My boyfriend and I stayed 7 nights at SWH earlier this month and had a wonderful vacation! It was a perfect week - we relaxed, reconnected and had a ton of fun! The reviews that describe the resort as stunning and the service as fantastic are absolutely right; I’m not sure I can add anything new there. I’ll focus my review on the diving and a brief comparison of the other Sandals we’ve visited. Hopefully the information is helpful is deciding if this resort is right for your trip.
A bit of background to put the review in context: We’re both in our 30’s; this is our third stay at a Sandals’ resort, though our first trip to Jamaica; we prefer Sandals to other all inclusive resorts because scuba diving is included, which is a significant value. To be candid, we choose SWH for our vacation because they offered a great deal. We also heard positive things about the resort during stays at other Sandals resorts. (Note: we heard mixed things about Jamaica before we left, but we found the country to be beautiful and the people wonderful. We were never harassed and always felt safe).
We enjoy diving on vacation and, as mentioned, it’s one of the draws to Sandals. We’re Advanced Open Water certified with approximately 50 total dives before the trip. We dove 9 times (5 days) during our stay and were pleased with the operation. Our first morning we headed to the water shop to sign up for dives (desk is located at the end of the resort near Neptune’s). We signed a waiver and they checked our certification. My last dive was in Dec; they asked if I wanted a check out dive but were accommodating when I declined. You need to sign up for your dive(s) a day in advance – this appears to be a firm rule, especially for your first dive. Also, you can’t sign up for the whole week at once; you have to sign up each day for the next day. There are 2 dives daily (each one tank) – at 9 AM and 11 AM. The first dive is deeper (max depth for us was 90 ft) and the second dive is much shallower at a closer location. If you want to do both dives, you end up back at the dock for a bit before heading out again. The dive boat could be crowded, but we were able to dive all the times we wanted. A lot of days the second dive was less crowded than the first dive. On the busier days, the Open Water divers dove separately from the Advanced divers. All of the dives are guided. The water was warm and calm, which made for easy diving (good for beginners). Underwater there were good, though not spectacular, views. It wasn’t the best diving, but we never regretted doing a dive on the trip. The visibility was limited on many days, but they may have resulted from a recent storm. There was plenty of coral, though limited sea life. We saw rays, a giant crab and shark during the week. The Dive Team was great! They were laid back and helpful. There was always juice, water and treats on boat. Another cool thing about diving is that you often end up diving with the same people each day – so you meet people and hear about their great trips and experiences. We always get great ideas for our next trip.
We’ve also stayed at Sandals Grande St Lucian (2011) and Sandals Royal Bahamian (2012). We loved all our stays and would happily revisit any of the resorts. All of the resorts are beautiful – the landscaping is stunning and the rooms are consistent; the pools, restaurants, bars and entertainment are very similar. SWH is most similar to the Grande St Lucian in that both resorts are spread out and tend to attract people staying for a week or more. In addition, both resorts required an hour plus commute from the airport to the resort. SWH has a longer beach than the Grande St Lucian, though. The Royal Bahamian is close to the airport and more compact (you won’t need to walk far to get around the resort). It seemed there were more people staying just a few days and it was perhaps a rowdier crowd. The Royal Bahamian has a beautiful private island to escape the crowds at the resort, which the other two resorts don’t have. The one drawback to the SWH compared to the other two resorts is that there isn’t a pub or casual place to eat; we’re told they are in the process of building a pub and it will be a great addition. Dinner felt very formal (food style, not dress) which can get tedious after several nights.
IMO you don’t have to pay extra for a higher level room to have a great trip. We booked a base level room, Luxury Beachfront Room. We were located in the French Village which is farthest from the central restaurant/courtyard area. The room was perfect for us – we had a corner room on the 3rd floor with a beautiful water view. We booked base level rooms at the other Sandals resorts as well and have always been happy with the rooms. Walking a bit doesn’t bother us. I think part of the reason we love Sandals is because the price we pay is in line with our expectations. I’m not sure I’d be so happy if were paying $5K or more!
We don’t do many excursions since we dive most days. We did the YS Falls excursion and highly recommend it! The falls are about 40 minutes away from the resort; since we were relatively close it seemed like a good opportunity. The experience was orchestrated to maximize our fun. We did zip lining first – the guides helped with the gear and did all the line exchanges, so it was very safe. We did 7 lines, many of them over the falls. Afterward a guide took us up to the falls and we swam in the fall pools. The guide took several pictures for us - which was great! If you’re adventurous, you can use the swing rope to fall into a pool. Just make sure you have water shoes (not flip flops) if you want to visit the falls.
Quick tip: you can order pizza to go from Giuseppe’s in the evening if you need a snack or just want a casual dinner.
We have a great vacation and would definitely return!
- Official Description (provided by the hotel):
- Discover the undiscovered. Journey to a forgotten Jamaica where the natural beauty is simply unforgettable. Within a 500-acre wilderness preserve, blue mountains, lush palm groves, pristine coastlines and shimmering turquoise waters create an unbelievable backdrop for a monumental resort. Sandals Whitehouse Europe Village & Spa perfectly blends the exotic allure of the Caribbean with the refined elegance of Europe. Charming Italian piazzas and fountains are surrounded by gardens resplendent with fragrant foliage, while three European-inspired villages – Italian, French and Dutch – are home to luxuriously-appointed, all oceanfront rooms and suites. Each one offers magnificent views overlooking the two-mile long beach, and top tier suites come with Sandals’ legendary Butler Service. Seven restaurants serve mouthwatering gourmet cuisine from around the world, and entertainment ranges from a sophisticated piano bar to bonfire beach parties and a chic nightclub. This resort is truly a world unto itself, where time is all but forgotten and the only moment is now. World Travel Awards: Sandals Resorts “World’s Leading All – Inclusive Company,” 16 years in a row. Sandals Resorts “Caribbean’s Leading Hotel Brand,” 18 years in a row. Sandals Whitehouse “Jamaica’s Leading Spa Resort” Five Star Diamond Award, American Academy of Hospitality Sciences. We’re so very pleased to announce that Sandals Whitehouse European Villages & Spa has been named in Condé Nast Traveler’s Voted 2012 Readers' Choice Awards “Top 15 Hotels & Resorts in the Caribbean,” coming in at No. 10 and “Top 30 Resorts in the Caribbean,” coming in at No. 4 as part of the annual “Best in the World” poll. Presented Certificate of Excellence for 2012 and Travelers' Choice Hotel for 2012. ... more less
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- Also Known As:
- Sandals Whitehouse European Village Hotel Whitehouse
- Whitehouse Sandals
- Sandals Whitehouse Jamaica