Best Luxury Hotel
The 21-room GoldenEye is hands down Jamaica's hippest and most luxurious resorts. 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.
Best Value Hotel
For an upbeat all-you-can-drink mega-resort, the fresh-built Iberostar destroys the competition--better food, liquor, service, and activities (including free scuba tours) for less cash. You pay a little more for an all-inclusive up-front, but with this resort's high-quality liquor and variety of dining options, you'll definitely eat and drink your money's worth.
Best Kid-Friendly Hotel
Partnered with Sesame Street, the Beaches brand of resorts offers Muppet-led activities for kids. Beaches Negril comes with a great water park, a pristine, calm beachfront, an extensive, supervised kids' club, and enough entertainment to keep kids totally occupied. The buffet's Kids' Corner comes with quartered grilled cheese, pizza, waffles, and french fries at all three meals. Even the a la carte restaurants have kids' menus -- a rarity among Jamaica all-inclusives.
Most Romantic Hotel
These five modern villas on a remote mountaintop are cut off from prying eyes by thick stone walls or dense flora. Designed for utmost privacy, there's no communal pool, lobby, or front desk. Service is by request only, and each room comes with a cell phone so guests can call anyone from room service to the free staff driver to the hotel's owner. The rooms are self-contained sanctuaries with the 24-hour room service, in-room massages, free Wi-Fi, and the pre-programmed Apple TVs set with cult movies or eclectic reggae. Frenchman's Cove, one of the most beautiful beaches in the world, is 10 minutes away.
Best Honeymoon Hotel
The Caves is as honeymoon-perfect as it gets: just 11 spacious, private cottages; no guests under 17; all-inclusive food made to order; a drop-dead gorgeous cliffside setting; and a friendly, ultra-attentive staff, all set to a seductive reggae soundtrack. Perks include a private Jacuzzi for sunset viewing, and romantic candlelight dinners for two inside a cave.
Best Hotel Rooms
The Geejam's five, extremely private cabins all have astounding terraces sheltered by dense forest. On the queen-size bed, there's a feather duvet, pillow-top mattress, and 500-count linens. Bathrooms either have steam-showers, standing tubs, or a private, four-person outdoor Jacuzzi (and that comes with the cheapest room). Plus, all rooms include techy comforts like 42-inch flat-screen TVs, free Wi-Fi, iPod docks, DVD players (with an extensive, free lending library), and Apple TVs pre-programmed with eclectic island tunes and cult movies.
Best Hotel Restaurant
Featuring fresh, seasonal ingredients and inventive Jamaican-focused menus, the restaurant at the Caves offers such highlights as pumpkin ginger soup, saffron crab cakes served over spicy tomato salsa and drizzled with a herb-mustard vinaigrette, or rock shrimp simmered in a savory coconut sauce. The guests are encouraged to sample every dish if they like, and are also told "Anything else requested can be accommodated, never a problem!" The setting -- overlooking the sunset on the coarse rock cliffs or by candlelight inside a natural cave -- is beyond compare.
Best All-Inclusive Cuisine
Home to seven restaurants, the Half Moon resort has some of the best all-inclusive dining in Jamaica. The Sea Grape Terrace offers a popular "full Jamaican breakfast" buffet, which includes a mix of ackee and salt fish (the national dish), fried bread dumplings, grilled bananas, yams, and mixed vegetables. The Il Giardino Italian restaurant and the Sugar Mill, an upscale Caribbean restaurant housed within a centuries-old, dramatically lit sugar mill, both feature high-quality entrees. The resort's executive chef is among the best in the Caribbean -- he recently helped lead Team Jamaica to victory at the Caribbean Hotel Association Taste of the Caribbean competition.
Best Hotel Service
You quickly get used to hearing "Sure, whatever you want" from staff members at Royal Plantation, and by the third day, the thought of getting your own drink, lifting your own bag, or adhering to any of the resort's loosely enforced rules feels absurd. Offering such things as specialized dinner entrees, 24-hour room service, beachside drink service, and welcome "mangosas" (mango and champagne), the staff at the Royal Plantation is polite, professional, and friendly (without being flirty).
Best Nude Beach
Beachside body painting and late-night naked parties in the hot tub make for a nudist-friendly, and definitely R-rated, resort. On the fringes of the beach, this hotel designates the clothing-optional sections. Before entertaining fantasies of the Playboy Mansion, however, consider that the nude beach here is more like a coed locker room at the YMCA, populated in large part by the few people in the world who truly don't care what others think of their bodies -- in other words, seniors and daring drunks. Also remember that the resort is shared with many members of the Hedonism II crowd (an even more risque hotel).
Best Hotel Beach
Negril Tree House Cottages has a choice spot on Negril's Seven Mile Beach, widely held as the best beach in Jamaica. The water is sparkling turquoise from afar, crystal clear up close, warm, and never crowded. There are always plenty of chairs, and the jerk pit and beach bar are never more than a few steps away.
Best Hotel Pool
The resort's 86,000 infinity pool is striking -- and enormous. It looks out onto the ocean, and it's never closed, so at night you can swim under the stars. Two Jacuzzis set into the pool are surrounded by white columns.
Wood-planked terraces built into the cliff edge overlook the ocean and meld seamlessly with the open-air room.
Most Iconic Resort
Drawing everyone from Queen Elizabeth to 50 Cent, Half Moon strives for timeless, understated luxury. The columned portico at Half Moon's entrance and the marble-floored lobby -- filled with stone lions, crystal chandeliers, and contemporary Caribbean artwork -- highlight this classic resort's breezy yet elegant tone.