What a thrill to have visited our third out of three Beaches Resorts (with big-ups to Air Canada Vacations for making this recent trip a success!). I’ll be writing a comparison post of all three resorts as well, but I first wanted to provide you with a full Beaches Ocho Rios review so you can decide if this all-inclusive hotel in Ocho Rios is right for your family.
(Pssst! There’s also a temporary coupon code at the end of this post to help you save $200 when you book your Beaches Ocho Rios getaway with Air Canada Vacations.)
First off, Beaches Ocho Rios is more than just a hotel. It’s a well-rounded family resort with all of the amenities you’d expect in an all-inclusive — and then some. If you’re looking for a basic hotel on a beach, keep looking. This ain’t it. It’s so much more and this Beaches Ocho Rios review is going to give it to you straight, so read on.
An overview of Beaches Ocho Rios
You probably already know that this Beaches resort is an all-inclusive hotel in Ocho Rios, which is about a 1.5-hour drive from the Montego Bay airport. That 1.5 hours can stretch to 2 hours depending on traffic, so settle into a seat near a plug!
It’s a smooth ride and Beaches does a great job the minute you arrive at the airport and collect your luggage. Just head to the Sandals and Beaches lounge while your bags are tagged and loaded into the shuttle — here, you’ll find washrooms, beverages (including bottled water and Red Stripe on tap!), rum cakes and snacks that you can take along for the ride.
My Beaches Ocho Rios review below will cover everything from rooms to restaurants and beaches to coconuts, but here’s some topline info about the smallest of the three Beaches Resorts:
- There are only 223 rooms — it’s got a cozy, boutique-y vibe
- There are seven restaurants
- You’ll find premium, international alcohol brands at each of the six bars (including one swim-up bar and one overlooking the ocean called Opa Sunset Bar)
- The resort is “stacked” rather than spread out, which makes getting from here to there more of a vertical effort (going up and down an elevator or stairs) than a distance challenge like you’d find at some of the bigger Caribbean all-inclusives
- Beaches Ocho Rios is fully all-inclusive; unless you want a specialty wine with dinner, a special character experience or choose to get, say, your PADI dive certificate while on vacation, just about everything at your fingertips — like food, booze and sports — is included
- There’s no tipping allowed. And they mean it. So lock your wallet in the safe and don’t give it another thought
- Beaches Ochi uses key cards for the rooms (it’ll be so great when more all-inclusive resorts move to encoded wristbands because then you don’t need to carry around anything if you don’t want to)
- Beaches always feels safe and Ocho Rios is considered safe, too; I’d never hesitate coming to an all-inclusive resort in Jamaica
- Wi-Fi at the resort is included and excellent. I didn’t find any dead zones and speeds were consistently strong
- You can safely drink the water from the tap at Beaches Ocho Rios if you really want to. Personally, for drinking, I’d grab a bottled water from your mini fridge or a bar, but you don’t need to worry a bit about brushing your teeth with tap water
- It’s the least expensive of the three Beaches Resorts and offers a great introduction to the brand for a less hefty investment
Rooms at Beaches Ocho Rios
The Beaches in Ocho Rios has fewer rooms than its sister properties but there are some amazing oceanfront views for a number of them if that’s what you like best for a beach-y getaway.
We saw a room in the Caribbean “village” (which I use loosely because the villages here are less defined than at the other two Beaches Resorts), which had a nice, big king bed plus a daybed with a trundle. This would be the room category I’d book if we were travelling as a family. Even without the ocean view. It’s just a more comfortable arrangement for families our size (and I don’t mean that in terms of numbers — there are only four of us — but in terms of physical size).
There are four big villages at the sprawling property in Providenciales. Read my Beaches Turks & Caicos review to find out more about them.
We stayed in the Greek village, which is comprised entirely of Concierge-level rooms. These are priced a bit higher than the luxury level, which is the least expensive option, but you can’t beat the view. Each room faces the ocean and has a front porch area along a boardwalk. Waking up to that each morning was bliss.
