by Terry Ward
Many of Jamaica’s family-friendly all-inclusives require lengthy shuttle rides to reach once you’ve touched down at Montego Bay’s Sangster International Airport. But you get down to vacationing sooner after landing when you book a stay at this all-inclusive resort by Hilton, located a quick 15 minutes east of the airport.
Saying there’s something for everyone may be a clichÃ©, but it’s one that applies across the board at the Hilton Rose Hall Resort & Spa, which opened in 2008 and sits on the site of a former sugar plantation on Jamaica’s north coast.
Kids go wild for the water park, a $7-million investment complete with rollicking slides, lagoons and a lazy river that’s the largest water park in Jamaica. There’s a great kids’ camp, included in your rates, to give parents some precious downtime. The main pool has a fun swim-up bar for all your frozen-drink needs. And one of Jamaica’s finest oceanview golf courses, Cinnamon Hill, adjoins the property, too. Did we also mention that kids 5 and under stay free here, and that there are discounted rates for those up to 14?
The 489 guestrooms here occupy several buildings spread across 400 acres and fronting two sandy beaches. And all-inclusive rates include dining at a good range of onsite restaurants, nightly entertainment, and non-motorized water sports such as sailing, pedal boats, windsurf boards and kayaks.
For an active all-inclusive vacation spent primarily in your bathing suit between the beach, water park and pool, Hilton Rose Hall Resort & Spa ticks the boxes.
Our Editor Loves
- Kids 5 and under stay free
- Complimentary kids' camp
- Jamaica's best water park
- All Inclusive Rates
- Horse Back Riding
- Water Parks
- Water Sports
- Children Programs
- Family Room 5+
- Free Breakfast
- Free Wi-Fi
- Game Room
- Kids' Theme Meals
- Meal Plan
- Onsite Dining
Find the Best Price for Your Stay
The hotel's 489 guestrooms and suites all have private terraces or balconies with views of either the sea, the pools or the golf course and mountain backdrop. Rooms looking west, overlooking the golf course, tend to be quieter than those overlooking the pools. The bathrooms are all marble, with tub-in-shower configurations. And there are coffeemakers in all of the rooms, as well as mini-fridges stocked with sodas and juices.
Something great here is that kids under 5 stay for free, with a charge of $75 for each child ages 6 to 14. Kids 15 and up are charged at adult prices.
Rollaway beds are available for $25 per night; cribs are available at no charge (request in advance). Rooms that cater to those with physical handicaps are available.
Oceanfront View Rooms
These 370-square-foot rooms have your choice of a king bed or two queen beds, with room for one rollaway bed. Maximum of four guests.
Partial Oceanview Rooms
With 370 square feet of space, these rooms still have a decent view of the ocean, with a king bed or two queens and room for one rollaway bed. Maximum of four guests.
Resort View Rooms
Only the view is different here, with balconies looking toward the pool and other resort facilities. The same 370 square feet of space and choice of a king or two queens with a rollaway applies. Maximum of five guests.
Oceanfront Prime Minister Suite
You'll have lots of room to stretch out in this 2,200-square-foot, one-bedroom suite, with full views of the Caribbean Sea from two large balconies. The master bedroom has a king bed and ensuite bathrooms, as well as a sitting area. In the main living space, there's a kitchenette with a fridge, sink and bar, and an additional bathroom and powder room. There's room for a rollaway in the living room, too. Maximum of five guests.
Oceanfront Royal Suite
At 1,100 square feet, this is another roomy option with a balcony overlooking the ocean, a master king bedroom with private bathroom, and another full bathroom off the living room area with room for one rollaway. Maximum of five guests.
Choose from a king bed or two queens in these 740-square-foot, one-bedroom suites overlooking the ocean. There's a separate master bedroom with a king bed or two queens, and a living room with a sleeper sofa and a second full bathroom. Maximum of five guests.
Rooms and suites with king beds can be connected to rooms and suites with two queen beds. Connecting rooms cannot be confirmed in advance, however, so you will only know if your party has them, for sure, upon check-in.
By day this place is all about the beach (actual two sweeps of sand), amazing onsite water park and pools. And once another sultry Jamaican evening descends, the Hilton busts out the lively entertainment with nightly shows and DJ parties at the nightclub. For excursions off property, the hotel's concierge is on hand to book tours.
The main sporting attraction at this hotel is the adjoining championship golf course, Cinnamon Hill, which has great ocean views and offers junior golf rates for kids 15 and under, as well as kids' classes and, from time to time, clinics. Tennis is available at the property's four lighted courts for an additional fee (from $40) and courts must be reserved in advance. The hotel has a jogging path that circles the property.
The Hilton's centerpiece pool, located in the middle of the resort, is a big and lively place that has lifeguards on duty from 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. After that, it's swim at your own risk. People lay out books and flip flops early to guard their chairs for the day, and towels are also often in short supply, especially late in the day. Consider yourself warned and plan accordingly.
Adults and kids alike sidle up to the swim-up bar for virgin and fully loaded daiquiris and pina coladas. There's another free-form pool that draws more of the kid and family-scene since it's attached to the lazy river that's connected to the hotels water park.
Sugar Mill Falls Waterpark
Sugar Mill Falls Waterpark, the hotel's splash-central, is certainly the best and largest water park in Jamaica and might possibly be one of the best in the Caribbean. The highlight here is a 280-foot-high waterslide (kids must be at least 4 feet tall to ride it), but there are also three terraced pool areas with waterfalls and lagoons, a lazy river with constantly circulating tubes, and an additional swim up bar. The water park is open, with lifeguards on duty, from 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily.
