Jamaica is an island that has a resort to suit every vacation personality, from retro-cool properties set on some of its most scenic bays and beaches to modern all-inclusive resorts perfect for couples or families (and sometimes both). Visitors can also kick back at more intimate beach hotels, where the décor is colorful and eclectic and the vibe is conducive to making new friends and great memories.
Of course, Jamaica’s natural assets—its gorgeous white-sand beaches, lush Blue Mountains, and blazing sunsets—also combine with the sexy, celebratory rhythm of reggae and the spicy tang of Jamaican cuisine to provide the perfect vacation, be it a getaway with friends or family or the perfect tropical honeymoon. Here are 10 of the best beach resorts in Jamaica and the amenities they offer.
Round Hill Hotel & Villas
A haven for celebrities in the 1950s and 1960s—Paul Newman, Grace Kelly and Truman Capote all vacationed here and John F. Kennedy and Jackie honeymooned in Villa 10—this classic Jamaican resort, set on hillside just outside Montego Bay and known for the striking black-and-white canvas shades and polished tile floors in its main building, maintains the sophisticated yet relaxed ambience that drew seclusion-seekers in the first place.
Round Hill Hotel & Villas features 27 luxury villas, each individually decorated and most featuring dark wood floors, romantic mahogany four-poster beds and a private (or semi-private) pool. Guests can also check into one of the 36 Oceanfront Rooms designed by Ralph Lauren (who owns a private villa on the property) to sleep amid airy white and blue décor and enjoy easy access to the beach and stunning infinity-edge pool. Book a room on the upper level for cathedral ceilings and spectacular bay views.
Villa guests can enjoy cooked-to-order breakfasts by their housekeeper and then laze by their pool or take a dip in the sea, where the Beach Bar serves a potent rum punch. For dinner, there’s a modern Jamaican menu at The Grill, located on a breezy rooftop, and light Caribbean cuisine using Jamaican ingredients at The Restaurant at Round Hill. The resort’s spa is located in a historic great house and features treatments incorporating some of Jamaica’s most heavenly scented natural ingredients.
Sandals South Coast
Relaxation-seekers who love all-inclusive ease but want to get away away from the touristy vibe of Jamaica’s larger resort areas can have both at this adults-only property, located about 90 minutes by shuttle from Montego Bay. The drive through the mountains is scenic (and yes, it’s curvy and at times bumpy), but arriving at 500-acre Sandals South Coast near White House on the island’s less-developed southern coast guests can embrace Jamaica’s mellow vibe. That’s because this 372-room resort features an uncrowded two-mile beach and has a Latitudes overwater bar with hammocks for two suspended over the turquoise Caribbean.
While the resort’s design—three villages that nod to Italian, French and Dutch design—isn’t a showcase for Caribbean craftsmanship, the layout does spread guests along the beach and at three pools (with swim-up bars), providing a welcome sense of space. To savor local flavor, head to any of the seven bars and The Jerk Shack, serving spicy Caribbean favorites. Other dining options (there are nine restaurants) include Italian, French, Pan-Asian, seafood and sushi. Sandals South Coast also has 12 overwater bungalows arranged in the shape of heart and featuring bright contemporary decor.
Other accommodations range from a Beachfront Deluxe room to a Beachfront Club Level Junior Suite. Also included: Wi-Fi, tennis, nightly entertainment, watersports such as kayaking and paddle boarding, catamaran sails and scuba diving.
Jamaica’s glamorous history as a midcentury getaway spot for the rich and famous comes alive in dazzling Technicolor at Jamaica Inn, which has welcomed guests into its nostalgic realm of periwinkle blue since 1950. The old-school ambience is cool and undeniably romantic at this intimate 48-room property in Ocho Rios, where the walls and verandahs are awash in the soothing hue, that when juxtaposed against the resort’s lush green lawn, golden sand beach and vivid aquamarine sea becomes visually mesmerizing.
