The Top Hotels in Jamaica

TK

Highlights
Port Antonio, Jamaica
This tiny hideaway overlooking the sea near Port Antonio originally served as a live-in recording studio for performers such as No Doubt, Alicia Keys, and Amy Winehouse. Although recording sessions still go on, Geejam is now a seven-room hotel, its guests often honeymooning couples acting out fantasies having nothing to do with rock and roll. Geejam’s cabins, especially, are very private, and guests sometimes spend days taking meals on their veranda and splashing in their outdoor Jacuzzi without being seen by anyone but the staff, who appear only when called. Of course, who wants to stay hidden forever when the Bushbar restaurant promises convivial chitchat, an occasional game of pool, and even live music? Not to mention that the hotel beach, in a cove across a road at the bottom of the property, promises four-poster sunbeds and, yes, Wi-Fi.
Race Course, Oracabessa, Jamaica
Goldeneye, to be clear, is not an easy place to leave. The land—the former home of Ian Fleming, where he wrote each of the 14 James Bond thrillers that would cement his place in literary and cinematic history—sits next to the tiny town of Oracabessa, on the northern coast. A warm, blue-green lagoon curls from the ocean around a small island and then lets out into a bay. You can look one direction and see a jungle, then turn around and see pristine white sand.

Blackwell bought the property in 1976 as a vacation home and a space to entertain family and friends but later he decided to transform it. In 2016, Goldeneye debuted a jumble of new huts, arranged around a small cove, a short walk from Fleming’s house and the resort’s original villas. The huts vary in height, designed to capture cooling breezes and allow guests to forgo air conditioning. And, crucially, they’re much cheaper to book than the Villas. Which is key because, up until this point, if you wanted to plan a visit to Goldeneye, you needed to either know Blackwell personally or have the excess capital to shell out potentially five figures on a vacation. (Part of the resort’s enduring gravitational pull is that many of the celebrity guests check both boxes.) With the beach huts, Blackwell has expanded, once again, the ambition of his famous resort.
Main Street, Ocho Rios, Jamaica
Opened in 1950, the Jamaica Inn is one of the oldest and most gracefully aged of the classic Jamaica luxury resorts. It sits on its own private beach, which is rare in Jamaica, and each of the 52 suites and cottages has a Caribbean view. It is a timeless place, which may be why there are no TVs, radios, or clocks in the rooms, with a quiet serenity about it that may have been the appeal to such guests as Marilyn Monroe, Ian Fleming, and Katharine Hepburn. The grounds are immaculately kept, and the dining is as romantic as starlight and live music can make it. But the standout feature is that each suite has an oversize covered veranda that guests could literally live on. On it, they’ll find a full-size sofa, wingchair, breakfast table, coffee table, and, should one want to write home about it, writing desk.
Negril, Jamaica
No hotel in Jamaica blends better with its surroundings than the aptly named Rockhouse, a string of villas clinging to the top of a sea cliff at the western tip of the island. Local stone, timber, and thatch are the building materials, and a harmony of design and setting is the result. The feel is rustic, but not rough (the showers might be outdoors, but the rooms are air-conditioned), and the feeling carries over to the pool, which sits on a rock platform halfway down the cliff face, from where sunbathers can don snorkel and mask and clamber down into a usually calm Caribbean. Even the restaurant hangs over the water, adding emphasis to the promise of dishes being fresh from the sea.

