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“Just Average” 3 of 5 stars
Review of Sandals Grande Riviera Beach & Villa Golf Resort

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Sandals Grande Riviera Beach & Villa Golf Resort
5.0 of 5 Resort (All-Inclusive)   |   Ocho Rios, Jamaica   |  
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Ranked #7 of 39 Hotels in Ocho Rios
Miami, Florida
1 review
2 helpful votes 2 helpful votes
“Just Average”
3 of 5 stars Reviewed August 13, 2013

Not impressed by this hotel. Facilities are ok. Service is average and food is bad. Its a nice property but has nothing close to been luxury. Its just an average adults only hotel in Jamaica. Good water-sports selection. Many restaurants to choose from but with bad food. Calypso band show was really good. Piano bar was boring. The entertainer told us he didn't sign. Not going back to Sandals after this experience. Location is too far away from airport to find that the hotel is just average. Not worth the1:30 trip from airport.

  • Stayed August 2013, traveled as a couple
    • 3 of 5 stars Value
    • 3 of 5 stars Location
    • 3 of 5 stars Sleep Quality
    • 3 of 5 stars Rooms
    • 3 of 5 stars Cleanliness
    • 3 of 5 stars Service
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This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
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Rating summary
  • Sleep Quality
    4.5 of 5 stars
  • Location
    4 of 5 stars
  • Rooms
    4.5 of 5 stars
  • Service
    4.5 of 5 stars
  • Value
    4 of 5 stars
  • Cleanliness
    4.5 of 5 stars
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English first
Mechanicsburg, Pennsylvania
Senior Reviewer
10 reviews 10 reviews
7 hotel reviews
Reviews in 9 cities Reviews in 9 cities
90 helpful votes 90 helpful votes
4 of 5 stars Reviewed August 12, 2013

This was our annual trip for our anniversary (January 2013). It was our first trip to Jamaica, and second trip to a Sandals (see our review of Sandals Grande St. Lucian). We are thirty somethings who love food, wine and nice rooms. If you have read our reviews, we try to give you a whole review, and a whole perspective. As with all love stories, some times it comes unexpectedly. That's how this trip began. So, without further ado, here we go.

ARRIVAL

Our flight was uneventful, and Sandals at the MoBay airport has a nice lounge. Grab a beer quick though. We were told that we were going to have to wait about 30 minutes and it was more like 5.

The ride is smooth to Ocho Rios, and it does take about 90 minutes. Interestingly, it's only about 63 miles. But you'll note that there are a lot of one way roads, and people in Jamaica do not tend to drive very fast on the highway. Hence the 90 minutes. There is one stop, if you desire it. The driver will ask whether you want to stop or not - people on our shuttle did, so we stopped. The stop was about 10 minutes. About 5 miles outside of Ocho Rios it rained. It ended up raining the first day and a half of our trip, but more on that later.

When you get to the resort, our shuttle stopped at the Manor side first. A quick note - the resort is divided into two main sections: Manor and Beach/Riviera. The guests staying on the Manor side get off. The stop was about 20 minutes because apparently a couple had requested a room change to be close to friends and it didn't go through. They attempted to sort this out while keeping the rest of us waiting. Finally, they decided to do this without us around and let us leave.

We arrived at the Riviera lobby and no one was there. It was 3pm. When we were trying to figure out how to get our luggage, someone finally (gently) pushed us aside and grabbed our luggage. Someone came out and handed us a cold towel (it was rainy) and pointed upstairs. No one in the lobby was incredibly pleasant or warm. Our check in took 30 minutes (way too long for a property that allows you to do an advance check in - which we did) only to result in us being told our room was not ready. So we went to get something to eat.

No one at the beach grill came to help us. When we made eye contact with the chef he shrugged and said "what??" We finally got a menu and service (us and the other couple we arrived with). When we finished an average lunch, our room was finally ready.

To be honest, we were not treated well when we arrived. Our room was not ready until close to 4:30pm. Not a single person was friendly. The lunch at the Grill was not impressive. We had people simply pointing with scowls on their faces. What we had seen of the property was old, wet, and so spread out to be inconvenient. Within 2 hours, I told my wife I wanted to leave. I wanted to get transferred to another property - preferably Whitehouse. It was my wife that convinced me to give the property a chance, even though she agreed that at this point things didn't look good. So reluctantly, we stayed. And as you’ll see I am so, so very glad we did.

