If you're looking to kickstart 2019 on a slightly warmer, more tropical note, we might just have the answer for you. Let's get one thing out of the way first: This is not the Sandals of your parents' generation. The prolific Caribbean resort chain aimed at adults (and couples especially) is in the midst of a rebranding—one that aims to attract a new kind of vacationer. All-inclusive hotels in iddealic locations often call to mind college spring break nightmares and weeks aboard a confining cruise ship. But with seven restaurants, six bars, a private two-mile long stretch of beach and the option of having a personal butler at your service, Sandals Whitehouse Resort is raising the bar.
Whitehouse is about an hour and a half from the city of Montego Bay. The drive across the island is incredible—if you've never been to the Caribbean (like this journalist) you will be struck by the lush, dense rain forests in that seem to cover every inch of the island save for the beaches and villages. As you wind up and down mountains and curve along two-lane roads the nudge against pristine little beaches and homes tucked high in the hills, you get the sense that the resort really is a world away from tourist hubs like Negril, Ocho Rios and the capital city of Kingston.
The resort is huge, and boasts three European-themed villages,: French, Dutch and Italian. Each serves as a cluster of accomodations, and has it's own pool area. Every guest room at the hotel faces the ocean and includes a deck or balcony, guaranteeing that your sunrise and sunset views are never compramised. A short stroll in any direction from your room will lead somewhere good: A quiet (or party-ready, depending) pool, the soft sandy beach, the Red Lane Spa or an inviting restaurant.
Far and away, the standout feature of Whitehouse is the beach. It's one of the only resorts on the island that has a private beach; one that includes a nature preserve on either side. (And, as you might already know, Sandals is a kid-free place.) In the early morning, take a walk past the edge of the property, out along the preserve. You'll find yourself surrounded only by sand, crystal waters and lush jungle.
While getting off the property is recommended to get the full Jamaican experience, you needn't go far to get your activity fix each day. From fitness classes to spa treatments, kayaking and stand-up paddleboarding, Whitehouse is brimming with ways to keep busy. Then again, if lounging in a hammock and having your private butler bring by lunch or a cocktail, that can be arranged, too.
On our first full day in Jamaica, we took a catamaran cruise to Pelican Bar—explained simply as “a bar in the middle of the ocean”—guided by Island Routes. The ride out was exhilarating as we bobbed over large waves farther and farther out into the Caribbean Sea. The sweet sounds of Bob Marley played (What did you expect?) and rum punch was served by the friendly and enthusiastic crew. After about an hour and a half we slowed, and the Pelican Bar came into view. It truly is a bar in the middle of the ocean, built on stilts in a sandbar surrounded by, you guessed it, pelicans. We lazed away the afternoon sipping on Red Stripe beers and eating fresh lobster.
On our second day, we boarded a bus for an excursion to YS Falls, about an hour from the resort. This is a very tourist-centric attraction, but that doesn't diminish the jaw-dropping natural beauty of the area. Exotic flowers bloom freely and vines dangle from nearly every tree branch. After stripping down to our swimsuits and trustingly handing the guides our beloved phones and cameras, we were lead up gravel paths along the edge of the falls to jump, swing and swim around. We traversed the edge of the rushing waters holding hands like kids in a museum to jump into a bubbling pool below, and donned gardening gloves to grip a rope swing that flung you into yet another pool. Clearly experts, our guides flawlessly took photos and videos for everyone without dropping or damaging a thing. After channeling our inner monkeys, we retreated to the cool, fresh water pools near the entrance of the recreation area.
BOOK YOUR TRIP
The cold winter months are the perfect time to book a tropical getaway and ring in your year of travel with a dash of luxury. The lush, humid climate of Jamaica and it's mild waters will wash away all thoughts of a Polar Vortex in a matter of minutes, and the friendly Jamaican people will lift your spirits. Visit the Sandals Whitehouse website for more information about the resort as well as booking details, FAQs and rates.