Sandals Dunns River Review(2023)

Sandals Dunns River Resort is located just outside of Ocho Rios near the world famous Dunns River Falls.  It’s the newest Sandals Resort in Jamaica, and is quickly becoming a favorite.  In our Sandals Dunns River review we will go over all of the pros and cons of this brand new resort.

Sandals Dunns River is in our top 3 favorite Sandals Resorts in Jamaica due to it’s laid back but fun vibe, medium size, beachfront infinity pools, fantastic food, and large beautiful beach and ocean.

SANDALS DUNNS RIVER OVERVIEW

Sandals Dunns River is not only the newest Sandals, but it also offers several new concept rooms and restaurants.   It’s a medium sized resort which means there’s quick access to just about anything on site.

Ocho Rios is also home to two other properties that you can check out with Stay at 1, Play at All.  Not to mention that Sandals Dunns River is just a few minutes away from the World Famous Dunns River Falls– which is our favorite excursion in Ocho Rios.

Above all, the food was what won us over at Sandals Dunns River.  For the size of the property, there are a lot of restaurant options, and all of them were a step above nearly all of the other Sandals Resorts(similar to the quality at Royal Plantation).

If you’re looking for some of the unique higher end rooms at Sandals Resorts, Sandals Dunns River has both Rondovals and Sky Pool Suites! 

We’re beach people and want a nice strip of white sand beach with relatively calm water for floating and watersports.  While this location seems to be more prone to wind, it’s often calmer in the morning and the sand and water are gorgeous!

Sandals Dunns River Highlights

  • 12 restaurants
  • 5 Pools & 2 Whirlpools
  • Midsize Resort:  250 Rooms & Suites
  • 90 minutes from the Airport
  • 2 other local Resorts for Stay at 1 Play at All
  • Golf Nearby

Check out our guide to the Best Sandals Resort in Jamaica HERE– hint, the best all depends on what you like!

Want to know why we love Sandals Dunns River Jamaica The size of the resort is perfect.  It’s big enough to have several restaurant options and fun entertainment but small enough that you never have to walk too far to anything.  The beach is beautiful and the restaurants were top notch.

It has a good mature laid back vibe that we love.  There’s plenty of fun entertainment both day and night, most of which is centered around the main pool and beach area.
Check out our Favorite Room Category at Sandals Dunns River HERE.

And the negatives… The buildings are all larger and require entering your room through an interior hallway(except the Rondovals and swim up rooms).  We prefer smaller buildings with exterior walkways because it feels less awkward getting to your room when you’re wet.

Also, watersports are a big part of how we spend our time at Sandals Resorts, and the location lends itself to more windy yellow flag days.

Jump to Reviews of the:

SANDALS DUNNS RIVER MAP

Sandals Dunns River Building Map

Click Here for the Interactive Sandals Dunns River Resort Map.

SANDALS DUNNS RIVER ROOMS

We love the smaller size of the resort with nearly all of the rooms being very near to the beach.  All of the buildings with guest rooms wrap around the one large main beachfront pool.  The exceptions is the Rondoval village that sits just behind the main lobby building.

The resort is brand new, so the rooms are all in nearly perfect condition with all of the amenities that you would expect from a Sandals Resort- comfy beds, nice stocked bar, beautiful views of both the ocean and grounds, and always very clean with everything in working order.

But, the buildings are actually our least favorite part of the resort.  All of the buildings are 5-7 stories and require entering your room from an interior hallway and lobby.  This may be nit picking, but it’s one of the biggest drawbacks for us.

Click HERE to check out all of the room options at Sandals Dunns River.

In Room Amenities

  • Red Lane Spa Shampoo, Conditioner, and Lotion(it’s good stuff!)
  • Hairdryer
  • In Room Safe
  • Coffee Maker with Blue Mountain Coffee
  • Minibar

Coyoba Rondovals

We love Rondovals for the privacy and the river pool.  Sandals Dunns River actually has two types of Rondovals that are very similar, but the Sky Villa(SKYV code) includes a rooftop terrace for lounging and stargazing.