I can only speak to the room layout we personally had, though, which was two double beds and a small pullout sofa. When you have a partner who’s 6’6″ and your 11 year old is already wearing men’s clothes and shoes, two double beds are not an ideal scenario. It worked perfectly for my son and I — each getting our own bed — but if the whole family had been there, I would have requested a move to the room we saw in the Caribbean area. Otherwise, it would be Big B in a double bed (trying his best to sleep on a diagonal), Miss Q and me squished into a double and The K Man on the pullout sofa.
Otherwise, the footprint of the room was pretty good. There was enough room to move around and the closets, drawers and bathroom were all big enough for our things. Two people would not be able to get ready in the washroom at the same time, but that’s never a deal-breaker for us. And I should add that two double beds work for many families — just not for ours. So don’t let this be a deterrent if you’re usually comfortable in rooms with this bed configuration.
We had plenty of hot water, morning and night, and the pressure in the shower was fantastic. The lighting in the bathroom was also great for makeup application and there’s an extra cosmetic closeup mirror on the wall, which is always nice to have. (Unless you have a lot of blackheads that you can’t normally see in your mirror at home…in which case, just leave it on the wall. Or else you might lose time in there like I do.)
Our room also had a microwave, coffee maker (with some Blue Mountain coffee packets!), a fully stocked bar fridge and small seating area.
The Greek village location is super convenient for beach fun (there’s even an elevator between the two banks of “Greek veranda” rooms that will take you straight to the beach), and a very short walk from Josephine’s (crepes and coffee) and the French village pool; the spa; and Neptunes, an oceanside restaurant. The main pool and remaining restaurants aren’t much farther — because nothing is far in this compact resort.
The Concierge rooms get you priority check-in and a concierge team that’s located near your room. They’re available to help you book a photography session (free with SnapShots — just pay for the shots you love), book dinner reservations, help you get back in your room if/when you lock yourself out, and more. We used the team in some capacity at least once a day, saving us the longer trek back to the front desk. The staff here were friendly and courteous and always willing to help — and help quickly.
Would I book a Concierge-category room JUST to have access to the Concierge team? No. But it sure is a nice perk if you have your heart set on a Concierge-level room.
Note that there are no butler suites at the Ocho Rios property, but there are Together Nest Suites if you’re looking for even more luxe accommodations. We didn’t see these during our visit, so I can’t tell you much more about them.
Fun at Beaches Ocho Rios
There’s enough fun to be had at Beaches Ochi that you won’t be bored during a weeklong vacation with kids:
- Sandals Golf & Country Club — Beaches Ocho Rios guests get a free shuttle to and from the course plus free green fees, but a US$20 caddy is mandatory. Club and cart rentals are also available should you want or need them, and the prices aren’t crazy. This is also the only Beaches Resort that has a kids’ golf program; the only hitch is that kids aren’t allowed on the green until noon and it’s pretty sweltering in Jamaica at noon. There is a breeze since you’re 750 feet above sea level once you’re at the course, but be prepared to sweat. And there’s also a standard golf dress code in effect for golfers — kids included!
- Snorkeling and SCUBA diving — sadly, I didn’t have enough time to dive during this trip, but one of the major pluses for me with Beaches (and Sandals) vacations is that all of your SCUBA dives are included. This is a money-saver if you’re someone who plans to dive twice a day on vacation, because that can easily ring in at $250+ per day once you factor in equipment rentals. Kids as young as eight years old can work on their certification at Beaches (for an extra charge). There are also organized snorkeling excursions that you can sign up for at the dive shop.
I did plenty of diving in Negril! Read more about how the Beaches SCUBA program works in my Beaches Negril review.
- Watersports — there are sailboats, standup paddleboards (and they’re all big and in great shape) and scheduled banana boat rides each day. Just head over to the watersports area and ask for help/information. The guys working here were awesome!
- Glass-bottom boat — we didn’t have time to get to this at Beaches Ocho Rios, but did try the boat ride at Beaches Negril and it’s a really fun way of seeing some underwater life without having to actually get in the water. For kids like The K Man who are intrigued but not enough to slap on snorkel equipment, this is a great alternative. Sign up at the dive shop for free.