AN ASIDE

Just an observation before I get to the property itself. You can tell that life is hard for Jamaicans in a lot of ways, they work hard, and they are used to a lot of tourists coming and treating them like garbage. BUT...and this is important...when the person you're dealing with realizes that you're not like those kinds of tourists and you're there to be laid back and have fun - holy cow, they open like a flower. Truly. They are SO warm, and SO friendly, and they genuinely want you to enjoy their home and this property. Remember that. We met so many wonderful people, and ended up collecting phone numbers and email addresses for STAFF!! Terrific!! So here is a Smith Family tip…don’t be a jerk, and almost immediately be nice even in the face of some people seeming guarded. You won’t be sorry!!

THE ROOM

When we arrived back at the front desk at around 4:30pm, the room was ready. We stayed in a Luxury Garden Cottage. We had known from our previous vacations, that by comparison Sandals does not have the same quality of room as other all inclusives – specifically as they relate to size and bathrooms (i.e., separate tubs and showers, space, etc.). The room was small. About the size of a second bedroom in our home. The room was smaller than the room at the airport hotel we slept in the night before at Baltimore Washington International Airport. The bathroom was just a small bathroom with a single sink.

However, it was obviously recently renovated. The furniture was brand new, or close. The room was “cozy”, as a real estate agent would tell you. It was really a nice room, if small. The balcony is enough for a small table and two chairs. The cottages are located in a lush area of the beach side, and we found its location to be convenient to the main building and the Riviera pool and the beach. So all in all, we were pleased in general.

THE PROPERTY

Rain is not this property’s friend. We found ourselves slightly bored, but at least had NFL playoff games to keep us company. The property does not really “shine” until the rain stops. When it does, we were quite pleased. As I noted above, the property is split. It is fairly well spread out, and there are really no straight paths to any one location. You are going to do a lot of walking and there are a lot of stairs – outdoor stairs – and pathways, when damp, are slightly slippery. We are active, and like to walk, so this was fine with us – but you will want to keep this in mind.

I think we would describe its layout as somewhat “disjointed.” Moreover, and please know this for a fact, you CANNOT walk from the Manor side to the Riviera side. You need to take a shuttle, though we found them to be quick and on time. The Riviera side is again divided into what Sandals calls the Riviera and the Ochi Beach Club. They are connected more seamlessly and feel more like a single part of the same resort. The Ochi Beach Club has its own smaller pool area as well.

This is quite obviously an older property, but we found that it works to its benefit in some ways. There are 40 and 50 foot palm trees, incredibly lush gardens, meandering paths and ponds. These are truly things that a new property would never have, and it really does make it beautiful in its own way. It does not compete with the beauty of other Sandals properties such as Grande Saint Lucia or Grande Antigua, but we found it to be very lush and romantic in many ways.

THE POOL/BEACH

We spent most of our days camped out at the Riviera pool. This is where the magic of our trip began. The pool is not a “feature pool” that you’ll find on the Manor side, but it’s quite pretty (almost like a solarium) with a view of the beach. The bartender for this pool is Bishop, and let me be completely clear: Bishop is a rock star. He is one of the kindest, funniest, warmest people we’ve met and oh man can he make a drink. In fact, I don’t think I ordered a single one – he just surprised my wife and I with one. Or he would make rounds of “holy water” (a lemondrop style shot he prepares) and propose a toast. I cannot begin to tell you how much he helped to turn around our vacation. Let me provide an example. After several days, he knew my name and what I drank. We had already started to get to know one another and laugh. I came to the bar one morning and he asked what we did the night before, and I told him it was our anniversary. He was upset I had not told him that, and I said we were celebrating all week. He took a break in the early afternoon, and came back and saw my wife and I were there and disappeared. Bishop came back with personalized cakes for our anniversary! He then poured Holy Water for the entire pool and raised his class loudly saying “This is to Shawn and Carole – happy anniversary!” and the entire pool area did shots for us. It really was amazing. I gave the man a hug. If you go, find this man. He really is something special.

Suddenly, we saw the staff for how warm and pleasant they actually are. And the staff really does make this property shine. Andre at the pool bar s also terrific, and the bar waitstaff is very attentive especially Lori-Ann who always had a warm smile.

The beach is smaller, but nice. There’s a boardwalk of sorts that juts out, which is where you will find the beach bar (more roudy and R-rated with bartenders participating so you know) and Kelly’s Dockside.

BARS

A favorite spot for us was the Sundowner, with an open firetable and view of the water – because of the location of Ocho Rios you don’t get the sunset, but it was quite pretty. There are couches, and at night there was usually a guitar player or the like. This is in the main Riviera building. The staff at the Sundowner is outstanding, especially our regular waitress Teresanne who always remembered us, talked to us and made sure we were taken care of.

