This past weekend Travel Agent attended the official opening of Sandals Ochi Beach Resort — previously known as Sandals Grande Riviera Beach & Villa Golf Resort. The resort was renamed after a multimillion dollar renovation project.
Located in Ocho Rios, Jamaica, the resort has received a new look complete with new outdoor water decorations by the lobbies, renovated guestrooms, new restaurants and a refreshed look that embraces the Sandals brand that return guests have come to expect.
“We have worked for many years, so that every travel agent can sell a Sandals holiday blindfolded,” says Sandals Chairman Gordon “Butch” Stewart.
|The Main Pool|
All the accommodations at the Ochi Beach Resort have been updated, and the resort has introduced the All-Butler Village with roughly 200 villas and 70 butlers. The butlers can arrange anything from luggage unpacking to delivery of six p.m. cocktails by one of the 98 private villa pools.
|Pool in the Romeo and Juliet Villa|
There are four types of villas in the village, including six Romeo and Juliet suites, designed for a romantic stay. Room 7340 is a Romeo and Juliet suite. It has a private pool between the bedroom area and living room, as well as a two-person hot tub. The suite also has lounges by the pool and a full mini-bar. These villas are completely private and quiet — perfect for those looking for their own oasis. Another villa option is the GP villas, which have the some of the best views on the property. Villa 50 gives unobstructed views of the water and sits next to a large overlook point that can be used as a picnic or cocktail hour location.
Another new addition is the Ochi Beach Club. The beach club is filled with cabanas and seating, and it has a pool area and a DJ. The club is just around the corner from the main beach and sits next to several eateries. Guests can enjoy theme nights at the club like Reggae night; however, the club closes around 11 p.m. The Impression Group helped design the club to resemble a traditional Mediterranean beach club.
“At Mediterranean beach clubs age doesn't matter at all, financial things don't matter, looks don't matter. It's all about having a good time,” says Jack Nolan, owner of The Impression Group.
|The Main Beach|
For those looking for a more laid-back beach experience, the main beach at Ochi has plenty of lounges directly on the water with a quieter atmosphere. Several restaurants are located behind the main beach, including the new Tapas on the Riviera restaurant, which serves international tapas and quick bites. There are a total of 16 restaurants on property; however, our favorite new dining addition is The Jerk Shack, which serves traditional jerk chicken with sides like festival bread.
“Food has become a big deal, so food service delivery has gotten better,” says Adam Stewart, Sandals CEO.
Adam Stewart was the driving force behind another new addition at the resort, The Rabbit Hole speakeasy. Located just steps from the main pool, guests won’t miss the round door entrance. The Rabbit Hole opened this past weekend, and serves traditional drinks inspired by the 1920s. Musicians, including singers, pianists and a jazz band, entertain guests with classic and current music. As an added touch, the bar serves premium liquor with a separate ice menu.
“I’m curious to see what happens in there,” says Adam Stewart. “There’s a very old school modern thing going on … the speakeasy really came to us as a concept that can talk to everybody. [It’s] not a gimmick.”
Another new nighttime attraction is the Popcorn and Palms Cinema, which is an outdoor movie theatre. Guests can curl up on large beanbag couches next to the main pool and watch over 300 different movies. Currently, the movies play on Tuesday and Thursday nights, but if the concept is well received by guests the showings will increase.
Looking forward, guests visiting Ocho Rios may soon opt to fly in to Kingston instead of Montego Bay. The North-South link of Highway 2000 is currently being built, with the first section open. The highway, which is slated to be finished in January of 2016, will make it possible to drive from the Norman Manley International Airport in Kingston to Ocho Rios in just over an hour.
“This highway will positively impact Jamaica's tourism in a number of ways,” says Paul Pennicook, director of tourism for Jamaica. “Visitors to the Ocho Rios area will have the option of flying into Kingston or Montego Bay and get to their hotels relatively quickly. Secondly, cruise visitors stopping in Ocho Rios will be able to disembark, visit an attraction in Kingston like Bob Marley Museum and return to Ocho Rios in time to sail on the same day.”
Last year, Jamaica had more than two million stop-over visitors to the island, and in the first three months of 2015 stop-over visits have increased by five percent, says Pennicook.
Visit www.sandals.com/main/ochorios for more information.