GoldenEye

St Mary, Jamaica Book from

MOST UNIQUE SPA TREAT MOST UNIQUE SPA TREAT
Reviewed by Emily Preece
Experience paradise rock-star style, in the most exclusive resort in Jamaica
GoldenEye began life as a simple bungalow, built as a 1950s holiday home by author Ian Fleming, who penned a number of his novels here, including the entire James Bond series. The bungalow, now somewhat pimped up, is still home to Fleming’s desk, and has since hosted the likes of Beyoncé and Jay-Z in its new guise as GoldenEye's Fleming Villa. A clutch of Creole cottages was also reincarnated, and 18 Caribbean-chic villas joined the jam, hidden amongst tropical greenery and lining a placid green lagoon and white-sand beachfront. Since our visit, a batch of Beach Huts has sprung up, too. Together they make up this amazing 58-acre resort.

The glamorous heritage has been maintained, but although the hotel has an air of exclusivity, it is refreshingly without stuffiness or pretention, making it popular with the rich and famous, as well as mere mortals. Staff are predominantly local and infectiously passionate about GoldenEye and Jamaica as a whole, and there's a happy, one-big-family feeling. Kayak to the FieldSpa for a lemongrass Bush Bath, jet-ski across the bay at sunrise, or take the kids in a glass-bottom boat to see exotic fish. We were utterly wowed by this magical place.

Highs

  • The staff: friendly, warm and never subservient. They soon know you by name
  • A breathtaking setting and super-cool ambiance
  • The Jamaican-inspired food is delicious and plentiful. You may leave a few pounds heavier!
  • Beautiful bedrooms many with cool outdoor showers, icy-cold Red Stripes and a host of reggae CDs
  • The Jamaican vibe, which permeates throughout. It would be impossible not to feel relaxed here

Lows

  • It’s undeniably expensive, but entirely worth it
  • Not suitable for people with mobility issues due to a number of steps and uneven surfaces
  • The man-made sandy beach can get rocky
  • Serious holiday blues when you return home!

Best time to go

It gets fairly hot during the hurricane season, which runs from the beginning of June to the end of November. The cooler months from December to March are still lovely and warm.

Our top tips

  • Wander the grounds and 'celeb spot' plaques commemorating stars who've planted trees for a conservation charity
  • Take a day trip with one of Island Outpost’s amazing drivers (we recommend Chris). They're full of information about the sites of Jamaica and its people, and you learn so much about the country’s rich culture from locals with such personality
  • Great for...

    Beach
    Family
    Honeymoon
    Spa
    • = Recommended
    • = Best in region
    • = World favourite
    • Boutique Hotel
    • 52
    • Restaurant and bar (open daily)
    • All ages welcome
    • Open all year
    • Outdoor Pool
    • Spa
    • WiFi
    • Pet Friendly
    • Disabled Access
    • Beach Nearby
    • Off-street Parking
    • Restaurants Nearby
    • Air Conditioning
    • Guest Lounge
    • Terrace
    • Garden
    • Gym
    • Concierge Service
    • Tennis Court
    • Bicycles Available
    Room: One Bedroom Beach Cottage

    Rooms

    Rooms are light and airy with driftwood-lined verandas and local wooden furniture, giving a luxurious but relaxed beach-shack feel. There are sunloungers for lazing and some have a hammock.

    Super-comfy kingsize beds are wrapped in crisp, white linens, which are offset by brightly patterned bedspreads. Clawfoot bathtubs up the romance factor and you get a host of cool treats: a hipflask of rum, an Apple TV, a stack of reggae CDs.

    Our favourite rooms were the cottages on the magically still lagoon, with direct access into the water, and a kayak moored to the private veranda. Beachfront Villas feel slightly less private but you wake up to sunrise over the ocean; unbeatable. Bigger villas have space for 4-5 guests, and a kitchenette for whipping up snacks.

    Superstars should book The Fleming Villa. This exclusive rental comes with serious VIP treatment: private chef, butlers, barmen, a private pool and a private beach. It sleeps 10, should you have an entourage.

    Since our visit, a variety of Beach Huts have been added. Painted in rainbow shades with private verandas and wet rooms, they are simpler than the other options, but just as charming. Note that they do not have air-conditioning, although the team assures us that their high ceilings and over-sized windows provide ample air circulation.

    Features include:

    • Bathrobes
    • Coffee maker
    • Coffee tea making
    • Cots Available
    • Extra beds
    • Hairdryer
    • Iron
    • Minibar/fridge
    • Outdoor shower
    • Personal speaker and playlists
    • Phone
    • Safe box
    • Satellite tv
    • Sunloungers
    • Terrace
    • Toiletries
    • WiFi

    Eating

    Food is a mix of local and international influences, much of it grown at their organic farm, Pantrepant. (Just watch out for those Scotch Bonnet peppers!)

