Sunset at Sandals Royal Plantation
You probably know by now that we’re big fans of the Sandals family of resorts across the Caribbean.
You can read about the ultimate all-inclusive resorts in our on-going series of Southern Girl Travel Guides to Sandals! including guides to:
with more to come.
While we love providing you with information on Sandals resorts, we love it even more when we have the opportunity to visit ourselves. Not long ago we had the chance to have a vacation of our own at what’s become our new favorite Sandals Resort:
Sandals Royal Plantation!
Royal Plantation is one of the smallest and most exclusive of all the Sandals resorts.
It boasts only 74 rooms, all ocean-view suites, and all with full butler service. It’s tucked into Jamaica’s rocky north-shore coastline in Ocho Rios and has a totally private, extremely exclusive feel.
Today, in our next installment of the Southern Girl Travel Guides to Sandals! we’re featuring Sandals Royal Plantation.
Read a little from Sandals’ official site:
Understated elegance and exquisitely private, this is Sandals Royal Plantation – an intimate all-butler resort of just 74 ocean view suites tucked into a magnificent coral bluff. You can spend your days lazing by the pool with cool libations delivered right to you by a beach butler. Tee off at nearby Sandals Golf & Country Club, followed by a spot of afternoon tea on the terrace. Renowned for unmatched attention to detail, this enclave of retro-chic sophistication showcases roaming peacocks and manicured lawns. This historic resort has long been a favorite hideaway for the international jet set and literary elite, with the likes of Ian Fleming and Noel Coward seeking its casual island elegance and authentic Jamaican vibe back in their day. Today, exquisite original furnishings and new innovations – like Jamaica’s only champagne and caviar bar – are designed to impress.
We can attest that stepping onto the property at Royal Plantation really does give you the feel that you’ve stepped into an idealized golden era on Jamaica’s north shore!
Where is Royal Plantation? Where is Ocho Rios?
We’ve written extensively about how the Montego Bay, Jamaica area can be the perfect spot for a Caribbean getaway.
With resorts like Sandals Montego Bay and Sandals Royal Caribbean only a few minutes from the airport, you can lounge on a Jamaican beach less than four hours after taking off from most airports in the Southeast.
If you’re ready to step out a little further into Jamaica, Royal Plantation is a perfect choice as Ocho Rios is just over an hours’ drive from Montego Bay, west along the coast.
The drive itself is part of the fun.
On our last trip to Royal Plantation, we enjoyed a private transfer both ways (an added bonus that we did not pay for, we believe it was due exclusively to timing)!
The views of the ocean along the way were magnificent!
A quick note on flying into Jamaica: When headed to Royal Plantation, you’ll be flying into the Sangster International Airport. Sangster is one of the largest and busiest airports in the Caribbean and getting through customs and immigration can be a bear – we always use and we HIGHLY recommend that all our clients utilize the services of Club Mobay.
Club Mobay is an arrival and departure club/service whose representatives will meet you at your arrival gate, see you safely through customs and immigration, and settle you into their arrival lounge for a drink or two before they connect you with your ground transportation.
They’ll do the same thing in reverse when it’s time for you to (sadly) leave Jamaica. Club Mobay’s parent company, VIP Attractions, also operates a similar service at Kingston’s airport, known as Club Kingston.
Sandals’ own private arrival lounge is right beside the Club Mobay arrival lounge at Sangster so you’ll be right where you need to be.
If you are using Club Mobay for your arrival, you can pretty easily enjoy both lounges!
This would be a good time to mention the Sandals/Beaches arrival lounge at Sangster.
It’s a cozy spot to enjoy those first few minutes of your all-inclusive experience. The lounge provides a comfortable wait for your transfer to Ocho Rios.
You’ll have places to sit, relax, and enjoy a beer and maybe some rum punch (all are included). Make sure to pick up a copy of the Gleaner – the nearly 200 year-old Jamaican newspaper – and see what’s happening around the island.
You’ll be alerted when your ride is ready and in another hour or so you’ll be pulling up at Sandals Royal Plantation.
Check out this video…Sandals is waiting for you!