As does practically every hotel in Jamaica, Rockhouse has its celebrity stories, going back to the early ‘70s when Bob Marley, Bob Dylan, and the Rolling Stones added their names to the guest register. But it wasn’t until 1994, when a group of Australian owners took over, that Rockhouse began to evolve its reputation as one of the most Jamaican of Jamaican hotels. It happened in part because Rockhouse has none of the formality that some of the island’s best-known hotels, with their British colonial roots, still possess. And in part because of its active role in funding local education projects, it’s a valued, and popular, part of the community. That, and the restaurant’s homemade jerk sausage is legendary.
John Pringle Drive, Montego Bay, Jamaica
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.
Morgans Pass, Jamaica
This 12-cottage luxury hotel, 3,100 feet up in the Blue Mountains, is Jamaica without the beaches. It is the Jamaica of misty mornings, cool, cuddle-worthy evenings, and a musical heritage recognized worldwide. First as a private estate belonging to music producer Chris Blackwell and then as part of his Island Outpost collection of hotels, Strawberry Hill has been a creative refuge for performers including Bob Marley, the Rolling Stones, and Willy Nelson. After Hurricane Gilbert destroyed the estate’s great house in 1988, Blackwell commissioned Jamaican architect Ann Hodges, who specializes in historic reconstructions, to build the cottages, a restaurant, and a pool, which were opened in 1994. Yet despite the rock and roll history, and the hanging with like-minded souls up in the mountain mists, what guests seem to remember most is the far-below views of Kingston, especially at night, when the lights glow and sparkle from what must certainly be another world.
Lighthouse Road, West End, Negril ., Jamaica
The Caves, just west of Negril, is aptly named. While the 12 cottages and one villa sit atop honeycombed cliffs, the Blackwell Rum Bar, a private dining venue, and the massage table of the hotel’s Aveda Concept Spa are actually in underground grottos open to the sea. The setup is very Treasure Island, and the flicker of candlelight and the echo of waves off cave walls make it uniquely romantic. Each of the thatch-roofed cottages is as colorful as a paint box, and each gives a sense of being alone at the end of the land. This is one of music mogul Chris Blackwell’s Island Outpost properties, so the vibe at the Jacuzzi, sauna, or salt-water swimming pool is hip but relaxed. Although famed Seven Mile Beach begins almost where the cliffs end, the hotel itself has no beach, which is why a tradition at the Caves is to begin the day by jumping from the cliffs into the usually calm Caribbean below—or at least thinking about it.
Port Antonio, Jamaica
For those who aspire to travel as trendsetters in Jamaica, it helps to know that Port Antonio, way out on the eastern end of the island, is the destination to head for. And the address to shelter at is the Trident Hotel, whose 13 waterfront villas would not look out of place on South Beach. Nor would the crowd that hangs around its infinity pool or in its restaurant, Mike’s Supper Club, where local musicians and the occasional celeb sit down to knock out tunes on the 1917 Ferrari-red grand piano. The Trident Castle, a kind of fantasy annex, is a former private residence whose grand rooms, sea-view terraces, and dollhouse-size chapel make it ideal for destination weddings. A hard road to get there? Not for guests who avail themselves of the helicopter pad.
Alice Eldemire Drive, Montego Bay, Jamaica
More than any other of the luxury beach-colonies that opened in Jamaica in the 1950s, Tryall has retained the feel of a private club. Yet this 2,200-acre property, with 87 villas, almost all having views that sweep down to the Caribbean, is Jamaica’s largest all-villa resort, and home to one of the Caribbean’s finest golf courses. Created by a group of Texas investors that included a future governor (John Connally) and future senator (Lloyd Bentsen), the resort, backing its own private beach just west of Montego Bay, continues to add villas notable for their luxury and individuality, one with a gallery devoted to Jamaican art, another with its own basketball court. Each villa has a dedicated staff, including a chef, housekeeper, butler, laundress, and gardener. And although each villa is essentially self-contained, the resort’s restored 1834 Georgian Great House, with its restaurant and bar, where events such as the manager’s cocktail party are held, serves as focal point for guests who want to “get out” without leaving the property.
Norman Manley Blvd, Negril, Jamaica
Why we love it: A design-savvy boutique hotel with direct beach access

The Highlights:
- Bright design that’s full of personality
- A focus on exploring the hotel’s natural surroundings
- Direct access to pristine Seven Mile Beach

The Review:
A welcome departure from the classic Negril resort scene, this stylish boutique hotel—opened in 2018—melds local flavor, a vintage Havana feel, and a contemporary sensibility in a way that speaks to the curious, independent traveler. Set along 220 pristine feet of Seven Mile Beach, the hotel features a clean-lined, mid-century modern-inspired aesthetic throughout, accented by bright textiles, artwork, and a curated soundtrack that celebrates the history of Jamaican music.

Room options range from studios set on the second floor of the accommodation wing, to options with patios or balconies looking out at either the garden or the ocean. All have air conditioning, USB outlets, Bluetooth radio, free Wi-Fi, and mini-bars. Skylark is big on encouraging guests to explore the area, whether that means taking advantage of the direct beach access (the hotel provides loungers, paddleboards, snorkeling gear, and beach games, plus food and beverage service), going for a boat ride, hiking to a waterfall, or zip-lining through the jungle.