by Terry Ward
This 22-acre oceanfront property just east of Ocho Rios and two hours from the nearest major international airport in Montego Bay is one of those super-sized, all-inclusive vacation meccas that promise to be all things to all families. And in the case of Beaches Ocho Rios Resort & Golf Club, it’s a promise pretty much delivered. With 223 rooms and suites staggered throughout several buildings on a stretch of Jamaica’s north coast, primarily dotted with apartment residences and fishing villages, the resort (part of the Sandals family) is an entity unto itself. So comprehensive are the entertainment, dining, sports and water-centric activities here, it’s a fair bet that many families will never even venture off the Beaches property during their vacations.Ãƒâ€šÃ‚
But there is plenty to do away from the resort, too. You’re a short taxi or tour bus ride to top Jamaica attractions such as Dunn’s River Falls, Mystic Mountain and Dolphin Cove, all located in and around the busy cruise port of Ocho Rios. Among the resort’s comprehensive onsite amenities are five restaurants, six bars, a 27,000-square-foot water park with eleven slides, tennis courts, a Kids’ Camp, spa, scuba diving facilities, water trampolines and pretty much every water sport offered under the sun. Rates are all-inclusive, and cover all meals, snacks, premium brand drinks, wines and beers, recreational activities, Wi-Fi and tips.Ãƒâ€šÃ‚
The property opened under the Beaches name in 2002, but many of the buildings have been around far longer. In previous incarnations, this ultra family-friendly property belonged to SuperClubs and, funnily enough, even functioned as a Playboy club back in the 1970’s. Following an extensive renovation project, Beaches unveiled its new look in 2013, which came at a price of $30 million. The renovations revealed a brand new look for the resort, creating four distinct villages, adding new restaurants, enhancing the kids program, and adding more amenities and activities, as well as creating a dozen newly renovated room and suite categories.Ãƒâ€šÃ‚
Beaches Ocho Rios is as family-friendly as resorts come, and kids of all ages are welcome pretty much everywhere during daylight hours. If what you’re looking for out of your vacation is a resort that keeps your children entertained, your teens feeling reasonably cool, and the adults in your entourage well-satisfied with good drinks and food, then this resort hits the nail on the head.
Our Editor Loves
- Kids Camp for guests ten and under, open from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m.
- Pirates Island Water Park, a massive oceanfront fun zone with 11 waterslides
- Character breakfasts with Sesame Street's Cookie Monster, Grover and more
- All Inclusive Rates
- Children Programs
- Connecting Rooms
- Family Room 5+
- Free Breakfast
- Free Wi-Fi
- Game Room
- Kids' Pool
- Kids' Theme Meals
- Meal Plan
- Onsite Dining
Rooms & Rates
When it comes to room configuration, location and amenities, be sure to do your homework as the 223 rooms and suites here (in 12 different categories) are not all created equal. Across the board, in all rooms, you'll find tiled flooring throughout, a king bed or two double beds, satellite TV, coffee maker, refrigerator, bath with a tub and shower. Most rooms and suites have a double sleeper sofa, with room for a rollaway bed at no extra charge.
The villages within the resort include the French Village, with its elegant French flair, a spa, new restaurants, and a quiet pool; the Greek Village, the first of its kind in the Beaches brand that is nestled into a panoramic hill with three different levels named for the famous islands of Greece; and the Caribbean Village, surrounding the resort' main pool and the Pirate's Island Waterpark.Ãƒâ€šÃ‚Â
Pay attention to location when booking your room -- the resort is quite large, and depending on which building you're in it could be a fairly long schlep to the beach. The bottom line at this resort is that there are many different rooms to choose from and the prices vary depending on two factors -- location within the property, and the accompanying views. You'll want to ask a lot of questions when booking.
The resort is divided into three "villages": French, Greek and Caribbean. Each village has its own style and feel, and rooms reflect the style of the village they are in. Room types include:
Caribbean Deluxe Family-Sized Room
Located on the upper floors of the main building, these are the most basic of accommodations, with views of the gardens and the mountains. The rooms are outfitted with either a king or two doubles, with a living room with a sofa bed and can sleep up to five.
Caribbean Luxury Family-Sized Room
Similar to the Deluxe Rooms, the difference with the luxury version is guests also have private balconies.
