Jamaica: Glory Be to Sans Souci

Our recent trip to Ocho Rios, Jamaica included a tour of the couples-only, all-inclusive Couples Sans Souci and we both agree:  It had us at hello.

As in, “Hello, mineral pool, spa cottages perched on Caribbean cliffs, jungle-rimmed pond and resident sea turtle…and how are you?”

We’re not ones to be unfaithful, but there we were, guests of the breezy, newly-renovated Couples Tower Isle just down the road, and mere visitors to Sans Souci…with our mouths hanging open.

The sprawling 34-acre resort has a surprisingly homey, lived-in feel; turns out it was originally built as an upscale apartment complex in 1949.  It was turned into a British, all-luxury-suite resort in the 1970s, then purchased by Couples in 2005.  Since then, Sans Souci has been lauded by both Travel + Leisure and Conde Nast Traveller.

From our first peek at the Caribbean winking milky blue through a tangle of vine-wrapped palms, we felt immediately, almost embarrassingly, romanced.  We stumbled blindly into the famous Balloon Bar, where marionette figures of famous explorers in hot-air balloons hang from fabric-wrapped ceiling coves, and we contemplated giving ourselves over to a life of cocktails and imagined adventures.

Thankfully, someone said “pool” and we snapped out of our trance.

Sans Souci has four pools and three beaches.  From beside the gazebo at the top level pool, you can take an elevator tower down through the trees to Charlie’s Pool.  Full of silky mineral water, this pool sits quietly beside the sea and the natural grotto that Charlie, an ancient female sea turtle, calls home.  The bar down here is alcohol-free, serving healthy concoctions spun from local produce, and is flanked by the surf-view gym (that would surely appeal to people who, unlike us, care about working out during their Jamaican vacation.)

Just above hides a jacuzzi for two, cozied into a garden.  Just below is a mineral spring discovered by Spanish explorers in the 1700s. Fully potable, the water here boasts tiny fish, and apparently, um, amorous powers.

This spring rests along a jungle walkway that wends guests towards Charlie’s Spa, a series of 14 heavenly treatment cottages; some of these are perched above the sea, others up amongst the trees.  Back down by the spring is a perfect shallow spot to dip into the Caribbean for a salty swim.

Despite being very well-booked, we saw few guests on this side of Sans Souci, which we found baffling. We could hardly bear to tear ourselves away.

Just around a seaside bend, we found the resort’s little gem of a main beach (pictured below) dotted with thatched umbrellas, dwarf palms, and again, almost no one.  Same story in the azure-tiled restaurant beside it, where we gorged ourselves on chickpea-feta salad and…well, it’s not really important how many desserts.

Out back, our eco-minded hearts were happy to find San Souci’s Green Globe-certified pond, a natural aquifer that enables the resort to recycle all its gray water.  Ringed by a walking path, as well as palm, banyan, flowering, fruit and Jamaican Blue Mahoe trees, the pond is home to a family of turtles and cute little black, white and red birds Jamaicans call pond coots.

A small, well-marked path splits off to Au Naturel, the resort’s private, all-nude beach.  This is a gorgeous cove with a fully-stocked grill, jacuzzi, and apparently, a killer sunset view; however, many visiting naturalists prefer the island privacy of Couples Tower Isle when they head al fresco to drop trou.  Those less into couples-only nudity than a nice stretch of sand will be happy to hear that Au Naturel hosts after-dark parties here for fully-clothed guests.

The comfortable suites feature cool, tiled floors, soft blues, sitting rooms and in most cases, jungle and ocean views.  Each penthouse is named for one of Sans Souci’s celebrity guests, like Luciano Pavarotti, Harry Belafonte and Jimmy Cliff.

By now we’d seen almost the entire resort and still had to ask: Where was everybody in the heat of the afternoon in such a lush and jungly place?

Well, some people are determined to get a sunburn, no matter what. It seemed that every guest not out touring an attraction or tucked out of sight at the spa was in the big main pool in the glaring heat of day, many clustered around the shaded, swim-up bar.

The good news about this unbalanced pattern of congregation?  If romance is your angle, the wild/green/spa/mineral/swirling surf side of the resort or the perfect little main beach can be all but yours during the day.  And on a Caribbean island as heavily-touristed as Jamaica, that scenario would suit us just fine.

But there’s at least one group event at Sans Souci we were happy to attend.  Each Friday night, the resort hosts a fairy-lit gala buffet on the beachside lawn with powerful local singers, a stage for dancing and enough food to feed a whole Jamaican parish.

Hope to see you again someday, Sans Souci.


See related posts:

Jamaica: Couples Tower Isle – What We Loved
Jamaica: Couples Tower Isle – What We’d Love to See
Traveling Couples: Lyn & Arthur Dobrin
Jamaica: Dunn’s River Falls
Jamaica: Notes on an Island
TWT Travel Binder: Jamaica


  1. We were there when you guys came to visit the resort on that Friday (the 10th I believe). Were actually just one table to the left just off of the Gala photo. I’m glad that you guys really liked Sans Souci. We have been twice and are planning our next trip. The resort is so spread out that it never seems crowded. We did what was called a Trading Places one day and went to visit Tower Isle. To us Sans Souci is so much more quaint and romantic and we prefer it over the “Hiltonesque” feel of Tower Isle.

    Also I would just like to comment on the “however, many visiting naturalists prefer the island privacy of Couples Tower Isle when they head al fresco to drop trou.”. We actually do not find this to be the case. The SSB AN area at Sans Souci has much more to offer over Tower Isle. You can get food there without having to leave, the drink selections are much greater, and the fact that you have a large private beach just easily wins us over.

    Ok, enough of my rambling now. If you can’t tell we really love this resort. Thank you for writing such a great review of our home away from home.


  2. Jeff, thank you right back! I especially appreciate your positive take on Au Naturel — since we’re not naturalists ourselves, it’s good to know that not every couple at Couples prefers the island at Tower Isle.

    Having seen only Au Naturel up close for ourselves, I wish just one thing — that a beach just like it would somehow magically appear in my backyard.


  1. […] Couples Tower Isle – What We Loved Traveling Couples: Lyn & Arthur Dobrin Jamaica: Glory Be to Sans Souci Jamaica: Dunn’s River Falls Jamaica: Notes on an Island TWT Travel Binder: Jamaica […]

  2. […] JULY Spent 4th of July weekend in upstate New York’s Thousand Islands with Adam’s Uncle Jim and Aunt Buzz at the family’s summer compound, Long Rock Island. Wandered into vintage Clayton, toured magnificent Boldt Castle, watched fireworks burst by moonlight all across the mighty St. Lawrence, and took a day’s journey to Canada to explore lovely Kingston, Ontario. Stayed one night in Syracuse, NY, and toured the newly tricked-out Carousel Mall where we caught the (largely inexplicable) rehearsal of a local barbershop quartet.  The next day, we flew directly to Jamaica on a press trip for Couples Resorts, checking out the newly tricked-out Tower Isle and the eternally elegant Sans Souci. […]

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