Jamaica is full of the warmest and friendliest people you will ever meet. I’ve just returned from a trip all over the island, a trip that took me to 14 of the country’s best luxury hotels. Each property was unique to its surrounding and I had some amazing experiences along the way. (Pictured: myself with Jason Henzell and Dougie of Jake’s)
Half Moon hotel is one of Jamaica’s oldest luxury hotels, and it has played host to an extensive list of notable names: Joan Crawford and her husband Alfred Steel (CEO of Pepsi-Cola), Clark Gable and HRH Princess Margaret, HRH Queen Elizabeth II, Prince Philip, HRH The Prince of Wales, former United States President John F. and Jacqueline Kennedy, Prince Rainer of Monaco, and George H. W. Bush (when he was Vice President). Regardless of your own pedigree, this is a place where you will feel – and be treated – like royalty.
Royal Plantation is another property seeped in Jamaican history. Upon your arrival at the hotel, a grand entrance – one reminiscent of an old Great House – will greet you. We were welcomed with champagne offered to us by our butler and then escorted to our room. Our bags were unpacked and there was nothing left for us to do but enjoy the beach. With four restaurants to chose from there was definitely no shortage of dining options. Too lazy to move? Not a problem – simply plant your flag in the sand and someone will be there in a moment to take your order or spray you with rose water.
Geejam is one of this area’s newest hotels. The fact that this property only has five rooms means that it is very easy for guests to fall victim to the “soon come” attitude Jamaica is know for here. But honestly, how could you not be laid back in a place like this? And if you’re lucky, you just might see the likes of Fergie or Amy Winehouse recording in the private studio located on the property. A ten-minute drive west will take you to historic Port Antonio, the capital town of the parish of Portland, located on the northeast coast of Jamaica and shrouded by the Blue Mountains.
After leaving Port Antonio, we drove back towards Kingston to visit Strawberry Hill, a hotel that rests peacefully in the Blue Mountains. The Blue Mountains, by the way, happen to be home to the best coffee in the world. Arriving at night after a drive along a winding road, we were greeted by an incredibly stunning view of Jamaica’s capital city, Kingston.
Twelve handcrafted, 19th century Georgian style cottages are spread throughout the property, each one perfectly placed in a private tropical haven with magnificent mountainside and panoramic views. You will also be surrounded by an array of memorabilia from Island Records here. Old posters of Bob Marley and Jimmy Cliff – set alongside platinum records and cassettes – are everywhere.
On the south coast of Jamaica is Jake’s, a place that is truly a “get away hotel.” Its bohemian atmosphere comes as no surprise considering the fact that the Henzell family runs Jake’s. These are the people behind the hippest Caribbean film of all time: “The Harder They Come” starring Jimmy Cliff. Spa treatments here take place by the ocean – so close you can just about feel the sea’s spray on your toes. This hotel’s funky design and great service has been featured in countless magazines.
We headed along the south coast to Negril after leaving Jake’s. Along the way local farmers were selling their products by the roadside, and I couldn’t resist a cold Jelly coconut – Jamaica’s soda. A Rasta pulled out his machete and chopped the top off so I could drink the water, and then cut it in half to get to the Jelly. A word of warning: this traditional Jamaican treat is not for everybody.
The last stop on our trip brought us to Rockhouse Hotel, a property set on the cliff side, overlooking the clearest water you have ever seen. Thatched roofed villas with private sunbathing decks perch on the cliff’s edge. Throughout the property, ladders and stairs carved into the rock lead down to easy water access for swimming and snorkeling on the reef. When you jump in you can swim into caves located under the hotel. Very cool. This hotel is also very active in the community and has just finished building a new primary school library. Also very cool.
And with that, my journey drew to a close. Every time I leave Jamaica, I feel as if I’m leaving a piece of me behind. One Love… as they say.