It’s an ideal option for couples looking for a quiet escape, personal service and traditional kinds of romance, such as live band music at dinnertime and slow dancing in the moonlight. Accommodations range from Balcony and Verandah Suites to private Beach Cottages. Jamaica Inn doesn’t have a swim-up bar (but it does have Teddy, who has been mixing cocktails at the Beach Bar since 1958) or internationally themed restaurants, just a retro-cool ambience in the Lounge with its vintage photos of famous past guests (such as Marilyn Monroe and Katharine Hepburn) and delicious Jamaica-inspired dining on the al fresco terrace. Further pampering is in store at the treehouse-like Ocean Spa, which is nestled amid greenery above the Caribbean.
Hyatt Zilara Rose Hall & Hyatt Ziva Rose Hall
Seeking an adults-only escape? Opt for Hyatt Zilara Rose Hall. Looking for all-inclusive family fun? Then choose Hyatt Ziva Rose Hall. These adjacent resorts, conveniently located just 15 minutes from Sangster International airport in Montego Bay, offer options for any stage of life and any kind of travel companions.
When there are no kids or mothers-in-law along for the vacation, a just-the-two-of-you escape or friends getaway awaits at adults-only Zilara, where even the smallest of the 344 contemporary rooms is a spacious and airy 493 square feet and features a balcony or terrace. Cool off with a relaxing dip at any hour by booking a Swim-Up King with a semi-private pool or feel extra pampered in a butler-serviced One-Bedroom Oceanfront Suite. Neighboring Ziva features 277 rooms in similar configurations but offers an Activities Pool (there’s also a Peaceful Infinity Pool) and a KidZ Club.
While guests with kids can only dine at Ziva’s seven restaurants, where the cuisine ranges from Italian at Di RoZa to stir-fry and grill favorites at FuZion Asian Grill, adult Zilara guests can choose from 12 restaurants at both resorts, which includes island-sourced ingredients prepared by local chefs at Jamaican RootZ by Horizons, dishes inspired by international cities such as London to Shanghai at Urban Heat by FlavorZ and French cuisine at Petit PariZ.
Azul Beach Resort Negril by Karisma
Located on Negril’s famed Seven Mile Beach, Azul Beach Resort Negril by Karisma welcomes couples, families and groups of friends with its cheerful modern beach house ambience. The resort is especially appealing to design-savvy travelers who love upscale contemporary décor—the 285 suites are done in chic ivory, taupe and pale blue.
Some on the ground level are swim-up (including splurge-worthy beachfront ones), while those on the second and third floors feature ocean and sunset views. And couples or groups of friends looking to get away from excitable kids can book a room in the adults-only section.
Azul also offers dining choices galore at nine restaurants—among them Hua Hin for Thai cuisine, Ackee for Caribbean specialties and Garfield Beach House for oceanfront dining with a Mediterranean inspired menu—plus nine atmospheric bars (such as chic Seven Mile Oceanfront Bar and vibrant Nesta Rasta Lounge).
Guests seeking to max out their relaxation can head to the Vassa Spa for a soothing massage or body treatment. There’s also complimentary Wi-Fi, an Azulitos Playhouse program for kids 3-12, cooking and yoga classes, non-motorized watersports and daily live entertainment.
While some things are changing at Half Moon—where a resort-wide renovation is about to give this 65-year-old Montego Bay property a refreshed and notably more contemporary look in some room categories—others remain the same, especially the classic Caribbean ambience that’s at its heart. Repeat guests love the resort’s 400 lushly landscaped acres featuring low-rise buildings tucked amid towering palm trees and flowering bougainvillea. And they adore the two-mile curve of beach that’s the ideal setting for a pre-sunset stroll or a gentle horseback ride (the horses even take riders for a refreshing swim).
By late 2019, the resort will feature two additional accommodation categories, Prestige Ocean Rooms (offering ocean views) and Estate Ocean Rooms (offering views as well as outdoor living space), plus seven new restaurants and bars, including Delmare for seafood, The Great House Restaurant for all-day dining, Spice beach bar and grill for casual fare, Lester’s Bar specializing in Caribbean rums and Ital Café serving vegan cuisine. Half Moon is also known for its Fern Tree Spa, which offers a Caribbean-inspired menu and overwater treatment bungalows.
