Almost every time a staffer in a golf cart passed me while I was walking to/from my butler suite at Sandals Ochi Beach Resort, he or she offered me a lift. Why? (a) The resort covers a lot of ground. (b) The employees really know how to provide service. (c) I looked incapable of walking without adult supervision.
Class, your job is to pick the two correct answers.
Hint: Sandals Ochi, covering more than 100 acres, is the largest of all Sandals, with 529 rooms/suites, 105 pools, 16 restaurants, 11 bars, and 5,000 sq. ft. of meeting space. It didn’t strike me as crowded, though, even during a sold-out weekend. It helps that when Sandals converted its Grande Riviera Beach & Villa Golf Resort into Ochi it invested more than $60 million.
The Great House lobby-restaurants complex and the Butler Village, where I stayed, lie across the road from the beach. My Butler Village Honeymoon Poolside One-Bedroom Villa Suite, one of four such suites in a 2-story villa with its own pool, had a living room, balcony, mahogany furniture including a four-poster bed, Jamaican Blue Mountain coffee, USB ports, and WiFi. And it had a butler: Suzie-Ann, who met me in a golf cart she called her “Jamaican limo.”
What could be better? Perhaps the Butler Village Honeymoon Romeo & Juliet Sanctuary One Bedroom Villa Suites with Private Pool. Each Sanctuary is enclosed by a wall behind which lies a bedroom, living room, kitchen (guests can enjoy in-room breakfasts), and courtyard with pool. The staff strews hibiscus flowers on the bed.
Sandals Ochi offers “enticing price points,” too, says travel consultant and Sandals-Beaches specialist Kim Goldstein. The Sanctuaries start at about $5,880 per couple per week, including taxes and gratuities, or you could book a week in the Great House for as little as $2,866.
On my first morning, I had breakfast at Southern Table in the Great House. Omelet stations are de rigueur in the Caribbean, but this one was exceptional because the cook didn’t squeeze the fluffiness out of the eggs. When I was finished, a waiter asked, “May I take your plate?” I said, “Yes, please,” to which he said, “Yeah, Mon; awesome!”
Now, that’s enthusiasm, and the drivers who shuttled guests to/from the beach, where there are also rooms in high-rises, had it, too. Divided into sections, this beach will not upstage Sandals Negril, but it’s still big enough for guests to have personal space, and the pool, entertainment, and parties (Sexy Sundays, anyone?) at the Beach Club were fun. “I like to book Ochi for active clients who want a variety of activities, entertainment and most importantly, lots of fun!” says Goldstein. Exactly.
Now, I could have gone to the Red Lane Spa, played volleyball or tennis, gone scuba diving (included), played at the Sandals Golf & Country Club (greens fees included), participated in group games, or just hung out at my villa pool. Or I could have taken some Island Routes excursions because, notes Goldstein, “Ochi is so close to Dunn’s River Falls, Mystic Mountain, and other attractions.” However, I kept returning to the beach for a kayak, a stand-up paddleboard, a sailboat.
I also kept eating. Many of Ochi’s restaurants are on the waterfront. I never got to Soy, but I did enjoy coconut red snapper fillet with ginger sauce at Neptune’s, on the beach. At Kelly’s Dockside, on a pier, I devoured the sampler, with conch fritters, cured Italian meats, artichokes, fried rice noodles, and a Robert Mondavi cabernet. When I couldn’t decide between the snapper and clams with lime broth and the swordfish with squash puree and Kalamata olives at Sky Terrace, the waiter said, “I’ll bring you some of both!” Back at the Great House, the Manor’s haute Caribbean cuisine (e.g. guava BBQ pork ribs) was sublime.
On my last night I entered the Rabbit Hole (another Goldstein recommendation), the first speakeasy in the Caribbean, where the bartenders kept people’s glasses full and the singer performing 1920s and ‘30s hits had a voice like Bessie Smith.
Note to Butch and Adam Stewart: Any chance I can talk you into opening a Rabbit Hole in New York City?