- Waterpark — Pirates Island, how we love you! Even though there’s no lazy river at this Beaches Resort, none of the kids even seemed to notice. They were too busy splashing in the pools and shooting down all of the waterslides. Heck, even most of the adults in our group got in on the action! There are even waterslides for the toddlers and littles, making this a really well-thought-out waterpark for the entire family. BBQ Park (which I’ll touch on below in the food section) is right beside the waterpark, and there’s also a fully stocked bar, so you can spend pretty much the whole day at the waterpark without having to go far for food or drinks. There are lifeguards, and plenty of them, ensuring kids are using the pools and waterslides safely.
- Land sports — basketball, tennis, lawn chess, croquet, pool tables, shuffleboard, ping pong…you name it, Beaches Ocho Rio has it. Good luck getting to everything even with a whole week at this resort! The tennis courts are immaculate, so tennis players in particular are in for a treat.
- Fitness centre — I didn’t go in once, but people seemed to be happily working out inside.
- Babies’, toddlers’ and kids’ clubs — not only are there dedicated rooms and staff for each age group (plus a light-tight nap room with proper cribs for the babies), but the play rooms and schedule are age-appropriate, too. Beaches is also autism-certified and goes above and beyond for guests (young and old) who are on the spectrum.
- XBOX Play Lounge — this was a big fan favourite and our Beaches Ocho Rios review would be a complete fail if we didn’t point out that the XBOX lounge is open to kids of all ages almost around the clock. Staff here were only somewhat helpful, though, so if you need assistance with game set-up or you aren’t already really familiar with the XBOX console and controllers, you’ll have to pull the “big kid” staffers out of their own gaming lounge and press them for help. One of my absolute favourite games — Forza — had a room of its own with a full XBOX integrated racing seat and steering wheel, and I was looking forward to having a go on it, but it was broken the full five days we visited. It’s sitting there like a big tease and should really be fixed or replaced.
- Tween/Teen Lounge — staff WILL ask your kids how old they are and if they aren’t a tween or a teen, they likely won’t be allowed into this lounge that houses air hockey, Foosball and a basketball arcade game. And I think that’s a good thing. It gives bigger kids a space to call their own and hang out with kids their own age, while younger siblings may be right next door in the XBOX Lounge or elsewhere with a kids’ club or parent.
- Sesame Street characters — you’ll find them wandering around the resort, and it’s OK to stop and ask for a high five, a hug and/or a photo.
- Sesame Street breakfast — there is a charge for this, but if your little ones are really into the Sesame Street characters, the extra $16 per child and $12 per adult may be worth it for the extra magic it creates. Be sure to let staff know ahead of time if your child is celebrating something special, like a birthday.
- Club Liquid — I was in my room with my kiddo pretty early every night because we were wiped from the sun and fun, but some of our friends hit the club and said it was pretty fun!
Finally, although you probably won’t find this activity anywhere official, I have to tell you about the turtle release program we were part of with the Sandals Foundation during our visit. Turtle-hatching season is from approximately October through February each year, and — if you’re lucky enough to be at Beaches Ocho Rios when the babies are ready to hatch at nearby Gibraltar Beach, the Sandals Foundation allows a limited number of guests to be part of the experience.
For only about US$30 per person (subject to change), guests take a short shuttle ride to a private beach that sees hundreds of turtles hatch at any given time during the season. On our particular day, we helped 240 or so of these cute little gals — all female because of the temperature at which their eggs were fertilized, we learned — get out to sea.
With the help of a professional conservationist onsite, we learned about these turtle’s odds, how to clean them off after they come out of the sand, and why you can’t touch a baby turtle once they’re officially released and heading towards the water.
This was an extremely special opportunity and it was merely because we were visiting at just the right time. If you meet the same coincidence, I’d urge you to sign up for this!
Here’s the (six minute!) video I took of our baby turtle release, which is how long it took for the front-runners to make it to the ocean.
Food at Beaches Ocho Rios
Having been to Jamaica several times to a few different resorts, I would expect any Ocho Rios all-inclusive resort to have good food. Jamaican food is delicious and our resort experiences across the board have proven that the local food is where it’s at, even served en masse in a resort setting.
