. Subtle music plays across the pools but you may grow tired of hearing ‘One Love’ after a few days…
The bar, buffet restaurant (Bayside) and the pizza/BBQ restaurant all surround the pool, so access to food and drink is stress-free. There are poolside staff serving all the pools intermittently who can take your drink order, but food isn’t available to order to your sun lounger. The main pool also has a cool swim up bar, so make time for at least one cocktail, perched on one of the underwater stools.
The kids pool at Beaches Ocho Rios
As well as the large pools, there is a super cute kids pool which has mini child-size sun loungers and has a sun shade over the water. It’s really sweet and ideal for babies to have a little dip. Overall, this pool wasn’t used that much when we were there but it was utilised by Camp Sesame (the inclusive kids club) for their swimming outings and pool party events.*
*More on this below.
Beaches Ocho Rios waterpark: The Pirate Island
A big selling point for families at Beaches Ocho Rios is the inclusive Pirate Island Waterpark – I showed Finn the pictures online before we left and he kept talking about it until we arrived! Considering the waterpark is part of the hotel and included in the price, it’s sizeable and really good fun. I think Simon and I enjoyed it more than the kids to be honest!
There are five big slides and three smaller slides that were suitable for Finn’s age (3) and height (40 inches). Plus, a fun and interactive splash zone pirate island which Finn loved, but we could also enjoy with Isobel. For kids of all ages (I know our nieces and nephews who range from 3 – 14 would love it!) the waterpark is the best part of the hotel. It offers a nod to the ‘theme-park‘ style holiday without straying too far from the luxury and relaxation that us parents crave! Plus, when comparing Beaches Ocho Rios to Negril, the on-property waterpark is the thing that gives Ocho Rios the edge.
The only problem was, instead of resting while the kids slept, Simon and I took turns in going up and down the slides like giggling idiots. It’s official – slides + water + falling off tubes into the pool never gets old!
Beaches Kids Camp, Camp Sesame – all-inclusive kids club
All the Beaches Resorts offer an all-inclusive childcare programme, which is a huge perk and incentive to book. Of course, as tired parents, we were quietly excited about the opportunity to go child-free for a few hours during our trip and the kids club at Beaches Ochos Rios is really fantastic. A big part of our trip to Jamaica was to enjoy it as a family, but knowing there was a safe space that the kids could enjoy and be properly cared for is one of the biggest decision-making factors for booking a resort like this. The Kids Camp is included with your stay and no booking is required, which is great. You just turn up, sign them in and go! I loved the design of the kids area, which was colourful and centred around the theme of Sesame Street – the character franchise being the brand partner.
We were staying with a five-month-old and a three-year-old and there are childcare facilities suitable for both. For Isobel, the infant program has certified nannies in a climate-controlled nursery. Guests can be contacted via text if the nursery nurses need to reach parents and you are asked to indicate where you plan to be around the resort (or which off-property tour you are taking) should they have problems reaching you. We were a little apprehensive at first, but we felt comfortable with the nannies and knew Isobel would prefer the air-conditioned playroom to the hot, sandy beach. We had no issues at all and both Finn and Isobel were very well cared for.
Finn, having just turned three, was able to join the toddler program for 3-4 year olds. Supervised by certified nannies, there are fun activities like shell collecting, treasure hunts, costume time and sandcastle building. He was also offered the opportunity to join a group of other children to go swimming and one of the days there was a Sesame Street kids party on that he enjoyed. Finn loved the environment and the nannies, but I did find the toys available for him to play with slightly babyish. My suggestion would be to include some more educational toys, such as puzzles or games, as the plastic cars and other toys I saw seemed more suitable for 12-18 month year olds. Finn didn’t seem to care though – probably because they also had a TV! One thing to be aware of is that kids do need to be toilet-trained before they can join this age club.
The kids camp also has a Navigators Programme (5-7 years), Adventurers Programme (8-10), plus a Tweens and Teens programme. This means that the kids club here is no ‘one size fits all’, all ages are catered for with age-approproate activities and games. For older children there is also an X-Box gaming lounge.
