Half-Century for Half Moon

Famed resort gets a full-body lift for its anniversary

By: Eleanor M. Wilson

There are many ways to celebrate a 50th anniversary, and the Half Moon resort, near Jamaica’s Montego Bay, chose to mark this auspicious occasion with cutting-edge changes. Over the years, Jamaica’s landmark North Coast resort has appeared on just about every Top Ten and “Best of” list in the industry, as management continued to improve, expand and innovate. Richard Whitfield, Half Moon’s managing director, divulged the formula succinctly but accurately when he said, “success is not achieved by standing still.”

As part of an $8 to $10 million facelift, the resort leveled an entire original beachfront wing. It was replaced with 68 brand-new rooms and suites featuring modern bathrooms, plantation-style decor, oversized verandas and balconies, plus Internet access and other signature amenities. Although two pools were added, one with a swim-up bar, the popular beachside Cedar Bar remains in place, sporting a few new touches of its own.

From Humble Beginnings
Half Moon Hotel and Cottage Colony first opened in 1954 with 17 cottages and 30 beachfront rooms. The name came from its bay location, which was once the loading dock for Rose Hall’s sugar shipments. Names of the 17 owners Reynolds, Armour, Firestone and the designer of Radio City Music Hall were as prestigious as the guests who followed. From the beginning, the resort attracted heads of state, royalty and celebrities, including Queen Elizabeth II and Jacqueline Onassis.

Through the years, the property greatly expanded from its original 35 acres to a 400-acre beachfront spread. Accommodations grew to 419 rooms in 10 categories, including a residential-style enclave with four- to seven-bedroom villas, numerous restaurants, a shopping center with a convention hall and ballroom, golf course with pro shop and teaching school, spa, fitness center, dolphin lagoon and equestrian center.

Updating a Legend
The resort’s 50th anniversary renovation includes tweaks to each and every area of the property.

Half Moon guests now begin their experience at the resort’s new arrival lounge in Montego Bay Airport. Amid plantation decor resembling the recently completed beachfront Hibiscus suites, they can register, sip a cool drink, check e-mails or watch television before boarding transportation to the resort.

The newly upgraded Robert Trent Jones course promises more surprises for golfers and features a full-scale David Ledbetter Golf Academy with state-of-the-art video and computer technology. A one-hour lesson with a DLGA instructor costs $125. Half Moon guests also have the option of playing the nearby White Witch course at the Ritz-Carlton, or the Cinnamon Hill oceanfront course at Wyndham Rose Hall, each with its own challenges and at discounted rates.

Dolphin Lagoon, on a private beach at the far end of the property, is now a popular gathering spot for guests and those playful dolphins. Perfect for a picnic, the Irie Jerk Center is done up in Rastafarian colors. Two programs get everyone in the water to meet the marine mammals and learn communicating hand signals. Guests can enjoy an hour dolphin swim and frolic for $155 per person, or stand in the shallows and interact with a dolphin, even to the kissing stage, for $89 an hour.

The Equestrian Center at Half Moon is a rare offering at Caribbean resorts, and this one is in the very capable hands of Trina deLisser, who loves her horses. She’ll introduce riders to Sweetie Pie, Miss Tiny and other favorites, before leading them on a “Jungle Jaunt” refresher ride, a mountain trail ride or an exciting dash along the beach and into the water. Lessons in riding, dressage and show jumping are also available.

What better stop after these activities than at the full-service spa? A Jamaican Bush Bath introduces guests to myriad local herbs and spices, guaranteed to revitalize and relieve those aching muscles. Or perhaps a Sun Soothing Facial is on order after a day on the beach.

Half Moon has every reason to celebrate 50 productive years. But this is one resort that will never rest on its laurels. Changes were all done with guest satisfaction in mind, and judging by the repeat-guest figures, Half Moon continues to get it right.




Room rates now to April 15, range from $390 per night for a double superior to $1,190 for the Imperial Suite. From April 16-Dec. 14, those same rooms are $240-$790. Villas for similar periods run $1,170-$720 for three bedrooms, to $2,730-$1,680 for seven bedrooms sleeping 14 persons. The Deluxe Oceanfront villas (five and six bedrooms) are priced separately.