Caribbean Luxury Family-Sized Suite
Found on the first to fifth floors in the main building, also with garden views, are family suites with a king or two double beds, a separate living room with sofa bed, and private balconies or patios. These rooms can sleep up to five.
Caribbean Grande Luxe Suite
These rooms were formerly a part of the resort's now departed Italian Village. Located on the first and third floors of the East and West wings, the rooms have been completely refurbished and sleep up to five with a separate bedroom with a king or two doubles, and a separate living room with sofa bed.
The rooms have views of the resort grounds and include balconies or walkout patios.
French Village Honeymoon Veranda Suite
These rooms, as the name indicates, only sleep two people and are not meant for families.
Caribbean Oceanview Luxury Veranda Suite
Completely refurbished, these suites are located in the East and West wings and feature a sunken living room off of a king or two double-bed sleeping area. The living area provides a sleeper sofa, and the balconies in these suites are oversized and have views of the ocean and gardens.
Caribbean Oceanview Luxury Suite
Like the Veranda suites, these suites have been completely refurbished and provide the same space and style as the Veranda but with small balconies and ocean views.
Caribbean Honeymoon Oceanview Luxury Suite
Located on floors one through three in the East and West wings and two through five of the Main building, these rooms feature ocean views or views of the resort grounds. Select between two double beds or one king bed with sofa bed configurations to sleep five.
French Village Honeymoon Oceanview Grande Luxe Concierge Veranda Suite
The introduction to the Concierge suites, these accommodations are located on the second and third floors of the East Wing and sleep up to five in a room with a sunken living space with sleeper sofa, and a choice of a king or two double beds. The rooms have ocean views and walkout balconies.
Caribbean Honeymoon Oceanview Concierge Veranda Suite
These suites also received a refurbishment and are located either on the second and third floors of the East Wing or on the third and fourth floors overlooking Chela Bay. The suites overlook the ocean and resort grounds, sleeping five with a sunken living room with sofa bed and bedroom with king or two double beds.
Greek Beachfront Concierge Terrace Suite
These gorgeous rooms are located in the oceanfront Lanai Building and are spread out across two floors. The rooms only sleep four with a choice of two double beds, although the lounge area includes a double sleeper sofa. Terraces overlook the ocean.
Greek Honeymoon Beachfront Concierge Terrace Suites
Like the Beachfront Suites, these suites are just slightly larger, but otherwise the same type of suite.
Greek Honeymoon Beachfront Walkout Concierge Suite
Located on the ground floor of the Lanai Building, these suites are different than the other Greek suites in that they have private decks with walkout access to the resort's beach.
Caribbean Oceanview One-Bedroom Concierge Suite
Located on the resort's top floor, these suites overlook the ocean and feature a king bed, a double and a single pullout bed in the living room. One of these suites is also located in the Chela Bay Building and shares a deck with four other suites.
French Village Oceanfront One-Bedroom Concierge Suite
These newly refurnished rooms are located on the second through fourth floors of the Chela Bay Building and have beach and ocean views. The suites offer a bedroom with king or two double beds, and a living room with sleeper sofa, but only sleep four. The suites also have private balconies, with one suite located at beach level with a private walkout patio.
Caribbean Oceanview Penthouse One-Bedroom Concierge
With views of the ocean, mountains and entire resort, this one-of-a-kind suite has panoramic views, mainly from a large deck with 360-views. The suite is by request only and features a king bedroom and a queen sleeper sofa, accommodating up to five.
Connecting rooms can be requested, but are not guaranteed. Any of the king rooms can be connected to double rooms.
The Caribbean luxe family size suite is the only one that is wheelchair accessible.
You know that feeling...when you've planned and saved (for over a year), anticipating our first family vacation to an all-inclusive resort - so you splurge a bit to "make sure it's perfect". That's what this vacation was for us. This was our first trip to a Beaches Resort and it's reputation as a luxury hotel chain for families, enticed us to pay a bit extra to not have to worry about having a sub-par vacation. We were going with extended family as well and our kids were excited to go on an airplane for the first time. My parents are "loyalty members" with Beaches/Sandals, so they were excited to go with us to a place they were assured would surpass our expectations.