Babysitting at Beaches Resorts
The resort also offers in-room babysitting at an extra charge (US$20 per hour and tips can be accepted). We usually try to get Finn and Isobel to sleep in the pushchair and take them to dinner with us, but for a special night we arranged for in-room babysitting with a certified childminder. It was really easy to organise and our sitter (Shanice) was very relaxed, smiley and competent. Finn took to her straight away and she followed all the instructions we left for her. While the kids snoozed in their beds, we went for it with a candlelit adult-only dinner on the beach – what a treat!
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Beaches Ocho Rios Reviews: rooms
Rooms across the resort share a design style but vary in terms of size, view and amenities. We were in a Caribbean Oceanview Luxury Veranda Suite Double in the main building, which had a large balcony and looked across the gardens, toward the sea. We really liked the room, it was incredibly spacious with rich, mahogany furnishings, a huge king-size bed, tiled floors and a sofa which converted to two single beds, if required. The clever split-level design gives the feel of a separate sleeping area for Finn and Isobel, even though in actuality the suite is just one room. The bedrooms definitely followed a breezy Caribbean vibe and had ceiling fans as well as climate control.
Cribs are available but we use the Sleepyhead Deluxe next to our bed and so we didn’t need one. Without a crib we could enjoy more floor space, which was better with a three year old staying with us as it allowed him some more space to play. The area on the lower level also had a large, fluffy rug which is nice for kids and babies to sit and play/crawl. I thought the pull out bed was a brilliant design for hotel rooms as we were able to push it in, fully made up during the day to maximise on space. This isn’t always possible with a cot bed or sofa-bed style design. It was also low to the ground so we didn’t have to worry about Finn, 3, rolling out.
As well as the large beds and living area, rooms have a big flatscreen TV and cable channels. There is a microwave and kettle (essential when staying with a baby/toddler). Having a microwave makes a stay with a baby so easy as we were able to warm and sterilise bottles as well as heat up food for Finn when he woke up during the night (due to jet lag). The fridge is stocked with water, wine, beer and soft drinks of your choice. The all-inclusive luxury of the rooms mean that you are greeted with a fully-stocked bar on arrival. Robert Mondavi Wines and Beer are included as well as water and soft drinks, these are replenished as required. There are glasses, mugs and a wine cooler for in-room use, as well as an iron and ironing board and an in-room safe.
The resort also offers a turn down service (I love this!). Each night, housekeeping come in and prepare your room for the evening by dimming the lights, removing bed cushions and throws and drawing the curtains before bed. They also replensih towels, toiletries, re-stock the minibar and leave the Beaches newspaper, which has cute, topical features and information about special events and resort schedules for the following day.
The one element that I thought let the room down slightly was the rather baron balcony. The photos on the resort’s website (although come with a disclaimer that not all rooms are the same) show a luxurious area with tropical plants, cushioned sun lounger and dining area. In reality, the space is a characterless patio with a simple table, which was a bit disappointing. We planned to sit on the balcony at night after putting the kids to bed but it wasn’t that appealing in reality.
Having said that, I would still book a room with a balcony again because having your own outside space is a luxury, especially when travelling as a family. Parents need not worry about safety as the balcony is very child friendly with no danger of babies climbing out. We moved the chairs toward the room anyway, just in case. It was a nice space for Finn to play and it was actually big enough to walk our double pram around in circles to get Isobel to nap. We still used the area to relax with a glass of wine at the end of the day when the kids were asleep. I think it could just do with a little decoration – even a fake pot plant would help! The large patio doors opened onto the balcony and we had a great view of the resort and sea from bed. Plus, since the baby woke us up at 5am, we could stand outside and watch the sun come up, which was beautiful.
As a price guide, unless you want to upgrade to a one-bedroom concierge or honeymoon suite, or similar, rooms don’t vary that drastically in price across the resort. Our room is priced at a room-only rate of £169 per adult, per night (£51 per child, per night). Room rates start from £152 (£47 child). I was surprised to find that rooms in the Greek beachfront village which have patios with tables and lounge areas that open directly onto the beach or a beachfront terrace actually started from £157 (£35 kids). This is probably where I would book to stay on a return visit because this stretch of cottage-style rooms is really pretty. I imagine the cheaper room rate reflects the size of the rooms, which are much smaller and the fact they may be a bit noiser, since they are on the beach and close to the main entertainment stage. Our room in the Caribbean village building was incredibly quiet and we hardly heard an outside noise throughout our entire stay. (*All prices are subject to added taxes).
