Sandal's Whitehouse
Jamaica, March 2005

Early last Fall our travel agent told us about a new Sandal's resort. She told us that the resort would be opening along a new (hitherto resort-less) stretch of the Southern Jamaican coast line. The price was good, so we jumped on it! When it began to get close to trip time, our agent informed us that the resort would not be 100% finished. Sandal's compensated all guests, so it worked out very well!

The resort is very large, and hosts the largest swimming pool in Jamaica. Add to that a handful of gourmet restaurants, several bars, a huge beach, and loads of water sports -- we were in heaven! The only down side to the resort is that they have some biting insects that are not quite under control yet. Everyone was getting bitten, but the bites only seemed to affect (annoy) about half of the guests. Bugs aside, it was a wonderful resort. We had expected the resort to be less finished than it was, but crews could be seen every day completing various items.

The weather was fabulous. We had one day that was little cloudy, but that was a welcome change at that point! It's so nice to be able to walk around at night in shorts! We did a bit of water skiing, sailing, kayaking, snorkeling, wind surfing, and (of course) beach volleyball. Our beach chairs didn't see a lot of us during the day! Another great trip!!

To see pictures of our other fun trips you can visit our main vacation page HERE.
Happy trails!   - Mike & Hali

Hali looks out on a wonderful sunset from our balcony in the French building.
The sunsets here are gorgeous! Another shot from the balcony of our room.
The room was a nice size, with plenty of drawer space. The mini-fridge was not yet installed.
Hali and Mike getting into the beach mode. We actually parked ourselves at the pool every day to keep down the bug level.
They have a good number of Hobie's, so you always have a good chance of being able to sail.
The grounds are dotted with nice fountains, like this one in the main plaza.
Hali taking a turn behind the wheel. The waters were pretty calm for most of our stay.
Here we are again in front of a fountain. This is the central fountain in the main plaza.
Mike taking a turn at water skiing. There was never a long wait, and you could ski any time from 7:30 to 4:00.
This is a view from the beach, past the swim-up bar, and over looking the main pool.
What's better than toys? New toys! The equipment included a handful of those new wider windsurfers.
Is it worthwhile to show up at 7:30 just to ski on glass? You betcha! Mike throwing some spray.
Hali checking out the beach-side wedding chapel. We saw several couples getting married during our stay.
It looks quiet in this image, but the French pool was the rowdiest place to be. We stayed there anyway ;-)
An early evening view from the back-side of the French building. The domed building in the distance is the main plaza. Bring your walking shoes!
This is a 10X zoom of a rather intense sunset (from our room).
The back view at night. It was rather pretty with the village lights scattered along the hillside.
A neat old tree in the main plaza.
Main plaza statue.
The hot tub by the main pool. We found 2 of the hot tubs to be too hot for us, and 2 other tubs to be too cold.
The spa entrance.
There is no shortage of beach to walk. You will have to sign out if walk past the resort bounds.
We think this little pool by one of the middle building is supposed to be a large hot tub, but the water was a pool-water temperature.
The main pool in the (very) early morning.
We kayaked out the reef a few times to do a little snorkeling. There weren't a lot of fish around, but there were a few. Hali almost stepped on a puffer while walking in the shallows along the beach!
Juvenile blackbar soldierfish?
Unidentified nudibranch.
Hali enjoying a quiet pre-sunset moment on the beach. I think that might be a couple of frozen B-52s on the table...
A warm tropical breeze, a frosty beverage at hand, wonderful company, and *this* sunset...
Some fun folks we met: Steve, Jennifer, Scott, Kathy, Karen, and TJ.
Steve and Jennifer getting ready to pass us on the Hobie.
Mike sailing a 6.5 sail. They didn't have harness lines but they let me tie some up from rope that I scrounged from the dive shop.
Caribbean dance class. Nice beads, TJ!!
Scott and Steve heading out for sail.
Hali enjoying a sunny walk along the shoreline.
A wee little hermit crab hitching a ride on Mike's hand.
With sunsets like this one, everyone was bringing out their cameras!
Nighttime shot of the pool at the French building (from our room).
You had get up early to reserve the best spots at the pool, but that didn't seem to a problem for us during this trip.
We heard the resort was about 90% booked, but there were always a bunch of empty lounge chairs somewhere.
It was a little choppy for this afternoon pull, but what the heck. I knew I would be behind a computer in another week!
The cute little fountain in front of the night club (we looked inside once).
They had the foot straps, but they hadn't put them on any boards yet. It was great to be on a board that still had a textured deck!
Fully powered on a 3.5 sail! The guys in the drink were opting for the next size up -- 5.7.
A quiet nightcap on the plaza by the beach.
Hali in front of the main resort entrance.
A washed out pano of the main plaza. Minus 15 points for Mike's camera skills!
Group photo! Unfortunately, Steve was off getting drinks when this shot was taken :-(
Postcard photo of Hali on a Hobie.
Mike getting ready to jump overboard (to cool off!).
Hali enjoying the sun during a lazy sail.
Mike and Hali with Lisa and Jim. Mike and Lisa went to college together during the previous century. Small world!
It's amazing what a gourmet chef can do with a paring knife and a watermelon.
An artistic surprise left by room service.
Did you sea the anemone?
Wrasse (???) and reef squirrelfish
Hali enjoying the last full day in the sun.
One last pull for the road...
Karen, TJ, Steve, and Jennifer chillin' at the main bar.
Our last night. It's been fun!

