Resort Review: Iberostar Grand Rose Hall In Montego Bay, Jamaica
The stunning blue waters and warm breezes of the Caribbean are a huge draw any time of year, but I’ll admit I’ve spent more time seeking them out during the last two years of COVID than I normally do…they’ve been more open than places like Europe or South America.
Last fall I spent almost two weeks in Jamaica, and the majority of that time was at Montego Bay’s Iberostar Grand Rose Hall, and thought it was time to do a proper detailed review.
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Now what I will say is that my stay at the Iberostar Rose Hall was a little unusual in two ways. First, I didn’t actually *choose* to stay here on my own. I was visiting Montego Bay for an 8-day religious festival (with pre-determined locations), so the resort complex was chosen for me.
My friends all stayed in Suites (the family resort), while I chose to stay in the adults-only Grand Rose Hall. And because of that I stayed for 9 nights, which is a bit longer than I think most people stay at all-inclusives (I feel like a week is maybe more normal but not usually longer).
So it’s fair to note ahead of time that my own personal travel style doesn’t run toward all-inclusive resorts, and particularly not the more traditional, bigger all-inclusives (which Grand Rose Hall is).
I always try to be balanced in my review and speak to why something might not work for me as well, but might be totally good for other people—for example, a more high-energy pool atmosphere, which I hate but I’m a cranky old person 🙂
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I’ll go into much more detail below on the rooms, service, pools and beach, resort grounds, food and drink, and more…with LOTS of pictures so you can really get a feel. Fair warning, it’s quite in-depth, but I’m hoping that’s helpful for people trying to figure out what to expect.
But in case you’re short on time, here’s the TL;dr version…
Bottom line review of Iberostar Grand Rose Hall:
- The resort grounds are very pretty, oriented with the pool area as centerpiece. The indoor areas are decorated very tastefully, but with some pizzazz.
- The pools and pool area are beautiful, with plentiful chairs and beds. I love the landscaping out here, though you have bushes kind of up in your business while laying out. In the afternoon and at night it was a more loud, party vibe than I prefer though (to be fair, I’m an old person inside).
- The beach was beautiful and kept nice and clean. I didn’t spend a ton of time there as I was in a walking cast. They do have locals wandering up and down the beach offering to sell you stuff or take you on a boat, which I don’t like.
- My room was large, clean, and comfortable for the most part, with a nice patio and view over the ocean. There was one main dealbreaker having to do with A/C, more on that below.
- Sadly where the resort really falls short is the food. Almost everywhere it was just so…ehhh. My biggest issue with staying here, just uniformly mediocre or in some cases actively not good. There were some bright spots, and I’ll mention those below. They’re clearly trying (what’s on the menu *sounds* interesting and great), but the execution is not good.
- Bottom line would I stay there again? No, it’s not my vibe but I knew it probably wasn’t going in. It’s definitely a nice resort for some types of travelers (leans toward couples and groups of couples, families that are all adults, etc.). However I feel like the price point should put it in a higher level of excellence than it delivers on.
You can book through Iberostar’s website directly, or on TripAdvisor or Booking.com as well. It’s worth calling the Iberostar directly and finding out if there are perks or discounts for booking directly.
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I stayed in an Ocean Front Suite, and I loved the room’s spaciousness and setup. It had plenty of room, a couple seating options (KEY for chill trips, and I had to work on this one), and the bathroom was big and worked great. One weird thing was that there were no outlets like…anywhere. Seriously, I found two outlets outside of the bathroom, neither anywhere close to the bed.
So what was that dealbreaker I mentioned at the outset?? The resort has a setting where all the electricity shuts off in your room when you are not in the room or when you are asleep and not moving around. So the A/C stops working, overhead fan stops, and you can’t charge electronics while you sleep, etc.
It also meant that if you needed to shower and look nice (like stop sweating to get makeup on, like for dinner or in my case church every day), you had to stay in the room like an hour before getting in the shower, to keep it cool and un-humid enough to function.
Don’t give me the “eco” nonsense, people don’t pay $350+ a night to not have it air-conditioned when I come in from the pool, or cool enough when they sleep. Everything always felt just…humid. This was a huge miss by Iberostar in my opinion, and really made it a less comfortable stay.
One other odd note, the robes were so tiny!
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One thing I did really enjoy with the Ocean Front Suite was the view…beautiful sunrises and sunsets, with vibrant daytime ocean scenes. My patio was spacious and had multiple seating options, though the sun hit it intensely early in the day so I wasn’t able to work outside as often.
I definitely recommend an ocean view if you can. I requested one as far away from the elevators (for noise/traffic) and the pool (for noise), and they accommodated me in that.
it was still super loud and boisterous a couple nights until about 11pm (when they had outdoor events) and always late afternoon as the pool was bumpin’. But not too bad (I’m just a crotchety old person).
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I can’t say for sure if this is the case in all room types, but I had a concierge/butler throughout my stay. Omar was my butler most nights, and Teriann most days. They were great, always checking in when they were on the floor to see if I needed something. They also did a nice little decoration on my bed for my birthday.
