A West Indies island in the Caribbean, Jamaica is synonymous with reggae, rhythm and romance, bold colours, Rastafarian culture and a laid-back Caribbean lifestyle. Grace Jones, Sean Paul and Naomi Campbell all have Jamaican roots.
The birthplace of reggae music and the home of legendary musician Bob Marley, Jamaica is also where Ralph Lauren goes on vacation at his holiday house at Round Hill, a fabulous resort outside Montego Bay.
Noel Coward and Ian Fleming of James Bond fame also had their homes here. Fleming’s house has since been turned into a fabulous resort, Golden Eye at Oracabessa on the northern coast.
At Negril on the western tip of the island, the island’s newest stunning luxury property, The Cliff recently opened. It’s at West End, the quieter, more private part of Negril where you can swim off the cliffs and explore rock inlets and caves. There’s no beach, but the deep Caribbean azure waters full of tropical fish are a refreshing break from the heat.
Well known chef Cindy Hutson who created Cuisine of the Sun and has a string of Caribbean inspired restaurants throughout Florida and Grand Cayman is now executive chef at Zest The Cliff’s destination restaurant. The food is the best on the island.
Negril is world famous for cliff jumping, a nightly spectacle at nearby Rick’s Cafe, Jamaica’s most popular gathering spot for sunset. Local cliff jumpers clamber to the top of tall poles to jump from dizzying heights into the water below. You can also listen to reggae well into the wee hours or at nearby Push Cart, part of Rockhouse, an Australian-owned resort. Rockhouse is a collection of rustic thatched stone villas dotted along the volcanic cliffs of Pristine Cove with steps and ladders down into the serene waters of the Caribbean sea.
Other popular spots on the island include Montego Bay, Ocho Rios and Portland with its unspoilt beaches. Stay in Portland at Great Huts. Modelled on an African village, you can choose from mud huts, tents or tree houses. Also here, the exclusive Geejam where many recording artists have recorded tracks.
Drive to the Blue Mountains where Jamaica’s famous coffee is grown, swim in a blue hole or, even better, The Blue Lagoon, my favourite spot in Portland where the movie of the same name was filmed. Take a spectacular raft trip across the lagoon with Jason to the mineral water ponds, Monkey Island or just to see the deep pristine crystal blue waters. If you have more time, Treasure Beach and the rum distillery at Appleton are worth a visit and the Bob Marley Museum in Kingston and nearby Port Royal of pirate fame are unmissable.
But the real reason to go to Jamaica is the people – as warm, sensual and colourful as the Jamaican flag, as intoxicating as its signature rum and as spicy as its national dish – jerk chicken. You can probably find better food and beaches somewhere else but the Jamaicans move from their heart, not their heads. ◼