Before we get into the details, there are a few things to know about Royal Plantation. As we mentioned above, Royal Plantation is all beach-front and all butler.
From the official Sandals site:
In a place where every suite has been built to overlook the impossibly blue Caribbean Sea, luxury sets the tone. Your butler displays the epitome of gracious hospitality, unobtrusively attending to every detail of your stay – anytime, anywhere. In fact, each of our butlers – trained to the exacting standards of the Guild of Professional English Butlers – knows your needs so well, it seems you only have to think about what you want for it to happen.
Enjoy this video from Sandals Grande Antigua and find out a little more about Sandals’ butler service:
At every other Sandals resort, butler service is available only in the highest category of rooms, but at Royal Plantation every room comes with butler service. In addition, Royal Plantation has the added bonus of what they call “beach butlers.”
These are Sandals-trained butlers who are assigned especially to guests enjoying the beach.
We’ll talk a little more about the beaches at Royal Plantation in a few minutes, but know that we got spectacular service from the beach butlers at Royal Plantation. Within an hour of arriving, all the beach butlers seemed to know our names and exactly what we liked to drink. And they will not let your drinks go empty!
Also, as we mentioned above, Sandals Royal Plantation has only 74 rooms!
From the official site:
Rising 25 feet above the beach on a lush tropical bluff just high enough to offer spectacular views of the Caribbean Sea, these suites are as remarkable as their idyllic surroundings. Fine linens, goose-down duvets and an impressive pillow menu add to the flair of rich fabrics, mahogany furnishings and lofty beds. And with the pampering services of your own butler, every day at Sandals Royal Plantation is enveloped in luxury.
Think about that…only 74 rooms.
If the resort is completely full, with no vacancies, there are only 148 guests on property. On our last visit in early summer, several staff members reported that the resort was about 75% full.
Early risers, we were enjoying the beach by around 7:00am each morning, and it was often closer to 11:00 before we saw another guest on the beach.
A nearly private beach…nice, don’t you think?
Now, a little more about the beaches.
The beach at Sandals Royal Plantation is separated into two sides, east and west. The east side is smallest and closest to the beachside bar and restaurant. Head west along a comfortable sidewalk built atop Ocho Rios’ characteristic rock and you’ll find a larger beach, home to Royal Plantation’s water sports headquarters along with over-the-water hammocks and other spots to lounge and relax.
From the official site:
Sandals Royal Plantation boasts two of Jamaica’s most extraordinary beaches. Follow natural coral stone steps to the resort’s West Beach, a tranquil spot to bask in the warmth of the Caribbean sunshine, or lounge in the shade of tiki huts on an indulgent canopied bed-on-a-beach. The East Beach is protected by offshore coral reefs that make these waters the calmest in Jamaica-ideal for every type of water play.
The reefs just off shore do offer a great deal of protection and make for calm beach-side waters (though if you’ve never been snorkeling on a real coral reef, Royal Plantation is a great place to start).
A quick note on Jamaica’s north shore: the area around Ocho Rios is often known as the “north shore” of Jamaica and is famous – among other things – for its rocky outcrops and waterfalls.
In many spots, the area is quite hilly, and Jamaica’s mountains run almost down to the sea.
You see this vividly at Royal Plantation as the resort’s site rises, steeply at times, from the beach to the main entrance. This makes for lovely views, but there are many steps around the resort. If you have trouble climbing steps and would like to visit Royal Plantation, give us a call before making any final decisions and we’ll help you think through the options.
Here are a few examples from around the resort:
In addition to the beach and the reefs, the Sandals official site lists some of the other features of Royal Plantation:
Sandals only All-Butler, All-Oceanview Resort
Beach butler service on 2 private cove beaches
3000 sq. ft. private 3-bedroom villa
Afternoon tea service
Stay at One, Play at Two exchange privileges
Unlimited fine dining at 5 restaurants
Unlimited Mondavi® wines
Unlimited premium spirits
Two full service bars
Unlimited land and water sports
Unlimited scuba diving
2 pools and 1 whirlpool
Golf at Sandals Golf & Country Club is included
Red Lane® Spa (services extra)
Free non-stop round trip airport transfers
Free Wi-Fi in all rooms and public areas
Notice that nearly everything in the list above is included. Sandals is one of the originators of all-inclusive and we believe they do it extremely well.