We review the key aspects of the resort on a scale from one to ten -- one being bad, and ten being excellent.

Rooms: 9.5   The rooms were a good size, and the bed was nice and firm. There was a CD player and a DVD player, which are things you won't always find. The hair dryer didn't work, and the min-fridge wasn't installed yet, but neither of those things was a big deal for us. The bathroom was a little basic, but sufficient (1 sink and a tub/shower). We had a good view of the pool and ocean. The room was generally quiet, but being on the fourth floor helps to isolate the sounds a bit. There was room service available, but we never used it.
Water sports/Activities: 9.5    Great water sports. They had several Hobies, kayaks, water tricycles, and of course... water skiing! They have several brand new windsurfers, but they could use a few other sail sizes and some harness lines. Equipment had to be signed out, but you didn't need to make a reservation and there were no time limits (as far as we know). The water is warm and fairly clear, but snorkeling off the beach was not very rewarding. The ocean bottom was generally sandy, but there are some soft spots around. Still, swimming in the ocean was very pleasant here. There was a decent volleyball area, but no lines (which is fine) and the ball needed to be replaced. There were many activities going on around the pool, such as Caribbean dance lessons. They also had four tennis courts, but we never used them.
Bars: 8.5   No bananas, but a good selection of top shelf booze. The bartenders make excellent B-52s, but were sometimes a bit heavy handed for us.
Restaurants: 9.5   Food quality was very good to excellent. Service was variable, but generally good. We always did the buffet breakfast, but they did have an ala carte restaurant. We tried a few places for lunch and found the buffet to be most to our liking (YMMV). We tried most of the dinner spots and enjoyed all of those. We enjoyed the white-glove Caribbean restaurant (Eleanor's) the most. Reservations are never needed, but you might find a wait if you don't time things well.
Grounds: 3.5   The bugs caused the low score here. They'll have to fix that before we would go back. The grounds are not yet finished, but they looked very nice and are well kept. The resort might be too spread out for some people, but we glad that we were forced to do some walking! The grounds music system could sometimes be heard in our fourth floor room (at 3 in the morning), but was generally pleasant. They also need to get a handle on the hot tub temperatures. The two that were working were so hot that they didn't get used very often. We'd recommend lowering the temp to about 100.
Overall Service: 9   Generally pretty good. Poolside beverage service would have been nice. Oh, and the staff should never ask guests to get them food/drinks -- that's not very Sandals.
Reception/Front desk: 7/9   We arrived at about 4pm, but our room wasn't ready for another 2 hours. The kept saying "come back in a half hour". Other than that, the front desk people seemed responsive, helpful, and courteous.
Overall: 9   They're off to a good start, but they still have a few "bugs" to work out...

March 2005