The only thing we don’t love about these Rondovals is that although the map looks like the river pools are interconnected, they are actually 3 separate pools.  They’re still really wonderful and peaceful rooms, but if we’re splurging on a Rondoval, we prefer the ones at Sandals South Coast.

Tufa Terrace

The Tufa Terrace buildings are a set of two along the East side of the property with either swim out rooms or the new sky pools.  Something to keep in mind with the sky pools is that they are glass on the outside- so people down below can see what’s going on in them.

The top floors of the building do not have any guest rooms with the East building having a rooftop bar and the West with the gym.  The 4th Floor Rooms will have a great view, but you could be disturbed later at night in the East Building or first thing in the morning in the West Building because of the rooms above.

Travertine Building

The Travertine Building is the heart of the resort and is home to the lobby, EPIX, the Loyalty Lounge, Club Sandals, and Hunami Restaurant.  Access to all rooms is through 2 elevators in the lobby which is one of our least favorite things about the resort.

On the Oceanview side, request a higher floor with room numbers ending in 02-14(East side of building) for better views.  All rooms overlook the pool area and the ocean, and while there are some rooms that aren’t as great, there really aren’t any bad rooms.

Mammee Building

The Mammee Building runs along the west side of the property and sits next to the RIU Resort, so it can be slightly noisier for the rooms facing to the West.  Most nights the noise wasn’t an issue, but there were a few where it was quite loud.

The Butler rooms on the end of the Mammee Building are truly beachfront without any pools or other obstructions.  So, if you want beautiful ocean views and sea breezes, those are your best picks.

SANDALS DUNNS RIVER RESTAURANTS REVIEW

Of all of the Sandals Resorts we’ve been to- and not just the ones in Jamaica- this one has the best food.  Most Sandals Resorts have good food, but it’s more like chain restaurant or banquet food.  

Sandals Dunns River has taken it up a notch and really serves great food.  The management was quite interested in feedback and trying to improve as well.  In the past we’ve said that Royal Plantation has better food than all the others, which we still stand by, but Dunns River is just as good with more options.

All Day

Blum: Pastries and Coffee

Blum is an everyday stop for us.  We think both the coffee and pastries are better than the pastry shops we’ve been to at other Sandals Resorts.  The atmosphere is great as well with lots of outdoor seating under pergolas.

Find the Blum Menu online HERE.

Breakfast

Saltaire: Breakfast Buffet

Saltaire is your typical resort breakfast buffet with an omelet station, smoothie station, fruits, eggs, pastries, and yogurt and cereals.  It’s a fast easy stop for days when you have to get to an excursion or just want something quick.

Edessa: A la Carte Breakfast

Edessa is the a la carte breakfast spot at the resort.  You can get the same types of items you see at the a la carte breakfast spots at other Sandals resorts- Eggs Benedict, French Toast, American breakfast, etc.

The service was good, but it took quite a while for the food to come out.

Find the Edessa Menu online HERE.

Lunch

Saltaire: Lunch Buffet

Saltaire has a lunch buffet that rotates daily between different cuisines.  There’s always a salad bar, cold vegetable bar, nacho bar, custom made salad station, sandwich station, and dessert station.  

There are two hot stations of two or three items each with the cuisine of the day being served.

Isola: Pizzeria

Isola is your typical wood fire pizza.  They’re served by the pie and it’s enough for two.  The pizza is very similar to all of the other pizzerias at Sandals Resorts.

Find the Isola Menu online HERE.

Galene: Beach Grill

Galene is a basic beach bar with sandwiches and salads.  I don’t love the menu, but the Cobb Salad and Quesadillas were really good.  Jamaican Patties aren’t on the menu, but they have them.  You just have to ask.  We get Jamaican Patties every trip, so we were glad to find out they had them.

Find the Galene Menu online HERE.

Jerk Shack: Jerk Specialties

The Jerk Shack is always a lunch favorite for us and usually where we stop for our first day lunch to get us in a Jamaican spirit.  This Jerk Shack didn’t disappoint- Fish in Foil, Jerk Chicken, and Festival are our favorites.

Dinner

Edessa: Greek

Kristin loved it, but Andrew didn’t enjoy it very much.  He hates olives, and really, Greek Cuisine is quite olive heavy.  