Few Thoughts on All-Inclusive: If you haven’t already, read our Southern Girl Travel Guide to Sandals.
You’ll learn more about what all-inclusive means at Sandals. You’ll be pleased. At Sandals (unlike some other all-inclusive resorts) all-inclusive means that nearly every thing really is included in the price of your stay.
All your food and drink will be included. We don’t mean just well-brand liquors either. Everything at the bar is included. The only exception we know of is that some Sandals restaurants will offer more exclusive wines at an extra charge, but we have experienced no pressure to purchase.
We have checked out from a week’s stay at Sandals with absolutely no additional charges and you can, too.
Tips are not allowed unless you are in a butler suite – and even then they are not necessary, but you will likely want to reward the amazing service you will receive. Off-resort you’ll want to be prepared to tip as you would anywhere (we’ve noticed some serious pressure to tip in the airport).
Off-resort excursions do cost extra as do a few other things. Let us know what you’re interested in and we’ll give you all the details.
What are the rooms like at Royal Plantation?
Because Royal Planation is such an intimate spot, there are only two broad room categories:
Love Nest Suite
These names might be a bit misleading as all Royal Plantation rooms include butler service. As of late January 2017, the most affordable room at Royal Plantation is the Orchid Oceanfront Butler Suite and the most extravagant is the Villa Plantana, a three bedroom villa on the west side of the resort including a private pool and a full staff in addition to the butler.
Because of the size and exclusivity of Royal Plantation you really cannot go wrong at any price point.
Enjoy a few room photos:
Food & Drink!
Now for our favorite part of Sandals travel – the food and the drink!
As with accommodations, Royal Plantation is a little different from other Sandals Resorts. Despite its intimate size and secluded atmosphere, Royal Plantation sits immediately adjacent to Sandals largest resort, Sandals Ochi Beach Resort.
Royal Plantation guests have full access to Ochi (a one-way perk, as Ochi guests cannot visit Royal Plantation), so all of Ochi’s 16 restaurants are available. The drive to Ochi takes about 2 minutes and Sandals provides regular transportation between the resorts.
With the 5 restaurants on-site at Royal Plantation guests have 21 total options.
Food and drink is the area that really sets Sandals apart from other all-inclusive resorts.
Other all-inclusives will have a single restaurant that is included and only cheaper brands of drink. It’s all included at Sandals (with the wine exception we mentioned above), and every resort has multiple restaurants.
Before we jump in though, let’s talk dress codes and reservations.
The dress codes are not at all strict, but they do matter.
Resort casual includes dress shorts or jeans. Any swimwear must be covered and no bare feet.
Sandals considers resort evening to include elegant wear with dress trousers for men, no t-shirts or sleeveless shirts, and dress shoes. Again, the dress codes are enforced, especially resort evening. Men, watch that shoe requirement and make sure to bring a pair of decent shoes in addition to those flip flops and tennis shoes!
Many of the popular restaurants can get rather busy at Sandals and we recommend planning what restaurants you would like to try before your travels. Make a list and meet with the concierge immediately upon your arrival to make reservations.
Don’t wait, especially when traveling during peak times.
We’ve listed Royal Plantation and select Ochi restaurants below with descriptions from the official Sandals websites:
Spellbinding and elegant, Le Papillon combines the fresh produce of Jamaica with the classic techniques and traditions of France’s finest establishments to evoke an abundance of delicious flavors. Meaning “the butterfly” in French, this unique restaurant features an emergence of classic French cuisine. From the butterfly show plates and the opulent décor, to the enticing scent of the fresh baguettes on the table, Le Papillon offers guests a taste of customary French splendor. Here, amidst cut-velvet wallpaper imported from France, guests enjoy superb cuisine such as roasted quail with an apple compote and pepper glaze, and chilled avocado and lime soup with peppered shrimp. Even the restaurant’s signature drink, The Brandy Truffle, a blend of vanilla vodka, créme de cacao, St. Remy VSOP, and cream, presents guests with a unique, French-inspired delicacy.
