Jamaica was one of the early Caribbean hotspots for beach-loving vacationers. They traveled to this lush, mountainous island for warm breezes, chill vibes, and crystal-blue waters. Today, Jamaica is consistently among the region’s most popular destinations, drawing nearly three million tourists in 2018.
In Ocho Rios, the Jamaica Inn was among the first resorts to serve travelers seeking a bit of island luxury. The family-run property has beautifully maintained its waterfront domain since the 1950s, drawing luminaries like Marilyn Monroe and Arthur Miller, Winston Churchill, and more recently, Meghan Markle — whose first nuptials took place on site in 2011.
It’s easy to understand the resort’s appeal. Comprised of verandah and balcony suites, bungalows, and cottages, all 55 units are spacious and offer mesmerizing ocean views. The guest rooms are large and lovely, and most include fully furnished terraces with a dining table, sofa, wing chairs, writing desk, and refrigerator. And while it may feel shocking at first, the rooms don’t have TVs, radios, or clocks (but don’t worry, there is wifi for those who can’t seem to unplug).
In other words, the rooms are outfitted to the point of never really needing to leave. That is, except to take a few steps onto the beach for swimming, or to lounge under two-person palapas to sip coladas and watch the waves. (Room rates vary, but start around $350 per night plus taxes and fees in low season, with options to include meals or choose a package.)
What’s especially charming about the Jamaica Inn is its vintage atmosphere. For example, while there's air-conditioning throughout the resort, the rooms, lounge, open-air restaurant, among other spaces, were built decades ago to maximize natural cooling airflow. Some may miss the climate-controlled spaces, but most guests appreciate the natural air and sound of rustling palm trees.
Members of the Morrow family, who own the Jamaica Inn, reside on site, as does the “resort dog” Shadow (who’s remarkably aloof). That family spirit extends to the inn’s team, with several staffers having proudly worked there for more than 30 years, including Teddy Tucker, a bartender who arrived at the inn in 1958. The beachfront Teddy’s Bar is now named in his honor, where he’s still pouring cocktails.
That natural ambiance is also found at the tranquil Ocean Spa, where some treatment rooms are in the open air, and where singles or couples can select facials, massages, and other dermal delights from the spa menu. The latest addition is an unforgettable CBD body-scrub and massage treatment ($280 for 80 minutes) using CannaGlow CBD Hemp body oil.
There’s another unique tie to nature at the resort, through the Jamaica Inn Foundation. This non-profit branch contributes funds to local organizations that support island youth, marine cleanup initiatives, and wildlife protection. For summer and fall visitors, there’s also a chance to see Hawksbill turtles nest and hatch on the resort’s beaches — where their habitats are protected by Jamaica Inn’s conservation specialists.
Outside the Inn
Jamaica has plenty of activities to offer, some of them easily accessible from the resort. By water, guests can join a glass-bottom boat tour from the Jamaica Inn beach, and take an hour-long cruise to the nearby coral and tropical fish sanctuary.
With the help of Jamaica Inn’s concierge, guests also can cruise along the coast to Dunn’s River Falls. The stepped waterfall is a unique experience on the island’s north shore (about an hour by boat from the resort). It may sound strange, but visitors can climb up the falls with the help of a guide, essentially like a water-hike that ascends to the peak, with small pools to cool off along the way.
In the town of Ocho Rios, don’t miss classic Jamaican cuisine at Miss T’s Kitchen. The open-air restaurant is a local favorite serving traditional seafood, jerk chicken, and high-flavor dishes like oxtail stew and curried goat.
For deliciously unexpected dining, reserve well in advance at Stush in the Bush, about a half-hour’s drive from Ocho Rios. Run by married couple Chef Lisa and Christopher Binns, this special farm-to-table experience is available at a flat $95 rate for a half-day on site. It starts with a farm tour and visit to a hilltop lookout point, then continues at the Binns’s home, which doubles as a family-style restaurant serving daily changing dishes. The menu is entirely pre-fixe courses of stunning all-vegetarian cuisine, all in a lovely setting surrounded by fruit trees and flowers.
Jamaica’s popularity with American travelers is easy to understand, since English is the primary language and the U.S. dollar is a common currency (the Jamaican dollar is equally common). There are three international airports, though the Ocho Rios airport is much smaller than those in Montego Bay and Kingston, each served by several major airlines with directs from various U.S. cities.
There are fun adventures to be had across the island, on land, in the water, and by air—from hiking and waterskiing, to ziplining and parasailing. If you’re not careful, you run the risk of overbooking yourself and missing out on some of the Caribbean’s beguiling beach time. So remember that when planning your Jamaican journey, reserve ample time for relaxation, when you can soak up the island’s sweet serenity.