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Reviewed December 10, 2008

Arrival
Visited the Riu Ocho Rios from November 30th to December 7th. Booked through Sunquest and flew on Skyservice. Landed in Montego Bay around 10:30am. Made it to the resort by 1pm. Take some food with you on the plane and don't buy any food/drinks on the way to the resort, very expensive and it's free when you get there. Prices are never listed, so always ask before you buy. Some fellow travellers bought four Jamaican Suprises at the rest stop, 36USD! Imagine their surprise. The resort is located about 10 minutes out of Ocho Rios and close to Dunn's River Falls.

Room
Our room was not ready until 3:30pm. However, you get the bracelet so you can begin the festivities as soon as you arrive. They keep your bags for you. We were given an oceanfront room on the top floor of building 1 (deluxe wing). The room had a king bed, sunken living area, jacuzzi tub, safe, bar and fridge (mixers, water, and Red Stripe beer). The view was incredible. You're also given towel cards which you must return to the front desk upon checkout. We kept the Do Not Distub sign on the door for most of the week and we requested housekeeping only three times during our stay. Saw the occasional bug around the place, but this is normal for the Caribbean. Tipped a few dollars for the housekeeping. After the weekend rush, check with the front desk to see if there's an upgrade available. You may get lucky.

Resort
The resort is about a 10 minute walk from the main road situated directly on the beach, right next to the Sandals property. It consists of 3 buildings joined together by the lobby, restaurants and bars. There are two large swimming pools both with swim-up bars. The lobby itself is quite big with a few sitting areas. There are two gift shops, one in the lobby and one on the beach. There is an internet cafe at the Sports bar. You have to buy your minutes at the gift shop in the lobby. I believe it was 9USD for either half an hour or an hour. Phone calls are expensive. There's a 20USD calling card you can buy that gives you 52 minutes. However, there's a 2USD charge per call.

Bars
There's no shortage of bars in the resort. There are two swim-up bars, one on the beach, the 24-hours sports bar, nightclub bar, and 3 more in the lobby. The frozen drinks are excellent! Most of the alcohol is bottom shelf. They use Appleton occasionally. The main beer is Red Stripe and is available everywhere. Two nights a week there's a specialty Martini bar setup in the lobby. Majority of the bartenders were super friendly, tip or no tip. We would tip if we were sitting at the bar being served by the same bartender for an extended period of time. Alcohol flows freely in this place. There is a shortage of servers so you definitely have to make your way to the bar everytime you need a drink, whether you're in the lobby, entertainment area, or on the beach.

Food
Breakfast was at the St. Ann's buffet everyday. There's an omelette station and a variety of pretty standard breakfast items. There's also some local fare each day, be sure to try it. I had fried fish sandwiches a few times. There's something for everyone here.
Lunch was spent at the jerk hut on the beach most of the week. It was really good! You also have the italian restaurant (pizza, pasta, etc) and the buffet restaurant (big selection) as other options.
Dinner was a mix of the restaurants and the Buffet. The Japanese restaurant (Tushima) was average. The sushi was the best part of the meal. The beef main course seemed to be the most popular. Try the Sake. The Steak House was great. The cut of beef was suprisingly good and cooked just right. The Sir Richard's Gourmet was the best by far. I had the Grouper one night, and the Beef Tenderloin the other. The wine in this restaurant is a bit better quality. The resort was not very busy so making reservations was not a big deal. The other nights we ate at the St. Ann's dinner bufftet. There were different themes throughout the week. Be sure to eat there when they have Jamaican night and Seafood night (all you can eat lobster!). Although it's 24-hour inclusive there really isn't much to eat between midnight and 7am. The 24-hour sports bar has nachos and a few suspicious looking sandwiches. Overall we were satisfied with the food and beverages but would have liked to have seen more Jamaican cuisine available. Not a lot of local fruits either. We did tip a few dollars at almost all of our meals.

Beach and Pool
Only visited the pool in the late afternoons after leaving the beach. Lots of loungers available. Water is chilly. The pool near the deluxe wing is very quiet and almost always deserted. The resort has a long stretch of beach with lots of loungers. Beach does not compare to the ones in Barbados, Varadero, or the Mayan Riviera. Quite a bit of seaweed and the sand is not as soft. Lots of cigarette butts in the sand. Resort needs to do a better job of cleaning up. It's still a great place to lay back, relax and get some sun. Approached by 2 or 3 vendors the entire week. Just a quick 'No Thanks' and they left us alone. Never felt harassed or unsafe. Toughest decision is deciding whether to sit next to the Jerk Hut or the Bar (Opposite ends). There's the occasional topless sunbather.

