The home of the original Caribbean all-inclusive, Jamaica’s long, lustrous coasts have a history of all-singing, all-dancing resorts, where food and drink is on tap and organised fun comes as standard. Pick wisely, though, as there is a huge variety — from quietly elegant hotels where white-gloved waiters once welcomed the likes of Marylin Monroe and JF Kennedy to big and bold mega-resorts, complete with water parks, wedding chapels and round-the-clock entertainment. While Jamaica relies heavily on fly-and-flop visitors, it seems a shame to come all this way without exploring, so do make the most of day trips and excursions, offered by all the resorts listed below. Or, better yet, opt for one of the hotels where you can wander off site and see a bit more of island life.
Main photo: Sandals Montego Bay (British Airways Holidays)
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1. The Caves
Best for boutique style
A very different beast from your typical all-inclusive, The Caves has just 12 cottages, each one individually-designed and perched along a rocky clifftop, with soul-soaring views at every turn. This is laid-back, low-key Jamaican living at its best, and pleasingly close to the lights and energy of Negril. Rooms are bright and cheerful, decked out in primary colours and making the most of the jungly outdoors. There’s a similarly colourful restaurant specialising in homegrown Jamaican food, plus a pretty spa and cool, candle-lit bar in the caves below the rooms. No beach as such, but guests can — and do — leap into the sea from the cliffs; there are more sedate ladders leading down into the big blue.
Price from £464 per room per night, full board
Best villas in Jamaica
2. Sandals Royal Caribbean, Montego Bay
Best for overwater villas
Known for its overwater villas (these were the first to be built in the Caribbean) and its very own private island, Sandals Royal Caribbean is one for firm royalists, with each villa named after a member of the British royal family. While the decor is more Tahiti than Sandringam, there are other nods to Blighty, such as the Georgian-style Great House, traditional afternoon tea and croquet on the lawns. It’s also adults-only, giving it a calm feel, although there’s a big choice of restaurants and bars, plus regular shuttle buses that ferry guests over to its mammoth sibling hotel if you want a bit more action.
Price Seven nights from £1,285 per person, including full board, land and water sports (including up to two scuba dives per day, for PADI certified divers) and resort airport transfers
3. Goldeneye, Ochos Rios
Best for people-watching
It might be famous for attracting Hollywood stars and supermodels (we’re told Naomi Campbell is a fan), but there’s still a below-the-radar feel to Goldeneye. The fame stems from its original owner, James Bond author Ian Fleming, who built his original whitewashed, clifftop villa here, now available for private hire. These days, it’s all owned by Chris Blackwell, the music mogul who discovered Bob Marley and now owns Island Outpost hotels; you might spot him wandering about in his scruffy shorts. The villas, beach huts and cottages are low-key luxe, most just steps from the sea and all with beautiful sea views. There’s a very private beach, a lagoon, a spa and a good restaurant.
Price from £472 per room per night, including breakfast and activities such as kayaking, sailing, paddle boarding and snorkelling.
Best all-inclusive resorts in the Caribbean
4. Azul Beach Resort Negril
Best for swim-up suites
This cool and contemporary all-inclusive sits right on famous Seven Mile Beach, with a lively atmosphere and laid-back, friendly service. The rooms are very different from your usual Jamaican colonial chic, with neutral decor, modern art and splashes of colour. There’s a kids’ club, a splash park, and an adults-only section to escape to, plus various restaurants and bars, including live music on the beach every evening. The oceanfront suites on the ground floor stand out, mostly because they have direct access to a network of swimming pools, so you flop off the big, round daybed on your terrace straight into the water.
Price from £475 per room per night, full board including water and land activities
5. Round Hill, Montego Bay
Best for old-school glamour
Set on a 110-acre private enclave, this has been a tropical hideaway for Hollywood’s great and good — and John and Jackie Kennedy, who honeymooned here — since the 1950s, with a selection of ocean-view suites, hillside villas (with private pools and up to six bedrooms) and 36 Ralph Lauren-designed rooms. The lush gardens stretch down the hill towards the small, white sand beach — which is very pretty, but can get quite busy. Service, meanwhile, is old-school and delightful, while the spa is one of the best in Jamaica. If that hill is getting too much, guests can flag down one of the golf buggies to pootle about in.
Price from £529 per night; the Round All Inclusive Plan is extra
6. Sunset at the Palms, Negril
Best for laid-back relaxation
Although not tiny by any other standards, Sunset at the Palms feels positively boutique compared to many of its all-inclusive competitors, with 85 treehouse-style rooms and suites spread through ten acres of lush gardens. The feel here is supremely relaxed and low-key — being adults-only helps — with breezy, Asian-inspired rooms, some on stilts in the foliage, all surrounded by flower-filled grounds. Service is friendly, if similarly relaxed. It’s a few steps to the water as Sunset is located across the road from the long sweep of Bloody Bay, just north of Negril and famous Seven Mile Beach, but there is also a private beach club offering watersports and nightly live music. And yes, those sunsets are something to remember.