Family-sized en-suite bathrooms
I really liked the bathroom, which was large enough for all four of us to be in at the same time and had ample shelf space for storing all the cosmetics and essentials required for a family of four. There was enough room to spread out and separate our things without making the room messy or chaotic. It has definitely been designed with families in mind!
The bath shower was a typical American-style (low sides), which is adequate for bathing kids but victim to a little water onto the floor with a lively three-year-old splashing around. The shower was excellent, hot and powerful with a large shower head that never seemed to run cold. One thing I loved were that there were loads of towels in the room. Usually, whenever we stay in a hotel we always end up calling housekeeping for more, but we didn’t have to do this once. Other amenities in the bathroom included a basic hairdryer and the Red Lane Spa amenity kit. This included shower gel, shampoo, conditioner, body lotion and soap. We used this on ourselves and it was gentle enough for the kids too. The resort also provides makeup remover pads, insect repellent and anti-bac gel, which I thought was an excellent touch.
One luxury that I did notice was missing from the room were robes/dressing gowns. Usually at a five-star resort, I would expect robes provided to wear in your room, especially at hotel with a spa, pools and a beach.
Beaches Ocho Rios Restaurants and food
Even when we were not being wined and dined on our child-free evening off, the dining options at Beaches Ocho Rios were inspiring. There are seven restaurants at this resort and since we were there for seven days, obviously we tried them all!
I was really impressed with the food at Beaches Ocho Rios. To be honest, when booking an all-inclusive resort, the quality of the food is important as I know I won’t be eating off-property that much (if at all). I think this is always a source of anxiety when spending money on a big holiday at a resort that you haven’t visited before. Thankfully – I did not need to worry as we had terrific meals, in some very beautiful settings. I have put together a round up of our highlights below:
Bayside, the main restaurant at the resort, is home to breakfast and a great option for both lunch and dinner also. Breakfast was superb, with hot options on the buffet including sausages, breakfast potatoes (my fav!) and eggs. There is also two hot stations to choose from with chefs cooking omelettes and eggs to order. Cold options include fresh fruit, cereal, meats and cheese, pastries, cakes and made-to-order smoothies. You are also served the most delicious Blue Mountain Coffee (it is seriously good) and breakfast Mimosas.
Lunchtime was a similar set up, with buffet items to choose from and fresh offerings which changed daily. These included a fresh pasta bar, burger counter and traditional Caribbean options, such as Jerk chicken. There was also a kids area with the usual kid basics (chicken tenders, hot dogs, chips etc).
I thought I would end up eating a lot of junk food or convenience food during my stay, but I actually ate really healthily. At Bayside, there was always fresh fish, rice and vegetables. The fruit was delicious, ice cold and replenished frequently. The cake selection was also good for a cheeky treat (Finn became slightly obsessed with the dessert table…)
For a laid-back breakfast, lunch or dinner – or to grab something really quickly, Bayside was fantastic. The atmosphere was also buzzing all day and Finn was delighted when the characters from Sesame Street passed through to say hi.
Neptunes Ocho Rios
One of the great things about the restaurants at Beaches Ocho Rios is that you aren’t required to make reservations in advance. Probably our favourite was Neptunes, a Mediterranean-style seafood restaurant with a beautiful setting on a pier over the water. From our table and looking back at the resort, it looked really pretty at night.
Fish is the main offering. Between us we had delicious swordfish, fresh prawns, octopus and clams as well as Greek salad, meatballs and calamari. It was all delicious. In fact, Simon and I ordered an extra main to share because we were feeling greedy (and it was so good). I really liked the staff at Neptunes too. They were extra-friendly and made a big fuss of Finn and he was really delighted by that.
One small negative I found with the food was with the kids options. I appreciate that many kids can be fussy, but the kids menu (at most of the restaurants) was very basic, not healthy and nothing included vegetables. I found this a bit disappointing but, in actuality we had no problems ordering for Finn off the main menu at any of the restaurants, or ordering a side of veggies for him. He devoured the Swordfish at Neptunes and managed two bowls of ice cream – thanks for that Stacy-Ann!
