Photo courtesy of Round Hill Hotel and Villas
Round Hill Hotel and Villas
On the still-bucolic site of a former coconut plantation just west of Montego Bay, Round Hill is another of the legendary hotels created in the early 1950s to accommodate wealthy Brits and Americans who were discovering the pleasures of a Jamaican winter. Since then, it has evolved into a thoroughly modern resort that manages to retain its original, exclusive, clublike spirit. In the beginning, Round Hill consisted of a group of shareholders (British playwright Noel Coward was one) who rented out their private villas when they were absent. That’s how it still works, although the celebrity shareholder most mentioned these days is designer Ralph Lauren, who rents neither of his two villas. Along with 27 other villas, which can be divided into 86 suites, there’s the Pineapple House, a seafront block of 36 rooms, all decorated, predominantly white on white, by Lauren. The ambience is quiet luxury, the service is relatively formal (the doorman wears white), and the children among the guests are treated as the heirs and future holiday decision makers that they are. Almost every villa has a story, whether it has to do with Coward, the Kennedys, or How Stella Got Her Groove Back. And Montego Bay, whose city lights can be seen only from the highest villa (#28), is still another world away.
By Bob Payne, AFAR Contributor
Round Hill Hotel and Villas
So legendary is this retreat, dating back to 1953, that it's synonymous with Jamaica. Mentioning Round Hill Hotel & Villas, sitting on a 110-acre peninsula just minutes outside Montego Bay, will also elicit references to glitterati who have escaped here over the decades, from Jackie and John Kennedy–they honeymooned in Villa 10–to Ralph Lauren and yes, Stella in the infamous movie, "How Stella Got Her Groove Back," starring Angela Bassett (filmed in Villa 11, if you must know). For all its fame and status, the atmosphere at Round Hill–with white-stone floor rooms and plush villas enveloped by fragrant flowers, pineapple trees and 180-degree sea views–is as laid back as I've experienced. Families and couples make up the majority of the guests, who wander about all day in beach wear (ladies even receive courtesy sarongs). What you'll fall in love with, aside from the intimate grounds and friendly staff: the farm-to-table meals (be sure to sample the scotch bonnet ice cream) and the daily afternoon tea spread. When you manage to extract yourself from the multilevel infinity pool, walk along the beach and take the wooded trail toward the spa, past cave entrances and swimming coves. There, a sprawling 10-acre lawn with beds and hammocks offers panoramic views of Jamaica's aquamarine coastline and Round Hill's leafy bluffs.
By Lebawit Lily Girma, AFAR Local Expert
Dancing with Fire
Friday night at Round Hill is Jamaica Night: a buffet of local delicacies plus local entertainment. On this night we were treated to amazingly talented dancing, with and without fire. Most of the time they moved too fast for my camera to catch, but this dancer limboed slow enough that I managed to capture the moment.
By Kat Tancock
John Pringle Drive, Montego Bay, Jamaica