You’ll fall for this Jamaican resort: You don’t have to be on honeymoon to be smitten with Sandals’ romantic new adults-only hotel


My wife and I are celebrating our tenth wedding anniversary, but when the DJ asks ‘Hands up, any honeymooners’, we feel like bit-part players in a churning sea of romance.

So many hands shoot up it is impossible to count them and soon couples of all ages, ourselves included, are strutting their stuff on the dance floor to the strains of Bob Marley, under a starlit sky.

Snake-hipped waiters join in, their bodies corkscrewing across the floor.

The music gets louder. The dancing becomes more frenzied. I have never seen so many broad smiles on so many faces.

A young couple from Michigan look as if they are about to take off into space.

Sandals Dunn’s River sits on the Jamaican coast and is near the town of Ocho Rios

‘Every little t’ing gonna be all right! Yes, every little t’ing gonna be ALL RIGHT!!’ You would have to be awfully jaded not to be caught up in the moment.

It is not just the rum talking, though there is plenty of that, as this is an all-inclusive resort, with complementary food and drinks.

Love aside, the glue binding us together is a passion for the Caribbean, surely the most romantic of all destinations: sun, sea and sand dancing in harmony to a calypso beat.

Sandals opened its first resort in the region in 1981, and there are now nine of them in Jamaica alone, of which the new Sandals Dunn’s River, overlooking a sandy beach on the north-east coast, is the swankiest yet.

From beach bars to rooftop bars, from spas to boutiques, from elegant swimming pools to high-end restaurants, it wants for little.

Max Davidson describes the resort as a feast for the eyes and the lobby certainly fits this bill

Max Davidson describes the resort as a feast for the eyes and the lobby certainly fits this bill

Newly built resorts can sometimes feel a bit soulless, but this one is a feast for the eye and fits snugly into the lush tropical setting.

Just gazing out to the sea, fringed by palm trees, and seeing the impossibly blue water and the little waves breaking on the coral reef that protects the bay, makes the heart sing.

It is an adults only resort and the target market, unashamedly, is couples on whom Cupid’s arrow has scored a direct hit.

Romantic grace-notes abound, from candle-lit tables for two on the beach to roving photographers ready to take the perfect honeymoon snap.

This is no time to be British and understated. In our luxury balcony suite, complete with private plunge pool, the bed has been covered with red petals spelling out WELCOME. It is cheesy, but there are times when you need cheesy.

Each room at the resort comes with dedicated butlers who are on hand to serve Champagne

Each room at the resort comes with dedicated butlers who are on hand to serve Champagne

‘Champagne, man?’ inquires Michael, our dreadlocked dude of a butler. Think Jeeves with a Jamaican twist. Or, rather, one of our butlers. They do nothing by halves at Sandals.

Our other butler, the softly spoken Taniefa, could be a Bond girl which is only apt, given the setting. This part of Jamaica will be forever associated with James Bond and his creator Ian Fleming, who had a house on the island.

Remember Ursula Andress emerging from the sea in Dr No, wearing that bikini?

It was filmed on a beach just around the corner from the resort which certainly calls for a vodka martini or two.

Next to the beach is a luxury villa owned by the England football star Raheem Sterling, who was born in Jamaica.

A lot has changed here in the 70 years since the first Bond novel was published in 1953. The economy is stuttering. The locals moan about inflation, politicians and rush hour traffic.

But this exquisite tropical island, with its densely forested mountains and 100-plus rivers, has lost none of its power to charm.

While we generally confine ourselves to the resort, we enjoy a memorable day exploring the surrounding area with a guide from the Jamaica Tourist Board.

A street kiosk selling coconuts in the surrounding area of Ocho Rios on the island's north coast

A street kiosk selling coconuts in the surrounding area of Ocho Rios on the island’s north coast

Highlights include walking up the waterfall at Dunn’s River, splashing about in rocky pools, then taking a wooden raft down another river, overhung with trees and creepers, with nothing but songbirds to listen to.

Another treat is having lunch at Miss T’s Kitchen, a rustic outdoor restaurant popular with locals.

Grilled fish, caught that morning. Fresh mango. Rum punch. The chatter of local gossip in the background. At the resort itself, simple Jamaican fare is on offer at the wooden jerk shack on the beach, but it is the range and quality of the international cuisine that has us drooling, night after night.

The resort has plenty of dining options, ranging from French to Japanese and Latin American

The resort has plenty of dining options, ranging from French to Japanese and Latin American

A classy French restaurant is capped by an even better Japanese one, which is capped in turn by another serving an embarrassment of culinary riches from Latin America.

It is next door to a splendidly louche rum club, packed with beautiful young people.

We quickly learn that, if we are going to do justice to dinner, we will have to be careful not to overdo things earlier in the day.

No more than two glasses of Buck’s fizz with breakfast becomes a golden rule.

Daytime entertainment here ranges from volleyball on the beach to trivia quizzes and pottery and salsa classes. Nothing too strenuous. In the background, saxophonists or steel bands sustain the mood.

A couple of times, a sharp tropical shower sends the honeymooners scurrying inside. Club sandwiches get drenched. The saxophonist nearly topples into the pool. Even in paradise, a little rain must fall. But the pianist in the lobby just picks up where the saxophonist left off.

‘Come back soon,’ chorus our butlers, all smiles, as we take our leave.

We just might. If James Bond had stayed here, he would have had such a good time he would have forgotten all about saving the world.

TRAVEL FACTS

A seven-night stay for two people at Sandals Dunn’s River in Ocho Rios, Jamaica, in a Travertine Luxury Room, costs from £2,549pp. Price includes all-inclusive accommodation, Virgin Atlantic return economy-class flights from Heathrow and transfers to the hotel. To book, call 0800 597 0002 or visit sandals.co.uk. 



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