If you have no other all-inclusive resort experience to draw from, you’ll have plenty to be happy about dining at Beaches Ocho Rios. However, if you’ve been spoiled at Beaches Negril or Beaches Turks & Caicos, you’ll probably find that this is the one area where Beaches Ocho Rios tends to fall a bit short by comparison.
Curious about what kind of food you’ll find at other Beaches Resorts? This was our experience at all 22 Beaches Turks & Caicos restaurants.
Overall, Beaches Ocho Rios staff at bars and restaurants were polite but a bit stiff, save for a few gems here and there. To be fair, I witnessed a lot of guests (kids and adults) demanding things rather than asking for them and I know that would wear on me as an employee. Don’t get me wrong — you’ll always get what you ask for but you might not always get much enthusiasm served with it.
The buffet is a good option for breakfast, lunch and dinner and there’s something here for everyone — right down to your pickiest eater. For breakfast, for example, it’s got an omelette station with all the fixings (including jalapenos and a variety of protein, like bacon and shrimp), Jamaican goodies like fried plantains and Festivals. Lunch and dinner have a rotating daily themes, like Asian Night.
It’s typical buffet food that you’d expect from above-average resorts and it gets the job done, but breakfast can start to feel pretty repetitive after a few days at the buffet, so be sure to mix it up with some of the a la carte options available.
BBQ Park & Bella Napoli Pizzeria
These, along with Josephine’s (which I’ll get to next) are the foodie stars of the resort. BBQ Park — into which I’m lumping in the pizzeria since they’re under the same roof — had the most consistently excellent food anywhere at Beaches Ocho Rios.
Jamaican patties come in beef and chicken and both are excellent. The chicken is spicier and was my favourite between the two. Ask nicely for some plastic wrap and you can take some with you to the airport to avoid spending a fortune on meals while you wait for your plane to board on the way home.
The jerk chicken is so freaking fantastic that I ordered it three days in a row, and even had it as an afternoon snack one day!
Pro Tip: BBQ Park will also deliver to your room if you have a hankering for jerk chicken late at night!
All of the handmade pizzas at Bella Napoli are outstanding, made fresh-to-order in the onsite pizza oven or also available by the slice to grab-and-go. You can’t go wrong with any of these pizzas. And they’ll even box them up for you if you want to take a full pizza to go (think: back to the waterpark to eat around the pool, down to the beach or back to your room to save for late-night munchies).
There’s also self-serve soft-serve ice cream at BBQ Park and this was (obviously) a huge hit with the kids. You just ask for a cone at the bar, and
help yourself treat yo’self!
How much do I love Josephines? Let me count the ways!! Not only was my fave Beaches Ocho Rios staffer of all time working there each morning (hey, Rasheda!), but the coffee was piping hot — and filled with Baileys on request — and the crepes and sunny, poolside service were outstanding. We tried four different crepes during our visit and each one was better than the last. You can’t go wrong here.
This was my fave a la carte restaurant at Beaches Ocho Rios. Although the starters were teeny-tiny, they were very good (we really enjoyed the calamari). The lamb souvlaki was better than I’ve had in Toronto’s famed Greektown (if you have no idea what I mean, this is a MASSIVE compliment) and the baklava. Oh, man! It’s absolutely one of the most delicious I’ve ever had — super nutty, perfectly flaky and not OTT sweet.
Plus, you get to eat on a deck that sits almost right on top of the ocean, and at sunset it gets pretty magical down there.
Truth be told, I only had two meals here: one was the Seasame Street character breakfast and one was a special sunset chef-inspired tasting menu that isn’t necessarily available to every guest. So I regret to tell you that I can’t say much about the food here other than it’s Italian.
I was most looking forward to the French a la carte restaurant because at Beaches Turks & Caicos it was one of my most memorable dinners. However, I found this one a bit hit or miss. I didn’t enjoy my appetizers (the shrimp and the charcuterie plate) but my main (Bouillabaisse) was tasty enough and my friend’s husband’s fish entree was excellent. We tried several of the desserts among us and the apple-pastry one was worth writing about here and the rest weren’t remotely noteworthy. I would have loved a second crack at this place to try different apps and mains to be able to make more recommendations for you.