Le Papillon’s dress code is Resort Evening (see the dress code descriptions above) and reservations are required. Currently listed hours (which are subject to change) are:
Supper – 6:30 pm – 9:30 pm
On our last visit we saved Le Papillon as our special “fancy” night out, and we were quite pleased with the food and the atmosphere, but we were blown away by the service.
Check out a sample menu. And enjoy this video:
Discover An Assortment of Flavor. Sitting elevated, in the heart of Jamaica’s Ocho Rios region, The Terrace provides guests with an ideal respite complete with jaw-dropping views and exquisite, gourmet cuisine. In the great outdoor setting of The Terrace, the Caribbean Sea appears to be just within reach and the colorful foliage makes the serene venue even more romantic.
Indoors, the layout is that of traditional Great House with a gracious entryway and spacious dining area with massive French doors that celebrate the view and lead out to the stunning terrace where the stars bring to life the night’s energy.
The Terrace’s dress code is Resort Casual (see the dress code descriptions above) and reservations are not required. Currently listed hours (which are subject to change) are:
Breakfast: 7:30am – 11:00am
Lunch: 12:30pm – 2:30pm
Supper – 6:30 pm – 9:30 pm
The Terrace is our go-to spot for breakfast at Royal Plantation, as they serve a wonderful buffet including some traditional Jamaican seafood-centric breakfast fare.
Inside and outside at the Terrace
The Royal Grill
Making its mark on the stunningly beautiful Ocho Rios region, the Royal Grill overlooks a white sand beach and dazzling turquoise waterscape with the undulating mountains gleaming in the distance. In order to match the superb excellence of its surroundings, the Royal Grill offers equally impressive fare. The fact that this is a grill, doesn’t mean chefs are skimpy on the sophistication when it comes to the food. After all, it is called, the Royal Grill where traditional grill fare is offered alongside exquisite cuisine including lamb kebabs, exotic salads and club sandwiches.
The Royal Grill’s dress code is Resort Casual (see the dress code descriptions above) and reservations are not required at lunch but are required for supper. Currently listed hours (which are subject to change) are:
Lunch: 11:00am – 4:30pm
Supper: 7:00pm – 8:30pm (reservations required)
Check out a sample menu.
The Royal Grill is situated just above the east beach at Royal Plantation, and is adjacent to the bar serving both the east and west beach. All the tables are outside but there’s plenty of shade.
On our last visit, we ate lunch here every day (sometimes multiple times a day, actually). The jerk pork, coconut shrimp, and calamari were favorites of ours. The beach butlers are serving during the day, so expect everyone to know your name and your favorite dishes and drinks immediately.
The history of tea dates back to the 17th century and is one of the most iconic English food customs – a custom influenced by the wife of Charles II, Catharine of Braganza. The tradition of afternoon teatime, which became popular in the 1800s, thrives today at Tea Terrace, a quaint tea bar that offers guests a late afternoon teatime experience. The Tea Terrace celebrates the love of tea with time-honored traditions passed on to the Caribbean islands from Great Britain.
The Tea Terrace proves to be a place that expresses the true qualities and characteristics of an old, English pastime, as the setting and the experience is characteristically elegant, well structured, and tranquil, with several different tea offerings including black, green, and fruity tea elements. Located in the northern fringes of Jamaica, the small terrace sits in a prime location, overlooking the Caribbean Sea.
The Tea Terrace’s dress code is Resort Casual (see the dress code descriptions above) and reservations are not required. Currently listed hours (which are subject to change) are:
Tea: 4:00pm – 5:00pm
Don’t miss this afternoon treat.
The teas are terrific, but the canapés and sweets really are special. As with Le Papillon we really were blown away by the service and the presentation – as well as the view looking out over the water from the terrace above the beach.