Entertainment/Activities
There are a few beach activites during the day: soccer, volleyball, aerobics, reggae and soca dance lessons. The reggae dance lessons are fun. Tennis is also included. We did not do any of the water sports. The hardest working staff at the resort are the entertainment crew. The shows are great and these guys really do a good job of keeping everyone engaged. Be sure to catch the Beach Party and the Reggae Night. Both reggae bands were really good..

Excursions/Shopping
Did not do any excursions through the resort or Sunquest. Hired a taxi and he took us around Ocho Rios and to Dunn's River falls. The cost was 45USD+tip for about 4 hours. The entrance fee at Dunn's was 15USD. Go to Dunn's on your own, don't go with a tour group. Hire a private guide and they will take you up alone and take pictures of you with your own camera. A tip of about 5USD per person. Went shopping in Ocho Rios. There's a small 'Duty Free' shopping area with a Crafts Market just across the street. Everything is negotiable. Buy your Bob Marley souvenirs at these stores. Much cheaper than at the resort. A good quality Bob Marley t-shirt will cost about 12-15USD and they're 30USD at the resort. All the items in the duty free shops have price tags. You can negotiate for about 30-40% off what's listed. I recommend getting your Blue Mountain Coffee here. The craft market has a lot of great canvasses, sculptures etc. The locals are friendly as long as you're friendly. 50% of the asking price is about right here. Regardless of what anyone says, the alcohol is cheaper at the airpot. The Appleton 12 year old (black box) is 17USD at the airport, 40USD at the resort, and 20USD in town. If you want to go to Margaritaville, there's bus most night from the resort that will take you there and bring you back. Some nights it's free, other nights it's 15USD per person. That includes cover charge. Wednesday nights seems to be the most popular night there. For excursions I recommend you shop around. Best bet is to get a few people together and hire a driver.

Departure
Bus picked us up at 7am. Contrary to what the Sunquest rep said, there was no early breakfast (Buffet opens at 7am). Made it to the airport with enough time to spare. There are lots of places to eat in the airport after you check-in. Also, there are 3 stores to buy alcohol from. The two further down terminal have a better selection. Apart from the alcohol, everything else is more expensive at the airport.

Had a great time in Jamaica and would definitely go back. Next time we'll probably visit Negril as we heard the beaches are much nicer there.

  • Stayed: December 2008, traveled as a couple
    • Value
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3  Thank Nesta
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Reviewed December 10, 2008

We booked a 2 week stay at the Riu Ochos Rios for our honeymoon at the end of November, paying an upgrade to a deluxe room. Here are my views of our holiday.

DELUXE ROOM - Just dont bother to upgrade. Yes you get access to the Japanese (which is really good), but the Sir Richard restaurant serves the same as the St John (its just a way of splitting guests). The room is slightly bigger, but we had to move half way through are holiday due to mould growing across the sofa and stinky mould blowing out the aircon. Why dont they have an extractor fan in the bathroom??? We just felt it wasnt worth the upgrade, especially as during our stay (apart from mouldy sofas) we had a broken hair dryer, a safe that fell apart, broken patio door, ants in the room and cockroaches coming out the vent in the wardrobe. Yuk!

HOTEL POOL AREA & BEACH - Very nice and always sun loungers available however beach always dirty with washed up, shoes, plastic milk bottles etc. Beach sellers are not allowed to walk up the beach out of the water and the jets ski traders are not allowed pass the roped off area, but what they do is yell at you all the time even if you say no. Hardly relaxing!!! Keep to the quiet pool if you have kids. Some of the entertainment was a bit suggestive at times……..

FOOD & RESTAURANTS – I really enjoyed the food there was so much selection although sometimes you had to walk right across the hotel complex to get to the part serving food. We tried all the speciality restaurants and felt we were being rushed to get out of all except the Japanese. The Chinese & Sir Richard were so-so, the Japanese and the Steak house were really good. It was nice to have the Italian open 12pm-12am for a sneaky slice of pizza. The reservation system was a total joke but in the day we left they changed it so it may be ok now?

