Baby turtles, a coral garden and fine-sand beach – Jamaica Inn in the Caribbean has it all, along with plenty of other delights to enjoy for foodies, spa enthusiasts and activity-loving clients alike
There’s a legendary repeat customer I kept hearing about at the Jamaica Inn. She’s much older than the average visitor, with a very tough exterior. She wasn’t there during my stay but instead, to my delight, I met 79 of her offspring.
This particular guest is a mother hawksbill turtle who, every year or so, pays a visit to the resort’s dreamy shores to lay her eggs. Luckily for me, they hatched in the week of my stay, with the staff overseeing the baby turtles’ safety and ensuring their monumental passage to the sea is a success. No wonder, as these creatures are critically endangered.
Conservation is a major focus for the resort and nowhere is it more obvious than with its tie-up with local organisation White River Fish Sanctuary through the Jamaica Inn Foundation.
Established in 2017 and also backed by the government, the sanctuary has created a 370-acre no-fishing zone off the Ocho Rios coastline to provide an antidote to the effects of overfishing and pollution.
Belinda Morrow – wife of Eric, who owns Jamaica Inn along with his brother, Peter – talked us through the organisation’s aims during a glass-bottom boat ride one morning.
“Our goal is to have 500% more fish in five years – in biomass size as well as quantity. And so far it’s working,” she said passionately.
Belinda, who is a full-time volunteer with the organisation, likened the regeneration project to gardening. “You have to make sure there are no snails or algae, or anything that could harm the coral.”
Indeed, over the course of an hour we explored the shallow waters of the coral garden and marvelled at the slow-blooming growth of staghorn and brain species that were previously dying out.
As well as the glass-bottom boat tour, Jamaica Inn offers a range of activities that will appeal to active clients who crave authentic experiences. One such trip is the Blue Mountain Bicycle tour.
Following a Jamaican brunch with a coffee roasting demonstration high up on Blue Mountain, I enjoyed an exhilarating bicycle ride, passing lush hills, sprightly goats and acres upon acres of coffee plantations. It’s a world away from the brochure-like paradise beach I was lazing on just hours earlier at the resort. If, like me, your clients aren’t all that confident on a bike, rest assured the tour is all downhill and the incredible natural scenery makes it more than worth it.
Foodies will find the shop-and-cook tour delightful. With sous chef Glendon accompanying us, we worked our way from one end of a local farmer’s market to the other, stopping to inspect produce along the way – from crimson tomatoes to golden mangoes and russet yams. After picking up key ingredients for the cooking demonstration, we were whisked back to the resort to learn how to make Jamaica’s national dish, ackee and saltfish, the authentic way.
Jamaica Inn doesn’t hold back when it comes to offering experiences that take you close to nature. And climbing Dunn’s River Falls was definitely a highlight for me. Considered one of Jamaica’s national treasures, the awe-inspiring site of cascading limestone formed over thousands of years also proved thrilling to traverse. I was told the best way to do it is to start from the bottom and work up, wading through the cool, translucent river and clambering over rocks. I felt elated to be among such picturesque settings – a carpet of jungle flanking the river on both sides.
The resort itself, owned by the Morrows since 1950, features 55 suites, seven cottages and three beachfront villas. It’s largely unchanged since then, which adds to its antique charm, but suites are being modernised to feature walk-in showers instead of bathtubs, with completion expected by the end of 2020. For special occasion clients, the gorgeous cottages won’t fail to impress them.
My room, although not particularly large, was in the West Wing, a premier verandah suite with a beautiful white balustrade balcony contrasting with the striking blue of the Caribbean Sea. Dark wood furniture provided accents, while black and white photos depicting colonial Jamaica adorned the walls. The bathroom was ample (there was a walk-in shower in mine) but features Molton Brown amenities, a surprising choice for a resort championing sustainable initiatives: I was expecting to see a local, all-natural brand. There’s no TV because, as sales and marketing manager Emmanuella Owens told me, “we like to encourage our guests to go out of their rooms and speak with other guests”.
It’s easy enough to do this telly or no telly, as absolutely everyone – guests and staff – was approachable and friendly. At Teddy’s Beach Bar, I got chatting over mid-afternoon cocktails with a guest from California who’s on his fifth or sixth family visit here. Why do they keep coming back? “We love it,” he said. “It’s a little out of the way of the crowds so it’s peaceful, and we’ve gotten to know the staff really well.”
This is unsurprising, as Jamaica Inn boasts an impressive 90% repeat business rate, with its main market being the US and UK.
It has also hosted star guests including Marilyn Monroe and Kathryn Hepburn over the years. “The intimate, laidback atmosphere, personalised service and easy Caribbean breezes lend itself to unpretentious luxury. Cloaked in utmost discretion and privacy, Jamaica Inn is the perfect hideaway for the discerning traveller,” general manager Kyle Mais told me.
After my rum punch, a little exploration around the eight-acre site uncovered perfectly kept gardens with almond and breadfruit trees, a sauna and an outdoor saltwater pool said to heal and beautify the skin. If guests would rather a spa treatment for that, suggest the alfresco Ocean Spa, which has four rooms overlooking Cutlass Bay. I had an incredibly relaxing 30-minute massage to the sound of the ocean waves and the feel of the breeze on my skin.
Breakfast is held at the Shanti restaurant, with lunch available at both Shanti and the Terrace restaurant, and dinner at the Terrace. They all offer traditional Jamaican fare such as jerk chicken and ackee and saltfish, but the standout dishes for me were the locally caught snapper and the molten lava cake, which were simply spectacular.
While I can count many highlights from the stay, Jamaica Inn’s piece de resistance is its private fine-sand beach spanning 700 feet – a wonderful place to take in the azure sea and enjoy the sun. Just like mother hawksbill turtle, I’d happily return here again and again.
Tel: 00 1 855 441 2044, jamaicainn.com
Carrier offers seven nights from £3,375pp based on two sharing a Premier Verandah Suite including breakfast, $150 food and beverage credit per stay, flights from Gatwick, private transfers. Price based on 22 March 2020 departure, book by 30 November 2019.
Tel: 0161 492 1354, carrier.co.uk