And, finally, while there’s no specific name for this, there are COCONUTS! A couple of times a week (Mondays for sure), you’ll find staff chopping down coconuts around the resort. They’ll later be served chilled by the pool, but if you catch them in the act, feel free to politely ask for one — or, in our case, run screaming toward them excitedly begging for coconuts.
One nice gent named Mark expertly chopped away at our coconuts and I was able to drink fresh coconut water with sand beneath my toes. That, my friends, is my everything. It’s my perfect. That’s a tropical vacation in a nutshell. OK, a coconut shell…
Red Lane Spa at Beaches Ocho Rios
The K Man was treated to his first-ever spa experience! This was such a fun thing for the two of us to do together, so know that you can book spa treatments with your kids and do them in the same room.
We enjoyed the body scrubs (mine was papaya-based and smelled glorious), and The K Man’s aesthetician was really gentle and respectful of his wishes and hesitations. That kid reached a level of zen I haven’t seen on him on any given mid-afternoon since he was still in his nap years.
Prices at Red Lane Spa are predictably splurge-level, just like any hotel or resort spa you’d visit — even outside of the Beaches Resorts brand. So chalk it up to a once-a-year kind of thing and enjoy something that’s a little out of the ordinary with your bambinos.
The beach at Beaches Ocho Rios
My Beaches Ocho Rios review couldn’t possibly be complete without including a word or two about the beach and ocean.
Frankly, that’s why I come to the Caribbean. I’d rather have a great, swimmable beach than amazing pools any day. And Beaches Ocho Rios delivers. The sand is soft and clean. The water is clear and seaweed-free, calm and shallow for many feet offshore. There’s a roped-in area to ensure boats and even non-motorized watersports don’t encroach. And there are four huge, anchored discs in which even full-grown adults can lie down and be partially submerged. The water was very, very warm (my ideal temp!) during our stay.
Is it one of the best beaches in Jamaica? No. It’s hard to compete with Negril’s seven-mile wonder. But it’s private (unlike Negril), just right for little kids and, because it’s so contained, it’s a lot easier to keep an eye on them.
Still wondering if Beaches Ocho Rios is the right choice? Watch my super amateur video to see our fun in action (I’m a writer, mmmkay?!):
Air Canada Vacations: stuff you need to know & promo code
If you were already thinking of planning a Beaches Ocho Rios or Beaches Negril trip, how does an extra $200 off sound? Up until October 31, 2019, CLICK HERE and then type in your resort of choice — either of the Beaches Resorts in Jamaica will work with this promo — choose your dates that coincide with the restrictions* noted below, and use the code “BEACHES” where indicated at the checkout and your $200 discount will be immediately applied.
Remember — with Air Canada Vacations all-inclusive packages, you get:
- Daily non-stop flights and convenient connectors from 63 Canadian cities to sun-soaked destinations — for Beaches Ocho Rios, for example, there are daily flights from Toronto to Jamaica aboard Air Canada Rouge (where the Disney-trained flight attendants are ah-mazing)
- Your first checked bag for free
- Free standard seat assignments for families travelling with kids under age 14 to sit together at no extra charge
- Early boarding for families travelling with kids under age six (which means extra time to store belongings and settle in)
- Complimentary transfers at your destination from the resort to the hotel and back again when it’s time to go home (#sadface)
- Aeroplan Miles (learn more about Aeroplan and sign up for a free membership here)
*Promo code terms & conditions: valid on new bookings made online only between October 1-31, 2019, for travel between November 1, 2019, through April 30, 2020, and subject to availability. Applicable towards flight and hotel packages to any Beaches property in Jamaica. Value of $200 per booking. Promo code BEACHES must be applied online at aircanadavacations.com during checkout for the discount to be applied. Not applicable to group bookings. Offer not combinable with other promo codes, and is not combinable with other discounted packages. Offer can be withdrawn at anytime. Offer expires at 11:59 p.m. ET on the date indicated.
DISCLAIMER: I partnered with Air Canada Vacations to experience Beaches Ocho Rios and bring you this unfiltered review. All opinions are my own.