The Ultimate Review of Sandals Dunn’s River Resort in Jamaica: What You Need to Know

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Let me share our honest review on our recent stay at Sandals Dunn’s River Resort in Jamaica. From the moment we arrived, we were greeted with warm smiles and a refreshing welcome drink. The resort itself is nestled in a stunning location, surrounded by lush greenery and overlooking the crystal-clear waters of the Caribbean Sea.

Ultimate Review Sandals Dunn's River

This review of Sandals Dunn’s River applies to the dates of September 24-29, 2023.

Common Questions About Sandals Dunn’s River

Is Sandals Dunn’s River A Brand New Resort?

No and yes! Sandals Dunn’s River was part of the Sandals brand before 1997(we were there for a brief stop on our honeymoon) but was later sold. When it was repurchased into the Sandals Resorts family, they did a remodel of existing spaces and built new areas to make it the absolute gem that it is. A true vision of what they are now calling Sandals 2.0.

How Far Is Sandals Dunn’s River From The Airport?

  • From Sangster International: Approximately a 70-minute ride, depending on traffic.
  • From Norman Manley International: 75-minute ride
  • From Ian Fleming International: 20-25 minute ride

Can I Come To Sandals Dunn’s River If I Am Staying At Sandals Royal Plantation Or Sandals Ochi?

At this time, only 8 couples per night are allowed to come to Dunn’s River during the dinner hours. You need to get special permission which can be obtained by talking to the front desk or inquiring at the Club Sandals lounge.

Is There Construction At Sandals Dunn’s River

Currently they are breaking ground for Royal Dunn’s River so there is land clearing going on. At the time of this review, no physical building construction has started, but that is always subject to change.

Now that I covered a few important questions, let’s dig deeper into this review of Sandals Dunn’s River

Before Getting To Sandals Dunn’s River

As always, anytime we travel to Jamaica, my husband and I use Club Mobay arrival & departure services. We love how it starts your vacation off on the right foot by helping you bypass long lines and have a knowledgeable representative guide you along your way and check your customs form.

If you haven’t already done the C5 form online, they will guide you to the appropriate kiosk to have you complete it, but if you want to save time, do ahead of time. Remember, the service to fill out the customs form is free and if a website asks you for payment, it is not a legitimate site. To make it easy for you, this is the correct link to the online customs form you should use. Make sure you fill it out 7 days prior to your intended arrival date in Jamaica.

Sandals also has a lovely lounge for you to wait in if you don’t have Club Mobay services. This is where you check in and get your bags tagged. There is also restrooms, snacks & drinks, and comfortable seats.

How We Got To Sandals Dunn’s River From The Airport

As you know from previous posts, transfers to and from Sandals Resorts are always included. Last year when we went to Sandals Ocho Rios, we spent a bit of time waiting for the bus to fill up before heading to the resort. With a 90-minute drive from Sangster International Airport, it was a lot of wasted time we could have been enjoying the resort amenities.

Instead, we opted to hire a private driver from Inside Tours Jamaica. Kemar Smile is a fantastic person to work with and we are so glad that we opted to spend a little extra and get the private driver. He was fun & knowledgeable and the 75 minutes to the resort went by very quickly.

Sandals also offers private transport services through their excursion partner, Island Routes, so you can also arrange it that way. Whatever method you decide on doing, make sure you contact Sandals via phone or chat and let them know that you have arranged private transfer. Just stop in at the Sandals lounge so the staff can tag your bags, and then you can head out on your way.

Once We Arrived At The Resort

Once we arrived at the resort, we were given a cold towel and escorted to the Club Sandals lounge for check-in. Because we were butler guests, we simply had to wait for our butler to come and greet us and we did our check-in the room. I always do the online check-in and put a credit card on file so that we aren’t wasting time doing that once we get to resort.

Being part of the various Sandals Facebook groups, I had put in a request for our butlers when I filled out our butler preference form. As this was our first time at butler level, I wasn’t sure what to expect. I know that requests are never guaranteed, so I was extremely excited to find out that we were assigned our first choice of butlers, the amazing team of Shawne & Tenneil!

plan your vacation early sandals resorts
Shawn butler Sandals Dunn's River

Shawne gave us a tour of our room, did our orientation & check-in, and then got us lunch at our favorite lunch place, the Jerk Shack. We were at the resort celebrating my early-October birthday, and Shawne had it all decorated for me. I felt so absolutely special!

