Sandals’ Dunn’s River resorts will be a part of Butch Stewart’s legacy


Sandals’ Dunn’s River resorts will be a part of Butch Stewart’s legacy

Gay Nagle MyersThe groundbreaking ceremony in Ocho Rios, Jamaica, on May 26 that marked the start of the two Sandals projects at Dunn's River was a bi

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Gay Nagle Myers

Gay Nagle Myers

The groundbreaking ceremony in Ocho Rios, Jamaica, on May 26 that marked the start of the two Sandals projects at Dunn’s River was a bittersweet moment for Adam Stewart, executive chairman of Sandals Resorts International.

“This is an extraordinary day for Sandals Resorts, and a moment of deep meaning for my family,” Stewart said. “We stand today nearby where my father grew up, a place that was close to his heart.”

“My father grew up on the beach in Ocho Rios,” he said. “As we embark on our strategic growth plans, we are proud to bring to life his vision through this incredible property. There will simply be nothing like it.”

He was referring to the return and transformation of Sandal’s Dunn’s River under the same moniker as when the resort joined the Sandals portfolio in 1990 and opened in 1991 — and also to his father, the legendary hotelier Gordon “Butch” Stewart, who died earlier this year.

Dunn’s River was the last project that Stewart and his father had been collaborating on. 

“When this resort became available, my father and I jumped at the chance to reclaim it and bring it back into the fold,” Stewart said in an interview following the groundbreaking. “My dad will always be a part of everything we do, and his fingerprints will be all over this project.

“He embraced our plans to set a new level of luxury in Jamaica, and in our many conversations we discussed what was next for Jamaica. All that will come next will be in tribute to him and because of him. We are thrilled to begin this work here at home.”

In recent years, the property had been operating as the Jewel Dunn’s River Beach Resort & Spa. Sandals acquired it for $30 million as well as adjacent beachfront land in 2020.

There will be some firsts for the 260-room Sandal’s Dunn’s River when it debuts in the fourth quarter of 2022: Cascading waterfalls at the entrance; a rooftop pool; a rum bar; a sky terrace; SkyPool suites; an open and airy main building with spring waters flowing alongside the porte cochere and through the Red Lane Spa; and new menus and gastronomic offerings.

Phase two of the $230 million project will be the sister property Sandals Royal Dunn’s River, a newbuild with 250 rooms on beachfront land adjacent to Sandals Dunn’s River.

That resort has targeted a completion date in Q4 2023.

Even with those two resorts underway, a third one in Jamaica also is in the works: The future Beaches Runway Bay Resort in Ocho Rios, the former Jewel Runaway Bay Beach Resort, which will also be the third new location for the Beaches’ brand in Jamaica.

“Every single thing on the former property is gone. Beaches 2.0 will be extraordinary. We spoke with former guests and repeat guests to find out what families of today are looking for in a vacation experience,” Stewart said.

The $250 million renovation will include an estimated 400 suites, designed with extended families in mind, a redesigned 18-hole golf course, bike trails, bowling, meeting and event space plus many of the features and activities of the existing Beaches.

Stewart said that having so many projects going on at the same time “feels like riding a bike. We’ve done it often, and I’ve not forgotten how to do it. It always come back to me.”

He credited his construction teams, designers, engineers and entire staff as a superior work force in helping fulfill Sandals’ commitment to the company’s wider expansion plans in its home country.

And it doesn’t end there. “We’ve got boots on the ground in Curacao for our Sandals resort there, slated to open in 2022, and in St. Vincent where a Beaches resort will open in early 2023,” Stewart said.

The ongoing renovations of Sandals Royal Bahamian in Nassau, due to reopen in late November, “will be really relevant to today’s consumers,” he said. “It will have river suites, an over-the-water chapel, food trucks, 100 coconut trees and lots of new features. This resort is really cooking with gas now.

“All of these projects are a commitment to my dad’s legacy and a testament to our confidence in the Caribbean. I believe that our company is leading the recovery of tourism in the Caribbean, and the future will be bright and strong.”