The Southern Girl Travel Guide to Sandals!

smb-000-1Sandals original Montego Bay Resort in Jamaica

All-inclusive Caribbean resorts

Just consider it…an entire vacation and not a thought about what the next meal, drink, or activity costs. Check-out comes and all you get are best wishes for a safe trip and a speedy return with no additional tab to settle.

Can that really be true?

We wondered.

Actually, Jennifer wondered and I was sure there had to be a catch.

On our very first trip to an all-inclusive Caribbean resort, I was skeptical. Ever the accountant, I was looking for that extra charge. I was waiting to say gotcha, and gloat over Jennifer a bit.

That extra charge never came.

I stood pleasantly bewildered at check-out as I was told we were all settled up with no extra charges. An employee even handed me a final drink as we waited for our ride to the airport.

So, yes, it can be true, if…

You knew there had to be an if, didn’t you?

…if you pick the right resort.

If you pick the right resort you can have the most relaxing, flawless family vacation imaginable – whether it’s a honeymoon, an anniversary, an adults-only getaway, or a full family vacation with the kids (and the grandparents, if you like).

If you don’t pick the right resort you’ll be faced with limited choices, add-on charges, and tons of frustration.  

From Mexico in the west to Trinidad and Tobago in the east, all-inclusive resorts are extremely popular, and you have tons of choices.

Based both on our own personal experiences like the one above, and more importantly, the feedback of our clients, we believe your very best choice in all-inclusive Caribbean resorts starts in Jamaica and branches out across the Caribbean.

That choice is:


Sandals was that right resort for us.

It has been one of our best, most relaxing, travel experiences and we can’t wait to share that experience with you and your family.

This post is the beginning of our Southern Girl Travel Guide to Sandals.

In future posts, we’re going to feature each of the resorts in the Sandals world including Sandals, the family-friendly Beaches Resorts, and the extremely affordable Grand Pineapple Resorts. Each post will give you information on available accommodations, food & drink, and general activities (in addition to relaxing on the beach).

This post will introduce Sandals and tell you some of the things in common at all Sandals Resorts.

The question we had before we ever stayed at an all-inclusive resort was:

What does all-inclusive really mean?

All-inclusive means different things at different resorts – some include only limited food or drink, with extra charges for many activities. For instance, at the bar certain resorts will offer drinks with the low-end liquors included, but will charge extra for better brands.

src-018-1Sandals Royal Caribbean, Montego Bay, Jamaica

What does all-inclusive mean at Sandals?

We have found that you really can spend a week at a Sandals resort (or less or more), have an amazing time, and not spend a single additional penny on extras.

All food and drink is included – the only exception we know of is that some of the restaurants will have certain wines available for an additional charge.

This includes top shelf liquors, and all the food you can eat at a variety of restaurants.

Transfers to and from the airport are included. Transfers in a private car are included for top room types and are available at an extra charge for everyone.

Sandals’ own video – a recent commercial with just a portion of what’s included 

All of the personal water sports are included – things like small sail boats, kayaks, stand up paddle boards, snorkeling, scuba diving. Some sport instruction comes at an extra charge, as does off-resort excursions.

The included (and unlimited) scuba diving is a particularly nice perk.

The official Sandals website does have an FAQ on the subject. Just click on What’s Included and What’s Not Included for the exact details.

Before we forget…tips are included. The only exception being butler service. While it’s not at all required, if you receive the services of a butler and are pleased (which you will be) tipping is allowed. Butler service?! Read on….

Another popular question about Sandals:

Can we bring the kids?

At the Sandals Resorts, no.

At the Beaches and Grand Pineapple Resorts, yes!

Does that mean Sandals is a party-all-night-self-indulgent-wake-up-and-barely-remember-last-night sort of place?

No, it does not.

While each Sandals Resort has a different atmosphere, each has quiet corners as well as areas where the party will go on late into the night. On a recent stay, we chose a quiet secluded spot for our room. It was quiet and peaceful but only a 2 minute walk from all the action, which was perfect for our needs.

How are the accommodations?

Each Sandals resort has a wide variety of room types.