The octopus salad was possibly Kristin’s favorite thing at Sandals Dunns River.  

Find the Edessa Menu online HERE.

Cascata: Italian 

This is the only place we didn’t get a chance to try.  I would assume it’s similar to the Italian Restaurants at all of the other Sandals Resorts but we can’t say for sure.

Find the Cascata Menu online HERE.

L’Amande: French 

L’amande is the only restaurant at Sandals Dunns River that requires reservations- make sure to book them as soon as you arrive.  

Everything we ate was very good, but nothing stood out.  The reservations required makes it seem to be a can’t miss spot, but we liked others better. 

We were told that pants and closed toe shoes are not required for men, but have heard that others have been told they are.  So, as I always recommend for Sandals Resorts, just come prepared with some linen pants and boat shoes guys.  

Banyu: Pan Asian

Banyu was Andrew’s favorite restaurant.  The manager King was fantastic, taking time to talk to every table and brought us some salmon sashimi, which ended up being one of the best things we ate all week.

We showed up at 7:30 which is the busiest time of the evening.  It took a while to get a server, but the manager filled in the gaps bringing us drinks and an appetizer.

Find the Banyu Menu online HERE.

Zuka: Latin Fusion

The food at Zuka was delicious and the service was fantastic.  It was a little slow out of the gate taking nearly 20 minutes for our appetizers to arrive, but after that it was smooth sailing.  

Find the Zuka Menu online HERE.

Hunami: Sushi

The sushi at Sandals is always very good.  We thought everything we got was very tasty, but the staff may need a bit of training.  We ordered 4 rolls in two separate orders and 3 of the 4 we ordered were wrong.  

I let it slide on the first order but on the second I told the server we ordered a different roll.  She said, oh that is the right roll, I just told you the wrong name- but it obviously wasn’t what we ordered because the ingredients were different.

Their signature drink is the saki cruise, and is always a favorite!

Find the Hanami Menu online HERE.

Late Night

Dunns Rum Club: Bar Snacks & Small Plates

The Dunns Rum Club was one of our favorite hangout spots- and Sandals Dunns River is quite full of lounge spaces.  It has a fun vibe with some pool tables, lots of cool drinks to try- including flights of rum.

They serve small plates and it’s a great spot to stop in before dinner for appetizers.

Find the Dunns Rum Club Menu online HERE.

Room Service

Room Service is only available to Club and Butler Rooms.  When we stay luxury rooms, we’re always worried we will miss out by not having it, but with all of the other food options, we never end up ordering Room Service.  

Reservations

L’Amande is the only restaurant requiring reservations.  You can make those with the front desk, Club Sandals, or your Butler.  

You can also ask them about reservations at Sandals Ochi, as you can take the shuttle there for dinner as well.

SANDALS DUNNS RIVER BEACH AND OCEAN

The beach has beautiful white sand and the ocean is that perfect mix of dark and light blues.  There are some smooth rocks underwater as you walk out at the beach, but it’s nice and sandy and not mucky or grassy.  

There were plenty of chairs with umbrellas, and the beach never felt full.  

The only issue with the ocean is that it tends to be windy more often than other locations which limits the watersports.  Based on what we heard from staff and our experience, most days it is calmer in the morning and the wind picks up in the afternoon. 

POOLS AND HOT TUBS

Technically Sandals says the Sandals Dunns River has 5 pools and 2 hot tubs, but in reality there’s really only 1 main public pool area.  

The main pool area is beachfront and is “technically” two pools almost connected by a river pool, except for a small walkway that divides the two.  The two whirlpools are located along each of these pools

The other 3 pools are the two swim up room pools and the Rondoval river pool.  While none of the pools are truly private, if you’ve been to a Sandals Resort before, you’ll know that it feels almost intrusive to enter these pools.  

SANDALS DUNNS RIVER EXCURSIONS

Sandals Dunns River is often mistakenly called Sandals Dunns River Falls due to the proximity to Dunns River Falls– which are a must see.  A short 5 minute drive will take you to the falls, and we highly recommend it.  They do get very crowded by mid morning, so plan to go right when they open.  

