For most travelers heading to Jamaica the beach is, understandably, the prime attraction. But those who limit their trip to the country’s coastline will miss out. The hilly and lush interior of Jamaica provides its own kind of special vibe. More than that, it is where true quiet and peace is found on the island. And if you are heading to the Caribbean in the summer months you’ll also find the climate in Jamaica’s scenic hills more agreeable.
Here’s a rundown of our three favorite hilltop hotels in Jamaica. At each a swimming pool, a peaceful environment and an amazing view awaits you.
Strawberry Hill, Irish Town
cutting-edge colonial luxury
Strawberry Hill is easily the most luxurious (and, not coincidentally, most expensive) property of the three in this review. It is also arguably the most luxurious of any non-beach hotel in Jamaica.
The five-star guest experience here starts with Strawberry Hill’s friendly and professional staff, extends to the property’s excellent restaurant and spa (where we’re partial to the Lemon Grass Wrap, which uses Caribbean botanicals) and envelopes the guest accommodations.
Guests at Strawberry Hill stay in one of 12 Georgian style 19th-century villas. Our favorite is the 3,000 sq. foot (280 sq m) Highgate—the two floor freestanding house includes a large wrap-around balcony and is a wonderful value at US$395/night. The relatively basic Timbuk rooms at $195/night and has a charm similar to the Highgate packed into a 400 sq. foot space. For all accommodations a three night stay is required.
If you go: Strawberry Hill is a windy 75-minute drive from Kingston’s international airport. For a cooler (and, for those who get car sick, less nauseating) way to the inn is via the Strawberry Hill’s own helicopter—call to make arrangements.
Shafston Estate Great House, Bluefields
laid-back Caribbean views
Admittedly, during Spot Cool Stuff’s visit the Shafston felt like a property a bit past its prime. The billiards table, while playable, has seen better days and some of the furnishings were in the first phases of dilapidation. But the proprietor, Frank—a German native who’s lived in Jamaica for 20 years and has an accent to match—has grand plans for the Shafston. The coolest among those: a series of zip lines to fly travelers down to the beach!
As it is now, Frank has already made the Shafston one of the most environmentally-friendly accommodations in Jamaica. Newly installed solar panels provides of all the property’s electricity needs. There’s also a rain catching system and a healthy dose of locally-sourced food on offer. That food is part of the Shafston’s all-inclusive deal. For $100 per night guests get a home-cooked breakfast, lunch and dinner as well open bar access.
So walk behind the counter and fix yourself a fruity rum drink. Grab a beer from the cooler at your whim. Hang out on the deck or in the communal bar area for as late as you like. The Shafston is the sort of place where you can make yourself at home.
If you go: Various guidebooks (including the excellent Lonely Planet) and websites (including, at the time of writing, the Shafston’s own) claim that a four-wheel drive is required to drive to the property from the A2 highway. It is not. Spot Cool Stuff managed to get to the Shafston in our crappy and very much two-wheel drive Toyota hatchback. Turn off at the dirt road just east of the Bluefields police station and follow the Shaftson signs.
Tamarind Great House, Oracabessa
jungle-surrounded English elegance
Jamaica was once a colony of England. Stay at the Tamarind Guest House and you might think it still is.
Run by a couple from England, the Tamarind is a trim and proper European-style house with immaculately manicured grounds and an impeccably furnished interior. It’s the sort of place where every art work is hung perfectly straight and all the table settings are placed just-so.
The formality of the Tamarind is almost out of place with the environment of this somewhat wild corner of northern Jamaica. It certainly induces a bit of culture shock if you come here from accommodations with more of a local Jamaican vibe (like My Time ‘N’ Place, for instance). Still, the atmosphere here is friendly, and far from stifling. Especially down by the garden-surrounded swimming pool.
If you go: Get a room on the top floor with a semi-private balcony. That’s where the Tamarind’s best views are to be had, especially around sunset.
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