The resort was very clean and the Pirates Waterpark was a blast for the whole family. The food was very good (not great) and the pools were awesome! The kids in our group, 4, 6, 8 & 10 years old, had so much fun in the pools and the sesame street shows were enjoyed by the littler ones. The entertainment staff were energetic and seemed to love their jobs. The restaurants had very good food and had a nice ambience. The wait staff throughout the resort were fantastic!
Upon our arrival to the Sandals/Beaches lounge at the Sangster airport we were informed that of our party of 3 families travelling together, one family did not show as having a reservation at Beaches Ochos Rios...strange since we booked it all together, on one credit card, on the same day, and had the printed receipt and confirmation numbers with us...
After a delay, we were told to board the transfer van to the resort to iron it out there. After the 2 hour drive and a 12 hour travel day, we faced a somewhat rude and reluctantly helpful front desk staff who still could not find our reservation, despite our proof of confirmation of reservations being offered. After an hour (it's now 9:30pm), we were given a room for everyone (thank God) although not all together as requested, but grateful to have somewhere to stay for the week. What might have happened if there were no vacancies that week? We have tried, even weeks after returning home to contact Beaches directly (our travel agency attempted as well), to get some answers about what happened, but none were forthcoming. I'm a reasonable person, but when I can't get a comment from Beaches or speak with a manager, for Beaches Ochos Rios even if it's to say "we don't know what happened"? I'm not sure that Beaches/Sandals is deserving of their good reputation and loyal clientele. It seems reasonable to get a response from someone, anyone.
The a la carte restaurants (there are only 3 on the property) would also close one of them for a wedding or other special event, so the other 2 would be rammed with people and you can't make reservations. We waited an hour to be seated at Neptunes one evening which, as any parent knows, isn't amazing with kids. We weren't told how long the wait would be and the buffet restaurant is a bit of a hike away so we crossed our fingers and made the best of it.
There was a beachfront meal one evening, which was a fun idea, but there wasn't enough seating for everyone who showed up, and again, no reservations.
The beach is pretty far away from the main resort and I can't imagine how easily anyone with mobility issues would do getting around.
Overall, we traveled with the people we loved the most which makes any vacation a great one. All Beaches had to do was make the trip easy, we were happy to take care of the rest. Beaches failed in meeting this very basic requirement. With that being said, I realize that losing a reservation will likely not happened to too many others. This resort was a great place to have a vacation with the family, I'm not convinced it was worth the higher price point in what it delivered and didn't meet our expectations.
Water park and evening activities are best parts of this resort. Did not customize meals for dietary restrictions as promised. Bedrooms are ok. Bed sheets are not changed daily. Staff are overall pleasant.
It's the rare resort that manages to cater to -- and successfully hold the interest of -- kids of all ages. But Beaches Ocho Rios has more than a trick or two up its sleeve to capture the attention and enthusiasm of everyone from toddlers to teens.Ãƒâ€šÃ‚Â
For kids 10 and under, the Kids' Camp (included in the all-inclusive rates) -- a sparkling clean and modern facility on a small hill near the hotel's entrance -- houses several rooms including the Tiny Town Nursery, with its soft sponged floors and toys galore for kids up to age 4, a chill out area with books and cushions for the five- to seven-year-old set. A Survivor Camp area displays craft tables and an indoor amphitheater of sorts where older kids can relax and watch movies, celebrate birthday parties or interact with Sesame Street characters who make regular appearances. Nannies supervise the area from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. daily, and the indoor activities are interspersed with age-appropriate outdoor diversions such as reggae dances on the lawn for one- and two-year-olds and trips to the slide pool for the older set.
One thing to know is that all kids must be picked up daily at the camp at 5 p.m. for shower time back in the rooms. Then parents can drop kids back off at the Kids' Camp at 6 p.m. for a chaperoned buffet dinner at the Bayside Restaurant and post-dinner activities back at the camp. Extra fees are charged if your kids want to take part in the Martha Stewart craft programs, which involve fancier materials and techniques than the standard cut and paste, tie dying and coloring crafts. Be sure to bring along a few white T-shirts so your kids can tie dye a shirt. Every Friday, the Kids' Camp holds a Sesame Street birthday party, free for all the kids who had birthdays during the week, with character appearances and cake. And private birthday parties can also be arranged onsite for your child. While the Kids' Camp closes at 9 p.m., nanny service is available afterwards for $15 per hour for up to three children ($20 per hour after 11 p.m.). There are no toilet training requirements for your child to participate in the Kids' Camp.
