As its name suggests, there is a large variety of sporting
activities, although participation is entirely up to you. I felt
like a kiddie in a toy shop. That is, there is so much choice,
that you don’t know what to do first.
Apart from the many sports on offer, it boasts the
Caribbean’s largest outdoor rock climbing wall. There is also
a programme of exercise classes, and another of activities you
can participate in at various times throughout the day. As my
priority was to take advantage of the free golf lessons, I made
sure that these were booked in for every day of my stay. As
the climate is tropical, it rained several times while I was there,
although not for long, so there is a lot of greenery despite the
Golf is not on-site, but at what is considered one of the
most scenic courses on the island, the Sandals Golf & Country
Club in Ocho Rios, 750 ft up in the hills. Used by all the
Sandals and Beaches resorts in the area, it is an 18-hole, par-71
course covering 6,311 yds. Transportation is provided to and
from the Club about a ..-minute drive away. An added bonus
is the complimentary green fees, although you do have to pay
for a caddie and cart, which you are obliged to use.
I had also hoped to take advantage of the deep sea diving
lessons, but just didn’t have the time as you are not allowed to
dive until 24 hours after arriving, or before departure. You
then need two days together – half a day to learn to use the
apparatus, with time spent in the special scuba-certification
pool – as well as filling in a medical questionnaire.
The Beaches Grande Sport is an adults-only resort
© Beaches / Sandals
You are then allowed to dive the following day, but
only nearby. However, this is not a problem, as the coral
reef is incredibly close to the beach. Nor did I participate in
the snorkelling to see some of the beautiful marine life, as
you need to book, as with most activities, at least one day
On the day I booked the weather was overcast, and the sea
wasn’t clear enough, while on the subsequent day I was suffering
from a hangover. This is one of the hazards of being in a
place where they have a never-ending list of cocktails, and
where a shot of rum is the common staple drink, all free, and
available at five different locations doted around the resort.
The main swimming pool even has its own swim-up bar!
One of the things I did make time for was a visit to the spa.
While the steam room, saunas and hot and cold plunge pools
are all free, the massage and beauty treatments have to be paid
for. I took advantage of their ‘golf widow’s package’ which
included a body scrub, massage and facial.
Prices are in American dollars, and although when I was
there the pound was very strong, the prices did appear rather
steep. As there are a lot of people who come in couples, they
also offer treatments where the two of you can have a massage
together in the same room, or even more romantically, in a
special secluded spot on the beach.
With so much going on, and only being there for seven
days, I made sure that I saw some of the island before returning
home. Fortunately at the resort, one of the evenings was
designated as a Jamaican night, with an area dedicated to local
vendors selling souvenirs of handcrafted wooden sculptures,
hand-painted pottery, vivid coloured clothing, and jewellery.
Many local dishes were included in the buffet, held in a
large marquee in the grounds. Although a band entertained
us while we were eating, I was amazed that in an area known
for its reggae music, Bob Marley had grown up and is buried
nearby, this type of music wasn’t played.
On my trip from Ocho Rios to Montego Bay, we were
able to make a detour through Fern Gully, a dried-up river
bed with over 500 species of ferns growing along the side of
As well as there being several craft markets locally, with
prices much cheaper than those at Grande Sport, there is also
a duty-free shopping area. Prices here, I was reliably informed,
are cheaper than those at the airport for such items as perfume,
expensive jewellery and watches.
I stopped at Shaw Park Gardens, a botanical paradise created
by Englishman Bernard Shaw as the gardens of a hotel
which was burnt down in 1964. Covering 25 acres, the grounds
include a magnificent waterfall, and swimming pool which is
still in use.