Our Bookings Consultant Emily recently returned from an envy-inducing jaunt around Jamaica, bringing back beautiful snaps and a gorgeous new hotel for our hand-picked collection there. With barefoot beach days and rum cocktails swimming through our minds, we couldn’t resist shining our spotlight on this famous Caribbean island.
Jamaica offers all the blue sky and stunning beaches you’d expect of a Caribbean island, but it also has lush green landscapes, intriguing history, and an infectious background reggae beat. Beyond the beaches and cities, it’s a pretty country to explore – waterfalls, botanical gardens, mountains, vibrant communities and local markets abound. But wherever you travel, life ticks over at an easy pace.
After an easy direct flight from Gatwick to Kingston, Emily was soon unwinding in the lush surroundings of our newest Jamaican property, GoldenEye. One of the island’s most exclusive beachside resorts, it was once author Ian Fleming’s holiday home, where he wrote the entire James Bond series. Today, his bungalow has taken on the guise of GoldenEye’s prestigious Fleming Villa, but there’s no need to go straight to the top to enjoy a stay here; Emily’s favourite rooms were the more budget-friendly Lagoon Villas, which have private decks directly over a placid lagoon, complete with your own kayak. “The lagoon was magical; on the first morning, I woke up just before 7am and jumped straight in. It was warm, clear and full of tiny fish.”
Beyond the resort, adventures are plentiful. The north coast is home to famous Dunn River Falls: cascading waterfalls stretching over a gentle 600ft incline, so you can climb up and swim in natural pools on the way. The coast itself is equally alluring; swim off the beach, snorkel the reef and paddle-board the waves. If you’re lucky, you might spot turtle hatchlings in the sands – ask around for advice and recent sightings.
Heading east, Port Antonio brings unspoilt white-sand beaches and outstanding scenery – stay at super-luxe Geejam or great-value eco-hideaway Hotel Mocking Bird Hill for close proximity to Frenchman’s Cove, Boston Bay and Long Bay. The east is also home to Blue Mountains, the longest mountain range in Jamaica. Emily spent time at peaceful Strawberry Hill Hotel & Spa, 3,100ft above Kingston, before trekking with one of the hotel’s guides along the Gordon Town Trail, discovering tiny villages and indigenous wildlife along the way.
The opposite end of the island draws a fun-loving crowd. Negril’s buzzing 7-mile beach is a must-see, lined with bars and backpacker bustle. We love the romantic clifftop hideaways here: Tensing Pen and The Caves. Despite lacking on-site beaches, both have plenty of space for lounging, and ladders lead you down into the clear ocean. Feeling adventurous? Just jump!
Further up the coast in Montego Bay, a Jamaican institution awaits. Back in 1952, Round Hill Hotel & Villas hosted an iconic honeymooning couple – John and Jackie Kennedy. Its colonial-chic styling still appeals to an elegant crowd, and the restaurant’s ‘sorbet tasting platter’ was a highlight of Emily’s stay!
When to go
With consistently warm, tropical weather, Jamaica is a popular year-round destination, but December to April is particularly nice. The official rain and hurricane season lasts from June to November, but it usually only rains for short periods in the afternoon.
Our top tip
Coming en masse? Peaceful Culloden Cove sleeps 4-12 in a staffed villa and smaller cottage (in a lush garden with sea-facing infinity pool and secluded private beach!) so it’s ideal for friends or multi-generational families. And this isn’t our only family-friendly haven – we’ve ranked our favourites over on the Kids Collection.