TSKY desk area

I have to tell you that this room was absolutely worth the splurge, and I am so glad that my husband had pushed me to change to the TSKY room when it was on the 777 sale. If you want to see a full room review, you can read it about the TUFA Terrance One Bedroom Skypool Butler suite. I go into a detailed look at this suite, and it will give you the full idea as to why this room was the best room we have stayed in so far in our Sandals journey.

A Note Of Observation

When we arrived in Jamaica at Sandals Dunn’ s River, this resort was only reopened to the public for a few months. I really have to say that if it was this amazing so soon, it is going to be even more spectacular in the months and years to come. Once they complete the construction on Sandals Royal Dunn’s River, this resort will probably be my top Jamaican Sandals Resort!

A Quick Review of The Restaurants At Sandals Dunn’s River

As always, food is a huge part of our vacations, and why we love being at all-inclusive resorts. We often get to try many new dishes we would not normally eat and we can order a few of each thing because we are not paying extra for several appetizers or two desserts. Since we were only on resort for 5 nights, we did not get to try all of the restaurants, but we did enjoy the ones we got too.

There are 12 restaurants available at the resort, and probably some of my favorite! We did not get a chance to try everything, so I am listing the ones we did not visit first.

  • Banyu: Asian Fusion
  • Hanami: Sushi

My husband and I don’t eat either one of those, but guests that we have talked to have all loved it.

Saltaire

A buffet-style restaurant that is open for breakfast and lunch. We only ever ate there for breakfast, but it is a favorite of ours because of the made to order egg station. My husband loves his omelets, and I enjoy my sunny side up eggs. They also have a great selection of pancakes, sides, fruits & pastries!

breakfast buffet Saltaire

Edessa

This is their Greek themed restaurant. During the breakfast hours, it serves a la carte menu items. For me it was all about the salmon eggs benedict.

salmon eggs benedict Edessa Sandals Dunn's River

Dinner was equally as good. And while service at both meals was slow in this restaurant, the food was well worth the wait!

chicken and orzo at Edessa Sandals Dunn's River

Cascata

Italian cuisine is always a favorite of ours, so we were excited about heading here for dinner. Because no reservations are required, we ate here our first night. As always, everything was delicious! If we were staying longer, we would have done a second night here.

Fried calamari Cascata Sandals Dunn's River
Lasagna Cascata Sandals Dunn's River
chocolate hazelnut tart

L’Amande Restaurant

This is the French restaurant at the resort. I have been to several French restaurant’s at Sandals, and I feel this is, by far, the best one. I decided to be bold and try something new since it was my birthday celebration meal. After talking to our server, I settled on the duck. It absolutely did not disappoint.

Duck from French restaurant Sandals Dunn's River

Both our desserts were delicious as well.

ÂTEAU AU CHOCOLAT OPÉRA Sandals Dunn's River
STRAWBERRY MILLEFEUILLES French restaurant Sandals Dunn's River

Zuka

This Latin fusion style dining was first introduced at Sandals Royal Curacao. I have heard so many good things about it from all the loyal Sandals fans that I couldn’t wait to try it. Truly, it was probably one of the best meals ever!

Surf & Turf Zuka Sandals Dunn's River
PASTELITOS DE GUAYABA Zuka Sandals Dunn's River

I can still taste how light and tasty that dessert was. I definitely cannot wait to enjoy them again. We are headed to Curacao in May 2024, so I absolutely cannot wait to eat there again. Be sure to check back later in the Summer when I give a full review of our experience there. Anything in particular you want to know about? Leave a comment and I will make sure I address it.

Lunch Options

The three main places to get lunch were at Isola for Pizza, Galene the seaside grill, and, of course, the Jerk Shack. We enjoyed things from each of those places throughout our stay.

Fish in foil Jerk Shack Sandals Dunn's River
Fish in foil from the Jerk Shack
Jerk chicken pizza Isola Sandals Dunn's River
Jerk chicken pizza from Isola
chicken and cheese panini from Galene
Chicken and cheese panini from Galene

You absolutely cannot go hungry from this resort! There is also a self-serve ice cream machine next to Galene, and Blum Cafe serves lots of sweet treats!

sweet treats Blum Cafe Sandals Dunn's River

So Many Bars, So Little Time

I think enjoying drinks is my second favorite thing at Sandals Resorts. And one great thing about this resort was the number of bars you had available to you. With it being a smaller resort, having more bars spread around the resort made getting and waiting for a drink a snap. We never waited long, and each place was absolutely unique. Of course, I did have a favorite, so let’s start there.