La Parisianne is another eatery that has spectacular views over the beach. The French-inspired cuisine included steak tartare, bouillabaisse and bigarade de canard. This restaurant was quieter and more refined than the others, we sat outside on the balcony and it would have been really romantic if Finn wasn’t with us talking about Paw Patrol…
I had a seafood linguine at The Venetian and it was absolutely delicious – possibly the tastiest dish I ate over the whole stay! This restaurant was indoors, and so less impressive than the other options, but it had a welcoming atmosphere and one of Finn’s favourite servers, Claude.
There is a huge charcuterie table, so for an appetiser you can choose from cold meats, tomato bruschetta and different breads. The other great thing about the menu at The Venetian is that the main meals also come in a smaller, kid-friendly size. I though this was great. Finn enjoyed his fresh salmon a lot more than it looks in the photo below!
Bar B Q and Bella Napoli
The adjourned restaurants form a beach bar and have an outdoor, relaxed seating area. Food choices range from pulled-pork sandwiches, hamburgers and pizza – nothing that out of the ordinary, but ideal to grab a quick lunch while enjoying the pools and beach. There is also a Creperie serving sweet and savoury snacks.
With the kids safely cared for at Camp Sesame, Simon and I took the opportunity to escape for a few adventures of our own. All non-motorised watersports are included in the resort fee, these range from kayaking, paddleboarding, snorkelling and hobie cat windsurfing. PADI certified divers can go scuba diving at no extra cost and beginners wishing to learn are able to complete their PADI for an additional fee.
There is no need to book, just show up at the watersports centre and sign-up and activities are allocated on a first come, first served basis. After an epic fail where I fell off a paddle board and dropped my GoPro into the sea, one of the watersports guys, Dwyane, helped me retrieve it and found a sea urchin in the process. I was squeamish to hold it, but he was really knowledgable and showed me how to hold it properly. It kind of crawls on your hand and feels so weird!
You can also have fun on dry land with tennis, croquet, shuffleboard, basketball and table tennis. The tennis camps are a great idea. You can arrange to play a match with a resort coach and where possible, you’ll have an opportunity to be paired with another guest of similar ability to arrange a proper match.
Since I was indulging on the all-inclusive food and drink, I tried to counter that a little bit by using the fitness centre. I also took part in one of the daily aqua classes, which was good, silly fun! The great thing about being at a resort like Beaches Ocho Rios was that we were never far away from each other, so Simon or I could take a quick class or do an activity like paddle boarding, and the other could hang out with the kids. The handover and organisation was easy and obviously we had the option of the Camp Sesame kids club too. When we weren’t feeling as active, we indulged in a bit of good old-fashioned sunbathing along with a drink at the swim up bar – well, it would be rude not to!
Red Lane Spa
Okay, so you can’t come to a luxury resort in the Caribbean and not treat yourself. The Red Lane Spa is tucked away in a quiet corner in the French village. It’s surprisingly small, given the size of the resort, but cosy and intimate. I opted for a 90 minute Tropical Glow facial (US $210) to help my tired skin. It was absolutely lovely, using exfoliation, two moisture and college-boosting masks and luxurious products on my face, coupled with a light back, arm and scalp massage. So relaxing – and not just because I had an hour and a half without Simon and the kids!
Simon enjoyed the Signature Himalayan Salt Stone Massage, 60 minutes (US $178) to ease his back after he pulled a muscle throwing Finn around in the sea. This therapeutic treatment uses Himalayan salt and heat therapy to soothe muscle tension in a full-body massage and Simon thought it was fantastic. His back felt almost completely healed the next day!
The spa also offers mini treatments for tweens and teens, which I thought was really cute.
Entertainment at Beaches Resorts, Jamaica
Sesame Street are the official characters of Beaches Resorts and every evening before dinner there was a stage show featuring music, dancing and educational messages from the cuddly cast. Finn was not that aware of Sesame Street before our trip but he soon learned all their names and loved singing and bopping along to the songs. Even Isobel got in on the act!
Later in the evening, more adult-oriented shows are presented, including dance troupes, steel band performances and soul singers. There is also a piano bar, for some more refined entertainment in the evening.
