Travel: A Tale of Two Jamaicas

April 30, 2012

By Katrice

The days pass differently in Jamaica. There is a balm in the air that slows everything down to leisure speed. You know the moment you breathe it in and feel it against your skin that not all getaways deliver such respite.  

Round Hill
The temperatures could quite possibly hang between the 80s and 90s when you set foot on the grounds of Round Hill Hotel and Villas in Montego Bay, Jamaica. You have a few choices: Swing the doors of your suite open and take in the ocean breeze on the private patio, sip piña coladas by the pool, wade into the cool water from the beach or perhaps enjoy a dish of Jerk Chicken Spring Rolls Wrapped In Rice Paper with Sweet Chili Mango Dip on the terrace of the Grill at Round Hill. Or … you could do it all. Truth is  the splendor that is Round Hill makes it difficult to decide.

One of the Caribbean’s most elegant getaways, Round Hill is legendary for its atmosphere and the company it has long attracted. Since 1953 its guest list of world leaders, cultural icons and Hollywood A-listers have coalesced with well-traveled lodgers who seek understated luxury. Picture this: Entering the managing director’s cottage atop the sprawling resort and being greeted by actor Rupert Everett, also invited for cocktails. True story. And one that signals something special happens here.

Actually, you discern it from the point of entry down a manicured driveway of vivid tropical blooms and peeks of private cottages that shroud the Oceanside sanctuary. You feel as if you’re leaving the hustle and bustle of the world behind. In fact, you are. The Old World-style resort is an oasis of 36 Ralph Lauren-designed oceanfront guest rooms, 90 lavish villa rooms and suites, and 27 private two- to six-bedroom Signature Villas — most with private pools. You could believably designate an Oceanfront Doubleview in the Pineapple House my home away from home in Montego Bay. Each 460-square-foot space features two four-poster double beds, high ceilings and louvered windows for stunning views of the Caribbean as well as Waterworks-designed bathrooms with double sinks, a deep soaking tub and separate rain showers.

The focus of the food at Round Hill is simple, locally-produced (where possible) and sustainable. On property, an organic garden is the source of many Grill menu options. For dinner, the choices of an antipasti bar with a variety of salad greens and garden vegetables, as well as charcuterie, fine cheeses, and composed salads; a la carte starters like Caribbean Blue Crab Cakes, Grilled Prawns, Chilled Gazpacho and Fresh Vine-Ripened Tomatoes with Basil; and entrees from the wood-fired grill — Fresh-Caught Local Grilled Fish, Spiny Caribbean Lobster Tails and Jamaican Rock Shrimp from the ocean, and Certified Sirloin Angus Steak and Lamb Chops from Northern California’s Niman Ranch keep things deliciously interesting. Friday’s Jamaican Night is served on the seaside terrace and hit the sand on Monday for Beach BBQ.

Owned by individual shareholders primarily from the United States and Europe, the 100-acre peninsula winds around from its mainland recreation of water sports, golf and tennis to Elemis spa, an 18th century plantation house set along 10 acres of oceanfront. You’ll make a mental note of the cove just before the spa as ideal for lunch and relaxation, and the calm of cooling tradewinds. Treatments like the Elemis Exotic Coconut Rub and Milk Ritual Wrap, however, will beckon you on. A traditional Balinese recipe of coconut, mungbean, spices and lavender is combined with Exotic Frangipani Monoi Oil to polish the skin followed by Warmed Skin Nourishing Milk Bath poured over the entire body before you’re cocooned in a comforting foil wrap. This opulent exotic wrap is excellent for skin smoothing and softening. One of its signature treatments: the Round Hill Hangover Massage has infused genuine Jamaican Sweet Basil that will stimulate your immune system and offer toxin extraction to get you feeling rested and rejuvenated.

Up until 1989, the nearly 60-year-old club/resort mélange was only open during the Caribbean winter season. Today, lovers of the finer things in life can get away to the haven year round. 

Jamaica Inn

A sea of blue … actually a very distinct Marine hue immediately washes over my mind coupled with a feeling of wonderful seclusion when I think of Jamaica Inn. The two are fluidly interchangeable as it is impossible to separate one — a feeling from the other, a memory. For me, Jamaica Inn is Ocho Rios.

Between fact and perception, my experience in tasteful solitude tuned my travel palate for not only the islands but the very sound of waves meeting the shore. It changes you while giving credence to Jamaica Inn consistently being ranked among the top resort hotel and vacation destinations in the Caribbean.

Fourty-eight suites and four, two-bedroom cottages make up the quaint but elegant resort situated on one of the island’s premiere private beaches. Plush amenities: Check. What happens at Jamaica Inn, however, is what you’ll factor when planning your inevitable return.

First, sustenance. The resort’s open air restaurant offers everything from breakfast to cocktails and hors d’oeuvres, and room service. My first experience with Bammy — a type of flatbread made from cassava — will always be wedded to the prowess of its culinary staff, which I can thank them for the craving that surfaces whenever talk of the island arises. And aptly so, as it complemented a combination of Grilled Escoveitch fish of the day, Hot and Spicy Grilled Jerk Chicken and Jerk Pork Loin served with Fried Ripe Plantain — rightly called “A Taste of Jamaica.” The mood for something extra special can be answered with a romantic moonlight dinner on the beach. Elaborate, yes. Nevertheless, Jamaica Inn staff will make it seem so easy that you’ll believe it the way dining should be. Though the dinner menu changes daily, if given the option, try the Grilled U.S. Choice Beef Tenderloin, set on a Triple Bean Ragout, enhanced with Gorgonzola Cheese and finished with a dash of Cream.

When you get away, however, savory chow is the bonus; a good night’s rest — essential. Of the picturesque accommodations the hotel has to offer, Jamaica Inn cottages — set on a bluff with stunning views of the Caribbean Sea and minimal separation from it  are what island living is all about. The one- and two-bedroom bungalows are decorated in a lively blend of Jamaican and Indonesian style, with outside terraces apt for dining and lounging, and stairways leading down into the sea. Three of the cottages have private infinity pools, while all offer an extra bit of privacy just steps away from the Inn and its amenities  including KiYara Ocean Spa where pampering is plentiful. 

But, let’s just consider the bottom line of the matter. Rarely will you find yourself in the comforts of Jamaica Inn for anything other than rest and rejuvenation. And in that case, Jamaica Inn’s private beach, itself, is a fitting pastime. On the last day of my stay, I lounged on the sand for four hours — every so often wading into the sun-warmed sea to cool off. In hindsight, three days of nothing but the beach would have been just fine. 

{Photos courtesy of My Vicarious Life, Round Hill and Jamaica Inn. View the full spread in Atlanta Tribune: The Magazine.}

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  1. Beautiful job! Very informative and thorough- as a native Jamaican I have only vaguely heard of these places- especially being from the eastern end of the island. This makes me want to do some exploration!

  2. I guess I have a different view of Jamaica since I'm Jamaican & we would go all the time. Lol you did an amazing recap of a beautiful place =)

  3. Thank you!! That's two nods from native Jamaicans. I'm feeling good.

  4. did you take these photos Katrice because they are absolutely stunning and draw me in totally transporting me, my mother was born in Jamaica so I've never stayed at a hotel there, but next time I will most definitely peel away and explore on my own


  5. I belong here. This is my future home for retirement. :) Thanks for sharing. The pics are GORGEOUS! SNicole


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