90-minute, $130 taxi ride from Montego Bay airport
A small, romantic resort that once drew Marilyn Monroe and Arthur Miller, the Jamaica Inn is about quiet luxury -- a single thatch-roofed bar, a small pool, and beautiful rooms with oversize terraces and soft, colonial décor. This is not the place to party (the whole resort typically shuts down by midnight).
Quiet and refined crowd consisting mostly of middle-age couples and honeymooners looking to relax.
The crowd at the Inn--made up mostly of middle-age couples from around the world, honeymooners, and a few families with bored teens--is looking for quiet and relaxation. That's not to say the beach bar doesn't get its fair share of traffic and requests for Bloody Marys at 10:30 a.m., but loud voices are rare and it's lights out by midnight. Though impromptu sing-a-longs might break out around the piano at the bar, most nights the only singing comes from the crickets.
This is a vacation home for many guests, so the staff feels like family.
After a day at the hotel's private beach, the Swifts from Maryland played a game of croquet at the beachside field with Teddy, the bartender who has worked at the Inn for 50 years and Rupert, another Jamaica Inn veteran. It was their sixth stay at the Jamaica Inn, and they laughed, hugged and used diminutive pet-names like Rupie. This isn't just another hotel. It's a vacation home for many guests and the staff quickly becomes family. Admittedly, I felt a little left out, but by dinner I had my own nickname and enjoyed white glove, formal service from the hotel's oceanfront restaurant.
Even Melissa, one of the housekeepers who fashioned the hand towel on my bed into a swan each day, gasped in disbelief when she saw me exiting my room with my own luggage.
On a private stretch of beach that's a 90-minute, $130 taxi from the Montego Bay airport.
The resort is about a 90-minute, $130 taxi from Montego Bay airport. It's on a private stretch of beach between low cliffs, but close enough to the main road to hear the echoing sounds of motorcycle engines and cars blasting reggae music. The nearest tourist attraction, the Island Village shopping area, is a 15-minute drive from the hotel.
Open fourth "walls" and oversize terraces blur the lines between inside and out in these refined yet casual rooms.
Walking down a terra-cotta tiled portico to the right side of the entrance takes guests to their rooms. Ground floor rooms have large verandas with direct access to the grounds and beach. Second floor rooms have much smaller balconies, but offer ocean views.
Like the Round Hill resort, all guest-rooms have only three true walls and a fourth wall made of screen-less, heavy wooden shutters. While it beautifully blurs the lines of indoors and outdoors as the shutters open to the sea or the lush landscape, it also lets plenty of critters in. I woke up to a lizard peeking out from under my mirror and a couple of insects flying around. Try to think of it as a luxurious version of the Swiss Family Robinson. Oversize terraces--mine was more than 250 square feet--are furnished like full outdoor living rooms complete with desks, rocking chairs, plush canvas couches, and tables on which to enjoy room-service meals. There are no TVs, radios, or even clocks in the rooms.
Inside the beige terrazzo-floored rooms, a combo of colonial furniture and Spode-like blue-and-white china plates hanging on the walls to create a refined yet still casual and comfortable look. Not all the bathrooms have been remodeled, so request one with marble countertops, dark cherry wood vanities, and deep soaking tubs.
Unlike the monster all-inclusive resorts, the intimate estate-like setting leaves little room for pools with waterslides and swim-up bars. Instead, there's a small, straw-thatched bar on a crescent of beach with chairs spaced so that guests can't hear their neighbor breathing. Beside the beach is a small oval-shape pool.
The Inn's combination library and game room have couches to sink into with a book or laptop and tables for an intense game of backgammon. Photos of the owners' family, friends, and famous guests (like Marilyn Monroe and Arthur Miller) line the walls and table tops of the room, and are far more interesting than any of the dusty paperbacks in the bookshelf.
A small fitness room is in a building across the main driveway. It doesn't offer much in the way of equipment--just an elliptical machine, a treadmill, a stationary bike, free weights, and two exercise balls--but it does have a terrace that lets the fresh air in, and views of the lush grounds and main house.
Beautifully maintained rooms, but the open fourth wall allows critters inside.
The room had the fresh and faint smell of orange peels -- too bad the smell of oranges doesn't repel small lizards and mosquitoes. Because the rooms have an open fourth wall without screens, it's easy for the critters to get inside. Otherwise, the rooms and the property are beautifully maintained.
Elegant and outstanding food is served on a terrace with ocean views.
Breakfast is served on the informal terrace overlooking the ocean. Don't feel bad for not cleaning your plate -- remnants are tossed into the water for the fish to feast on. A selection of salads and sandwiches is available at lunch, and it's served on the same terrace as breakfast, but like most guests, we asked for it to be brought to the beach or pool area.
Non-guests flock to the seaside terrace for a romantic, candle-lit dinner. Most nights, a three-piece band performs reggae versions of love songs or the occasional "I Shot the Sheriff." The catch of the day -- usually red snapper -- was fresh, firm, and simply prepared with just salt, pepper, and rosemary. The dress code is "upscale island," meaning men must wear collared shirts and women typically wear a dress.
Free tea and finger sandwiches are up for grabs from 4-5 p.m in front of the bar, ideal for a post-beach boost. Coffee is free from 7-9 a.m. each morning.
This quaint, classically luxurious resort -- Katharine Hepburn and Winston Churchill are among the former guests -- offers a personal touch and rich pedigree.
Unlike its all-inclusive neighbors, the Jamaica Inn doesn't charge steep extra fees for wedding guests not staying at the hotel.
Wedding Size and Requirements: Up to 110 people, no fewer than five; no children younger than 10 (summer) and 12 (winter); only one wedding per day (unlike at most all-inclusive resorts) and no weddings on Sundays or past dusk; at least half of the wedding guests must stay on the property
Extra Fees and Restrictions: Fee for certificate and officiant without a package; 50-percent booking deposit for groups and a three-night deposit for a couple; group rates do not apply during February, Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year's (applicable if 10 or more rooms are booked); no weddings during Christmas and New Year's
Wedding Packages: Basic "Wedding Bells" package includes marriage officer's fee (license and rites), bouquet, boutonniere, photo album (36 exposures with negatives), wedding cake for two, and a bottle of champagne (alternative packages cost upwards of $6,430).
Ceremony Location: The most popular spaces are on the lawn or the beach; all ceremony and reception spaces are in open view of other guests.
Photographers and Videographers: In-house photographer included in wedding packages; in-house videographer available by request for two hours and charges extra for every additional hour; outside photographers and videographers permitted at no extra fee.
Music Options: Four-hour rate for a large reggae band; three-hour rate for a small reggae band; hourly rate for a steel band or a mento band; outside bands permitted at no extra fee
Cakes: Bourbon vanilla, chocolate, almond, or marble cakes, made in-house, range from a five to 15 people rate, to a rate for 115 people with a wedding package.
Flowers: Flower arrangements are made by an outside provider, prices range depending on your specific requirements.
Food and Drinks: Buffets range from Beachside BBQs to traditional Jamaican fare and plated dinners cost, on average, about $34 to $74 for a three course meal (hors d'oeuvres cost extra); no kids' menu available; vegan and vegetarian menu options available but no kosher or glutenfree items; drinks are priced per person (depending on the choice of drinks) for a five-hour open bar available until midnight.
Spa Treatments: Spa services include a variety of individual as well as couples massages, facials, body treatments, manis/pedis, and hair styling.
Honeymoon Suite: Wedding couples typically opt for the White Suite or the romantic Cottages No. 3 or No. 4.
Airport Transportation: $130 round-trip taxi, per person (no shuttles provided)