Dunn’s Rum Club

My absolute favorite place to hang out and get drinks. The snacks were awesome too! We ended up there almost every night.

Sandals Dunn's River Rum Club
Sandals Dunn's River Dunn's Rum Club

Lapidus Lounge

This was a quite lounge and wasn’t very busy. It was incredibly well-decorated, and the drinks were fabulous.

Lapidus Lounge Sandals Dunn's River
Seating Area Lapidus Lounge Sandals Dunn's River

Greek Bar

Located outside of Edessa, it was another great place to grab a drink while waiting for dinner.

Courtyard Bar

Located at the center of the plaza where the restaurants are, a great place to grab a drink while waiting for a table or listening to entertainment.

Lobby Bar

This is the only bar we did not have time to visit during our short stay, it is another great option for getting a drink for evening entertainment.

Lobby Bar Sandals Dunn's River

Ocarina Bar

Located on the top floor of TUFA Terrace building too, a beautiful bar with stunning views of the resort. We never got a chance to try anything there either, but I definitely will whenever we go back.

Ocarina Bar Sandals Dunn's River
Night view from Ocarina Bar Sandals Dunn's River

Beach Bar & Laughing Waters Bar

I did not get drinks from here myself, but our amazing butlers did during the day while we were hanging out at the pool. Loved the convenient location of this bar, and it is set up in such a unique way.

Laughing Waters Beach Bar Sandals Dunn's River

Swim-Up Pool Bar

Swim up bars are always a favorite of mine, and the bartenders were amazing. Of course, Tenneil only let me get my own drink once at the swim up bar, but it was still the best drink ever!

Daybed around swim up pool bar Sandals Dunn's River
Swim up pool bar Sandals Dunn's River

Let’s just say, if you are thirsty when you are staying at this resort, you aren’t trying hard enough. Each bar had a unique feel and different drinks, and I felt like I did not have enough time to try everything that I wanted. Shawne & Tenneil always brought us drinks at the pool and at dinner, so we were never without a good beverage. Of course, I always started off my day with a breakfast mimosa at whatever restaurant we were enjoying.

The Resort Grounds

Sandals Dunn’s River is set on 25 acres of land and is a bit on the smaller side. But it is laid out so well that it doesn’t seem small at all. One of my favorite things to do in the morning was to walk up to Blum Cafe and grab my iced vanilla latte with Bailey’s and walk around enjoying the landscaping and grounds.

Sandals Dunn's River Blum Cafe

Directly across from that was the rondoval village. One of these times I am going to really splurge and get one of these rooms, just as a treat. They looked amazing, and having the mini river pools is a bonus. I admit that I am a pool kind of gal.

Sandals Dunn's River Rondoval village

I would then stroll down and say good morning to the guards at the entrance, and on my way back always ended up chatting with the groundskeepers. I could not get over the job they did in the few short months the resort was opened.

Sandals waterfall at entrance Sandals Dunn's River

The lobby area is just so peaceful and serene, even when it’s busy with guests checking in and checking out.

Lobby Sandals Dunn's River

The gift shop here was large and had all kinds of things in it. As always, a great deal of my spending is at the gift shop, as well as Epix. We always take advantage of the free photo shoot. I have learned from experience to get the digital version so I can print out what sizes I want.

And being Emerald members, we also get a discount for purchases at the gift shop & photo center. Hubs has learned that photo frames are a non-negotiable and they had some pretty new colors at this resort.

Photo and frame from Epix shop Sandals Dunn's River

The main courtyard where the pool and restaurants were located were open and had many cool water features present.

Main courtyard area Sandals Dunn's River
Water features Sandals Dunn's River main courtyard

The main pool is absolutely unique with the river style and infinity edge. We spent almost all of our time in one pool or the other.

Infinity edge pool Sandals Dunn's River
Sandals Dunn's River swim up pool bar with infinity edge pool

And a unique space is the Laughing Waters beach bar. With a bar below and a lounging space above, it is the perfect place to relax and get a drink. They also had live music in the morning, and the DJ booth for afternoon entertainment.