There's a teen coordinator to keep the older set engaged, and in addition to the Xbox 360 Games Garage, with unlimited free play on 12 stations and two Xbox Connect stations, teens tend to hangout at the beach, poolside or at Club Liquid, an under-21 nightclub with blue glow lighting and pumping music nightly.Ãƒâ€šÃ‚Â
Pools & Water Park
The main water play area, where kids up to age 13 or so tend to congregate, is the Pirate's Island Waterpark, where 11 slides with varying adrenalin factors attract different age groups. Kids must be at least 3.5 feet tall to ride the big spiraling slide, but parents can accompany littler kids on some of the other slides. There's an infant and toddler zone with zero-entry access into a pool in the water park area (removed from where kids are flying off the slides) and gentle misting and splashing features.
A netted waterplay area showcases sea creature stepping stones that entice the age three and up set and still another area with a large, spiraling slide that gives older kids the requisite adrenalin rush. Adults tend to congregate around the resort's central, sprawling freeform pool, which can get crowded when occupancy is high. There are three additional pools on the property, including one that's dedicated to Scuba certification instruction (an extra fee). There's a swim-up bar at the main pool and, nearby, two whirlpools. The water park is open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. and the main swimming pool is open around the clock, although lifeguards are only on duty during daylight hours.
Set on 22 acres, the resort is a sprawling place, and it's a solid five-minute walk from the Kids' Camp to the beach. The beach, while not too large, is a fine family hangout spot situated in a cove of sorts and buffered by a pier and a jetty, so the water is generally very calm. You can access the beach by elevator from the pool deck, or by walking down four flights of stairs. There's lots of shade thanks to the huge thatched umbrellas covering large swathes of the beach. While some guests complain about the outside vendors selling crafts from boats just offshore from the beach, they are under strict orders not to harass guests. The beach is where families find all of the resort's water sport offerings: kayaks, sailing, snorkeling, windsurfing, paddle boats, banana boat rides, glass bottom boats, aquatrikes and scuba diving trips (for certified divers) are all included.Ãƒâ€šÃ‚Â
Beaches' guests also get access to Sandals Golf & Country Club in Ocho Rios, with free hour-long golf lessons given on Tuesdays and Wednesdays. It's an ideal way to get introduced to the game if you've never played before. Youth with a handle on the game can play for free on the course after noon with an adult.
For family dining, there's a Sesame Street character breakfast every week (for an extra fee). Additionally, there's the casual barbeque park near the main pool, for a casual feed. There are no restaurants onsite that are adults-only.Ãƒâ€šÃ‚Â
If your child has a certain dietary need, the resort's chefs are open to special requests -- like pureeing potatoes for baby foods or whipping up a healthy option for dinner. Most kiddie menu items are of the chicken finger, hamburger and mac and cheese variety, but chefs will take special requests if you give them advance notice. High chairs are readily available at dining venues throughout the resort, and the staff will quickly run over with crayons and paper to keep the kids occupied.
The resort's Mediterranean-inspired Neptune's restaurant is an al fresco seafood restaurant with views of the ocean. The restaurant is open for lunch, 11 a.m. to 3 p.m., and dinner from 6 to 9:30 p.m., but closed on Fridays.
If you want to dine with your kids, the resort's Italian restaurant, The Venetian, is the most popular onsite restaurant for families to spend a dinner out together, with pizzas, risottos and pasta dishes on the menu. The restaurant is open 5:30 to 9:30 p.m., but closed on Tuesdays.
Blue velvet walls and modern dÃƒÆ'Ã‚Â©cor bring a sense of Parisian flair to this fun restaurant open for dinner only from 6 to 9:30 p.m. (closed Mondays). You don't need reservations, but the place is popular so you may end up waiting for a table. Fresh baguettes are served alongside French inspired steak, seafood and chicken dishes. Kids can order off the kids menu to stick with things like chicken nuggets, burgers and pizzas.
Bayside Restaurant, overlooking the main pool, has a dedicated seating area for kids age 10 and under with a special buffet just for them with typical kid-friendly foods like chicken fingers, spaghetti and mac and cheese. If your child is enrolled in the Kids' Camp, nannies will bring them to dinner at this restaurant after you've brought them back all fresh and clean from their 5 p.m. shower break. The restaurant serves Continental Breakfast from 3 to 7 a.m. (yes, that's 3 a.m.!) and a buffet breakfast from 7 to 10:30 a.m. Lunch is served 12:30 to 2:30 p.m., buffet style, and dinner's buffet is 6 to 9:30 p.m.