Island Routes, Caribbean Adventures and tours
Beaches work with a tour partner called Island Routes and there is a tour desk at the resort. This local company offer a range of tours to explore a bit of Jamaica outside the resort. These include, horse riding, dolphin interactions, boat trips and adventure activities like zip lining and quad biking.
We opted for the Dunn’s River Family Catamaran Cruise (US $109 adult / $85 child). It wasn’t suitable for Isobel (five months), so she had a nice day at Camp Sesame and Finn, Simon and I took to the water. I was relieved that the large catamaran had a shaded deck as I had a little panic about Finn being in the sun all day when we were on the transfer bus. The boat was lovely and clean, well-maintained with a cheerful, friendly crew.
The boat tour leaves from Beaches’ sister property, Sandals Ocho Rios, and heads out for a bit of snorkelling first. We spend most of the time jumping on and off the boat and swimming in the beautiful water. Then, after a short cruise along the Jamaican coastline, the boat docks on a rustic beach near Dunn’s River Falls Jamaica. You could explore the beach and natural park but we spend most of it in the same spot just swimming and paddling in the sea and playing in the sand.
Dunn’s River Falls
The key part of the family catamaran cruise is to see the famous Dunn’s River Falls, a cascading waterfall that runs from the forest into the sea. You are met by local guides who instruct you to join hands to climb the waterfall over the rocks, which form a step-like formation. Even though it is VERY touristy and packed with people making the climb, it did look like a lot of fun. However, it was not suitable for Finn who had just turned three, and I felt it was too dangerous to climb and hold on to him. We watched from the bottom and climbed the ‘dry’ walk instead – steps that run alongside the falls. Other than then thrill of the climb, we got an almost equal experience and were still able to stop at lookout points and take photos in the water. This was much safer for Finn and much more relaxed without mummy panicking!
One tip for anyone taking on the waterfall climb. Water shoes with grips are required but if you don’t have any with you, you can rent them from Island Routes for US $5.
Caribbean party boat!
On the way back to Beaches Ocho Rios, we got the full Jamaican party experience as the boat transformed into a party cruise with food, drinks and a DJ! After a few glasses of tropical punch I was suddenly up doing the Macarena with our cruise pals until we docked. Since tours with Island Routes are not part of Beaches Resort, tips for the crew are accepted. Tips for the local guides who take you up the falls are also custom, so remember to bring some Jamaican or US dollars.
Date night: candlelight dinner on the beach
Choosing a resort like Beaches Ocho Rios is a unique opportunity for parents to steal back a bit of independence, away from their kids. One really nice way to do this is by booking a private candlelight dinner on the beach (prices start from US $199 for two). Tucked away on the resort’s West Beach, it was just me and Simon with our waiter Alex, dining next to the sea with the sand between our toes. At first, we were not sure whether to indulge, but I am so glad we did because it was a lovely little date night and an opportunity to relax and enjoy each other’s company for an evening. It was also nice knowing that Finn and Isobel were sound asleep upstairs in their beds, being looked after by the lovely Shayane, our in-room babysitter.
You are asked to choose your four courses in advance and when you arrive, a specially designed menu is waiting for you. The setting is really lovely and we were not disturbed at all during our meal. I had chosen seared tuna for my appetiser, which was fresh and well served. For mains, we both had lobster surf and turf, which was well-presented and delicious. Champagne and wine are also served and we were a bit tipsy by the time we left!
Beaches Ocho Rios Vs Negril
If you are looking at Beaches Ocho Rios Vs Negril (the resort’s sister property on the north-west coast), the two hotels are well matched with just a few differences. The beach is undoubtably better at Negril – a sprawling, seven-mile stretch of white sand is a definite selling point. But, with kids aged three and above, the inclusive waterpark at Beaches Ocho Rios will probably tip the scales in your favour. Both resorts offer the reputable personality of the Beaches and Sandals’s brand and you will no doubt receive the warmest, most-genuine welcome whichever you choose.