The Wobbly Peacock
Discover Gastro Pub Essence. In keeping with the early vision of public houses, Wobbly Peacock is a lively pub with just the right mix of energy and easygoing appeal. Featuring elegant mahogany furnishings, lantern pendant lighting, and a grand piano, the beauty of this place is undeniable. But the main draw for many guests is the amazing gastro pub cuisine and mellow, down-home essence. Executive Chef Peter Hamil works hard to recreate English style, traditional pub fare with a modern, upscale twist.
The Wobbly Peacock has no dress code and reservations are not required. Currently listed hours (which are subject to change) are:
Supper: 3:00pm – Midnight
Check out a sample menu.
The Wobbly Peacock is in a central location at the resort, and we found ourselves stopping in frequently in late afternoon and evening for a quick drink. It is the bar that serves the resort levels above the beach.
Royal Plantation has plenty of food & drink options on its own, but we did find ourselves venturing next door several evenings. Sandals Ochi Beach Resort will be the next installment in our Southern Girl Travel Guides to Sandals, so we’re not going to detail all the choices at Ochi but we did want to give you a “taste” and feature a few of our favorites.
But, before we do, check out this video on Ochi. It’s a completely different vibe from Royal Plantation, but it’s proximity let’s you enjoy both extremes!
There’s nothing quite like the dining experience at Soy Sushi Bar, a quaint restaurant tucked behind bamboo fronds and adorned with unique Oriental décor, dim lighting, and fresh, delectable sushi. Giving guests a taste of the Far East with traditional and contemporary sushi creations, Soy is named after soy sauce, a customary ingredient in the art of sushi. This remarkable sushi house offers exciting flavors and exotic sushi creations made-to-order. Chefs skillfully prepare sushi using only the freshest ingredients. Guests can enjoy a nightcap or pre-dinner cocktail near the stone-lined fire pits, and inside, will discover great ambiance with the stone statues, pendant lighting, and mahogany furniture.
When it comes to sushi, Soy has plenty of answers. Sample delicacies like the Orange Blossom, a guest favorite with tuna, crabmeat, and avocado rolled with salmon and topped with Tobiko, mango sauce and unagi sauce.
The bar area is popular with groups while the intimate booths create the perfect setting for a romantic evening for two to celebrate a special occasion. With a style that is just as diversified as the inspiring sushi palate, chefs of Soy are eager to present guests with varying flavors of the Far East and share the essence of a consistent house style that is elegantly balanced through their splendid selection of daily specials, soups, sushi, sashimi, and sake.
Soy’s dress code is Resort Casual (see the dress code descriptions above) and reservations are not required. Currently listed hours (which are subject to change) are:
Supper: 6:00pm – 9:00pm (closed on Mondays)
Check out a sample menu.
Soy really is one of our favorite spots at Ochi. Jamaica is a very long way from Japan, but the sushi was surprisingly good, the atmosphere was terrific, and we found ourselves eating supper one night and stopping in for a snack and a drink every other night we visited Ochi. The staff remembered us on every visit and Soy will be on our short list for our next visit to Ochi (ok, make sure to click that link!).
Neptune, the Roman god of water and the sea, is one of the most well known deities of Roman mythology. It’s said that his powers are at the core of Neptune’s, our Mediterranean seafood restaurant – and after dining here, you just might believe the old tale rings true. For years, the chefs of Neptune’s have made it their mission to provide the most authentic reflection of Mediterranean heritage through robust menu offerings and a sundry setting. From the splendor of the rustic, open-air restaurant design, to the beauty of the turquoise sea, guests are offered a true, coastal Mediterranean experience directly on the beach, against the backdrop of the beautiful Jamaican Riviera.
With casual European elegance, the Neptune-blessed cuisine highlights the best in Mediterranean fare. Eggplant, artichokes, squash, tomatoes, legumes, onions, mushrooms, okra, cucumbers, and herbs are used to embellish three course meals of fresh seafood such as lobster, mussels, octopus, shrimp, salmon, tuna. Traditional delights such as feta lamb kebabs, tzatkiki, and saffron-infused Bouillabaisse are tantalizing temptations. You’ll marvel at sea vistas just within reach, the sweeping views, the inviting, laid back atmosphere, and the divine desserts; but most of all, you’ll laud enticing cuisine said to be touched by a god.