For the size of each Sandals resort, they may have the widest range of room types available at single resort in the hospitality business.

They can fit many budgets.

src-074-1A room at Sandals Royal Caribbean in Montego Bay, Jamaica

While each Sandals resort may differ slightly, and several feature specifically the top range of suites, Sandals resorts generally offer three categories of accommodations:

  • Luxury Level
  • Club Level
  • Butler Level

Each level includes, at a minimum, things like:

Solid mahogany furnishings, stocked in-room bar/refrigerator, daily turndown, services of Bellman, iron & ironing board, iPod docking stations, laptop-sized electronic safes, and umbrellas (particularly nice as we know in the tropics it is prone to rain, at least for short spells).

Club level includes, at a minimum, features such as:

Private check-in, access to the Club Sandals lounges, dedicated concierge service throughout your stay, expanded in-room bar with daily restocks, and overall special hand-holding!

Butler level is the top of Sandals accommodations and features the services of a professionally-trained butler throughout your stay.

Your butler will provide services like:

Arranging transportation to/from the airport, assisting in your unpacking and packing, pressing clothes, reserving spots on the beach and in the restaurants, arranging in-room dining, ensuring you have drinks and lunch on the beach, and a host of other personal services.

Sandals’ own video about the exclusive professional butler service

Butler level really is an amazing experience that can make for an unforgettable vacation.

(Note: the accommodation choices at the Grand Pineapple resorts are more limited as they are targeted at a different price-point, though they still offer the same Sandals quality)

Where are the Sandals properties?

As of July 2014 Sandals resorts are located in:

  • Jamaica
  • The Bahamas
  • St. Lucia
  • Antigua
  • Grenada
  • Barbados

Beaches resorts are located in:

  • Jamaica
  • Turks and Caicos

Grand Pineapple resorts are located in:

  • Jamaica
  • Antigua

The Jamaican properties including Sandals, Beaches, and Grand Pineapple, are (we’ll be adding links as we complete our guide to each property):

The Bahamian properties are all Sandals and include:

  • Royal Bahamian
  • Emerald Bay

St. Lucia is home to three Sandals resorts:

  • Regency La Toc
  • Grand St. Lucian
  • Halcyon Beach

Antigua has two resorts:

  • Grand Antigua (Sandals)
  • Grand Pineapple Beach Antigua

Grenada has one Sandals resort:

  • La Source Grenada

Barbados also has one Sandals resort:

  • Sandals Barbados

Turks and Caicos has one resort, too:

  • Beaches Turks and Caicos

Twenty-one resorts over seven different Caribbean nations, not bad for choice. Sandals does occasionally change property names or acquires new properties.

We’ll keep you up to date with those Sandals happenings.

What About Sandals the Company?

Sandals is a privately held, Jamaica-based family business.

Sandals started in 1981 when Gordon “Butch” Stewart, the organization’s founder, opened Sandals Montego Bay. Since then, Sandals has expanded across the Caribbean and Sandals Resorts International (the Sandals parent company) has become one of Jamaica’s leading businesses.

Another Sandals’ video with info about the company and her founder Gordon “Butch” Stewart

The firm also operates the Sandals Foundation, a charitable organization seeking to improve the lives of folks across the Caribbean.

What’s Next?

Check out our guide to Sandals first resort, Sandals Montego Bay.

Soon we’ll be posting on the Royal Caribbean and the Carlyle – all in the Montego Bay area within a few minutes drive of each other. We’ll be telling you about a few special things that arise because of the close proximity of Sandals Montego Bay, the Royal Caribbean, and the Carlyle.

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As we add information on each resort, we’ll modify this post with new links and other information. So, feel free to bookmark or link to this introduction for up-to-date info!

What if I’m Ready to Visit Sandals Now?

First, relax.

Visiting Sandals is easy.

Second, give us a call or drop us an email and we’ll be happy to help you plan a Sandals vacation.

And don’t forget the first step:

Relax…you CAN get to Sandals from here!


Photographs and videos in this post were provided by Sandals through the company’s gracious support of the travel agent community!