Jamaica has a wide range of places to stay from rental villas to all-inclusive resorts to small Ma and Pa operations. Here are just a few of what I would say are the best of them all.
The beach is so passé – head to the mountains. Just an hour out of Kingston is this luxury mountain lodge on a plantation site dating from the 1700s. Seven staff for every guest means you’ll be well taken care of and the Aveda Concept Spa and infinity-edge pool with an incredible view don’t hurt either. Think colonial–plank floors, gables and four-poster beds-with an artful contemporary twist. Hike the hills, visit a Blue Mountain coffee plantation, and dine overlooking the lights of Kingston.
The Greek Isles? Marrakesh? This collection of quirky Jamaican wood and adobe cottages near Treasure Beach might leave you wondering where you really are. Arabesque archways, fountains, thatch-roofed verandas all add a bit of charm and personality to this seaside resort. Swim and snorkel or chat with local fishermen. There are no TVs or telephones; this is purely an escape. You won’t find the over-commercialized hotel scene here; this place is funky and laid back.
Just east of Oracabessa is the island’s most exclusive accommodations set on the former estate of Ian Flemming, the creator of James Bond. The Rianova River spills into the sea in the cove below the property and it doesn’t take long to see where Mr. Flemming took his inspiration in this magical retreat. Hammocks and a bar sit next to the small beach where guests lounge away the day or slip off for some snorkeling. Villas and cottages are elegantly decorated and honeymooners will delight in the personal atmosphere. Order up that martini–shaken, not stirred. (You know you would.)
If the all-inclusive is more your thing, head to the southwest end of the island and check out Sandals latest and arguably greatest offering. Like a small town planted along a lovely beach far from the hotel row in Negril, this 50-acre resort has seven restaurants offering something for everyone’s tastes. An enormous pool occupies the central piazza, and nightly shows keep guests entertained. The two-mile beach is wonderful for strolls, and diving is actually included in the bill. All rooms have sea views, and local attractions such as river tours and waterfalls are not far away.
So most of the hip and happening places come with a big price tag, right? Not always. Here’s one that’s affordable and sits atop cliffs on the West End where the ocean views are stunning and grottos add a bit of mystique to a swim. Choose the octagonal cottages overlooking the water with patios and spiral staircases down to private access to the sea. Some have kitchenettes for a bit of independence, but the restaurant can set up dinner for two in one of the sea caves.
Read The Mad Traveler article about going on a Jamaica river rafting excursion.