May 24, 2017
| October 26, 2011 | Lifestyle
Rio Grande Rafting: Take a rafting trip down the Rio Grande. If whitewater adventure isn’t your speed, fear not: “Rafting” here means a leisurely, peaceful guide-led ride. visitjamaica.com
Ian Fleming Airport: This newly rechristened airport offers quick access to and from the island’s luxe north coast. Also available: Designated landing for private jets and small commercial aircraft, plus shuttle flights from the island’s other airports. ianflemingairport.com
Strawberry Hill: It was here that Bob Marley recovered from gunshot wounds in 1976 before recording Exodus, which Time magazine would eventually deem “the best album of the 20th century.” islandoutpost.com
The view from Firefly, British playwright Noël Coward’s former home atop Jamaica’s Blue Mountains
The lilting melodies of the isle’s indigenous birds are the first sounds you’ll hear when you wake in a cottage perched high on the slopes of Jamaica’s Blue Mountains. And I’ve always thought the songs were a fitting introduction to the island’s hypnotic pulse. When I’m here, 3,100 feet above sea level at Strawberry Hill (the luxury resort and spa I own in Irish Town), I like to rise early—around 6:30 am—and head out to the patio for a pot of Blue Mountain coffee, brewed from beans grown on the surrounding hills. There’s nothing like sipping a hot cup while looking out over the downward-sweeping tropical landscape as Kingston comes to life far below.
My ideal day in Jamaica usually continues with a brisk morning walk, which always provides new discoveries. Although I’ve been here for much of my life, I remain in awe of the island’s natural beauty. At this high elevation, roses grow comfortably next to tropical plants, and the hiking trails and orchards burst with lively color and scents from native long weekend exotic fruits, flowers and spices—which you’ll often find used in the kitchens, baths and spas throughout the island: lemon mint, blue ginger and otaheite apples, to name a few.
As the morning gives way to midday, I like to take a car down the mountain near Oracabessa Bay, a historic port town known for some of the most beautiful amber-tinted sunsets in the Caribbean. It’s home to the beach where the Bond classic Dr. No was filmed, most notably the infamous scene where Ursula Andress emerges from the water like Aphrodite in a white bikini. Sting also wrote “Every Breath You Take” while vacationing there. During the drive, I often stop at Big Tree for a quick roadside Jamaican snack—usually a patty filled with spiced chicken or callaloo, a tasty native stew of leafy greens much like kale.
I always love to stop by Goldeneye, the former estate of James Bond author Ian Fleming that I purchased in 1977. Fleming created the character here and wrote a total of 14 Bond novels on the property, and in recent years it’s become one of the island’s most upscale resorts. After a relaxing swim and maybe a quick nap in the sun, I might meet some friends up at the Bizot Bar, where I’ll have a healthful, tasty late lunch of parrotfish or snapper, perfect with a glass of chilled rosé. To cap off the afternoon, I’ll take a trip up to Firefly, the former home of British playwright Noël Coward. It boasts yet another spectacular view of the Blue Mountains in all their 7,400-foot splendor.
At sunset, I’ll head back to Goldeneye and speed along the coast on a Yamaha WaveRunner (my favorite toy) so I can fully appreciate the breathtaking twilight and pristine shoreline. Evening cocktails call for a visit to the resort’s cabana bar, where mellow dub and reggae flow from the speakers all night long, either for dancing or just soaking up the ambience with a rum cocktail. Before heading back up to Strawberry Hill, I’ll take a nighttime swim in the property’s lagoon. We recently installed blue lights under the water, which make for a surreal and strangely calming end-of-the-night exercise. On a clear night, with the sky full of stars, it’s truly heaven on earth.
photographs courtesy of I sland O utpost (blackwell); Adrian B oot/Islandoutpost (strawberry hill);
Matthew Donaldson/Islandoutpost (goldeneye pool); ISLAND OUTPOST (FIREFLY VILLAS); HEIDI ZECH (RAFTING)