The Polo Club is in the main Manor building and is really nice, with a large wood bar and an old Jamaican feel to it.

Jamie’s Sports Bar on the Riviera side is really a nice place. Open aired and on the water, during the day this is a nice hangout for people reading and having a drink or playing pool. At night, this becomes a night club and it was very, very busy with DJs. A nice varied experience here.

FOOD

There are a lot of restaurants, which is great. They are, however, spread between both sides of the resort so you will want to keep that in mind. We did not try the Manor Restaurant, simply because we ran out of time. We also did not go to Kimonos, since we are not fans of teppan/hibachi. Overall, the food was pretty good (3 or 3.5 out of 5).

Bayside – off the Riviera main building. Breakfast was consistently unremarkable. I mean that in the purest sense, on a daily basis. We were deeply, deeply disappointed by breakfast which is one our favorite meals. My wife ate the fruit, and I would simply get something to get me to lunch. We did hear from some people who tried breakfast there and at Sabrina’s Marketplace (Manor) that Sabrina’s was better. Surprisingly, lunch was always very good with a nice selection of Caribbean fare. We had dinner here twice, one meal being average (steak) and the other being quite good (the filet). On a whole, we liked this restaurant for everything but breakfast and Marvelene the Bayside hostess is great and always had a hug and a smile for us.

Soy – Riviera, heading towards Ochi Beach Club. Ok, this was pretty much one of our favorite spots at any resort we have ever been to…ever. We loved this place. We are fans of sushi/sashimi and eat it often. This is actually quite good. We ate here literally every day but one for appetizers. We would go when they opened, and then have a drink before dinner. The staff here is truly outstanding. Wilson and Arturo, the sushi chefs, are really personable and quite talented. They really care about their product. The wait staff is just as amazing, especially Verona, Tameka and Kirk who really made every day special. We were like the crew from Cheers in there by mid-trip. I cannot say enough good things about Soy.

China Doll – Manor side. Really good Chinese food, and I am originally from NYC. I had Szechuan beef which was really spicy (yum). All around a very good dinner.

Sabrina’s Marketplace – Manor side. We ate dinner here twice, and I would say that it was our favorite dinner spot. Both of our meals were terrific, and the lamb was fabulous.

Bella Napoli – Riviera pool. Nice brick oven pizza, though they tended to run out of ingredients often. My wife never did get pepperoni, they were always out.

Kelly’s Dockside – Riviera side. Ok, my wife hated this meal. The service was very, very slow. The salmon soup was brown and so salty she didn’t touch it. If we return to the resort, she has no interest in going back. As for me, it was alright/overrated. I probably would be ok with not returning, but judge for yourself.

Beach Grill - Riviera. We were not impressed, as you can see from what I said above. The jerk chicken was bland and cold. But it’s available and fast if you’re looking for a quick bite.

Mariners – Riviera/Ochi Beach Club. This is this resort’s version of Barefoot and you eat on picnic benches in the sand. We had lunch here one day and liked it a lot. I actually had a jerked burger, which was better than the chicken at the Grill. My wife had the jerk chicken and loved it here. The seafood was really good as well, especially the calamari. It was a nice way to watch the waves and get a nice beer and something to eat.

Valentino’s – Riviera side. This was a solid meal, in a romantic dimly lit setting. Service was slow, but worth while.

The Reef Terrace – Riviera side. This is one of the meals that we really don’t have much of a memory of, because it was our first evening and it was the only place without a wait. The setting was odd, there was not a lot of air and it was very very warm. The food was pretty good, but the heat is what we remember most.

THE SPA

We did a couple’s massage. I must tell you, other than trainers in college, etc., I have never had a massage before. So I really don’t have a point of reference, so with that in mind – this was fabulous. My wife has gotten massages before and agreed, so I know it wasn’t just me. We had Valerie and Delvine, who were terrific. They were so nice, and so talented. They took us out in robes to the beach, and out onto the boardwalk area. We had our massages overlooking the water and then they gave us a glass of champagne. Our massage included several spa products that we came home with, which was really terrific. I highly recommend the spa.

MOBAY CLUB

Ok, one quick non-Sandals note. There is something at the airport called the MoBay Club. As anyone who has gone to a Sandals will tell you, they are really good at getting you to the airport early. Really early. Earlier than you need to be. We heard about this from some people and thought it was a scam or something. It’s not.

