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Trip Report Beaches Sandy Bay Jamaica Trip Report

My husband and I are seasoned travelers in our late thirties. We’ve had the great fortune to visit exotic beaches and resorts across the globe… from Mauritius, Bali, the Red Sea, and Hawaii to the coasts of the continental US and Mexican Riviera. Since our son’s birth in 2008, however, we’ve not ventured far from quick forays to visit friends and family.

All of that notwithstanding, we were completely blown away by our experience at Beaches Sandy Bay. Never before have I been so impressed with the kind attentiveness of resort staff, and never before have I been so completely relaxed… totally “present” throughout our stay.

I researched Beaches Sandy Bay extensively before our vacation and (to be completely honest) I booked our 7-day trip with some trepidation. TripAdvisor reviews were a mixed bag and my other go-to site (Fodors.com!) had no recent mention of this resort. From the moment we walked into the open air reception, immediately greeted by-name by kind Beaches employees with warm smiles and cool towels, we knew we’d made the right choice.

I won’t lie. Money was an issue. My initial crush on Beaches Turks and Caicos was palpable, fueled by splashy brochures and abundant travel blog raves. The Turks islands are famous for tremendous diving, so the marrying of all-inclusive food, drink and daycare plus world-class SCUBA seemed a dream-come-true! Until we saw the price tag. While I was willing to spend a sizeable sum to celebrate my husband’s safe return from overseas deployment, Turks was completely out of our budget. Reviews of Beaches Negril were good, but Sandy Bay’s price was too fantastic to miss… particularly considering share privileges with its sister resort a scant walk (or shuttle ride) away. SO! We booked our trip through our intrepid travel agent and kept our fingers crossed. I am so very glad we took a chance on this gem of a resort.

What follows is a thorough review of our amazing experience at Beaches Sandy Bay. If you choose to read further, good luck! If you choose to stop here, please take away my resolute belief that Beaches Sandy Bay is a secret diamond in the rough, a comfortable, friendly and welcoming resort, made even more sparkling by warm resort staff and a flawless beach.

THE RESORT: Beaches Sandy Bay has a long history in Negril. In many ways, it shows in the resort’s aging buildings, dated bath fixtures, open-air fitness facility and well-traveled outdoor showers. Cosmetic improvements are underway everywhere, tho, and I can’t recall a day when I didn’t see at least three people painting, sweeping or grooming the resorts lovely grounds. While it really would be much improved with renovation, I don’t think the end result would be worth the extra cost that’d befall Sandy Bay’s patrons. This is a tremendously clean and beautiful resort, lush with greenery and brightly painted with Caribbean cool.

THE FOOD: Bottom line? It’s an AI, and as such, it’s predominantly buffet. My husband and I are foodies at heart, but we cast aside expectations and were presently surprised by the tasty variety of options and presentation at both the Bayside (Beaches Sandy Bay) and The Mill (Beaches Negril). With a 2yr old in tow most evenings, I was very grateful for the kid-friendly choices and flexible dining times at Bayside. Our toddler’s favorites? Ziti pasta and the lush array of tropical fruit.
We ate as a family at a yummy Caribbean restaurant with the AMAZING view (the appropriately named, “Sundowner”), but immediately wished we’d hired a nanny as the beautiful sunset did little to distract our grumpy toddler from an array of temper tantrums (sigh). The Sundowner waitstaff were completely unflappable and quickly offered to secure chicken tenders and fries from the grill downstairs. Learning our lesson, we hired a wonderful nanny (Miss Debbie) to watch the baby the following night while we dined at the Japanese restaurant (Kimonos) at Beaches Negril. Our Kimonos meal was as tasty as it was entertaining… a very family friendly affair.
We can’t forget to mention… Delroy at the Sesame Grill is a jerk legend! A perfect option for post-dive lunch. In short, if a five star dining experience is the sole basis for your vacation, avoid even the best AI resort. Both Beaches Sandy Bay and Beaches Negril offer good, plentiful food for every palate.