Omar came through in the clutch and was able to get me a bottle of gin in place of the wine and liquor options provided (which weren’t to my taste, and since I was staying 9 nights I cared more). Then made sure I was kept in tonic water and limes throughout the week.
I did have trouble getting a hold of the concierge at off-hours (like late evening), which wouldn’t have mattered except it was the only way to get ice. The ice machine was broken and they told me to call them anytime I needed it, which isn’t the best setup.
Around the resort the service was fine, I didn’t really need too much outside of visiting all the different restaurants. I never know how much other people tip so I don’t know how to compare, but I did tip regularly throughout my stay…the concierges, leaving a little for housekeeping, at restaurants, etc.
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The grounds and resort buildings
Iberostar’s Grand Rose Hall is a lovely looking resort overall, and fairly compact. It’s oriented around the pool area, on the outside, forming a kind of horseshoe shape. All the pools are together rather than scattered around.
The inside public areas are decorated beautifully, with a kind of opulent feel (almost European). There’s a nice bar and seating area in the lobby, and then a large curving staircase that leads down to the ground floor and pool area.
The resort connects both along the beach and through inside hallways to the Iberostar’s other resorts, Suites and Beach. The 24-hour coffee shop is just over in the Suites resort, for instance.
Grand Rose Hall visitors can walk back and forth but people staying at the other two resorts cannot come over to Grand (I tried to get a special dispensation for my birthday dinner to have a friend come over, but they wanted to charge me $125).
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The pools at Iberostar Grand Rose Hall
The pool area is so pretty! I love the way they’ve designed the trees and walkways, and there are lots of seating options, including regular lounge chairs and little cabana beds.
When I was there, it wasn’t crowded at all and I never had any issue getting a chair…hard to say if that’s super normal since COVID travel is obviously weird.
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I tended to stay over on this part of the pool area, and kind of on the fringes. Earlier in the morning I’d be right around the pool here (I think this is the prettiest part of the pool area), but in the afternoon there’s definitely more of party atmosphere. The pool is so loud in the afternoon and at night…probably not by a real party resort’s standards, but by my boring older person’s 🙂
The pool that has the swim-up bar is where the music and games are centered, so you can stay a little further away from that if you just want to read your Kindle and chillax.
The lounge chairs are fine, though the way they have them tucked in little tiny berths with bushes in between is a bit challenging at times, I kept accidentally getting my arms and legs into the scratchy bushes as I tried to find the sun.
The chairs have stationary palapas rather than moveable umbrellas, which look cool though give you less flexibility in controlling your sun exposure.
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The food, drinks, and restaurants
Okay, let’s talk about the food and drinks, which is always a big consideration at an all-inclusive resort. And to me, this is the biggest place that Rose Hall Grand fell short.
Generally speaking I thought the food was mediocre at best and actively bad in some cases. They were TRYING…the dishes on the menu sounded interesting, but they fell short in execution and flavor. All the food here gave me really bad stomach air as well. One thing to know, you have to make reservations for all the restaurants (except buffet, obviously).
I’ll start with what was pretty good. I had good luck at the Surf & Turf Galleon restaurant with a few dishes, including the tenderloin steak (which was great, I had it twice). Their steak tartare was unique but pretty good as well, and the bread and dipping sauces good.
A couple other dishes to call out were the sushi and fried rice at the Japanese restaurant (I wish I could have eaten in the regular restaurant vs. the hibachi). And the feta and beetroot salad at Es Palau (the gourmet restaurant) was lovely.
And I didn’t find it until my stay was almost over, but there’s a little food stand down by the beach that has a number of dishes including hamburgers, patties, festival (a fried dough snack), and more. I mean, who doesn’t love fried food?? This was a winner for poolside lunch.
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There were a number of things that sounded quite interesting and definitely weren’t bad but didn’t quite “get there’. The foie gras dish at Es Palau had great flavors and was okay, the textures were just a little weirder (the way the foie gras was prepared made it chewier vs. melt-in-your-mouth).
There were things that looked good at all the buffets (breakfast, lunch, and dinner), and most of it was meh. For me, I ended up sticking with the freshly-grilled chicken, fish, and steak that they’ll do for you and then throwing that on a salad. Simple but decently good (avoid the steak though, chewy and weird).
Drinks throughout the resort were kind of hit-and-miss. For some bizarre reason I ordered an amaretto sour on my first night and loved it, and it became my go-to throughout the week. That was after they brought me an old fashioned that was made with peaty scotch (blech). They have enough options you can find something that works for you, and I’d say find your “thing” and stick with it.
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And then there was a lot that was quite bad. The breakfast buffet *looked* great but I didn’t find anything that was very good (and the cappuccino was terrible).
I couldn’t find much on room service to love, but ended up ordering simple fruit, yogurt, hashbrowns, and poached eggs delivered in the morning (your butler can give you a form to order the night before). I only ordered dinnertime room service once, and of the multiple dishes I ordered, the salmon was great.
I’d had such great luck with the tenderloin at Surf & Turf that I was excited for the one at Es Palau but it was terrible…soggy and fatty, more like salisbury steak or something. The caramelized apple tart was truly terrible as well, sadly inedible.
