Coming Home to Jamaica

Staying at these great houses gives clients a taste of the past

By: Suzie Rodriguez

When clients ask to experience Jamaica the way it used to be, nothing beats staying on the grounds of an 18th- or 19th- century plantation, especially when the original Great House still exists and is incorporated into the vacation experience. Here’s a look at two superb venues that honor Jamaica’s past in unique ways.

Round Hill

A mere eight miles but a world away from busy Montego Bay, Round Hill Hotel and Villas manages the difficult task of combining old-world elegance with today’s casual lifestyle. Serenely nestled into 110 acres of lush and rolling hills on palm-fringed Round Hill Bay, this one-time sugar and pineapple plantation celebrates its past in many ways, including its enchanting “Colonial-with-a-Jamaican-twist” architecture. The original Great House is not only standing, it has recently been transformed into a luxurious, full-service spa (for a unique treat, advise clients to try the signature pineapple scrub).

Guests can be accommodated in the 36-room Pineapple House Hotel or in one of 27 stylish villas. All hotel rooms overlook both the Caribbean and the resort’s seaside freshwater pool, and each has been decorated by designer Ralph Lauren (a Round Hill shareholder). Lauren’s hand is evident in the predominately white decor touched by splashes of tropical turquoise and pink, the 300-count Egyptian cotton sheets, the sumptuous chaises and the king-sized, four-poster beds. The privately owned villas, which are rented when the owners are not in residence, vary in size. Each offers stunning views, gardens, a swimming pool and a kitchen where housekeepers prepare breakfast each morning.

Lauren also designed Round Hill’s bar, with its billowy white curtains, white-striped club chairs, palm-shaped pillars and solid mahogany ceiling fans. Clients will spend a lot of time examining the walls here, as they’re lined with photos of celebrities who have flocked to Round Hill over the years.

Since the kitchen boasts a versatile and world-class Austrian chef, dining here is a memorable experience. Most people enjoy eating at the seaside terrace, where thousands of tiny lights illuminate the almond trees each night. Theme nights keep things lively: on Mondays, for example, there’s a beach party complete with bonfire, a Jamaican buffet and local music. Saturday nights feature an a la carte menu, a jazz band and dancing under the stars until the wee hours.

Watersports include snorkeling along the nearby reef, scuba diving, water skiing, sunfish sailing and windsurfing. Tennis courts, a fitness center and jogging paths are onsite, and a championship golf course is minutes away. Deep-sea fishing, rafting and other outings can be arranged. Your clients might want to opt for the all-inclusive Platinum Plan. At $150 a day per person above the room rate, it includes all meals and bar drinks, afternoon tea, an in-room massage and other amenities.

Good Hope

Situated in a peaceful valley about an hour from the airport, the exquisite Good Hope, built in 1755, is about as close as a client can get to historic Jamaica. Once a hugely profitable sugar plantation, the original Georgian-style Great House, the Carriage House, the River Cottage and other buildings have been restored and decorated with 18th-and 19th-century Jamaican antiques. Throughout the 2,000 acres are stunning views of the greener-than-green rolling hills and the river valley far below. This is one special place.

Good Hope is ideal for family reunions, wedding parties, business retreats or any group requiring their own space because it operates as a villa. The smallest building is the River Cottage, with three bedrooms. The Great House contains four bedrooms and includes a large dining room, two living rooms, a bar room with a pool table, a lily pond and formal gardens, swimming pool, tennis court, Jacuzzi and much more. A total of 17 bedrooms, sleeping a maximum of 42 people, are available.

The Details

Round Hill Hotel and Villas
Montego Bay, Jamaica
800-972-2159; fax: 876-956-7505

Commission: 10 percent

Hotel rates, depending on season and room size, range from $260-$850 per night, double occupancy. Villa rates: $4,000-$14,400 per week (various meal plans for the villas are extra).

Special wedding, honeymoon, family and yoga packages are available. Three meeting rooms can accommodate groups of varying size. The business center offers high-speed Internet computers and fax services.