For $45 per person, when you arrive at the airport to depart, you are ushered as a VIP through your own security and customs. Then you go to a VIP lounge, with food, wi-fi, televisions, drinks and an open bar. Yes, you read that correctly – an open bar. Your vacation continues at the airport my friends. And Maurice the bartender was just as amazing as anyone at Sandals – he made me special Jamaican flag shots and we laughed…a lot. I highly recommend this service.

SUMMARY

All in all, Sandals Grande Riviera is clearly revamped from what it must have been. All of the renovations show, even though the resort still shows some age. Breakfasts were not good. All of the other meals were really more restaurant dependent but the variety is really appreciated. We are also excited to see that there have been some menu changes in the restaurants. This vacation did not start off well. But by the end of the trip, we loved the place. What I can tell you is that this is truly due to the outstanding staff at this resort – the people absolutely drive this place from what would be average, to terrific. There are so many intangibles that make this place so loveable that I have to admit it is hard to describe in a review. The resort grows on you. The resort truly makes you want to experience more of Jamaica, and its people, and all the beauty it offers. We considered it our “gateway drug” to Jamaica, as we are already planning our next trip to either here again (trying the Manor side) or Whitehouse. Overall, we recommend this resort. Get to know its people. Explored the grounds. And if you go, say hi to Bishop for me – as Bishop would say: “why not?”

  • Stayed January 2013, traveled as a couple
    • 5 of 5 stars Value
    • 4 of 5 stars Location
    • 5 of 5 stars Sleep Quality
    • 4 of 5 stars Rooms
    • 5 of 5 stars Cleanliness
    • 5 of 5 stars Service
Was this review helpful? Yes 29
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Houston, Texas
1 review
2 helpful votes 2 helpful votes
5 of 5 stars Reviewed August 12, 2013

My fiance and I went to Sandals Grand Riviera last week (August 4-8) and had a wonderful time. My experience from making the reservations with Joanne Castner at Beach Bum Vacation set the tone for the wonderful vacation experience. Joanne was very helpful and provided all the necessary information needed to prepare me for the trip.I had no surprises when I landed in Ochos Rios.

Sandals resort was very nice. The property has gone through some upgrades and the rooms on the Villa side were very nice. We had a Butler suite and enjoyed the extra attention received when we had requests. The food was great and the weather was wonderful. We truly had a blast and did not want to leave after 5 days/4 nights. Next time we will definitely stay for 7 days. The employees on the property were very friendly and the manager during our stay Vishal was awesome. The property is definitely focused on their customers which is a plus.

I would recommend working with Joanne at Beach Bum vacations when planning a trip. Prior to the trip I received all my travel documents with instructions on how to prepare before traveling along with what to expect when I landed.

I was very pleased and will be working on my next trip very soon directly with Joanne.

Iris

  • Stayed August 2013, traveled as a couple
    • 5 of 5 stars Value
    • 5 of 5 stars Location
    • 5 of 5 stars Sleep Quality
    • 5 of 5 stars Rooms
    • 5 of 5 stars Cleanliness
    • 5 of 5 stars Service
Was this review helpful? Yes 2
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Brooklyn, New York, United States
1 review
3 helpful votes 3 helpful votes
5 of 5 stars Reviewed August 11, 2013

We stayed for 10 day from July 26 to Aug 5th and it was not enough. We had such a wonderful time. We meet such great people from all over the US and Canada. Also, the people working at the resort were the BEST. They made you feel like you were home, they were kind and so sweet. The food was great and my husband loved the beer (red stripe). The ride is an hour and half from the airport, but you really do not feel it, hey you are on vacation, enjoy everything. We had a basic room 4315 and had no issues, it was cleaned daily and had all we needed. Really? how much time do you spend in the room anyway. We have already booked our trip back for Nov of 14 with the "soon come back" desk. I am already counting the days.

  • Stayed July 2013, traveled as a couple
    • 4 of 5 stars Value
    • 3 of 5 stars Location
    • 5 of 5 stars Sleep Quality
    • 4 of 5 stars Rooms
    • 5 of 5 stars Cleanliness
    • 5 of 5 stars Service
Was this review helpful? Yes 3
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Flower Mound, TX
Top Contributor
67 reviews 67 reviews
26 hotel reviews
Reviews in 30 cities Reviews in 30 cities
37 helpful votes 37 helpful votes
5 of 5 stars Reviewed August 10, 2013

This was our sixth time to visit this location and it did not disappoint. We stayed on the Manor side in the villas and loved having our own pool. It was nice to cool off in the evening after dinner. The restaurants were excellent and we visted all the large pools. The pool by the beach had a problem with bees and my wife was stung the first day. Other than that we thouroughly enjoyed our stay. Kimonos is a must as well as the Italian restaurant.

