Jamaica Inn sits on its own perfect stretch of beach near Ocho Rios and is a rich mix of old-style island traditions and modern luxuries – as seductive a combination as you could imagine for a chilled holiday in the Caribbean
Words: Flora Thomas
Jamaica Inn is old-school luxury, a place steeped in glamour and part of the heritage of the island it is named after. The roll call of stars who have stayed over is impressive – Winston Churchill smoked cigars on its terrace, Marilyn Monroe and Arthur Miller were honeymooners here. More recently it has hosted Lilly Allen, Kate Winslett, Kate Moss – even Richard Branson, and he has his own private island in the Caribbean.
It may have a starry reputation, but this is the most welcoming and relaxing of places. It has remained in the hands of the Morrow family since the start (1950) and many staff have been here for decades. The barman Teddy is a legend, having notched up almost 60 years. Now he has some stories, having shaken or stirred cocktails for the great and the good. Were James Bond real, this is the kind of barman he’d hang out with. In fact, Ian Fleming was a visitor here – there are sepia pictures of him on the walls and his Jamaican home Goldeneye is a short boat ride away.
While it’s undeniably luxurious, the low-rise setting and the family feeling (there’s even a resident black lab called Shadow) are all conducive to perfect relaxation. The pristine crescent-shaped beach is the star, 700-feet across and with calm and crystal-clear water that is perfect for snorkeling and watersports – and with complimentary beach activities including kayaking and paddle boarding. Or you can just tune in to the waves and stake your claim to one of the beach hammocks or loungers.
They bring complimentary fruit punches out to the beach every morning (and serve a proper afternoon tea with sandwiches – also complimentary – every afternoon). If your muscles or your mind need some work, the spa is one of the most chilled spots imaginable – be pampered in a shady hut listening to the sound of the sea.
Our room is old-school romantic – what you dream about when you think about the Caribbean – with crisp white bedlinen, wooden shutters and the ocean beyond. In fact, the mix of accommodation here is what really sets it apart, with a mix of suites, verandah rooms and hideaway bungalows and cottages ranged round the bay. Some are so private that they feel like the ultimate lovers’ retreat.
“The pristine crescent-shaped beach is the star, 700-feet across and with calm and crystal-clear water”
While it’s easy to be lazy here – a good book and a glass of punch at your side – there is plenty to tempt you to explore the island. The staff can manage just about any request, be it a visit to Noel Coward’s house Firefly (reputed to offer some of the best views in all Jamaica) or a trip to Bob Marley’s birthplace, which happens to be in the same parish of St Ann as Jamaica Inn.
Active guests also have plenty to occupy them. We take a bicycle tour through the Blue Mountains, home to the island’s world-famous coffee. Not as arduous as it sounds as most of the journey is downhill, with no pedal power required. The landscape is lush and green and the views are fantastic. We also take a boat ride to Dunn’s River Falls with its magnificent terraced waterfalls and beautiful lagoons. It is the place Jamaicans and canny tourists head to if they want to cool down on a hot day. We also go snorkeling in a private glass-bottomed boat and get up close to some of the beautiful marine life.
Our most fascinating visit is to White River Fish Sanctuary, a cause that Jamaica Inn is closely involved in, raising funds and supporting its efforts to restore the coral reefs around Ocho Rios to their pristine best. At White River, they nurture fish and other marine life and, via a warden scheme, educate people about the value of conserving this unique environment. While severe weather events, disease and lack of understanding of the way to maintain fish stocks have all taken a toll – as they have for all the world’s oceans and reefs – it is inspiring to see the passion of the team here and the practical on-the-ground work to husband this natural paradise for future generations.
“Every dish we eat at Jamaica Inn is made to order and made with love – this is authentic slow food”
No visit to Jamaica is complete without rum, and we enjoy a ‘rumology’ masterclass to teach us the fundamentals of the national drink – it is so much more than a cocktail ingredient and we develop a new respect for its complexity. Going behind the scenes for a private cookery class is another treat. We learn a few chef secrets and this only increases our awe of the excellent cooking here. Every dish is made to order and made with love – authentic slow food. Breakfasts are a leisurely affair with Blue Mountain coffee and an abundance of fresh seasonal fruits, eggs, muffins and Jamaican specialities such as ackee and salt fish.
Lunches can be taken on the beach, the restaurant or your own private verandah – we love that it’s so relaxed – and the choice of sandwiches, salads and local favourites (including curry goat and spicy jerk chicken) is mouthwatering. At dinner we eat the best seafood – the local shrimp is not to be missed – and the steaks come just as you like them. They even serve complimentary hors d’oeuvres every evening to whet your appetite. There is just no excuse for going hungry at Jamaica Inn.
Before our visit we had checked out one of the holiday review sites and saw how many people who married here or honeymooned here had just returned from their third, fourth, sixth visit. A lot of reviewers were already counting down the days until they could chill out on one of its beach hammocks or sun loungers, check in with the staff and be welcomed like old friends. A few days in, we get it. Jamaica Inn is your indulgence, your island time – who wouldn’t want to return?
Jamaica Inn is located close to Ocho Rios and offers daily rate and all-inclusive holidays. Wedding celebrations and special honeymoon packages are also available. For more information, visit jamaicainn.com
MORE HONEYMOON INSPIRATION?
A classic St Lucian retreat at Marigot Bay