This old-fashioned boutique resort on a private cove is still Jamaica’s grande dame – Hotels Above Par
Looking for a secluded beach getaway that combines supreme relaxation with the most genuine hospitality? Jamaica Inn is a carefully preserved boutique resort, opened in the 1950s on the north coast of the Caribbean island. It proves that destinations get better with the right patina.
A gated entrance beyond the nearby north shore town of Ocho Rios separates the well-kept blue-and-white hostel from its wild, lush surroundings. Once inside the covered but open-air lobby, all attention shifts outside to a 700-foot private beach with sand the color of sunny plantains and light Caribbean blue. The hotel’s 55 rooms are built with this singular view in mind, so original hand-painted tiled floors, flowing white linens and curtains, and wood and wicker furniture serve as a backdrop. backdrop to stunning views.
With all the signs pointing to the beach, it becomes the ideal place to start and end the day, whether on a deckchair under the veranda of your suite, sipping a fresh fruit punch, or at the bar in the shade of the almond trees to cool you off with a red band. The water is always a few feet away for diving or snorkeling around the nearby reef, where local conservation efforts maintain a coral nursery. Stand-up paddleboards, kayaks and boats (with guides) are always ready for you to explore the coastline.
Back at the hotel, you’ll enjoy the sea view, but opt for a spacious family cottage or a romantic couple’s cottage if the budget allows. These self-contained guest rooms have direct access to the beach or the sea, either via a jungle path or a cliff-side stairwell. They each feature plunge pools, and the largest of them, Cottage 7, comes with a breathtaking Caribbean infinity pool.
The only room that’s even nicer might be Suite 21, which can be booked up to two years in advance. Set on a small peninsula, its rooms and patios overlook the sea, from the wraparound balcony to the private terrace and adorable bathroom tub. The suite has hosted celebrities and dignitaries, from Marilyn Monroe to Winston Churchill, whose oversized desk still sits proudly in one corner.
But if you can’t snag that particular reservation and its tub views, just opt for an overwater bungalow spa appointment for an equally serene feel. Massages include local oil infused with lemon balm, as well as a final relaxing plunge pool that awaits you below the cliffs, suspended between the five-star treatment and the sea ever before it.
Location: Ocho Rios, Jamaica
Evaluation: Five stars
The atmosphere: Old Hollywood meets colonial charm at a 65-year-old family resort where Ian Fleming frequented the bar, Marilyn Monroe and Arthur Miller honeymooned and Meghan Markle celebrated her (first) wedding.
Food + Drink: Three on-site restaurants — the Sea Shanty, Beach Bar, and Terrace Restaurant — offer breakfast, lunch, and dinner. They serve traditional Jamaican dishes, such as goat curry, freshly caught grilled fish, and even wood-fired pizzas. Continental breakfasts can be delivered on “floating trays” for guests staying in one of the private pool cottages. Fresh juices and cocktails, from Planter’s Punch to Vesper Martinis (learn about its origins here), are served in the lounge and by the beach.
Approvals: Terraces facing the sea from each bedroom; a private cove; free kayaks, SUP boards and boat trips; snorkeling in the nearby coral reef; croquet & rosé; afternoon tea; spa treatments on the water.
Our favorite thing about the hotel: The private beach may be the most beautiful on the island, but the staff makes your stay extra special with their warm and attentive service.
5 nearby attractions: Hatching of sea turtles on various beaches (seasonal); Dunn’s River Falls & Park for waterfalls and freshwater swimming; roadside jerk chicken lunch at Scotchies; White River floating on bamboo rafts “barques”; and Stush in the Bush for a plant-based prix fixe farmer’s lunch or dinner.
Personal neighborhood recommendations? : Ten minutes from the hotel by car, Harmony Hall is a beautifully restored 1800s Jamaican-Georgian mansion. At the top of its grand staircase, a candy shop offers designer clothing and locally made homewares from across the Caribbean. Downstairs, rum drinks and dinner are served on the lawn of an avant-garde restaurant. It’s all run by two Jamaican sisters, Michelle and Suzanne Rousseau, known for their homemade Caribbean cookbooks.
Rooms: 55 suites, all with sea views, including five secluded cottages with large verandas, sea access and plunge pools.
Pricing: Deluxe verandah suites start at $374/night, while the most private rooms, Suite 21 and Cottage 7, start at $1,284.
Nearest airport: Norman Manley International Airport in Kingston (2.5 hours), Sangster International Airport in Montego Bay (1.5 hours) and soon-to-open Ian Fleming International Airport in Ocho Rios (15 minutes)
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