Without a doubt one of the most amazing destinations in the Caribbean, Jamaica is packed with natural beauty. On top of the gorgeous beaches, lush tropical forests, dramatic clifftop hangouts, and stunning waterfalls, the country’s huge array of hotels is an equally appealing attraction. With so many properties to choose from, there’s something to suit all tastes (and wallet sizes), whether you’re looking to splurge on something luxurious or find a similarly stellar stay at a more affordable price point. To help you find the perfect hotel for your budget, we’ve rounded up the best luxury hotels in Jamaica along with a cheaper -- but similar -- alternative.
The Cliffside Choice: The Caves, Negril
With its upscale boutique vibe, The Caves is considered one of Jamaica’s most romantic escapes. A favorite with the celebrity crowd -- Naomi Campbell is a fan -- the unique resort is made up of a collection of 11 private cottages and suites set atop dramatic cliffs overlooking the sea. Steep steps lead from the water to most of the rooms and amenities (something to bear in mind), and within the complex, you’ll discover lush tropical paths and plenty of fauna. As an all-inclusive property, dining is included in the room rates and local, seasonal ingredients dominate the creative menu. The hotel also features a clifftop bar for drinks with a view, or if you prefer, a grotto bar and candlelit dining options which take advantage of the inimitable location amidst the caves.
The Alternative: Rockhouse Hotel, Negril
If The Caves is a little pricey, then the nearby Rockhouse Hotel offers a similarly dramatic clifftop hotel experience for a more modest budget. While not as chic as The Caves, the Rockhouse is a socially and environmentally conscious property with a great restaurant and a beautiful pool. Regular yoga workshops are hosted to keep your wellness levels in check, and the private thatched-roof villas have no TVs or internet connection -- a bonus for guests looking to unplug. Things to do include getting pampered in the premium spa and sunbathing on the cliffside loungers from where you can watch cliff jumpers plunge into the water below.
The All-Inclusive Choice: Sandals Montego Bay
Located on a long sandy beach, Sandals Montego Bay is the place for couples looking for maximum pampering and relaxation. The vast resort is home to a huge array of amenities, including one swim-up bar, four pools, four whirlpools, snorkeling, waterskiing, paddleboarding, sailing, volleyball, tennis, and the list goes on. Rooms are sleek and modern with free Wi-Fi (some suites come with a butler), and the dedicated concierge can take care of bookings and reservations should you wish to deviate from the on-site luxury of the resort. With numerous indoor and outdoor dining and drinking options, there are plenty of places to make the most of the all-inclusive nature. Another bonus for some: the resort is also adults-only.
The Alternative: Grand Palladium Jamaica Resort and Spa, Lucea
Also in Montego Bay, the Grand Palladium Jamaica Resort and Spa is a great alternative to Sandals. It competes in size, range of amenities, activity offerings, and dining options, but, most importantly, it costs a lot less. A top bang-for-your-buck all-inclusive, this mega-resort is so large that it incorporates elements of romance, privacy, and fun depending on where you look. There are 10 restaurants, including seven a la carte options, and you’ll find brand-name liquor in the bars and in-room minibars (which are restocked daily). There may be a slightly disappointing man-made beach, but with numerous pools -- including the largest in Jamaica -- there are alternative ways to soak up the sun by the water. Plus, rooms feature whirlpool tubs and private balconies for romance and relaxation.
The Tropical Choice: Sunset at the Palms, Negril
Situated in lush tropical grounds filled with flowers and indigenous plants, the eco-friendly Sunset at the Palms is far from the party scene celebrated in many Jamaican resort hotels. Guests will find a beautiful beach across the street as well as upscale Bali-inspired decor throughout the property. Intimate and low-key, the atmosphere here is perfect for couples looking for a serene escape (the adults-only policy only helps maintain the peaceful ambience). The treehouse-style bungalows are surrounded by towering palms, plus there are three restaurants and a pool bar. When it comes to entertainment, you can forget over-the-top fads -- it’s all about local musicians and mellow vibes.
The Alternative: Strawberry Hill, Kingston
With a remote location among the Jamaican Blue Mountains, Strawberry Hill is as tropical as it gets in Jamaica. The historic property is nestled on a former coffee plantation above the city of Kingston, and houses just 12 cottages on more than 26 acres. Highlights include panoramic views, an expansive spa, lush gardens, and a hilltop pool from which to enjoy the beautiful sunsets. While there’s no beach nearby, guests looking for the serenity of a tropical wonderland will find plenty of intimacy and privacy among the mountains.
The Romantic Choice: Geejam, Port Antonio
Arguably Jamaica’s most luxurious hotel, the tiny Geejam is an exclusive hideaway with seven private villas and a loyal celebrity following (Sharon Stone, Drake, and Gwen Stefani are all former guests). Thanks to an on-site recording studio, the hotel has welcomed the likes of John Legend and Rihanna, but also regularly hosts couples and families seeking solitude. The minimalist rooms are equipped with Apple TVs, free guest cell phones for summoning staff, and pre-loaded iPods. While there is no communal pool (some villas have their own), guests can use the free hotel transportation to get to the nearby Frenchman’s Cove and Blue Lagoon. A serene clifftop property surrounded by dense tropical foliage and peeping ocean views, Geejam’s aim is all about distancing guests from the island’s crowds.
The Alternative: Hermosa Cove, Ocho Rios
Similarly private and equally romantic, Hermosa Cove is located on the beach in Ocho Rios. The atmosphere at this eco-friendly resort is homey and laid-back, with yoga, art, and cooking classes to keep guests entertained. Despite its close-to-nature attitude, there are luxurious touches in the colorful villas, and amenities can include private pools, iPod docks, and flat-screen TVs. The quiet and peaceful vibe, away from the commercial resorts, especially appeals to couples who can take advantage of the beachside bar.
The Hip Choice: GoldenEye Hotel & Resort, Ocho Rios
The former home of Bond novelist Ian Fleming, GoldenEye Hotel & Resort is a property with some history. The fact that Fleming penned all 14 of his Bond novels here might hold some appeal, but the hip nature of its happening restaurants, tree house spa, and extensive list of on-site activities is surely the main draw. Prices are high, but those looking for pure Jamaican luxury and amazing service are willing to pay to stay at this secluded hideaway where stunning guest cottages and villas overlook the private beach and lagoon. Keep in mind that prices aren’t all-inclusive either. A haven for celebrities, GoldenEye is a rare gem. Guests have access to paddleboards, jet skis, and snorkel gear, as well as tennis courts, jogging paths, morning yoga, and mountain bikes. Additionally, each room comes with its own kayak for use at any time, whether to explore the quiet lagoon or venture out into the Caribbean.
The Alternative: Jakes Hotel, Villas & Spa, South Coast
It may be a budget alternative to GoldenEye Resort & Hotel, but Jakes Hotel is just as famous. The property appeals to a cool international crowd who come to stay in the collection of whimsical rooms, cottages and villas -- some right on the waterfront. Guests can truly unplug here -- there’s no phone, internet, or TV in the rooms. Plus, there is luxury to be found during the open-air treatments in the Driftwood Spa, at the revered restaurant serving top-notch, farm-to-table food, and at the on-site classes in painting, cooking, and yoga.
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