Neptune’s dress code is Resort Casual (see the dress code descriptions above) and reservations are not required. Currently listed hours (which are subject to change) are:
Supper: 6:00pm – 10:00pm (closed on Thursdays)
Check out a sample menu.
Don’t miss Neptune’s. The food is great and dining on the beach really is a great experience!
Discover Pier Excellence. With an unmatched ambience and irresistibly luscious fare, Kelly’s Dockside is the ultimate in dining al fresco. You’ll marvel at the spectacular views, the lantern lighting, and the delectable cuisine of this over-the-water restaurant. Kelly’s is not only situated in an ideal location, but it also boasts sumptuous delights from land and sea that are just as idyllic. It won’t take long to realize the charm of this serene, seaside bar and grill…and be sure to take a romantic stroll to the end of the pier to view the fiery Ocho Rios sunset.
But it’s the famous Kelly’s Sampler that typically steals the limelight with its appetizing combination of jerk chicken wings, conch fritters, beef burritos, marinated feta with sun-dried tomatoes, cured Italian meats, artichokes, and fried rice noodles with marinated vegetables.
The beautiful restaurant lit up by lanterns and the Caribbean sun, mixed with mouthwatering culinary delights and the sound of the waves softly caressing the sand, presents guests with a most romantic evening under the starry sky.
And best of all, guests can indulge in selections from the innovative Kelly’s menu. From perfectly seasoned meats and seafood, to delectable sides and desserts, flavorful combinations with the sauces to accompany them abound. Guests rave about the juicy filet mignon, the sizzling shrimp, and the spicy salmon. With an amazing sunset, gorgeous views, and the best steak and seafood around, it doesn’t get much better than Kelly’s Dockside, a place you’ll want to brag about.
Kelly’s dress code is Resort Casual (see the dress code descriptions above) and reservations are required. Currently listed hours (which are subject to change) are:
Supper: 5:30pm – 9:30pm (closed on Wednesday)
Check out a sample menu.
Activities (other than lounging on the beach, eating, and drinking)
As a guest at Royal Plantation, you may never get past the lounging on the beach stage. Royal Plantation may in fact be the best Sandals resort to just lounge. But if you’re ready for some physical activity and fun, this video should give you an idea of what to expect:
Royal Plantation (along with next door’s Ochi) has a ton of offerings – and nearly all are included.
Here’s a summary:
On the water (and included) at Royal Plantation, you’ll find:
- Paddle Boarding
- Glass Bottom Boat
- Hobie Cats
- 1 Pool, 2 Whirlpools
Like all Sandals resorts, Royal Plantation also includes Scuba Diving…with just a few limitations on what’s included.
On land you’ll find:
- Pool Tables
- Board Games
- Day & Night Tennis
There’s also a well appointed fitness center to help work off all the great food and drink you’ll be enjoying. If you’re interested in something not listed, Ochi is right next door with even more options, just stay tuned for our next installment of the Southern Girl Travel Guides to Sandals for more information.
How about what’s not included?
Of course, once you leave the resort and venture into Ocho Rios, you’re back to the real world where everything is not included. While that’s always an option, we prefer to spend most of our time hanging out at the resort and relaxing.
There are, however, a few options you really should consider for an extra charge.
Sandals Red Lane Spas are available at every resort. At Royal Plantation, you can enjoy a number of different treatments including private massages along the beach. Contact us for all the details.
Sandals features Island Routes for off-resort excursions. There are a ton of choices that – if you like – will let you spend time exploring even the interior of Jamaica, making it back to Royal Plantation for a relaxing evening.
Some of your choices include:
- Visiting Dunn’s River Falls
- Taking an off-road 4×4 safari
- Swimming with the dolphins
- Segwaying around an estate
- Taking a reggae cruise on one of those cool resort catamarans
Occasionally, Sandals will even offer a Catamaran cruise as a booking bonus, so reach out and we’ll give you all the details.
Let’s finish up with a few more shots of Royal Plantation:
And a special thank you to Sandals for allowing us to use the great photos and videos in this post!
Never forget to: