A collection of 31 idiosyncratically designed and decorated cottages (think Morocco does sea glass) on Jamaica’s isolated south coast, Jakes attracts a stylish but relaxed crowd that doesn’t mind the two-hour drive from Montego Bay, the middling black-sand beach, or the arid landscape. They come because, without making too much fuss about it, Jakes is one of Jamaica’s hippest hangouts. It's connected with the film and music world through legendary Jamaican filmmaker Perry Henzill, whose wife, Sally, an artist, created the resort, and son, Jason, manages it. And it has a reputation for community involvement that gratifies even the most socially concerned traveler. Guests plan a yoga retreat, or watercolor classes, or a best friend’s wedding, and the next thing they know, they’ve volunteered to help with some community project—often the result of a conversation with a local over a Red Stripe beer at the hotel’s Jack Sprat Restaurant.
Have you been here? Share a tip or a photo with fellow travelers.
Jakes’ distance from anywhere (Montego Bay is two adventurous hours away by road) is perhaps one of the reasons guests get so caught up in the immediate neighborhood. For anyone serious about volunteering locally, Jason Henzill will find a project for them. About 20 minutes away by boat, an absolute must-visit is the Pelican Bar, a ramshackle structure of crooked pilings and palm fronds precariously standing in a patch of shoal water about three-quarters of a mile offshore. Built by Delroy Forbes (aka Floyd), a fisherman who clearly has few carpentry skills, it is so popular with Jakes guests that it might be called a hotel annex. Some 45 minutes away, the 120-foot, eight-tiered YS Falls are similar to Dunn’s River Falls, near Ocho Rios, except without the crowds. Combine a trip to YS Falls with a boat tour on the Black River’s Great Morass, Jamaica’s largest wetland. It's a birder's paradise, but frequent sightings also include crocodiles, which are smaller and less aggressive than their African cousins.
Need to Know
50 rooms, in 31 cottages. From $95 low season, $115 high season. Check-in: 3 p.m.; check-out: noon. Dining options: Jakes is in farm country, and the menu at its gourmet restaurant, Jakes Country Cuisine, reflects it. Chef Jakie Outar designs the menu based on whatever the local farmers (and fishermen) show up with that day. A less formal venue, Jack Sprat Restaurant specializes in seafood, pizza, and a chance to mix with the locals, especially on the weekends, when the music is sometimes live and the conversation always lively. Once a month, on the Saturday closest to the full moon, a special farm-to-table dinner is held. Spa and gym details: With four treatment rooms sitting above a coral cove, the Driftwood Spa has a full menu of services, such as a coco-mango body buff and café mocha wrap. And while most spas tend to shoo kids away, the Driftwood has a mini-menu for them that includes nail art and hair braiding. There’s no gym, but yoga and Pilates workshops are frequently held.
Who’s it for: Jakes attract a hip crowd of Jamaicans who like to get away now and then, and an international clientele, including the occasional celeb, who like to mix with them. Our favorite rooms: Morocco and romance were clearly on her mind when Sally Henzill designed the honeymoon suite that is perhaps a tad indelicately known as Octopussy 3. Like Octopussy 1 and Octopussy 2, it sits directly above the coral-edged sea and has an outdoor bathroom with a shower and tub, but it feels a little more private. For film buffs: Hipsters will already know this, but Perry Henzill, who died in 2006, directed the 1972 film The Harder They Come. Starring Jimmy Cliff, many consider it to be the Caribbean’s greatest screen achievement. The movie is responsible, through its sound track, for introducing reggae to the world. Even hipsters may not know, though, that Jakes was the name of the Henzill family parrot.