The outdoor restaurant near Pirates' Island offers BBQ and snacks from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m.
Enjoy sweet French crepes and savory treats like chicken and spinach stuffed crepes at this poolside creperie. It's open from 8 a.m. to 10:30 p.m. daily.
Bella Napoli Pizzeria
Families will love the made-to-order wood-fried pizzas. It's open for lunch from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m., daily.
Planning & Tips
All About the Extras
There's milk and cookies in the room upon arrival, to start things off sweetly. And you don't have to worry about packing any beach toys since buckets, shovels and all kinds of inflatable and squirting toys are available at the pools and beaches. Masks and snorkels can run in short supply, so if it's a favorite family activity you might want to pack your own. Oddly enough, there are no DVD players in the rooms here, nor are they available to rent at the resort. So if your kids are used to falling asleep to their favorite flick, be sure to bring your portable player or have your laptop handy.Ãƒâ€šÃ‚Â
The resort has a cashless policy, and you're asked to establish credit on arrival for any extra services (craft fees, scuba instruction, spa services, babysitting) that you may incur. There's also a no-tipping policy (the only exclusion is spa therapists, who you should plan to tip through your resort credit account).Ãƒâ€šÃ‚Â
In addition to character meet and greets, there are twice-weekly Sesame Street stage shows on Saturdays and Wednesdays as well as weekly parades, on Wednesday nights, complete with a marching band and costumes for the kids to dress up in.Ãƒâ€šÃ‚Â
The Resort Shop, near the Kid's Club, has everything you might have left behind at home including sunglasses, snorkels, kites, backpacks, sunscreen, hats, bibs, sunscreen and even water shoes for kids. Products are pricey, however.Ãƒâ€šÃ‚Â
Wi-Fi is included in the package.
For babysitting after hours, resort nannies are available from 9 p.m. onwards at a rate of $15 per hour for up to three children, $20 per hour after 11 pm.
The Red Lane Spa offers treatments for kids and teens, including Fancy Fingers and Twinkle Toes mani/pedis and hair braiding that can either be done in the onsite salon or by the pool. In addition to all the standard spa offerings for adults, there are also special teen facials and 40-minute Swedish massages priced at a discount rate for teens. A steam room and sauna are available, too, as well as a relaxation area.Ãƒâ€šÃ‚Â
There's a well-equipped gym onsite, too, that's open 24 hours and has Life Fitness and Cybex equipment.Ãƒâ€šÃ‚Â
The Art of Smart Timing
All of the resort's facilities and amenities are open year round, but during the busiest months (late December through mid-April) you're going to be sharing them with far more families than during the slower, off-season months (May and the end of August into October). November through April brings cooler temperatures and less humidity to Jamaica's north coast, and is a prime time, weather wise, to plan your visit. Keep in mind Americans won't be the only ones fleeing cold winter climates, as Canadians and Europeans are similarly inclined. Check the resort's website for discounts before booking. And keep in mind that hurricane season officially stretches from June 1 to Nov. 30 in these parts.Ãƒâ€šÃ‚Â
If you're visiting during any sort of holiday, you can be sure the resort will be celebrating in family-friendly style--from a gala on New Year's Eve to Santa's arrival by boat over Christmas and an Easter fair complete with a cotton candy machine, maypole dancing and an egg hunt for Jamaican sweets.Ãƒâ€šÃ‚Â
Donald Sangster International Airport is approximately two hours east of the resort, in Montego Bay, and air-conditioned transfers to the resort are included with your booking.Ãƒâ€šÃ‚Â Be aware that you may have to wait a while before leaving the airport for other guests to arrive.
The resort is vast so a stroller is recommended for younger children when walking around the resort. For exploring farther afield in Ocho Rios, the resort can arrange taxi service.
For Mom and Dad
If you're celebrating a special occasion (or just the occasion of having a babysitter for the night), you can book a private candlelit beach dinner for just the two of you by a gazebo on the resort's beach. Private vineyard dinners can also be arranged on a rooftop balcony overlooking the sea in a corner of the resort.