Iberostar is a hotel and resort brand that's largely unfamiliar to Americans - it's Spanish-owned and more European in feel than its heavily advertised counterpart, Sandals. But there is no question – for this review, it’s head-to-head competition between Iberostar and Sandals.
In my book, Iberostar is the winner. My comparison is made between Sandals at Ocho Rios with the Iberostar Rose Hall Suites at Montego Bay, which has extensive sand beachfront. Considering sales and specials frequently available on rates, both are comparably priced. Rios (neither of the Sandals properties at Montego Bay appealed to me for their lack of beachfront.
Two big advantages for Iberostar.
Advantage #1: It was extremely convenient, 100 yards or less, from any given suite to the pool and beach. Iberostar’s private beach was nearly a half-mile long. At Sandals Ocho Rios, it was a hike or shuttle bus/golf cart ride, and the expanse of sand beach was more limited.
Iberostar, just like Sandals, grooms its beach throughout the day. Ocean bottom in the swim area at Iberostar was fine sand and some sea grasses, both clean and easy to walk on.
Advantage #2: Simply stated, the food at Iberostar Rose Hall Suites was better than Sandals. Hands down.
Sandals is the winner in accommodation category, offering villas and bigger, some with private pools, at their Ocho Rios facility. These villas seemed to offer a maximum of privacy. Iberostar is more of a hotel-style, with roomy suites as the standard with larger suites available. (While both hotels include alcohol as part of their all-inclusive rate, Iberostar’s in-room mini-bar was disappointing, with only a few beers and some water on stock. At Sandals, just tell them your favorites, and they are bottomless bottles – applies to both alcoholic beverages or nonalcoholic).
There is no lack of native Jamaican fare at Iberostar restaurants. Native dishes were offered as an option for every meal at the perpetual Buffet and for most meals at the Steak House. Tip: Test the jerk sauce before applying liberally. It seemed to vary from just hot to “you’re on fire” type-hot from restaurant to restaurant.
Some details about food at Iberostar Rose Hall Suites: There were five restaurants available in this all-inclusive resort, plus an extensive buffet. The worst of the bunch was the Steak House. The setting, while perfect for lunch on the beach, was inappropriate setting for evening dining. Quality of the steaks were mediocre, at best, and certainly not aged or treated special in any way. However, the Steak House becomes a different restaurant at lunchtime, and it’s perfect for the beach. We ate there for lunch regularly (with a beach barbecue every Tuesday & Thursday).
On the other hand, the Mediterranean restaurant was excellent and worth a second visit. I’ve been to the Mediterranean (the real one), but I’m not sure that the chef of this restaurant has made that same trip. There wasn’t much “Mediterranean” about the place at all. However, they served excellent seafood, fresh and well-prepared.
The so-called Gourmet restaurant also was very good. Don’t panic when they serve you the appetizer – the portions are small, although you’ll get enough to eat by the time it’s all over.
In summary, I’d recommend Iberostar Rose Hall Suites or the Beach Club, wherever you get the better rate. The Suites, the Beach Club and the Grand Hotel are part of the same complex. Guests at Rose Hall can use the Beach Club facilities and vice versa. Only the Grand maintains its facilities as exclusive (although they do share the beach).
It’s important to shop rates for all three of these hotels. There are even periods in the off-season when the posh Grand has all-inclusive rates lower than the other two.
One more remark to travelers: Unless you walk the street wearing a police uniform, you will almost undoubtedly be offered ganja (marijuana), which remains illegal in Jamaica but is only enforced against tourists in the most rare cases. If you’re American, and you’re offered ganja, keep in mind that this is not your country and not your customs. A polite “No thanks” will usually be quite enough.
Travelers note: Iberostar does not have an American merchants point of view when it comes to liberal refunds or credits. Their motto should be: “We got your money, and you don’t.” Just keep it in mind when you travel here – their reputation and travel in hurricane season caused me to double down on trip interruption insurance.
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- Also Known As:
- Iberostar Rose Hall Hotel Rose Hall
- Iberostar Montego Bay
- Iberostar Rose Hall Suites Jamaica - Montego Bay