Winters in Ontario can be pretty harsh and this past winter was particularly brutal. As the colder temperatures were hitting us in the fall, our family booked a trip south so we could enjoy some beautiful hot weather and relaxation mid-winter. After previously enjoying Sandals Antigua as a couple for our second honeymoon last year, and a family resort in Mexico with the kids the year before, we decided to try someplace new. We settled on all-inclusive Hilton Rose Hall Resort & Spa, Montego Bay, Jamaica after reading some great reviews online and we are very glad we did.
We chose Hilton Rose Hall for a number of reasons.
1) Direct four-hour flight from Toronto and just a 15 minute bus ride to the resort makes for an easy travel experience, especially important to us when we’re travelling with the kids (both under 12).
2) The resort, and Jamaica in general, were reportedly pretty vegan friendly with a wide variety of fresh food available.
3) The Sugar Mills water park, free for guests and located right on the resort, looked like a wonderful place for the whole family to enjoy.
(Note: I haven’t been compensated for this review, all views are my own.)
We arrived in Montego Bay on a weekday evening and breezed through security; it was such a painless process that it was only 30 minutes from the time we got off the plane to the time we stepped into the hotel. The only downside to arriving in the evening is you can’t enjoy the sunshine as soon as you arrive, and it was already so dark you couldn’t really see the resort, but that was alright; the next morning we flew open our hotel room curtains to see the sun rise over the ocean to our left and green mountains to our right and it was spectacular!
The rooms: We intentionally chose a resort that offered two queen beds, not double beds, for the comfort when you have four people sharing one room. The beds and pillows were very comfortable (though unfortunately made with goose down) and we slept well. The hotel was always spotlessly clean with upscale (though generic) décor.
The beach: While it didn’t have the pristine white sands and turquoise I’ve enjoyed in Antigua, it was still a lovely beach with soft brown sand, long enough to take several minutes to walk from one side to another and we didn’t feel crowded on the beach even though the resort was nearly at capacity. One side was for families, the other side was adults-only. Some water sports like parasailing and boating are offered but we found the prices steep and did not partake. We were pleasantly surprised to discover there were almost no bugs of any kind there. Hurray, no mosquito bites!
The staff: We found everyone who worked there to be super friendly, courteous and helpful. Our favourite staff members for their above-and-beyond customer service were Rickesia, Tiffany, James in security, Shantol, Kimone, Denny, chefs Michael and Easton, Sherika, Alwayne, and Omar the lifeguard. We had nothing but positive experiences with the Hilton staff.
The pools: There is one large rectangular pool which was usually crowded and didn’t appeal to us much; we far preferred the on-site water park with two slides, a lazy river ride and three glorious hot tubs. Note: There are no little slides for small children (signs posted say they are for those at least 38” tall) so if you’re going with little ones, they won’t be able to enjoy much of the water park. Our daughter, who didn’t meet the height requirement for the slides (and they looked too intimidating to appeal to her anyway), enjoyed the pool and lazy river instead. The one thing we found annoying was the one day a cruise ship disembarked and a few hundred more people descended on the property for several hours. Since the resort was already nearly at capacity, that one day felt uncomfortably cramped with longer lines for the food and the slides. Other than that day, the water park was a blast each day.
The food: There are 7 restaurants but our favourite was the buffet which had a wide variety of food to appeal to every diet (vegetarian, vegan, raw, gluten-free, etc).
For breakfasts we had fruit smoothies, fresh fruit, nuts, baked beans, roast plantains, and toast with peanut butter.
For lunches, we would enjoy some fries and jerk vegetable wraps by the beach or the vegan Boca burgers, which were topped with red pepper relish. (Boca burgers aren’t available in Canada, and wow, we are missing out! I need to pick these up on a shopping trip to the States at some point, they are excellent).
The vegan burgers weren’t part of their regular menu but a Trip Advisor review had tipped us off to their existence in the kitchen, so you’ll have to ask for them special if you go, and the chefs were happy to prepare. In the buffet there was always a large selection of fresh veggies and fruit, salads, beans and rice, guacamole and chips, and grilled vegetable sandwiches.
For dinner in the buffet there was always a “vegetarian corner” with some sort of legume-based vegan dish and they were always excellent. There were tofu curries, bean chilli, stews, etc. The coconut milk-based pumpkin soup was outstanding! The pizza station happily swapped beans for cheese for our own vegan pizzas, and the chefs regularly invited us to tell them if we had any special requests.
The dessert table was always loaded with dairy-filled creations we avoided but they did have Oreos (which don’t contain animal products) and fresh fruit available.
Overall, we were very happy with our stay at the Hilton Rose Hall and would recommend. It’s especially great for families with kids older than about 7 (so they can enjoy the water park), and those who are looking for a resort that’s quiet at night. The excellent food, warm staff and water park are the standouts that leave us wanting to return!