BARS – Saying there are 7 bars makes you think that there is lots of choice. Not so. 3 are beach/pool bars that shut at 6pm and 3 are all within the evening entertainment area, leaving the 7th in the Sports bar. So basically at night you choose the main entertainment or the sports bar – that’s it. The quality of the drink is superb tho. Top end spirits, red stripe or cocktails and if your cocktail is not on the list they will make it for you. During the day (especially between 3pm and 6pm) there are always large groups of people getting very drunk and shouting very loud at the pool bars. Nice.

EVENING ENTERTAINMENT – They try their best (they really do) but this is Butlins style stuff. Some of the nights are ok, but some are brain numbing. There are only so many nights you can watch people miming to songs and doing dance routines.

NIGHTCLUB – Dark, dingy and stinks of sick. Plays RnB and seems to be used as a copping off shop for drunks.

THE “PERSONAL TOUCH” – My husband tried for three days running to ask if it could be noted that it was our honeymoon and could they do something (anything) special. Each day they said yes come back tomorrow and each morning when he went back they hadn’t bothered to note it was out honeymoon and told him to come back the next day. We gave up after a bit and resided ourselves to the fact the RIU just didn’t care.

WEATHER – We had 3 x half days of sun in 2 weeks. Aside from that it was cloudy and/or bucketing it down with rain. It’s a very bad design that half of the evening entertainment area is uncovered so gets washed out and everyone crowds together at the front.

BLUE MOUNTAIN BIKE RIDE TRIP - It was good despite heavy rain. Not for the faint hearted with the narrow roads and sheer drops on the side. Not just when you’re on the bike, but just getting up the mountain. At points the road was no wider than the bus with a ravine at the side.

DUNNS RIVER FALLS TRIP - You must be in good health. You really are climbing up large rocks in a strong current and its disorganised chaos.

SHOPPING IN OCHO RIOS – We didn’t even try after driving through the town on the way to a trip. I would not like to put myself in that as a tourist. Others talked of stabbings and police beatings on the streets.

THANKSGIVING – This happened in the middle of our stay. Restaurants were made unavailable without notice, reservation system was suspended without notice and the bar staff were struggling to serve everyone so all the cheery smiles were nowhere to be seen. Avoid this time if possible

All in all I would maybe go back to Jamaica but at a time of year when the sun shines (!). Would I go back to the RIU Ocho Rios? NO! It was in my view a barely acceptable 4 star hotel not the luxury affair we were led to believe or paid for.

  • Stayed: November 2008, traveled as a couple
    • Value
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2  Thank CatLadyUk
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Reviewed December 8, 2008

The way I describe our stay at the Riu is that it is something along the lines of what you see on all of those spring break commercials that you always wondered about but never went on in college.

Our room was decent, we had a water view but mildew reigned surpreme by the end of our visit. The room was always clean so the service was nice and they put that little towel on the edge of your bed folded up like objects and animals. Nice touch.

The food is pretty poor. If you spend a week at the RIU you are desperate for something other than buffett in the morning and lunch (eat the jerk chicken at the hut on the beach...awesome!) The dinner places were all pretty medium. We found the Japanese place to be the best but still wanting.

The pools are fabulous. The kids had fun. We found the first day that the east pool is absolutely not for the kids. The "entertainment" staff is singularly fixated on making sure the women reveal or suggest. Once we figured out that the west pool is "entertainment" free we spent the rest of our trip there.

The night entertainment is campy and adult oriented. We went to bed early each night, mostly because we were bushed and not because we were trying to avoid seeing it.

The beach is extraordinary (I swear I am not a prude despite this post .... just a daddy). They clean the beach every morning. The water is warm, but the positives end there. My daughter talks about the toothbrush we found in the water among other random bits of waste. There is a roped off area beyond which the locals patrol in boats and jet skis hoping to entice you outside of the protected area and into the forbidden realm of stinky jetskis and herb.

And the herb deserves its special place in this review...not its consumption but general observations about the men wandering up and down the beach selling it. Picture yourself building a sand castle with your two children when a local approaches you with a "shell" saying "hey come look at my souveniers". You approach him thinking "nice shell" and he holds the shell up and says "want to buy some marijuana?" You blink and say..."I'm here with my two children, building a sand castle and you are trying to sell me DRUGS? REALLY??!!" And so forth.