Top Local Excursions:

  • Dunns River Catamaran Cruise
  • Blue Hole Ocho Rios
  • ATV & Horseback Riding Trip
  • Luminous Lagoon
  • Martha Brae River Rafting

The Blue Hole is a bit further away, and is a good alternative to Dunns River Falls.  We’ve been to both and would choose Dunns River Falls.  The Blue Hole is no longer undiscovered and is just as packed as Dunns River Falls.  It’s still a fun excursion, if you’re looking for a different type of waterfall experience with cliff jumping and rope swings.

Bamboo Rafting on the Martha Brae River is one of those quintessential Jamaican things to do.  Yes, it’s touristy and crowded, but it’s a cool experience.  There are also horseback riding and atv excursions in the area that look like fun for a day.

ENTERTAINMENT REVIEW SANDALS DUNNS RIVER

The entertainment was the perfect mix of classy chill vibes with just enough of a party to get everyone involved and having fun.

Daytime Entertainment

Plenty of watersports are offered at Sandals Dunns River, but it was quite windy most of the days we were there.  We were able to snorkel once at the reef just off shore, but that was it.  We did see some of the Hobie cats go out, but the wind was a bit too advanced for us.

There was daily music, an activity(like jewelry, pottery or candle making), and often a dance class.  

Evening Entertainment

The entertainment schedule can only be found on the app.  Most other resorts have screens or signs around the property showing the activities for the day, but there aren’t any at Sandals Dunns River. 

Most nights consisted of a singer or band with some dancing or costumes, but there is a Silent Disco(our favorite) and Fire Show which was very cool!  The main entertainment in the evening takes place along the beach and boardwalk in front of Laughing Waters Bar.  

SERVICE AT SANDALS DUNNS RIVER REVIEWS

We were very pleased with everyone we interacted with at Sandals Dunns River.  They were very helpful and all of the management seemed to be genuinely interested in the guests’ opinions on any improvements that could be made.  

We had a small issue with our air conditioner not cooling(honestly, I think I may have left the bathroom window cracked and that was the real issue), but the maintenance person got right to the room and solved whatever issue we were having quickly.

Who do I Tip?

Most people who’ve gotten this far already know that Sandals is a NO TIPPING resort, but what does that really mean???  It means that no one on Sandals Staff can accept tips except Butlers and Spa Staff.  But, there are some other people who may need tipped along the way like the shuttle driver or excursion staff. 

Check out our full breakdown of Who to Tip at Sandals Resorts HERE.

What do Butlers do?

New to the Sandals Butler experience?  We’ve covered all of the details on what to expect from your butler and how to make the most of the experience in this Sandals Butler Guide– including how much to tip them!

OTHER AMENITIES

Red Lane Spa

Red Lane Spa from above at Sandals Dunns River

We didn’t end up using the spa, but from what we could see it looked very peaceful.  The building wraps around an interior courtyard with a pool.  

Gym

The gym is one of our favorites at any Sandals Resort.  The views from the treadmills are fantastic and there’s plenty of brand new cardio and weight equipment.  You can also join in exercise classes for an additional fee.

OUR OPINION

Sandals Dunns River is one of our favorite Sandals Resorts in Jamaica because of it’s size, quality of food, and mature but fun vibe.  They kept calling it Sandals 2.0, and I would kind of agree.  

If you’re comparing the 3 Sandals Resorts in Ocho Rios, Sandals Dunns River is right in the middle.  Ochi is at a lower price point with a younger and rowdier crowd, over a very large resort.  Sandals Royal Plantation is the exact opposite being one of the more expensive options with an older crowd and a very quiet small resort.  Sandals Dunns River is the best of both worlds- fun and active, but not large or wild.

We loved the gorgeous ocean views and soft white sand, but the higher chance of windy days was a bit of a drawback.  The quality and variety of food is what really impressed us at Sandals Dunns River, and will be the main thing- along with the fun relaxed vibe- that draws us back to this resort.  

Make sure to Check Out all of our Sandals Posts Here to help plan your trip!

About the author
Kristin Young