    Breakfast and lunch are served at the funky Bizot Bar, whose walls are decorated with album covers of Island Record stars. There's a lot of choice on offer, from ackee and saltfish, to fried eggs and bacon, pancakes or waffles. Lunch is similarly expansive; we loved the jerk chicken salad and super-fresh seared snapper.

    Dinner is served in Gazebo, which sits like a treehouse above the swimming pool, which has dramatic under-water lighting. As you'd expect, standards are very high, and our coconut-crusted shrimp, Black Angus beef tenderloin and Blackwell Rum banana flambé were all amazing. Meals can also be served on your private deck or in your room on request.

    The Beach Huts centre around the Shabeen bar, with rooftop lounge and games room. It's just steps away from Snorkeler's Cove, perfect for post-swim refreshments.

    Delicious cocktails are encouraged at all times of the day, with Blackwell Rum (created by GoldenEye's owner Chris Blackwell) heavily featured. If you prefer to go soft, fresh coconut water is a must when in Jamaica.

    Features include:

    • Bar
    • Children meals
    • Coffee maker
    • Coffee tea making
    • Minibar/fridge
    • Organic produce
    • Restaurant
    • Restaurants nearby
    • Room service
    • Vegetarian menu
    Eating: Lagoon Cottage
    Activity: Field Spa

    Activities

    • Laze on the white-sand beaches, or go paddle-boarding, kayaking, snorkelling and on glass-bottom boat excursions to see 700+ different species of tropical fish (all complimentary). Deep-sea fishing and jet-ski tours are also available
    • The FieldSpa offers blissful treatments with homegrown elixirs - perhaps a warming ginger and pimenta massage or lemongrass Bush Bath
    • Meditation and yoga are on offer, too, and there's a daily morning group run
    • Horse ride on the beach and bike ride around the local village
    • Tackle Dunn's River Falls, a famous Jamaican waterfall, which you can climb with help of experienced guides
    • Watch turtles hatching and being released into the sea with conservationist Mel Tennant. Unmissable!
    • Take a picnic up to Noel Coward's house, Firefly, high on a hill with an amazing view of the harbour
    • We enjoyed vibrant Kingston, where you can see the birthplace of Bob Marley and view local art at the National Gallery

    Activities on site or nearby include:

    • Birdwatching
    • Boat trips
    • Cycling
    • Fishing
    • Golf
    • Historical sites
    • Horse-riding
    • Jet-skiing
    • Kayaking
    • Museums / galleries
    • Night-time paddle-boarding and snorkelling
    • Paddle-boarding
    • Plantlife / flora
    • Scuba diving
    • Shopping / markets
    • Snorkelling
    • Swimming
    • Tennis
    • Wildlife
    • Yoga

    Kids

    Although peace is the overriding vibe, well-behaved children are warmly welcomed. The number of young 'uns staying at one time is monitored to ensure there are not too many at once. There are 58 acres of gardens, woods, lagoons, caves and beaches for kids to explore, and in general the resort feels very safe. Babysitting can be arranged and there is baby equipment to borrow. Teenagers will love it here.

    Best for:

    All ages

    Family friendly accommodation:

    The Beach Villas are the best for families with little kids; older ones may prefer the lagoon, with the novelty factor of the kayaks. Both Beach and Lagoon Villas offer 2-bedroom options (a double and a twin), and each can fit extra beds or baby cots too, as can the 1-bedroom versions. All accommodation has a kitchenette, except the Lagoon Cottages. A larger family party may want to book The Fleming Villa which sleeps 10

    Babysitting:

    On request

    Baby equipment:

    • Baby cots
    • High chairs

    Remember  baby and child equipment may be limited or need pre-booking

    Children's meals:

    A dedicated kids' menu and kids' mealtimes

    Kids Activities on site:

    • Swimming pool
    • The beach
    • Coconut carving
    • Kayaking
    • Paddle-boarding
    • Tennis
    • DVD library (including all the Bond movies, naturally!)
    • Art classes
    • Jewellery making

    Kids Activities nearby:

    • Jungle tours and ziplining
    • Watch turtles hatching
    • Swimming in a waterfall
    • Swimming with dolphins
    • Tubing

    Distances:

    • Airport: Montego Bay (90 minutes)
    • Hospital: 35 minutes' drive
    • Shop: 5 minutes' walk
    Kid Friendly:

    Our guests' ratings...

    10/
    Rooms
    10/
    Food
    10/
    Service
    8/
    Value
    10/
    Overall

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