So many resorts are opening in Jamaica that it’s hard to keep up with them. For example, this Caribbean editor has not yet visited Karisma’s Azul Sensatori, and as Apple Leisure Group’s CEO Alex Zozaya reminded me after JAPEX, AMResorts is opening a Zoëtry and two Sunscape resorts, too—still more properties I should visit A.S.A.P. Fortunately, between an extended JAPEX trip and a recent visit to Ocho Rios, I have stayed in or spent quality time at several new resorts, so here are the Cliff Notes:
Sandals Royal Caribbean Resort and Private Island is a a very smart choice for the Caribbean’s first overwater bungalows. The water there is exceptionally well-protected and shallow—a win-win for engineers, guests, and Sandals’ insurance bills—and the east end of the resort, where the new accommodations will be located, is far enough from the partying to feel secluded and romantic.
Sandals Ochi Beach Resort, a larger property with accommodations on both sides of the coastal road, has some very cool features:
- It boasts 16 restaurants, many of them facing the sea, so my palate was never bored. (My favorite restaurant, Manor, does not face the sea, but with refined Caribbean fare this good, it doesn’t have to.)
- The Rabbit Hole Speakeasy, with its secret password and jazz-age music, is so much fun that you wish the Stewarts would open them in American cities.
- The Butler Village Honeymoon Romeo & Juliet Sanctuary One Bedroom Villa Suite with Private Pool is an unmanageable name, but I forgive Sandals because these hillside hideaways are so private and sexy.
Moon Palace Jamaica Grande, open now and slated for completion by Christmas, serves stimulation-seekers who want it both ways: a high-rise all-inclusive in an area (Ocho Rios) that rewards venturing beyond the gates; restaurants that manage to be both huge and good; indoor spaces whose glass walls make you feel as if you’re not indoors; and a first-rate children’s facilities (the kids and the teens clubs, the water park) and perks like premium hooch and entertainment, including a Club Noir with a Vegas vibe.
Hyatt Ziva/Zilara Rose Hall exceeds its Ritz-Carlton predecessor with its dignified white-beige-brown color scheme, a dramatically improved beach (they spent $2 million on that alone), better WiFi than you have at home (even on the beach), a separation of families (Ziva) and adults (Zilara), two dream spas (one of them outdoors) and fitness centers, swim-up guestrooms, a swell rooftop lounge, and uncommonly well-prepared food. These sister resorts are for clients who want the service, cuisine, design, and ambiance of a truly high-end a la carte resort, albeit with all-inclusive pricing.
Don’t miss Part 1 of our Caribbean editor Ed Wetschler’s JAPEX report: recommend.com/destinations/caribbean-bermuda/japex-part-1.