Laughing Waters Beach Bar Sandals Dunn's River

And there is a great space for entertainment by the swim up bar. This is where they held the reception before the returning guest dinner.

Entertainment area by swim up bar Sandals Dunn's River
returning guest dinner Sandals Dunn's River

While this resort maybe smaller, they have done an absolutely fantastic job with how it is laid out and how they use water features to tie everything together.

water fall at main pool Sandals Dunn's River

For those that may have mobility issues, this resort is flat and well-laid out. All buildings have elevators and many of the rooms are handicap accessible. There is also a beach wheelchair available, if needed.

Beach wheelchair Sandals Dunn's River

Things To Do At The Resort

One of my favorite things about being up early in the morning was the musicians they had playing near the Laughing Waters area each morning. Whether it was steel drums or a violin player, it was a unique way to start the day. To add more fun, they had a portable coffee bike from Blum Cafe to have fresh poured coffee to enjoy while listening to the music.

Blum Cafe Coffee bike Sandals Dunn's River

There is also the Aqua Center that offers the following water activities:

  • Waterskiing
  • Tubing
  • Snorkeling
  • Glass Bottom Boats
  • Hobie Cat Sailing
  • Paddleboarding
  • Kayaking
  • Scuba Diving for certified divers
Aqua Center Sandals Dunn's River
Kayaks and Paddleboards Sandals Dunn's River
water view of Sandals Dunn's River

We spent most of our late afternoons in the skypool watching people enjoy all the water activities. The water tubing was very popular and so many people talked about how much fun they were having doing it. We also saw several people water skiing too. The nice thing is the dock is right at the resort for snorkeling and scuba diving, so it is easy & convenient.

Aqua center pier Sandals Dunn's River

Every evening, they had entertainment in the courtyard area as well. There was also karaoke at the piano bar in the main lobby area.

Piano bar in lobby at Sandals Dunn's River

This is where I have to give yet another shout out to the staff at the Rum Club! When we were there, our team was playing on Monday Night Football. The staff had the games on in the pool table room, and were constantly bringing us snacks and drinks, and making sure everyone had a seat. If you love sports, they will do their absolute best to accommodate you and making it a memorable experience.

Monday Night Football viewing party Sandals Dunn's River

On Tuesday nights, there was Techno Tuesday in the Ocarina Bar (however, from what I have read on Facebook, they moved that to the Rum Bar because it was disturbing the rest of guests in the skypools directly below it).

During the day there was always something happening at the pools, so you never lacked entertainment at the resort. I am an early riser, and I usually don’t end up going to entertainment. But most nights we ended up at the Rum Club because it was such a fun place to hang out and meet friends.

A Few Last Items Of This Review Of Sandals Dunn’s River

Are you looking to get married? The wedding team here will help you get started. Can you imagine saying yes with this as your background?

Wedding venue Sandals Dunn's River

You can also have your wedding reception under cover if there happens to be some liquid sunshine. Or you could say I do in front of the amazing waterfalls, or up near Blum Cafe.

Waterfall spot at Sandals Dunn's River

And if the beach is where you want to say those amazing words, there is a perfect spot they have available for you. We watched several beach weddings from our skypool and it was absolutely amazing. The possibilities are endless here, and the wedding team is sure to make it the best day possible.

beach at Sandals Dunn's River that they turned into a wedding location

And if you want to spend some time away from the resort, the Island Routes desk can help you get started. Located next to the wedding lounge, be sure to stop in and get your adventure on.

Island Routes Desk Sandals Dunn's River

Since we were on a rest & recover kind of vacation, we did not take advantage of any excursions, but the next time (and there will be a next time, I can assure you that because we can’t wait to go back) we go, I am definitely heading to the desk and booking an excursion! With us being there for just a few days, I didn’t want to spend any time away from the resort.

I hope that you found this review of Sandals Dunn’s River to be helpful and that you are ready to book your stay here. Have questions? Make you send me a message via my contact form and can get in touch with you to help get you booked for your trip.

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4 Comments

  1. That looks like such a beautiful resort!!

    1. Jen Salabsky says:

      Yes, it is a smaller resort that makes a huge impression! Thanks for stopping in and visiting!

  2. What an amazing resort. I enjoyed visiting through your pictures. All the food you had looked delicious. Thanks for sharing!

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