THE ROOM: Much like the food, if you’re looking for a five star accommodation, open up your wallet and stay elsewhere. If you’re an active family like we are, Beaches Sandy Bay is truly ideal. A few updates would be great, but we spent so little time in our room, we surely didn’t miss granite counters and luxurious furniture. Our room was spacious and always very clean (thanks to our tremendous housekeeping staff!). We had no problems whatsoever with ants or any other local fauna. Our mini fridge was always stocked nicely with an array of sodas, juices and water… we would’ve appreciated a few chilled Red Stripes, but considering the family-friendly atmosphere of the resort, I can understand why hotel policy limits fridge fare. Our bed was very comfortable, our shower was always hot, and our wrap-around porch could not be beat. I’ve spent many pretty pennies on rooms that can’t compare to our suite’s breathtaking views and the peaceful echo of crashing waves! I’m not an athlete by any stretch, but if prompted, I could’ve thrown a stone from our porch to the beach and the lapping waves just beyond. Truly priceless.

THE NURSERY: I’ll admit… I was a little apprehensive re: leaving our 2yr old with unfamiliar caregivers in a foreign country, particularly considering our intent to travel off-site and dive. After our son’s first day at the nursery, however, all of my worries were cast aside and I immediately started wondering… how in the world I can convince Miss Latonya and Miss Debbie to come back w/us to NC! A clean and well-organized nursery, the caregivers truly care for every child. Our son ate, slept and played daily at the resort’s nursery and we hired Miss Debbie twice (once for dinner and once for a catamaran trip) with full knowledge that he was in good, safe, loving hands. The Beaches Sandy Bay nursery completely enhanced our travel experience as we were able to share time as a family of three, but also reconnect as a couple without worrying re: our son’s health and well-being. Can’t speak highly enough of the nursery, most notably, Miss Debbie and Miss Latonya.

THE DIVING: A wonderful surprise! It’s been three years since my last dive, so I attended the resort’s refresher course with great results. I felt much more comfortable on my dives and appreciated the patience and positive reinforcement of our instructor. Once in the water, I was amazed by the diversity of wildlife and landscape of coral and sea plants. I saw numerous lionfish and even an eagle ray (at a distance, darnit!). I dove just three times during our weeklong stay and in retrospect, I wish I’d indulged more in Beaches’ twice daily trips. The entire dive operation is well-run with a focus on safe practices in and out of the boat. Equipment was in great shape and we experienced no issues with faulty BC’s or regulators. Karen was a terrific dive master and Miss Joyce always provided friendly support at the dive shop.

THE ENTERTAINMENT: Just two words: Shadrick and Monifa. Of course, this resort caters to the Sesame Street crowd (the characters ARE indeed fantastic), but my husband and I were bowled over by the gregariously talented hosting, song and dance skills of Shadrick and Monifa. We’re not typically “show” people, but we learned quickly to get a good seat at the Bayside for each evening’s festivities. Our favorites were the Boys and Girls Club marching band and the resort talent show.

THE BAR: If you don’t stop by the bar and ask Ian for a “Drink of Happiness,” your Jamaica experience is not complete! Ian thoughtfully shared his insight re: Jamaican life while ensuring our yummy beverage needs were always met. Unlike most AI’s, Beaches Sandy Bay stocks top shelf liquors while also catering to the slushy/rum punch crowd. Truly a highlight of our trip.

THE BEACH: As I mentioned in my first paragraph, travel modesty aside… we’ve seen some beaches. Never before, however, have I walked chest-high into warm, crystal clear blue water with unblemished sand beneath my toes! Truly intoxicating. To make sure it wasn’t just a “Seven Mile Beach” phenomena, we trekked both left and right from the resort. Nowhere in our scouting did we find a stretch of beach quite like Sandy Bay’s… impeccably clean, with little shorebreak and nary a rock (perfect for little ones!).

THE STAFF: Unparalleled. While Beaches Negril is a nice resort, we felt lost in the crowd. At Beaches Sandy Bay, we felt like extended family.

Last but not least, we owe a tremendous debt of thanks to the travel agent who made it all possible… Mike from Dream Makers Vacation Services. Mike offered seamlessly informative and patient support during our vacation research and planning. Exceptionally responsive to all of my questions and concerns, Mike not only worked tirelessly to ensure we received the best travel deal, I’m positive he’s the sole reason we were placed in the best suite in the house… Rm #4301. Other regular resort-goers agreed: we were terribly lucky to get such a great room. Dream Makers is now my “go to” for family vacations. Highly recommended! http://dreammakersvaca.com

Happy travels!
Christine

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