Girl Getaway to Jamaica
What could be better than a tropical Girls Getaway to the third largest island in the Caribbean? As we found out, not much!! I arrived in Montego Bay, Jamaica (a very convenient 2+ hour direct flight from Orlando) around 9:30 a.m. While still a bit sleepy from my early wake up time of 5:00 a.m., I was thrilled to see a man holding a sign with my name on it before I even got close to the immigration line. Oliver introduced himself as a representative from the Jamaica Tourism Board and quickly took me to the "no-wait" line. As we picked up my luggage and found my transportation, I had to laugh at the bar outside the airport terminal, the Groovy Grouper Beach Bar.
I arrived at Round Hill Hotel & Villas and got settled into our villa around 11:00 a.m. Coleen and Joan took me on a tour of the house and offered to prepare a late breakfast for me, which I enjoyed while overlooking the water on our elevated hill-top villa. This isn't just any villa. This is Villa #10 where John and Jackie Kennedy honeymooned and where Ralph Lauren stayed during his visits to Round Hill before he built his own place. The villa is complete with four bedrooms and four baths, a kitchen, a private pool and hot tub overlooking the ocean, lovely indoor and outdoor sitting areas and our own love birds (Lemon and Lime).
After changing into resort attire, I decided to explore the property. Round Hill originally opened in 1953 and was conceived by Jamaican-born entrepreneur, John Pringle, whose mother was a social fixture and owned the former Sunset Lodge Hotel in Montego Bay. The 100-acre peninsula was part of Lord Monson's huge Round Hill Estate that was first a sugar plantation and later grew coconuts and pimento. Prominent American and European socialites, literati and artists were invited to build "cottages" (hardly cottages by normal standards) and to invest in the hotel. Shareholders then included Sir Noel Coward, Adele Astaire, Lord and Lady Ednam, and Mr. and Mrs. Oscar Hammerstein.
After some beach time, I made my way back to our pool where I fell asleep. When I woke up, I was thrilled to see that the other ladies had arrived. Donna, Kirsten and Ariane would be my villa roomies for the next two nights. They got settled in and we all changed attire for a festive dinner as it was Jamaica Night at Round Hill, which includes talented artists performing tricks, stunts and dances while we dined. The performers are amazing! They ate fire, balanced lawn chairs on their forehead and lit a cigarette while they limboed blindfolded. Guests of all ages joined in the fun! The buffet was delicious and provided something for everyone to enjoy. Speaking of enjoyment, one of our group members enjoyed "The Big Bamboo," which became a joke throughout the trip.
I once again enjoyed breakfast the next morning gazing at our lovely view, but this time my roomies were there to enjoy it with me. John took us on a tour of the resort (we even saw Ralph Lauren), then made our way to the spa for our highly-anticipated treatments. Australian John was my masseuse, and this was the first time I thought about asking someone to massage me and talk to me at the same time...just so I could hear his accent. I am not sure if it was John, the ambiance of Round Hill or the view during my massage (maybe all three), but this was one of the best massages I have ever had. We had the afternoon to ourselves, so we enjoyed lunch and lounged around the beach and pool areas.
That night we enjoyed cocktail hour at Josef's (General Manager) villa, dinner, drinks, late night hot tub and an "I, Claudius" re-enactment, which was a great way to spend our last night here. After breakfast the next morning, Serene took us on a hike to the caves, which was great to stretch our legs before getting into the van for our 2-hour trip to Ochos Rios.
After saying our goodbyes at Round Hill, we loaded into our van for the road trip to Jamaica Inn. We had to make one stop at Scothie's, which is known for its amazing Jerk Chicken (like In N Out to burgers in California). After getting beers and chicken, we were on our way. I'm not sure if it was the beer or the fact that we were all confined in a car for two hours, but the crazy stories started and Marc (the only guy) wanted to jump out of the van. Welcome to a Girls Getaway, Marc!
When we arrived at Jamaica Inn, I fell in love with its signature blue color that is specially mixed for the resort. It is the perfect hue to match the ocean and gives the resort a special ambiance you feel as soon as you arrive. Jamaica Inn has won several awards as TravelandLeisure.com World's Best Island Hotels ranked Jamaica Inn the # 3 Island Hotel in World in March 2011 and Travel and Leisure's 500 World's Best Hotels 2011 list ranked Jamaica Inn # 1 in Jamaica, # 3 in the Caribbean and # 38 in the World.
Mary Phillips, the general manager (and attitude) of Jamaica Inn, greeted us and escorted us to lunch at their exceptional open-air dining room. The food was superb, and we were all ready for a nap as Mary then led us to our rooms and villas. All of the Inn's 47 suites overlook the beach, ocean or both, and the villas are absolutely amazing. Ariane and I shared Villa #5 with its incredible Caribbean Sea/beach view, steps to the beach, private pool, two bedrooms and baths and mini kitchen. I sat on the back porch listening to the waves and checking email. Not a bad way to work. We enjoyed cocktails and dinner with Mary on the terrace next to the band (who played The Big Bamboo) as our bamboo-loving group member got her groove back!
Our last full day in Jamaica started with breakfast served to our villa and spa treatments at the Kiyara Spa. The spa features three outdoor massage areas that resemble a tree house. I had an incredible view of the water and fell asleep as the sound of the water put me in a trance.
After spa treatments, we met at the beachside bar for drinks (the special that day was the Dirty Banana) and boarded our boat "For Your Eyes Only" and cruised down the coastline to Caliente Restaurant on Mamee Bay Beach for lunch and (of course) more drinks! Lunch was terrific and we all enjoyed watching Marc ride the waves on the boat ride home. Many thanks to Mary for setting this up for us! After a few more hours (and celeb sightings) on the beach, we met at Mary's house for drinks and appetizers. She had invited an array of guests, so it was nice to meet some new people and hear how passionate they are about Jamaica Inn. For our last meal in Jamaica, we had dinner on the beach. Toasts were made and the drinks kept flowing as we reminisced about the trip and had entertainment provided by a fellow beach goer. It was sad to say goodbye to my great group of travel companions and the hospitality of Jamaica itself.
Many thanks to Round Hill Hotel & Villas, Jamaica Inn and The Brandman Agency for hosting such a wonderful trip to amazing properties with exceptional people.