Overall, we chalk the experience up to "interesting". A week of rain will surely sour one's view of even the nicest hotel so take this with a grain of salt...but these were the general lows that are so interesting and out of pace with our usual style that they are worth mentioning for those with wee ones who prefer to preserve the grace of youth.

  • Stayed: November 2008
    • Value
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4  Thank jrwash
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Reviewed December 8, 2008

There are many who complain about this hotel - but we had no problems and stayed there between November 28 and Dec 5 in a Junior Suite.
Do yourself a favour book in the Deluxe wing (with a Junior suite) and I doubt you will have as many problems as some of the previous guests mentioned.
The resort is located on a secluded white sandy beach protected by a coral reef about 10 miles from Ocho Rios. The water is see to the bottom clear and is warmer than the air once you get used to it and take the plunge. I have tried to list as many things about this place below. Keep in mind I have been to five or six All-inclusive hotels in the past five years and rate this place as one of the best ever - plus the prices before high season (xmas and after) can't be beat.

Beach: White powder sand, clear water, and soft bottom (no water shoes necessary) - water is warm like bathwater - and it is definately nicer to hang out here than the chlorinated swimming pools though they are nice too.

Pools: Large and shallow with plenty of places to sit and lounge - you won't have to reserve a chair as there are plenty and putting your towels down and leaving them there all day is actually against hotel policy (this is great as other people at other resort I've been to hog loungers all day and don't use them).

Restaraunts:
Buffet - Don't know what all the complaints are about - they were really good with a wide selection of vegetables and main courses - beef, chicken, pork, seafood and vegan. The staff are attentive and always help you if you aren't a skin flint and make sure to leave $1 (USD) on your table at every meal. It isn't so much considering we all leave huge tips for service in restaraunts at home. There is a dinner buffet which serves until 10:30 / a breakfast buffet open from 7 a.m. till 11:30 a.m. and a Italian buffet (very good pizza) which is open from noon till midnight....Don't forget to visit the Jerk shack at the far end of the beach which provides authentic Jamaican Jerk Chicken and pork with real rice and peas!!!

A'La Carte - Tried the Tashima and Sir Richards - both were very good with special attention paid to the apetizers. FYI - the sushi at Tashima comes as an ap and is very fresh and good. Sir Richards was also very nice - The buffet's were so nice we only ate at the A'La Carte's twice.

Bars: Plentiful and you don't have to wait too long to get a drink. They often make the drinks a little watered down - I think this is to accomodate the light weights - but just ask for them strong. The Pina Colada's are very good - they also make Mojitos and Mudslides or anything else your liver craves.

Rooms: Some complained about the musty smells but I suspect this might be water damage from the hurricane season. The best bet here is to pay a little bit more and book a junior suite in the deluxe wing. All rooms come equiped with a mini fridge with RED STRIPE, COKE, ORANGE, TONIC and Wata - and fully stocked bar with Jamaican Rum (appleton's), Jamaican Brandy, Vodka and Gin. They are really good about stalking up and for a few extra bucks tip you can convince them to bring anything you want - officially they only re-stock every two days but just ask and it will be done.

Housekeeping: Top notch - again - leave a buck or two and you will get that extra attention. Bring a present for your maid and let her and the other staff know you appreciate their hard work. Keep in mind that these people work very long hours and deserve an extra buck - don't we all!!!

Grounds: Spotless and beautiful with carefully trimmed hedges and bushes - I like a closely trimmed bush but then again most former groundskeepers do.

Lobby: Spacious and big with comfortable chairs and great local art work. Front desk staff is very attentive despite past reviews slamming them and will bend over backwards to make sure your trip is the best.

The trip to Town: We used taxi driver Glenroy Coleman - who was great - he can do any excursion anywhere and can be reached [----] and provides airport transfers if needed....Get him to drop you off in one of the shopping complexes because life on the street in Jamaica outside the security of a shopping centre can be grueling - street vendors are aggressive and sometimes a simple no isn't good enough - where a hard hat if you do go shopping.

Excursions: Used this trip to relax and didn't go to any of the tourist sites though from what I hear Dunn's River Falls, James Bond Beach and Mystic Mountain are worth it if you want to ante up the cash.

