01908 886491 woburn@etwtravel.co.uk


Our headline might seem like an evocative advert for a Mills and Boon romantic novel. Still, for first-time visitors to one of the 18 Sandals Resorts spread across eight Caribbean Islands, it’s worth understanding the remarkable personal story that sits behind the growth of this hugely popular brand.


Gordon “Butch” Stewart was born in Kingston in 1941 and grew up beside the world-renowned beaches of Jamaica’s northern coastline, where six Sandals properties sit today. Always on the water with a fishing line, he’d sell fish he caught to hotel restaurants and give the rest to neighbours. This entrepreneurial spirit and caring nature would last all his life.

At 27, he started an air conditioning company offering residents relief from the daytime heat. In 1980, the Jamaican Government opened the first all-inclusive property in Ocho Rios, and Stewart’s company was provided with a contract to supply kitchen appliances and air conditioners. It wasn’t long before he realised the all-inclusive concept could be done better, so he purchased an ageing hotel on one of Montego Bay’s beaches, the Bay Roc, quickly followed by another, Carlyle on the Bay.

At heart, Butch Stewart was a salesman rather than a property owner, and he sold his dream to everyone he met with enthusiasm and commitment that people couldn’t ignore. Despite having no hotel experience, he approached the business with a philosophy he articulated many times. “The winning formula is to find out what people want, give it to them, and in doing so, exceed their expectations”. And so, Sandals was born.

Where other so-called all-inclusive hotels offered meals and rooms at a set rate, Sandals Resort prices covered gourmet dining options, premium spirits, gratuities, airport transfers, taxes and all land and water-sport activities. The competitors provided buffet-style meals, so instead, Stewart created the on-property speciality restaurants with high culinary standards and white-glove service. Sandals Resorts was also the first Caribbean hotel to offer Jacuzzis and satellite television service, the first with swim-up pool bars and the first to guarantee that every room was fitted with a king-size bed and a hair dryer. He brought over the water bungalows and villas to the Caribbean when it was thought impossible. All of this elevated the all-inclusive concept to a whole new level. Stewart never claimed to have invented the all-inclusive concept, but his “we can do it better” motto allowed Sandals to innovate and improve until it became the template for similar luxury resorts worldwide. Guest return rates are said to be 50%, the highest of anywhere in the Caribbean.

His commitment to his home country of Jamaica was unwavering, demonstrated by leading a group of investors who bought Air Jamaica to ensure more flights to the island. When Jamaica’s financial system began to spiral in the early 1990s, he vowed to deposit $1 million into Jamaican banks weekly to shore up the economy, which he did for ten weeks.  


Butch Stewart’s mantra was “I want you to know you’re in the Caribbean no matter where you are on the property”, and it’s not hard to see that he achieved his vision, with every property sitting on a white sandy beach, lapped by the blue waters of the Caribbean whether it is in Jamaica, St Vincent, Antigua, Bahamas, Barbados, Curacao, Grenada or Saint Lucia.

Although sometimes referred to as an adults-only resort, Sandals is, in fact, a Couples-Only resort, as solo travellers and families are not allowed. This gives the resort a unique perspective on its various offerings, especially regarding wedding packages, even to the extent of advertising “elopement” weddings.

Airport transfers are included in all rates, but be aware of the distance to the various resorts from your arrival airport. For example, the Grand Saint Lucian is a two-hour transfer from the airport, and all but two of the Jamaican properties are a 90-minute drive. If flying into St Lucia or Montego Bay, there are also complimentary lounges to freshen up before you continue your journey.

There are three categories of rooms available at all Sandals Resorts. Sandals Luxury, which is entry-level; Club Level, which provides slightly more luxurious accommodation and free room service, with access to the Club Sandals Lounge; and Butler Elite Level, where you have a private phone on hand to summon your Butler wherever you are on the resort to unpack, provide drinks, make reservations, book excursions, and generally help with anything you need. If you think you will not require the Butler regularly, it’s worth checking the difference in price for this high-level service and upgraded room because you may not want to pay for something you are not likely to use.    

Guests are not short of choice, with as many as 23 cuisines available at up to 16 restaurants per resort. Contrary to most all-inclusive resorts, Sandals has few buffets except for breakfast. Food is available in some form 24/7 at all properties, and while some popular restaurants may be busy, they can only be booked upon arrival in the resort.

The no-tipping element of Sandals Resorts is a big plus, as it lets you enjoy the whole experience without ever thinking about whether or not you should reward staff. The only exception may be letting your Butler know that you appreciate the service they provided during your stay.

With unlimited premium drinks and free minibars in rooms restocked as requested, Sandals’ true all-inclusive nature is reaffirmed.

With few exceptions, all activities are free, including green fees for golf and transfers to the courses in Jamaica, St Lucia, and the Bahamas. All non-motorised water sports are free of charge, including scuba diving (up to two free dives a day). However, you should pre-book Scuba Diving and tours before you arrive to ensure certainty. Everything else can be booked on arrival.

Sandals Select Rewards is a programme where members can earn points based on their loyalty status. With eight different tiers from “Select” (based on your first stay) all the way through to “Ambassador” level (requiring total stays of 400 nights or more), they provide a variety of benefits, most of which are somewhat limited in their value. If you only ever want to experience Sandals as a one-off stay or as a honeymoon, then it’s unlikely the Sandals rewards scheme is beneficial. Even if you can achieve the Ambassador Tier, there is no doubt you would be able to afford all the associated benefits anyway, but everyone likes loyalty rewards.   

Sandals even offer their own credit card which provides points for purchases. The points can only be redeemed at Sandals, so unless you are a serial Sandals visitor, then a spend of $10,000 offering $100 in redemption isn’t necessarily going to excite you.


While Sandals is Couples Only, the group also provide for Families with three properties under the brand name “Beaches”. These are found in the Turks and Caicos and two in Jamaica – Negril and Ocho Rios. They are built on specially selected calm and protected shorelines to allow families to enjoy their holiday fully. These properties offer kids camps with certified nannies, waterparks, nightly teen clubs, day and night tennis, entertainment including live shows, free wifi and even free weddings for stays of three nights or longer. So, you may have previously honeymooned at Sandals, but now you can also enjoy the Sandals experience at “Beaches” with your children and the rest of your family.


Butch Stewart passed away in 2016 at the age of 79, after handing over the running of the organisation to his son Adam ten years earlier. Adam launched the Sandals Foundation in 2009, a non-profit organisation created to make a difference in life in the Caribbean. The organisation supports key areas in education, community, and the environment, and it now has over 30,000 volunteers operating in eight regions in the Caribbean. The initiative has helped over 800 schools, hospitals, medical clinics, and shelters for women and girls, including providing crop fields with new organic methods, eye clinics allowing people to see again, and dental clinics. Even ocean sanctuaries are being helped by restoring reefs and healthy fish populations. All Sandals guests are encouraged to bring toys and writing materials for underprivileged children in the Caribbean. Gordon “Butch” Stewart’s legacy is thriving like never before.

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