Jamaica: Back to Basics

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And that’s not the only reason boutique resorts are appealing, North continues. “The smaller, boutique-style resorts offer travelers a personalized, more intimate experience along with an authentic Jamaican experience. Guests often feel at home on the resort and can find a peaceful quiet getaway.” And that’s a bonus for both clients and their agents, she adds. “Agents can rest assured that their clients are being well taken care of and will come back with an incredible experience to share with their friends and family.”

Jamaica certainly offers plenty of choices in the boutique resort market. Island Outpost, the collection to which GoldenEye belongs, also comprises four other boutique hotels, with styles ranging from seaside retreat (The Caves in Negril and Jake’s in Treasure Beach) to swanky hotspot (Geejam near Port Antonio) to mountaintop wellness escape (Strawberry Hill in the Blue Mountains).

But Island Outpost properties aren’t the only ones to experience success here. Rockhouse, a 34-room resort offering villa-style accommodations, puts a twist on the traditional seaside experience by offering accommodations along a scenic stretch of cliffs in Negril. Gazebos, platforms and sun-drenched patios throughout offer guests a unique counterpart to traditional beach vacations. And its spa was recently noted by Conde Nast Traveler as one of the hottest on the globe.

But perhaps Jamaica’s biggest boutique hotel success story is the recent rebranding of Royal Plantation. For years, the 74-room resort operated separately from the other brands with which it was connected—Sandals and Beaches Resorts—in order to maintain its upscale, luxury appeal. But today, the property has added the Sandals title to its name, and is now known as Sandals Royal Plantation, maintaining its membership in The Leading Small Hotels of the World in the process. The rebranding, which debuted in October, will change the resort from EP to all-inclusive, but that’s just about the only difference clients will notice. Like many boutique resorts in Jamaica, Sandals Royal Plantation continues to offer high-end amenities like butler service and its famed champagne and caviar bar. Each of its guestrooms features ocean views and top shelf liquors in the rooms, and its spa still offers indulgent treatments using local ingredients. The new name also adds more variety to the guest experience with the Sandals dine around program, letting guests sample the restaurants at other Sandals properties in Ocho Rios at no cost.

The Royal Plantation’s rebranding is proof, perhaps, that the prescient minds at Sandals have also recognized the ever-increasing demand for boutique-style experiences. And that’s not surprising, North notes.

“Funjet Vacations is seeing significant demand for Jamaica overall, and the island offers resorts and destinations to suit every vacation style,” she explains. “But as people are starting to look more and more for an authentic Jamaica experience, some of the boutique-style properties are very appealing. These resorts offer an incredible value with unique accommodations and amenities, great dining and personalized service. These boutique-style resorts can offer a…laid-back experience where guests feel like they are very much a part of the resort.”

Funjet Vacations has a 3-night hotel-only package Jan. 13-16 to Sandals Royal Planation for two people at $2,165.41 in Royal Orchid Oceanfront Butler Suite accommodations.