  • Stayed July 2013, traveled as a couple
    • 5 of 5 stars Value
    • 5 of 5 stars Location
    • 5 of 5 stars Sleep Quality
    • 5 of 5 stars Rooms
    • 5 of 5 stars Cleanliness
    • 5 of 5 stars Service
Was this review helpful? Yes 2
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Long Island, New York
1 review
2 helpful votes 2 helpful votes
5 of 5 stars Reviewed August 10, 2013

Was at Grande Riviera from July 31 to Aug 4. The only thing I regret is not staying longer. We stayed in a butler suite and it was incredible. The service was incredible. We had massages on the beach and it was more than worth it. You MUST go on the catamaran booze cruise to Dunn's River. We were not planning on going there, but we met some couples who convinced us to go and it was the best day - we had a GREAT time! Everyone from the butlers to the jitney and bus drivers were exceptional. The food was great. If you stay in a butler suite, be sure to go to Kelly's Dockside and Kimono's. I recommend Kimono's on your first or second night so that you can meet other couples. I miss having champagne in our semi-private pool and not having to worry about a thing. One of our butlers even called the day after we left to make sure we returned home safely and to say that he will see us when we return. We are absolutely going to be returning to Sandals Grande Riviera!!!!

Room Tip: Stayed in the Panoramic Ocean View Butler Suite, but any of the Butler Suites would be great. If you...
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  • Stayed July 2013, traveled as a couple
    • 5 of 5 stars Value
    • 5 of 5 stars Location
    • 5 of 5 stars Sleep Quality
    • 5 of 5 stars Rooms
    • 5 of 5 stars Cleanliness
    • 5 of 5 stars Service
Was this review helpful? Yes 2
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Olney, Maryland
1 review
5 of 5 stars Reviewed August 10, 2013 via mobile

Beautiful resort, wonderful staff. Worth every penny. Was our first Sandals experience, will not be our last. The various dining options alone were fantastic, as well as the swim up bars at so many of the pools. Wish the wifi wasn't so expensive given that it's an all inclusive resort. But that's the closest thing to a negative we could come up with.

  • Stayed July 2013
    • 4 of 5 stars Value
    • 4 of 5 stars Location
    • 4 of 5 stars Rooms
    • 5 of 5 stars Cleanliness
    • 5 of 5 stars Service
Was this review helpful? Yes
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
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Additional Information about Sandals Grande Riviera Beach & Villa Golf Resort

Address: Ocho Rios, Jamaica
Phone Number:
Location: Caribbean > Jamaica > Saint Ann Parish > Ocho Rios
Amenities:
Bar / Lounge Beach Business Center with Internet Access Fitness Center with Gym / Workout Room Free Breakfast Free Parking Restaurant Room Service Shuttle Bus service Spa Suites Swimming Pool Wheelchair access Airport Transportation
Hotel Style:
#3 Family Hotel in Ocho Rios
#5 Romantic Hotel in Ocho Rios
#5 Top resorts Hotel in Ocho Rios
#7 Spa Hotel in Ocho Rios
#7 On the Beach Hotel in Ocho Rios
#7 Business Hotel in Ocho Rios
#7 Luxury Hotel in Ocho Rios
Price Range (Based on Average Rates): $$$$
Hotel Class:5 star — Sandals Grande Riviera Beach & Villa Golf Resort 5*
Official Description (provided by the hotel):
•Situated on over 100 acres of lush hillside gardens overlooking the Caribbean Sea•529 villas, luxury rooms and suites with fantastic mountain and ocean views•94 pools (7 large public pools), 22 whirlpools•16 dining options including room service for butler serviced suites•2 luxurious Red Lane Spas•Complimentary golf at Jamaica’s most elite and popular golf course, the Sandals Golf & Country Club (Transfers to the golf course are included)•Over 5,000 sq. feet of first class meeting and conference facilities•Recently completed US$60 million renovation/refurbishing exercise•Voted Sandals Resorts “World’s Leading All-Inclusive Company” 16 years in a row•Voted Sandals Resorts “Caribbean’s Leading Hotel Brand”, 18 years in a row•Voted Sandals Grande Riviera ‘Jamaica’s Leading Resort’ ... more   less 
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Also Known As:
Sandals Grande Riviera Beach And Villa Golf Resort
Sandals Grande Riviera Beach & Villa Golf Hotel Ocho Rios
Sandals Ocho Rios
Ciboney Ocho Rios
Sandals Grande Riviera Beach & Villa Golf Resort Jamaica/Ocho Rios

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