Animation staff: Okay this is one of the best parts of the trip. Each night they put on a different play and keep your eye on the cast here cause some of them are so talented I'm thinking they may end up on the silver screen or part of the next broadway hit (not kidding). These young men and women practice hard all day long on the stage and work long hours and put on a great show - you won't be disapppointed and will have a great time watching them perform on a stage which includes a good sound system and acoustics and also has plenty. There is also a band which plays reggae music on some nights which just adds to it

Hippie stuff: Beware if you are a just say 'no' type that many people will try and offer you things like weed and coke and others. If you are not interested just sa 'No' if you are just say 'yo'.
I don't do hard drugs but found the local low end greenery to be plentiful and affordable and easy to find if you are interested in that type of thing. If you have kids tell them to be aware that there will be people pushing stuff and to stay clear of them or keep them clear yourself. Its Jamaica and almost half the population are rastafarians and use the green as a daily sacrament so it is in abundance. Just use common sense, don't bring it out in public and be discrete about it....

10 per cent stuff: To be honest my partner and I had read about the homophobic attitude in Jamaica but we experienced very little of this because we are discreet and didnt go looking for trouble. It is true many of the strong religious currents in this country lead to a less than accomodating attitude towards homosexuals but if you don't flaunt it you won't receive any of the negative treatment that you have read about. If you are that 10 per cent of the population don't pass up a great trip to a place like the Riu because of what you have read or a few nasty lyrics in a dance hall reggae song. Come with respect and understanding and you will get the same back

TV: Well you arent' there to watch tv but the cable system has about 35 channels - mostly US but some German and Spanish programming. The best thing though is to watch Jamaican TV - the news programming is top notch and in the evening (monday i think) they have a cute little Junior School Quiz challenge show which is a must to see - its a game show for kids and these students will blow your mind and have answers to questions that will surprise you - super smart! For soccer fans there is a FoxSoccer Channel so you can watch English and Italian soccer, etc.

Sports: Beach soccer at 430 p.m. and volleyball and arobics plus other activitiies provided by the animation staff. There is also a lit tennis court with a basketball hoop too. There is a gym somewhere on the complex but after working out every day at home all I did was swim and play beach soccer - the change was welcome...There are also plenty of water sports and you can rent out everything there and I think kayaks are free - bring your own floatie - air matress and paddle around yourself at your own leisure...

Don't forget: Have fun and enjoy your experience. The warm weather and friendly smiles of Jamaicans should be enough to relax you and make your troubles melt away. Just come with an easy going attitude and you will leave in a good frame of mind.

  • Stayed: December 2008, traveled as a couple
    • Value
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6  Thank Bofo
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Reviewed December 8, 2008

My husband and I attended a wedding at this resort which involved a weeklong stay at the end of November. We found the resort to be extremely well kept, great, friendly staff, lovely manicured grounds and comfortable facilities. The wedding on the beach with a steel band was beautiful.

Although the weather was a bit rainy we were able to lie on the beach most days and had one hot day with lots of ocean swimming.

We dined at Sir John's, Mandalay and Mammee Bay. They were all very good. The buffet was plentiful with lots of choice and we also enjoyed the Jerk Hut. We did find the reservation system to be a big negative factor.... there's got to be a better way! I've never seen this system anywhere else and it begs the question ... why?

The entertainment was great. We took in most evening shows and were very impressed with the talent and energy level of the entertainers. They work very hard.

Our room was spacious, clean and well equipped. We had a beautiful view, from our balcony, of the wedding gazebo below , the pool and the ocean. Our maid was pleasant and thorough.

The pool was cold, I wonder why it can't be heated. There were thousands of guests at the resort and we saw no more than 5 people in either pool at any time and for most of the week it was empty...what a waste. A heated pool would have gone a long way to compensating for weather that was less than great. The ocean was a good deal warmer than the pool.

One word of warning for those interested in venturing off the resort... we went on the shopping shuttle into Ocho Rios and were told to check out the crafts at the local craft area there.
This was not a good experience. The vendors were very aggressive, rude and almost threatening if you weren't willing to buy something from them. Our friend's son and his friend, both tall fit young men in their 20s, felt harassed into buying a carving they didn't want. They left the area immediately afterward.

All in all this was a really good experience for us and a great setting to enjoy a get-away with old friends and celebrate the wedding of a lovely young couple.

  • Stayed: November 2008, traveled on business
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2  Thank olg
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
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