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Known for its strong presence throughout the Caribbean — and its splashy, romantic TV commercials — Sandals took a big step in 2017 when it opened the islands' first over-water bungalows at the newly re-branded South Coast resort in Jamaica. (Besides Sandals South Coast, which we’re covering here, the over-water bungalows are also available at Sandals Royal Caribbean in Montego Bay, Jamaica, and at Sandals Grande St. Lucian on the island of St. Lucia.) The bucket-list honeymoon accommodations, which often include indoor-outdoor showers, platforms for jumping straight into the water, and impeccable service, are more common in far-flung South Pacific destinations like Tahiti and Bora Bora, where weather is less volatile. Opening over-water suites within just a few hours' flight of the U.S., we suspect, will put the resort on the map. We had the opportunity to experience the new bungalows firsthand. Here’s what we thought.
Budget Level: Luxe ($300+/night)
Lodging Type: Resort (there are about 12 over-water bungalows)
What You Need to Know
While much of the resort feels stately and European — there are Dutch, French, and Italian “villages” — the bungalows themselves epitomize a sense of minimalist, beachy style. Think white linens, wicker chairs with splashy cushions, and organic furnishings. Situated on stilts directly over the waves (guests can even swim underneath them for a fun photo-op), the outdoor deck includes lounge chairs, a table for enjoying cocktails, and — one of our favorite amenities — a beautiful white soaking tub where you can watch the sunset. You’ll find a similar aesthetic in the newly launched Latitudes bar, which provides a sense of over-water living without the cost of staying in one of the spendy bungalows.
Couples from the U.S. in their 30s and 40s make up the majority of the crowd here, and the daytime pool scene can be lively and occasionally rowdy. The alcohol flows freely, remember, and activities directors play music and lead games throughout the day. The over-water bungalows, on the other hand, are situated away from the rest of the resort and offer a perfectly private experience. Just be sure to secure the flapping curtains on the outdoor shower, or you may give your neighbors in the adjacent bungalow an unintended show.
Who Will Love It
If you’re in search of a fuss-free resort vacation where you don’t have to think about, or pay extra for, food or drinks, the Sandals all-inclusive structure is a good fit. The over-water bungalows provide a decadent honeymoon experience.
Who Might Not
Sandals South Coast is in a relatively secluded part of the island, and leaving the resort can be expensive and logistically complex. You’ll drive about 90 minutes from the Montego Bay airport in a resort-arranged transfer to get to the resort. If you know you’ll be itchy to explore on your own, a more centrally located option might make more sense.
Nothing beats sunset cocktails or relaxing with a book on the hammock of the over-water bungalow.
All meals and drinks (alcoholic and non-alcoholic) in restaurants and bars are included. Unlimited land sports (racquetball, tennis, billiards, shuffleboard) and water sports (water skiing, snorkeling, windsurfing, paddle boarding, kayaks, and even SCUBA diving and golf) are free of charge. Transfers to the resort from the airport are also included, as are all tips, gratuities, and taxes. If you book one of the over-water bungalows, you’ll also receive butler service, unlimited room service, an airport greeting and welcome gift, and expedited services at airport immigration, which can save you more than an hour on busy days.
Fees and Extra Costs You Should Know About
Spa treatments, golf caddies, and optional tours cost extra. Note that if you stay in a butler-serviced room, including the over-water bungalows, it’s customary to leave an additional daily gratuity.
How to Get a Deal
The overwater bungalows are new, but they’ve quickly taken off in popularity, so true “deals” are hard to come by. We found rates around $2,000-$2,200 per night, with very little seasonal fluctuation, through 2018. Note that Sandals advertises these rooms at nearly twice that price, so we expect this rate to go up steeply as demand grows over time.
In the Neighborhood
Jamaica’s south coast is far less developed than other parts of the island, so your best bet is often to stay on property. If you’re honeymooning or celebrating another occasion in the over-water bungalows, chances are good that you’ll be reluctant to leave anyway.
Montego Bay Airport is about 75 miles from the resort.
The Bottom Line
The all-inclusive experience gets a luxe upgrade at Sandals South Coast.