To experience genuine Jamaican hospitality—in a place that’s relaxed, happy and casual morning, noon and night—there’s no better resort than Jakes. Located in Treasure Beach on Jamaica’s laid-back south coast, this colorful, quirky and bohemian property features just 49 accommodations, from cozy and affordable hotel rooms painted in bright blue, pink and yellow hues and slightly larger oceanfront bungalows featuring playful pattern mixes and cool sea breezes to full-scale private villas, and all are surprisingly well priced.
But the true joy of Jakes is the camaraderie that develops among guests during happy hours at Dougie’s Bar and at meal times. Guests can opt for authentic Jamaican cuisine at Jack Sprat or the fresh-daily menu based on what’s available from area farmers and fisherman at Jakes Restaurant. Prepare to be immersed in the most colorful and creative daily aspects of local life in Jamaica.
Couples Swept Away
The best of both worlds—fun in the sun on Negril’s most famous beach and rooms and activities geared to couples looking to mix romance and fitness—meet at Couples Swept Away. Guests can enjoy the reggae rhythms of Seven Mile Beach but also have a quiet spot to relax and access to Jamaica’s largest fitness complex—making this 19-acre resort a top choice for active couples seeking to enjoy it all.
The 312 suites are located in three-floor bungalow-style buildings and feature wooden blinds, private verandas and pale blue and white décor. The resort has six restaurants and nine bars, including Feathers for Caribbean-fusion continental dining, Lemon Grass for Pan-Asian and sushi and Patois Patio for international favorites from pizza to steak. Relax at one of the three pools (with 5 hot tubs) or burn off the added calories from Jamaica’s potent rum cocktails at the 10-acre Sports & Fitness Complex with its lap pool, air-conditioned squash and racquetball courts and wellness bar serving fresh fruit and vegetable smoothies.
Also included: Wi-Fi, scuba diving, golf and tennis, windsurfing, wake boarding, water skiing, a sunset catamaran cruise and Shipwreck Beach Party (every Friday night) featuring dancing and local island cuisine.
Fans of the James Bond franchise should consider a stay at this resort, which literally wrote the book on sex appeal and intrigue since it’s where 007 creator Ian Fleming penned his novels in the 1950s and 1960s. Located about 20 minutes from Ocho Rios on Jamaica’s north shore, GoldenEye features Fleming’s villa compound (along with his writing desk and and other memorabilia), but also offers a range of accommodations that appeal to both couples and families.
These include one-to-three-bedroom villas, lagoon cottages and beach huts, with larger villas working well for parents and kids, while the latter two categories are ideal for couples, who can choose a lagoon-front cottage with a king-size bed facing the water and a private outdoor garden shower or a breezy beach hut, some of which are set atop stilts.
Known for its relaxed vibe and vivid green jungle landscape that fringes a crescent of golden sand beach and calm turquoise water, GoldenEye is an Island Outpost resort, owned by Island Records founder Chris Blackwell. Guests will find a focus on all things local and natural—from fresh grilled fish at Bamboo Bar to massages with botanical oils at FieldSpa.
An all-inclusive option with just 12 rooms? Yes, Jamaica has one. The Caves, a welcoming property set atop the scenic limestone cliffs of Negril, is priced on an all-inclusive basis but feels like a one-of-a-kind hideaway—because that’s what it is.
The resort is named for the sea caves found in this area (and it has several private ones of its own) and offers individually designed accommodations featuring cheerful colors and patterns, from vibrant bed covers to terraces with traditional carved wood panels. The Caves is part of the Island Outpost hotel group, so it has a signature Blackwell Rum Bar (named for its owner, Island Records founder Chris Blackwell) in addition to a saltwater pool, hot tub and spa.
Cuisine-wise, the hotel’s specialties include Jamaican “jerk” barbecue and steamed callaloo and bammy (cassava flatbread) as well as five-course romantic fare featuring fresh seafood, served in two dining gazebos. But reserve ahead and be one of the lucky couples who gets to dine in a cave by candlelight.