The Royal Plantation was an elegant resort long before it came under the Sandals umbrella, and it is by far the most upmarket Sandals on the island and the smallest—though if you are jonesing for that big resort vibe, you can always walk next door to its sister resort, the Sandals Grande Riviera. The entryway sets the tone: It's styled after a European mansion, complete with peacocks strutting around the garden fountains and a terrace overlooking the pool.
Every suite has an ocean view, a Caribbean Colonial look with four-poster canopy bed and wood trim, and a butler (usually two in tag-team, and you share them with other rooms, but you do get a dedicated cell phone to ring them when you need them). The hotel’s two small beaches are divided by a wooden pier.
The all-inclusive prices cover all meals and premium drinks (save the caviar and some wines in the caviar-and-champagne bar), all sorts of water activities and sports including free scuba diving (up to two dives each day for certified divers; after a $90 resort course, beginners can take a dive a day as well), and all greens fees at the Sandals Golf & Country Club in Ocho Rios. The resort also rents the private three-bedroom Villa Plantana, which has its own pool.
- Reid Bramblett