June 14, 2024

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Traveling Around the World

Beaches Negril, in Jamaica, Hotel Review

Open since 1997, Beaches Negril, the family-friendly, 197-room beachfront resort in Jamaica is not exactly new. Spread out across 20 acres, the property is just one in the Beaches and Sandals portfolio that is currently undergoing a refresh and expansion. 


In late September, my 6-year-old son and I returned to Beaches. I say “returned” because our first foray into the Beaches world was not so long before, in April, when we visited the much larger, 95-acre Beaches Turks and Caicos. He fell instantly in love with Sandals Resorts International executive chairman Adam Stewart’s vision: manicured pathways betraying the scent of the tropics; the friendly faces of familiar Sesame Street characters; the aquamarine tint of welcoming pool after welcoming pool. The idea of a return to his “favorite” hotel brand had him ecstatic. 


Beaches Negril

  • The property’s lush vegetation that expands toward the white-sand beach makes the native surroundings part of the scenery. 
  • Three freshwater pools, three whirlpools, a small water park, inclusive water sports, a spa, kids club, fitness center, and daily planned activities offer no shortage of things to do while on-property. 
  • With 11 included dining options, guests will never go hungry (or run out of interesting dining options, many of which reflect local cuisine). 
  • A newly renovated kids’ club, known as Kids Camp, is suitable for kids age 17 and younger and operates from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m., giving parents flexibility to go to the spa or enjoy some alone time.


Stewart seems to hold the same memories, in fact. “Growing up, spending time with family and friends at Beaches are some of my fondest memories,” he says. “Endless days of sun, sand, and sea and evenings of unhurried dinners filled with laughter and storytelling, these are the moments I cherish. Making it easy for generations of families and friends who are just like family to come together to make their own memories, that was our aim.”


Courtesy of Beaches



Beaches Negril in Jamaica is a tamer property than its Turks and Caicos siblings, at less than a third the size. But recent additions, like two new categories of butler-serviced rooms – one of which we were able to experience during our four-night stay – an amped-up Kids Camp, and a brand-new and upscale Peruvian restaurant have made this property a competitive all-inclusive.


I came away with a renewed appreciation for not only the renovation (slick, luxurious, and geared toward making both parents and children happy in their surroundings), but for the Beaches brand as a whole. It’s impossible not to feel relaxed sipping a dirty banana outside a private, finely appointed villa, watching a superlative sunset, child hopping between pool and fine-sanded beach, marveling at the day’s achievements: a ride down a waterslide, the discovery of a palm-sized and bright orange sea star; a bite of a spicy and warm-crusted beef patty in the hot, hot sun. Who wouldn’t want a vacation like that?


Here’s my review of Beaches Negril, and everything you need to know before you book your trip.



The Rooms

Our 3,700-square-foot triplex villa had four bedrooms, a large living room, a full kitchen, three full bathrooms – one with a walk-in shower and soaking tub – a gaming area, a rooftop deck, and a private pool with a manicured garden and outdoor dining area. It was one of the six newly introduced Firesky Villas that were added just weeks before our arrival, in September. Steps away, guests are privy to a serene slice of Negril’s seven-mile beach that is less crowded – but equally picturesque – than what lies before the rest of the resort. A bunk room outfitted with double queen-sized beds broadens the footprint of the villa, which can sleep up to 10. 


Courtesy of Beaches



Upscale design drives home Adam Stewart’s ambition when it comes to courting a luxury set within the expanding Sandals and Beaches brand. “Returning to Beaches Negril is an annual tradition for many of our guests, and it’s a real joy and privilege to welcome back those who grew up coming here and are now bringing their own families to enjoy the freedom and fun of our style of vacationing,” he says. “It’s the reason we’re committed to introducing new flavors and spaces, services, and experiences – like having a chef come and prepare a meal in your private villa – that keep the hotel fresh and exciting.”


Matchbook marble, quartz countertops, and linen- and velvet-upholstered sofas add a modern beach look to these sleek accommodations, which still boast Beaches’ signature bed linens, emblazoned with their telltale-if-subtle B.


Courtesy of Beaches



Butler service, which is also included in the resort’s new Eventide Penthouse Suites, is comprehensive. Reachable 24 hours a day by phone (guests are given the device for the duration of their stay), butlers arrange dinner reservations, beach-side chairs and coolers full of cold drinks, bespoke live dinners cooked within the rooms at guests’ requests (an included perk), and any desired activity, from a snorkeling trip at a nearby reef to an appointment at the Red Lane Spa. 


 



Food and Drink

There are 11 restaurants at Beaches Negril, the newest of which is Yaku, an upmarket Peruvian concept built into a circular room where the Venetian Restaurant once was. Yarn weavings cover the walls, stylized chairs and round banquettes complement the room, and attentive servers offer, first, a paper menu of rotating daily ceviches and skewers. (You can move on to the full menu thereafter, which includes traditional dishes like hamachi tiradito, lomo saltado, and even an ode to hot dogs and French fries.) 


At Yaku, I ate a snapper ceviche with toothsome kernels of elote, while my son dug into savory cubes of beef, charred on the grill and served with a vermillion dipping sauce. We ended a superlative – and surprisingly all-inclusive – meal with a trio of cream-filled donut holes. 


Courtesy of Beaches



Kimonos, perhaps the resort’s most playful dining experience, was familiar to us — we’d tried it during a trip to Beaches Turks and Caicos (the restaurant is also available at some Sandals properties). It’s a riotous good time: seated with strangers around a hot hibachi grill, we watched a talented chef sing, spin eggs, light volcanic stacked onions on fire, and chop vegetables and protein into oblivion on a searing hot flat top. 


