GoldenEye Hotel & Resort Rating: 4.5 Pearls
The 21-room GoldenEye is hands down Jamaica's hippest and most luxurious resort. It's also one of the island's most historic, as the former home of Ian Fleming, and the hideaway at which the author scribed all 14 of his James Bond novels. Today, the property, which reopened in 2010 after an extensive $50 million renovation, includes stunning cottages and villas overlooking a private beach and lagoon, as well as two happening restaurants, two pools, a tree house spa, and an extensive roster of on-site activities. The rates might cause some to flinch, but those who can afford it will find little cause for complaint.
Geejam Rating: 4.5 Pearls
The Geejam is made up of only five private, high-tech cottages on the lush foothills of Port Antonio. The setting is gorgeous, the service is extraordinary, and one of the Caribbean's most beautiful beaches is only 10 minutes away. The resort is designed to offer privacy above all else -- there's no communal pool and no direct beach access, and guests often take all their meals in their individual cabins, each fenced off from the common pathways.
The Caves Rating: 4.5 Pearls
Arguably Jamaica's most romantic escape (for adults only), the Caves' 11 unique, private cottages and suites are tucked along lush garden paths and dramatic seaside cliffs. The resort was opened by a Rastafarian artist couple, Bertram and Greer-Ann Saulter, in 1994. Bertram designed each of the unique cottages and furniture (much of which is hand-carved), and Greer-Ann dreamt up the whimsical interiors, which are heavy on colorful batik prints and Jamaican crafts. The saltwater pool, private ocean-view Jacuzzi, intimate spa, and free yoga classes allow guests to relax and commune with nature.
Strawberry Hill Rating: 4.5 Pearls
This former coffee plantation nestled among the steep and winding hills of Jamaica’s famous Blue Mountain is a little oasis above the very un-resort-like city of Kingston. The resort offers plenty of intimacy and privacy, with just 12 cottages on more than 26 acres. It also has the features of a larger property: an expansive spa, a breezy restaurant and bar, a hilltop pool with panoramic vistas, lush gardens, and ample relaxation space. Rates might be considered a steal given the property's level of luxury -- if it weren’t for the inaccessible location and lack of beachfront.
Jamaica Inn Rating: 4.0 Pearls
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. All guest rooms have only three true walls and a fourth wall made of screen-less, heavy wooden shutters, beautifully blurring the lines of indoors and outdoors as the shutters open to the sea or the lush landscape. This is a vacation home for many guests, so the staff feels like family.
Jake's Rating: 3.5 Pearls
With just 30 hippy-chic cottages in secluded Treasure Beach, Jake's is a member of Island Outpost, Jamaica's trendiest hotel group. Guests come to unplug -- there's no phone, Internet, or TV in the cottages. Billing itself as the "chicest shack in the Caribbean," Jake's indeed feels like the backdrop to a summer-of-love fashion shoot. The arid climate here makes the property less green and lush than the north and east coasts, but giant aloe vera plants and colorful cacti give the landscape a natural beauty unique in Jamaica.
Rockhouse Hotel Rating: 4.0 Pearls
The lush, laid-back Rockhouse creates a holistic haven -- gourmet dining, morning yoga, cliffside loungers, a premium spa, no kids under 12, and beautiful eco-appropriate design. The Rockhouse strives to be part of the community. Rooms come with socially conscious, locally made Starfish Oil soaps and bath products. All furniture is crafted from local timber. From its inception, the designer was forced to limit his impact on the surrounding jungle, and the hotel strives to operate in an environmentally-conscious manner, including solar-heated hot water.
Tensing Pen Rating: 3.5 Pearls
With an intimate collection of 17 cottages split into 22 rooms, Tensing Pen has no TVs, phones, or radios in the rooms -- guests come to enjoy the breathtaking cliffs of Negril's west end. Tensing Pen's cottages are all unique, but they each contain simple furnishings and comfortable beds. The small staff here easily gets to know their guests and creates a friendly, intimate atmosphere.