Our Beaches Ocho Rios Review
We had a fantastic time at Beaches Ocho Rios, Jamaica and would love to go back again soon. Finn had an absolutely brilliant week being spoiled rotten by the facilities and staff and Simon and I got some treasured time to relax. There is no doubt that Jamaica itself is beautiful, but I really loved the design and vibe of the resort. Of course, the beach, waterpark and pool are what a family from the UK are most excited about initially, but the gardens are wonderful, with so much room to roam and wander. I loved the plantation-style deck in the Caribbean Village and the little European touches elsewhere on the property.
Despite packages to Jamaican all-inclusive family resorts being a significant spend, being able to spread the cost over the months prior to your holiday means when you arrive you can eat, drink and play like money is no problem – quite a nice feeling, I must say! It was nice to know we didn’t have to worry about anything, even tips, during our stay and there were no hidden costs or extras to serve as a nasty surprise once we’d arrived. The optional extras we did enjoy (the boat trip, spa, candlelit dinner and in-room babysitting) are well worth the splurge – even though Beaches Ocho Rios is designed for families and, of course, kids come first – mummy and daddy need a holiday too! And we really felt like we did. Thanks Beaches!
This page at beaches.co.uk tells you everything that is included with the all-inclusive and any more information you need to know about Beaches Ocho Rios and Beaches Negril.
Disclosure: We were hosted for part of our stay by Beaches.co.uk. This, like all our impartial features on passportstamps.uk, has no impact on our review or experience at the resort. All of our reviews and features are based on real experience and observations.
Jamaica with kids
There is some debate about whether Jamaica with kids is safe, but I wasn’t worried. The airport was user-friendly and very small compared to Gatwick. As guests of Beaches Resort, it was nice to be invited into the Sandals lounge while we waited for our transfer (which had air con, drinks and snacks). Like any cities, it is wise to have your wits about you when visiting the urban areas of Kingston, Montego Bay, Negril and Ocho Rios. Even when staying at an impressive resort like Beaches Ocho Rios, I still like to spend some time exploring the country I am in – otherwise I can’t claim my passport stamp! From Beaches, you can take a walking tour with a local guide or visit Ocho Rios with a driver (booked through the resort) and then you will always have someone with you that knows the safest areas and can offer advice on where to go. As always, do your research and stick to busy areas that are frequented with other tourists. You shouldn’t have any problems with Ocho Rios as a lot of cruise ships dock here and so when a liner is in port, the area is buzzing.
In reality, there isn’t much authentic Jamaica to explore around Ocho Rios other than a vibrant daily farmer’s market, the Dunn’s River Falls and the beautiful water and beaches. The area is fully geared up for tourists and you can do Ziplining, rafting, Jamaican Bobsled and a sky explorer chairlift, as well as boat trips, horse riding and dolphin swimming at Dolphin Cove. You will never run out of things to do but you are probably not going to get the more genuine Caribbean experience that you might have in, say, Tobago or St Lucia.
Getting to Jamaica from the UK
We flew from London Gatwick to Montego Bay on Virgin Atlantic. Taking advantage of the the Virgin Atlantic sale, we were able to get a great price (£695 per person). Flight took nine hours and 30 minutes. We booked directly with Beaches.co.uk and received a discounted stay in return for our media coverage of Beaches Ocho Rios. All-inclusive package deals from Virgin Holidays start from £7123 for a family of four, (based on two adults and two children under 15 sharing a room) for nine nights, including flights from London.
BEACHES TRANSFER TO RESORT FROM MONTEGO BAY?
A bus transfer from the airport is included and, after a short rest at the Sandals lounge, guests are called and collected. There is an option to book a private car transfer, which we did. This is faster and more comfortable. Pre-booked in advance, the car had already been fitted with an infant and a toddler car seat for Finn and Isobel and cold water and snacks were offered. Where possible, I never travel with my own car seats, as I explain in my post about travelling with a baby and toddler.
I have to say, the drive to Ocho Rios from Montego Bay airport (Sangster) is LONG. We arrived at 5.30pm and it took 2hours and 10 minutes to reach the resort by car, meaning after customs and baggage claim, we didn’t get to Beaches until after 9pm. It was a struggle after a long flight but at least if you know in advance and can prepare, it won’t seem so bad – especially when you are sipping that cold glass of fizz by the pool. It’s worth it in the end!
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