There is a safe in the room.
I sometimes wonder about the marketers of fancy hotel chains. Their prospective customers travel with passports, credit cards, cash, cameras, iPods and other valuables, so you'd think their websites would put this bit of information front and centre. But they don't, opting instead to stress the obvious: the sun, the beaches, the food and amenities. Since holidays are first of all about peace of mind, allow me to put your mind at rest on this score, at least. Assuming all rooms are like ours, your personal room safe at Beaches Boscobel is attached to the wall in the closet at eye level, uses a combination of your choice, and is large enough to accommodate a full-size laptop plus all the above items with ease.
As for the obvious details, I'm happy to say that these, too, are good or very good.
The Beaches chain is the family-oriented hotels of the Sandals chain. The Boscobel one, where we stayed, is strictly speaking nearer to Oracabessa than to Ocho Rios. Our Jamaica hosts tell us there are two other Beaches resorts in Jamaica – both in or near Negril, at the western end of the island, but Boscobel is the one where diplomats typically take their families on holidays. Two days into our ten-day stay, my wife and I – and our children – agreed it was perhaps one of the better family-oriented resorts we've been to.
There is a special Children Centre for smaller kids, and special all-day Kid Camps are offered for tots (2-3 year olds), 4-5 year-olds, 6-7 years and 8-12 year olds, run by hotel staff and designed to free the parents to do their own thing, be it tennis, the beach, a session at the spa or at the superbly well-equipped gym, sitting at the bar or just sunbathing or reading a book.
For kids who dislike organised activities, there are also plenty of options. The beach is small – no more than a hundred and fifty yards wide – but the resort makes up for it with a host of swimming pools, all of which are no more than four feet deep. One of them offers five or six waterslides of various degrees of complexity and scariness – including two where, as one of our sons told us, "you pretty much fall straight down", which they voted as the scariest they've ever been on. (Just to make sure, they went on it three times.) For those tired of the water, there are other attractions, such as three pool tables, and an entire air-conditioned bungalow full of X-Box stations.
Our room (one of the better ones, on the terraces over the beach) was a good size and comfortable. Like most resorts in this part of the world, the hotel is all-inclusive, which lives up to its billing for most things. Food is good to excellent, all-you-can-eat and available virtually 24 hours a day, at the main buffet restaurant, at the poolside barbecue place (specialising in Jamaican "jerked" cuisine), or at one of the three themed on-site restaurants (Tex-Mex, or fine-dining Italian or Caribbean). There's also a self-service ice cream, popcorn and soda stand. On-site activities such as glass-bottom boat trips, "banana boat" rides, kayaking, snorkeling or scuba lessons, etc. are included. Staff were almost all unfailingly polite and and good-natured, although those in the restaurant are rather more efficient at clearing away your plate (sometimes before you're quite finished) than anticipating your needs for cutlery, for example, or that first cup of coffee in the morning.
So far the pros. The cons are few, but may be significant for some.
The resort – originally built over forty years ago, my insider sources tell me, as a Playboy hotel – is built on a hillside going down to the beach, and so sprawls over four or five full-storey levels. It does so rather cleverly, and in most, though not all, areas there is a ramp or elevator alternative to the stairs, but these are mainly for the benefit of bellboys and housekeeping staff. Be advised, therefore, that accessibility is a challenge for anyone in a wheelchair or on crutches, and even for the physically abled, frequent trips between the beach and the pool area and main restaurant will certainly help burn off those calories.
Another factor to consider is the hotel's comparative isolation. Situated in the comparatively undeveloped parish of St. Mary east of the more popular resort areas ranging from Ocho Rios westward along the north coast, it is a good two hours hard (and sometimes scary) ride from Montego Bay Airport (2.5 – 3 hrs from Kingston airport – and scarier). Which means that there is little to see just outside the resort, and you rely entirely on organised excursions in order to see the sights. The prices for these range from expensive to outrageous: a trip to nearby Dunn's River Falls, for example is US$38 per adult; a six-hour "Bob Marley Tour" of Jamaican countryside $70 pp. Nor will you save much by venturing out on your own: typical official round-trip taxi fares from the hotel range from $30 to $90 for a group of four, or $17-25 per person for destinations in or around Ocho Rios.
Extortionate pricing for non-included amenities continues within the hotel. My wife was quoted $115 for a facial, and photographs of you and your family taken by the hotel's photographers, either proactively or in a "complimentary" family session, cost an astonishing $15-18 PER IMAGE (in print or on CD) – that's USD, not Jamaican, in case you're wondering.
Last – but not least, for me and people like myself who need to keep in touch with home base – internet access is an issue. Our travel agent told us that there is dialup in the rooms, and free wireless internet in the lobby. In fact, the wireless internet costs $15 a day ($70 a week), and the fact that it is available only in the lobby – i.e., at the very top of the complex, two storeys and a hundred yards away from the main pool/restaurant area, and a full four storeys climb and two hundred yards from our room – is a surprising and incongruous inconvenience, given the upmarket profile of its typical clientele. Of all the aforementioned problems, management would do well to fix this, by extending the wireless coverage at least as far as the main pool and restaurant area, and by folding it into the overall cost, instead of nickel-and-diming for what is, for its typical guest, a basic need.
Bottom line: good, but could do much better. On balance, I wouldn't mind going back if I had to, but given the choice, I'll try one of the other Beaches hotels – such as the one at Turks & Caicos – first.
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.