Review and Photos by Melanie Votaw
Jamaica Inn, a hotel that sits on a six-acre beachfront garden, is an institution in Ocho Rios, Jamaica. The Inn was established in 1950, and the same family has owned it since 1958. Marilyn Monroe and Arthur Miller stayed there in the 50′s, Noel Coward was a frequent guest.
During my stay, I met one of the owners, Peter Morrow, who spends a lot of time on site and enjoys meeting as many guests as he can. He was just 12 years old when he met Teddy, a staff member who has worked for the hotel for 45 years (since he was 16.) I was told that many other staff members have also worked at the Inn for years. This is always a good sign. A happy staff translates to happy guests.
Because of the age of Jamaica Inn, many of the bedrooms are a bit small by today’s standards, but some of the amenities you receive in exchange are truly special. My suite was right on the Inn’s 700-foot private beach, and while the bedroom and bathroom were both small, my living room was literally outside. One step out of the living room onto veranda, and I was on sand. With a couch, cushioned chairs, desk, dinette set, and refrigerator, the Inn is perfect for an extended stay. Some of the 47 suites at the Inn are on the second floor with a balcony, but every room has an ocean view.
Larger suites are available, including the Winston Churchill suite, also known as “the White Suite.” The veranda stretches around three sides of the room, overlooking a private lawn and garden as well as a private balcony overlooking the water.
The lawn at Jamaica Inn has a swimming pool, croquet court, and beach bar, and there are private cottages available for rental as well. The rooms contain no television, radio, or clock, and guests are expected to wear “casual elegant” dress for dinner.
My favorite moments at Jamaica Inn? Being served breakfast on my veranda. I just loved seeing someone walk down the beach with my breakfast tray in-hand to serve me sand-side. Nothing says luxury like eating eggs and pineapple pancakes on your own private verandah while listening to the sound of the waves. This verandah had a roof, so if it had rained, I would have stayed dry while remaining “outside.” The verandah also had a beach towel on a rack and a metal bowl in which to wash the sand off my feet before reentering the bedroom.
This beach has golden sand. The water here is cool, and the sandy ocean bottom is free of rocks – it is these elements that makes many call this the best beach in Jamaica. The Inn accommodates 90 guests, but there are 120 chairs on the beach, so you never have to worry about finding a place to lounge.
Before dinner, I enjoyed a delicious Planter’s punch in open-air seating, while I listened to the trio of musicians mixed with the sound of the crickets and frogs that play their own music every night in Jamaica. For dinner, I had the option of a five-course dinner for $80 or a selection from the a la carte menu. I decided on an entrée of lemongrass kingfish with carrots, broccoli, and mashed potatoes. It was a simple meal but was expertly prepared.
Jamaica Inn is old school with regular keys to open your doors rather than card keys, and my room opened directly to the outside walkway on the property. Tips are included in the room rate, but if a particular staff member impresses you, there are envelopes available to leave them a little extra. It was nice to not have to worry about tipping.
Jamaica Inn’s KiYara Ocean Spa is very special, using and selling all-natural products made by locals. There is pure coconut oil, for example, that is hand cold-pressed by a woman that the manager of the spa knows personally. I had a phenomenal massage in an open-air tree house which allowed me an ocean view while also maintaining enough walls to give me privacy.
An on-site staff of carpenters and painters maintain the buildings at all times, so nothing is left until it is in a state of disrepair. Jamaica Inn is also experimenting with planting Neem trees, which prevent mosquitoes from breeding. They believe that it will gradually eliminate most of the mosquito population on the grounds.
If you want to visit Ocho Rios, you must either rent a car or hire a car (which can easily be arranged by the Jamaica Inn staff), as the town is just a bit too far away for a walk.
Rates range from $290 in low season to $1,760 per night for a cottage or White Suite rental. Various meal plans are also offered.
The Jamaica Inn experience is a bit like stepping back in time, while enjoying modern comforts. I wouldn’t be at all surprised if Noel Coward’s spirit still makes regular visits.