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(2018 - Winter/Spring Issue)


On any early morning, as the tropical sunrise begins to warm the soft Caribbean breezes, Carolyn Jobson is already rolling out fluffy white towels and warming bowls of water infused with nourishing Jamaican botanicals like coconut, aloe and noni.

The spa at The Cliff Hotel is small—just two oceanfront treatment rooms and an outdoor yoga pavilion—but this wellness expert smiles easily as she explains that delivering the perfect blend of healing techniques is more important than churning through large numbers of people.  


Those craving the relaxation of Jamaica’s laid-back ethos have set their sights on Negril along the island’s western tip. But for much of its history, it was a sleepy fishing village tucked into the dramatic limestone cliffs and stretch of white sandbar known as Seven Mile Beach.

When Columbus anchored offshore in 1494 he found villages of native Arawak Indians, a gentle tribe that had migrated from South America. For the next 450 years, colonial forces expanding into the New World ruled Jamaica. Through the early days of conflict, Negril’s isolated harbour gained a reputation as a safe haven for pirates.

In the 1960s and ’70s, a different kind of counterculture came ashore. Negril was a magnet for hippies, drawn by the island’s uninhibited lifestyle and affordability—even though the area was largely without modern conveniences like telephone and electricity. These days, upscale resorts have popped up along the shoreline but properties like The Cliff have stayed true to the soulful ambience of the island.

Perched along the dramatic Negril Cliffs just west of town, sunrise at The Cliff is caressed by ocean breezes while the constant crashing of waves onto the rugged rocks below ushers in the velvety evenings. Rooms have balcony hammocks and lounge chairs pepper the top of the rocks. This is a place to be outside and to unwind, breathe deeply and rejuvenate. 

At the hotel’s bamboo and natural stone KiYara Spa, Carolyn and her team of therapists offer serenity and diversion from the pressures of the outside world. Signature treatments like reflexology, body wraps and massages are designed to heighten and restore the senses with the use of hot river stones, nourishing oils, butters and therapeutic herbs.

As Carolyn was setting up for her day, the hotel’s main dining room, ZEST, was preparing to fuel guests with a mix of breakfast dishes, each touched with an authentic Jamaican twist. The clifftop terrace restaurant serves traditional ackee and saltfish, a country burrito zipped up with pepper jack cheese, and silver dollar pancakes topped with jerk sausage and local honey.

Guided by the award-winning duo of chef Cindy Hutson and Delius Shirley, ZEST has stayed true to the property’s overall philosophy of incorporating local ingredients in a menu that is true to the seasons. The local catch of the day is brought to life with Scotch bonnet peppers and sautéed callaloo; oven-roasted pork is flavoured with guava Appleton Spiced Rum sauce and served with traditional rice and peas.

Another Negril institution true to the Bob Marley vibe of “Don’t worry about a thing, ’cause every little thing’s gonna be alright” is Rick’s Café, the cliffside spot where hundreds of people gather every evening to watch the sun slide below the horizon. Sunset at Rick’s is a Negril tradition. The bar has been blown away by multiple hurricanes, each time rebuilt bigger and stronger, without compromising its original ambience. Rick’s has a come-as-you-are feel—for fruity rum punches, for dinner, for live reggae or just for the sunset ritual.  


That laid-back chill and quest for wellness stretches all along Jamaica’s north coastline, enveloping Negril and winding its way into the tourist hub of Montego Bay. In search of the ultimate seclusion and luxury service, the villas at MoBay’s historic Round Hill Hotel have attracted generations of politicians, celebrities and jetsetters.

The secluded peninsula property was originally a plantation of sugar cane, coconuts and pineapple groves. A mix of Ralph Lauren-designed guest rooms and more than two dozen private villas has been a luxury getaway to honeymooners JFK and Jacqueline Kennedy, a creative writing retreat for Broadway composer Oscar Hammerstein, and a film setting for the Hollywood film How Stella Got Her Groove Back.

Even jetsetters need a rejuvenation and wellness fix. The Spa at Round Hill has found a home in the resort’s renovated 18th-century plantation house, surrounded by tropical gardens and overlooking expansive lawns and the Caribbean Sea. At its heart are seven treatment rooms, a newly updated fitness centre and an open-air yoga pavilion. Massage, body scrub, body polish and wrap treatments incorporate indigenous Jamaican ingredients like frangipani flowers and oil, sea plants, coffee beans, lime, ginger and vanilla.

A stone’s throw from the plantation house-spa is the Round Hill yoga pavilion—a tranquil covered pier without walls, open to sea breezes and the fragrances of the surrounding gardens. Yoga classes incorporate stretching and traditional poses, all with an ocean view.  


Not far outside Montego Bay is the crescent-shaped beach that inspired the name of Half Moon, one of Jamaica’s most discerning resort properties. Opened in 1954, privately owned and operated, Half Moon guests have included Jacqueline Kennedy (who wrote her will while there), celebrities and royalty including HRH Queen Elizabeth and Prince Philip.

With more than three kilometres of private beachfront and 1.6 square kilometres of manicured grounds, the property has almost 200 guest rooms and 31 villas, ranging from modest to jaw-dropping. Half Moon has its own equestrian centre and 18-hole, par 72 golf course as well as Fern Tree, the largest award-winning spa on the island.

Guests can watch the sunrise at yoga and meditation sessions conducted in the over-water bungalows, modest wooden sanctuaries cantilevered over the azure Caribbean Sea. More than 50 pools are sprinkled throughout the expansive property. (Getting from point A to point B sometimes requires a golf cart.)

Fern Tree spa may be the perfect way to end a Jamaican infusion of wellness and tranquility. Stone paths wind through fragrant gardens of fruit trees and flowering shrubs. Private pools and meditation spaces are a shortcut to absolute relaxation.

An extensive menu of massages (Thai, deep tissue, therapeutic, four-handed and Swedish), shiatsu, reflexology and reiki is a sure-fire way to relieve tension, ease muscle aches and improve circulation and flexibility. Add in a session of restorative yoga—either in the outdoor bungalow or the open-air yoga pavilion—and visitors will find themselves deeply immersed in the true Jamaican philosophy of life to unwind, breathe deeply and rejuvenate. And remember: “Don’t worry about a thing, ’cause every little thing’s gonna be alright.”

Travel Plan

For more information on Jamaica and these or more delightful getaways, visit:

Jamaica Tourist Board: visitjamaica.com

Half Moon Resort: halfmoon.com

Rick’s Café: rickscafejamaica.com

Round Hill Hotel and Villas: roundhill.com

The Cliff Hotel: thecliffjamaica.com

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