Price from £394 per room per night, full board, including all activities
7. Half Moon, Montego Bay
Best for three resorts in one
Founders Cove, Rose Hall Villas and the newest addition, swanky Eclipse, are three resorts under the Half Moon umbrella, which has an illustrious history and past guests including the Queen. Founders Cove is the original, Rose Hall Villas has all the villas (between five and seven-room) and Eclipse has rooms in the main, grand Great House or in spacious Estate Homes. Together, they share 400 acres of tropical grounds, two miles of sandy beach and all sorts of bells and whistles, including a cracking golf course, a Children’s Village, various restaurants and bars, and the Fern Tree Spa.
Price from £348 per room per night, room only. The all-inclusive option is available at an additional cost
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8. Sandals Royal Plantation, Ochos Rios
Best for a discreet getaway
Royal Plantation is the smartest and most low-key of the Sandals all-inclusives, with just 74 suites and private butlers throughout. This is one of Jamaica’s original hotels, so the design is traditional, as is the service – think bow ties and some degree of formality, at least by Jamaican standards. Manicured lawns roamed by peacocks and afternoon tea served promptly at 4pm doesn’t mean there isn’t plenty of opportunity to relax, with a gorgeous private beach, unlimited watersports, a lovely spa and five restaurants. And guests have full access to the lights and action at Sandals Ochi next door.
Price seven-night stay from £1,509 per person, including full board, butler service, land and water sports (including up to two scuba dives per day, for PADI certified divers) and resort airport transfers
9. Hilton Rose Hall Resort & Spa, Montego Bay
Best for waterpark fun
With 400 acres, a full-blown waterpark, 11 places to eat and Jamaica’s longest private beach, this bells-and-whistles resort ticks all the family fun boxes. The Sugar Mill Falls waterpark is the headline act, claiming to be one of the largest in Jamaica, with slides, lagoons and a lazy river that the kids will be hard to drag away from. Elsewhere, there’s a long private beach offering all the usual watersports, an 18-hole championship golf course, a spa, tennis courts and all sorts of excursions, including catamaran trips and day trips to Montego Bay, a 20-minute drive away.
Price seven-night stay from £1,319
10. Sandals Montego Bay
Best for easy access
Big, bolshy and proud of its status as Jamaica’s original all-inclusive, Sandal’s flagship has all you’d expect from the brand: a long, calm beach, oodles of watersports, no fewer than 12 places to wine and dine, six pools, a spa, an on-site PADI scuba school, and even an over-the-water wedding chapel if that’s your plan. The resort has had a recent refresh, with new beachfront suites and three new restaurants, and it’s easy to get to, just a few minutes’ drive from Montego airport (but yes, do expect some noise from overhead planes).
Price seven-night stay from £1,445 per person, including full board, land and water sports (including up to two scuba dives per day, for PADI certified divers) and resort airport transfers
11. Jamaica Inn, Ochos Rios
Best for great service
Another old-school big hitter, this elegant boutique resort opened in the 1950s and has hosted the likes of Grace Kennedy, Alfred Hitchcok, and Marylyn Monroe — who honeymooned here with Arthur Miller. Jamaica Inn is small, too, with just 55 rooms in total, including verandah suites, beach bungalows and breezy cottages, all with sea views and surrounded by beautiful tropical gardens leading down to a very pretty private beach. Service is everything here, with a more formal feel (croquet and afternoon tea are very much encouraged) and charming staff that have worked here for aeons. The resort has been owned by the same family for over 50 years, and repeat guests are fiercely loyal.
Price £443 per night per couple, including breakfast and taxes
12. Beaches Negril Resort & Spa
Best for families
You’re bang on the widest stretch of Negril’s Seven Mile Beach here, but if all those beachy joys don’t cut it, there’s also an 18,000 sq ft waterpark within the resort, including pools, waterslides, swim-up bars and a lazy river. The suites (some with private butlers) have had a recent update, but really you come here for the activities, which are non-stop and all included, from tennis and football to kite-surfing and SUPs. Parents get time off, too (make a beeline for the Red Lane Spa), with various kids’ clubs aimed at different ages, including an Xbox lounge and the Trench Town Tweens hang-out.
Price from £4,499 for seven nights, based on a family of four sharing, including full board, land and water sports (including up to two scuba dives per day, for PADI certified divers) and resort airport transfers
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