For me, I’d skip the Kiniro hibachi and just eat at the regular restaurant. Our hibachi chef was fine but literally everything he said was just joking that anything green (cabbage, etc) was ganja. It was mildly funny the first time but it was truly his only joke or topic. The fried rice was great but the rest of the food he cooked was bland and not great.
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I want to give a special shout-out to the iced lattes from the coffee shop! I seriously lived on them at times, since it was the only real consistent thing. The coffee shop is located through the hallways in the Suites resort but an easy walk, and is open 24/7.
One thing that was a little challenging is that there aren’t many options at the resort for quick food…very few places you can “grab and go” if you’re in a hurry and don’t want to sit down, and at some times of day there are no options (except the coffee shop which doesn’t have much and tends to be out of most food later in the day).
Two general observations and tips, not specific to the resort:
- One general observation is that in Jamaica they put WAY more sugar and milk in coffee than I would myself, so you have to be quite specific when ordering (for instance I usually asked for half a pump of coffee syrup, and I usually got a full pump; if I didn’t specify it was at least 2 or 3 pumps). Similarly they’ll add heaping spoonfuls of sugar to coffee for you in restaurants.
- Also, I found that food tended to be unseasoned or very underseasoned…I’d consider bringing my own salt and pepper to Jamaica, as weird as that sounds. In a resort you’ll have better luck accessing salt and pepper, but if you’re traveling other places in the country you’d have trouble.
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Spending time at the beach is obviously a huge draw for many people who come here. I love *looking* at the ocean, hearing the waves, and such, but for laying out I tend to prefer the pool so as to not get sand everywhere. However on this trip I also was in a walking cast so didn’t spend much time on the beach.
The beach at Iberostar Grand Rose Hall is pretty nice, well-kept, and has a decent number of lounge chairs. The color of the water is great, and I didn’t see seaweed or sargassum being a huge issue.
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One thing that I heard from my friends (and would have driven me nuts too) is that there are guys walking up and down the beach hassling you (to buy stuff, selling weed, to go out on their little boats I think too?). I tend to have little patience for that kind of thing and just want to be left alone. I didn’t get the sense it was awful like it is some places, but just something to be aware of.
The water was super warm, almost like bath water (I visited in October).
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I developed a nice little ritual with my friends (who were staying at Suites, since they had kids) where we’d gather on the beach at Suites just before sunset with a couple bottles of wine.
The kids would play and build sand castles while we sipped wine, chatted, and watched the beautiful sunset.
Both the sunrises and sunsets were very pretty. I went down on my birthday to enjoy a quiet sunrise on the beach, celebrating another trip around the sun. Mostly I watched the sunrises from my balcony (sunrise was very early, around 5:45am).
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Activities and excursions
There are a number of fun excursions you can do in Jamaica, and if you haven’t visited before then I definitely recommend trying one or two of them. You can do your research ahead of time or use the tour operator offerings that Grand Rose Hall has.
I did a catamaran boat tour with a big group from my church, where we went snorkeling (though the weather didn’t cooperate) and they took us to Margaritaville (blech). We also did a nighttime one to Jamaica’s Luminous Lagoon, which is a bioluminescent bay. If you haven’t experienced a bioluminescent bay, you definitely should! (Though I think Puerto Rico’s is better.)
Because I was in a walking cast I didn’t go to Dunn’s River Falls, but my friends who did absolutely raved about it. It’s one of the most popular things to do in Jamaica, and you can see why in the pics below.
As you can see, Dunn’s River Falls is not a good option for everyone…if you have small children, are pregnant, infirm or have mobility issues, or other health concerns you should definitely do your research and likely reconsider. My friend’s kids are 8 and 10, and were able to navigate it with some help from adults (who could help keep the current from pulling them off their feet).
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So hopefully this detailed review was helpful. There are some great things about Iberostar’s Grand Rose Hall, and if you’re looking for a more traditional all-inclusive resort it could be a good choice. The grounds, pool, and beach are pretty and well-cared for, and rooms are nice. The food is definitely the biggest drawback in my opinion.
One other selling point is that if you’re traveling with a bigger mixed group, like including families and such, having an adults-only and a families resort connected to each other is super convenient.
I’ve never been as into that big all-inclusive experience and prefer something smaller, quieter, and more intimate or unique feeling. To me, I feel that for $350+ a night, you can get a better experience, because that’s definitely not cheap. But it’s all about what you’re looking for!
You can book through Iberostar’s website directly…though it’s worth calling their customer service to see if you can get a better rate. Check out the reviews on both TripAdvisor or Booking.com as well, and you can see if Booking’s rates are any better, though often for all-inclusives you are better off booking directly.
If you’re looking for a really special resort (though not all-inclusive) experience in Jamaica, I *strongly* recommend the delightful small Tensing Pen out on Jamaica’s west end in Negril. It’s amazing!
Other Caribbean & Mexico resorts to consider:
- Review of Cancun’s Excellence Playa Mujeres
- Negril, Jamaica’s, Stunning Tensing Pen Resort
- 9 Tips for an Amazing DIY Vacay in Aruba
- A Wonderful Stay at the Luxury LeBlanc Cancun
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