From 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. on days with calm seas (that's most of the time here), you can make use of the various water toys available as part of your all-inclusive rates. Among the non-motorized water sports included are kayaks, pedal boats, windsurf boards and sailboats. For an additional fee, you can head out directly from the resort's beach for snorkeling tours ($40 for adults, $20 for kids 12 and under), boat tours ($160 for up to four passengers, $20 for additional passengers), banana boat rides ($25 for adults, $15 for kids), tubing ($25 for singles, $40 for doubles, $50 for triples) and glassbottom boat tours ($25 for adults, $15 for kids and free for those 3 and under).
Childcare for kids ages 4 to 12 is included in your all-inclusive rates, with activities outside and in a dedicated room that include Jamaican arts and crafts, Nintendo Wii, scavenger hunts, visits to the water park and the like. Parents are required to pick up their children between noon and 1 p.m. for lunch, unless they've made babysitting arrangements. The Kids Klub is open daily from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.
A bean bag-filled lounge with Xbox consoles and other games and Wi-Fi is available to kids ages 13 to 17 from 12:30 to 11 p.m. daily. A supervisor is on hand. Kids younger than 13 should have adult supervision here.
Nightly shows are performed at 8 p.m., and have everything from Jamaican themes to beachy themes and musicals. On Friday nights, movies are shown on an outdoor screen near the water park and you can float in the lazy river while watching. Regular activities also take place regularly throughout the day and might include reggae water aerobics, volleyball tournaments and Name That Tune contests by the pool.
As is the case at many all-inclusives, there's no shortage of round-the-clock eating options at the Hilton Rose Hall Resort & Spa. It's important to know that the restaurants operate on a rotating schedule, so they are not all open every night. Highchairs are readily available in all restaurants.
This is the main hotel restaurant and where you'll have most of your breakfasts and lunches, and plenty a dinner, most likely. The rotating buffet has a good spread of varied foods including seafood, steaks, pasta stations, jerked meats, salads, soups, ice creams and more.
Breakfast is from 7 to 10:30 a.m. daily (until 11 a.m. on weekends), lunch from 12 to 2:30 p.m. (from 12:30 p.m. on weekends) and dinner from 6 to 10 p.m. There's a late-night snack service with things like burgers and sandwiches from 11 p.m. to 2 a.m. daily.
Luna di Mare
Reservations are recommended at this Italian restaurant open for dinner only, 6 to 10. The dress code is casual chic and there are pastas and pizzas on the menu for kids, with good steaks and antipastis for adults.
Open for lunch only and located right by the water park, this is your casual outdoor stop for burgers, salads and sandwiches while clad in your swimming attire. Open noon to 3 p.m. daily.
Northern and Southern Italian food star at this casual Italian bistro with a good range of pastas and flatbreads the kids will like. Open nightly from 6 to 10 p.m.
Seaside Bar & Grill
For a casual al fresco bite by the main pool, this lunch-only restaurant (11:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m.) does the trick with salads, burgers, jerk chicken and sandwiches.
Three Palms Restaurant
You'll need to make a reservation at the hotel's signature restaurant, which overlooks the golf course. The four-course, Mediterranean-inspired meals include soup, salad, a main course and dessert. Men and boys should wear collared shirts. Food for the kids includes things like fish, chicken fingers, and burgers.
The Cricket Club
The resort's nightclub has kid-friendly song and dance from 10 to 11 p.m., from which point it turns into an adults-only atmosphere. There's also a pool table, and karaoke nights are often scheduled.
Bar King Frog
This is the hotel's main bar, off the lobby and overlooking the pool. Grab a seat for a nice martini or frozen drink.
Planning & Tips
All About the Extras
Wi-Fi, available throughout the property, is included with your all-inclusive rate. If you want more bandwidth for watching movies and the like, it's $5 per day.
Babysitting services can be requested for $12 per hour for up two kids until 11 p.m., and $16 for additional kids. After 11 p.m., the rate climbs to $18 per hour. There are surcharges on holidays.
There is an onsite gym, open 24 hours and accessible with your key card, with cardio and weight equipment that includes an elliptical, treadmill and more.
The concierge can help you with tour bookings and excursions off property.
The Art of Smart Timing
All of the hotel's activities -- including the water park and swimming pools -- are available and open all year.
Jamaica is very hot for much of the year, with the summer months particularly sweltering. But sea breezes help keep things comfortable. December to March bring the most pleasing temperatures, but seas can be rough. The island -- and resort -- blooms into high season from late-December and stays busy and at max capacity through April. The spring break period, in March, is particularly packed.
For the best deals on rates, aim to book in May, June and September.
The nearest airport is Sangster International Airport in Montego Bay, located about 15 minutes west of the Hilton Rose Hall Resort & Spa. The hotel recommends an outside service for transfers, Jamaica Tours Ltd., and can help you book. The price is $28 per person, one way.
Consider renting a car at the airport (Hertz, Thrifty, Budget and EuropCar are all represented) if you want to explore beyond the Hilton and don't want to take taxis everywhere. Parking is free in a secured outdoor lot and having your own car can be very useful if you plan to venture off property. (Note that they drive on the left side of the road here.)
The hotel can arrange taxis for you to Montego Bay or private driver services if you wish to explore in spots like Ocho Rios or Negril.
For Mom and Dad
Take advantage of the Hilton's babysitting services for a wonderful Indian meal off property. Mystic India restaurant in nearby Whitter Village is one of the most delicious ethnic restaurants in Montego Bay, and a nice change toward the end of your stay from the Hilton's more Americanized offerings. Afterwards, head back to the Hilton for a nightcap and some dancing at The Cricket Club.
Another option is the hotel's small, but decent Soothe Spa. It offers a range of services, from facials and wraps to massage and manicures. The setting -- an 18th century aqueduct system from the former plantation -- is very atmospheric and open to the skies.