Add to this the property’s other restaurants — a buffet-style restaurant called The Mill; a jerk-inspired spot known as the Jerk Shack that converts to a Stew Fish Grill, a beachside seafood restaurant at night; a sushi restaurant, Soy; a daytime barbecue spot, Bar B Q Park, with top-notch Jamaican beef patties; an all-day, Mexican-ish spot known as El Mariachi (where my son ordered the largest menu item, a hulking cowboy steak that occupied the entire plate); Dino’s Pizzeria Italiana, a wood-fired pizza destination near the Main Pool; Café de Paris, which serves pastries, crêpes, and coffees; and Yoyo’s, a self-serve frozen yogurt bar where kids and adults can mix and match playful daily flavors with different toppings – and you have a comprehensive roster of options that make for an international dining bonanza.  



Activities and Amenities

Parents and their children are unlikely to run out of things to do at Beaches, particularly if they find themselves in one of the larger accommodations, which are outfitted with board games, X-Boxes, and plenty of refilled-daily snacks (not to mention top-shelf alcohol, which guests can request in advance). The resort’s water sports department, located at the far end of the beach, offers daily rides on a banana boat, waterskiing, kneeboarding, snorkeling, kayaking, sailing, PADI-certified scuba diving excursions, and hydrobikes, all of which are included. 


The 3,962-square-foot Pirate’s Island Water Park includes two full-sized water slides, a lazy river, a water playground with bucket drop, several toddler slides, and a few adjacent pools. The rest of the resort has plenty of larger pools, too, including the heated Piazza Pool, with its swim-up bar; and the Main Pool, with its volleyball court, bar, and surrounding dining venues. Club Liquid, a feature of many Beaches properties, is alive at Beaches Negril, too. Open to tweens until 11 p.m. and to adults 18 and over between 11 p.m. and 1 a.m., it’s a dance club thrumming with Caribbean jams (and stocked with premium drinks, for the adult set). 


Parents can relax with a book while kids kick back at the newly renovated Kids’ Camp, the most prominent feature of which is a two-story slide that runs through the center. The club has its own dedicated pool for kids, as well as plenty of Sesame Street programming, a popular feature of the resort. Every night, the characters perform a live, 30-minute concert under the “Big Top,” the covered theater near the Main Pool, and on Thursdays, a massive, carnival-like parade takes place, with dancers, performers on stilts, and Sesame Street characters roaming the walk at the property’s front entrance. It was, by far, my son’s favorite moment of the week, particularly when Elmo reciprocated his high-five. 



The Red Lane Spa

The Red Lane Spa features several signature treatments, including the Night Blooming Jasmine Massage, Deep Relief Massage, Tropical Paradise Couples Massage, and Earthly Harmony CBD-Infused Massage. There are just under 40 total treatments offered for men, women, and couples, all of which are considered add-ons to all-inclusive packages.



Accessibility and Sustainability

The resort offers several categories of accessible rooms, including the Tropical Beachfront One-Bedroom Walkout Grand Concierge Family Suite, the Tropical Beachfront Walkout Concierge King/Double, and the Grande Luxe King/Double. The resort offers seven total rooms with accessible doors, and with bathroom doors wide enough to accommodate a wheelchair. Bathrooms include shower rails and toilet handrails, as well as freestanding sinks that can accommodate wheelchair users. Although there are no roll-in showers, shower seats and bath wands are available. Nine of the property’s 11 restaurants are wheelchair-accessible, and the property also has three regular wheelchairs and three beach wheelchairs on-site for guest use. 


Beaches was also the first resort company in the world to complete the International Board of Credentialing and Continuation Standards (IBCCES) and Autism Certification and is home to the Caribbean’s first autism-friendly kids’ camps. Camps include sensory toys and incorporate autism awareness into their Sesame Street offerings. Parents of neurodivergent children can request a one-on-one Beaches Buddy to accompany their child for a few hours or for the entire stay, at an additional cost. The resort’s Special Services Team is also trained to assist neurodivergent families in the planning stages by advising on optimal room locations and broader vacation planning that can help limit stimuli.  


In 2009, Sandals Resorts International established the non-profit Sandals Foundation as a way to give back to the Caribbean islands. The Foundation now focuses on education and sustainability as a cornerstone of its work. Guests can actually see this work in action, as my son and I did during our recent travels. For $35 per person, guests of the hotel can attend the Reading Road Trip, where they can visit a local Jamaican school and read with students. 


Other sustainability initiatives furthered by the Foundation — which guests can also participate in during their time in Negril — include Coral Restoration and Marine Preservation snorkeling trips, assisted by a local guide, and Lionfish Invasive Species Management, for an added fee of $250 per person, in which guests are certified to hunt and kill this non-native species. Guests can also indulge in a lionfish feast following their dives. (During my time in Negril, I snorkeled over a forest of replanted coral and dined on a parade of lionfish, cooked in various local preparations, although I did not spear it myself.)



Location

Located about an hour-and-a-half from Montego Bay, Jamaica’s Sangster International Airport, Beaches provides included transport to and from the resort. Butler-level accommodations come with a private car, but all rooms include shuttles to and from the airport. It should be noted that the hotel requires departure five hours before a departing flight; should you wish to leave an hour later, you must sign a waiver form stating that a missed flight is your own responsibility. 


Courtesy of Beaches




Finding the Best Value

Beaches’ high season runs from late November through mid-August, although Beaches does run year-round discounts for those who book well in advance. Rates do creep down (and Negril sees fewer tourists and more space on its beaches and throughout its hotels) in late August, September, and October.