Into The Blue
Photos by Glen Owen and Meredyth Gravely-Owen
I was ten years old the first time I shed tears at the end of a summer vacation. It was late August and my annual trip to my grandparents' home (with my cousins) was, sadly, coming to an end.
These magical holidays were full of old school fun: Rides in the back of my Pop Pop’s pick-up truck to get ice cream at Dairy Queen, fishing for catfish at Hopkins pond, weekly trips to Ben Franklin for new outfits for my Barbie, and beating my cousins in corn on the cob eating contests on my grandparent’s front porch. I was super close to my grandfather and leaving hit me hard. I can still recall the bitter sting of tears as I watched his waving smile disappear from the rearview of my parent’s station wagon as we pulled out of the gravel driveway, headed back to upstate New York.
I was in my 30’s the last time I cried when I had to go home. But this time, I wasn't in the back of a station wagon, preparing to leave my grandparents home in the country. I was in a place that felt just as familiar: The Jamaica Inn.
It wasn't our first trip to Jamaica, but it was the first time I had been away from my two young boys, who we had left in the loving care of my parents back home. My husband and I were seeking an adult getaway, in a place with a soul and quiet ambience.
There is something about Jamaica Inn. It just touched me. And it left a mark on my husband too. It calls us back year after year…like loggerhead turtles returning to nest on the same sandy beach, we have returned to Jamaica Inn, every year for the past fifteen years to reclaim our place in the sun.
There have been many changes, including upgrades and the addition of several new cottages; but the elegance, history, and patina remain intact. Jamaica Inn, the Grande Dame of Jamaican hotels, has been owned by the Morrow family since 1958. Many of the staff members have worked there for over thirty years, including Teddy, the affable bartender and Rupert, the venerable beach waiter who delivers a Planters Punch to your beach lounger at noon and then schools you in an afternoon game of croquet on the lawn.
Notes From Paradise
Jamaica Inn harkens back to the heyday of Caribbean glamour, when guests like Arthur Miller, Marilyn Monroe and Winston Churchill vacationed on the property. And from the collection of photographs prominently displayed in the library, it's clear that they were all having a fabulously good time.
I can also attest to the good times to be had at Jamaica Inn. Over the years, we have had numerous late nights and made many dear friends who we remain in close contact with. Even after 15 years of visiting, we still haven't lost our sense of excitement and anticipation when it's time to return. The feeling is similar to Christmas Eve, (for adults) the night before our departure.
For instance, we know that Brian our driver (and now friend) will greet us with a warm welcome and a cooler of water and Red Stripes for the 90 minute drive to “Ochee" (Ochos Rios). We’ll exchange stories, share laughs and then maybe drop by Scotchie’s for jerk, festival, and rice and peas. Or perhaps we'll pull over at a roadside stand for a refreshingly "cold jelly" (ice cold coconut milk). After driving through the gate at Jamaica Inn, I exit the car with excitement, taking in the lovely sight of Wedgewood blue walls, crisp white trim, manicured lawn and a post card perfect crescent shaped beach.
After a warm “welcome home" and catching up with several familiar faces, we’re eager to retreat to one our favorite rooms in the Caribbean: The White Suite, also known as the Churchill suite-- in honor of the former Prime Minister, one of the inn's most well known former guests.
We slowly make our way down the path, taking in the sight of other guests chatting around the bar and lounging under thatched umbrellas.
As we enter The White Suite, I pause to soak in the understated beauty of this timeless room. Tropical floral arrangements and a chilled bottle of wine add a warming touch to the suite, which is tastefully appointed in neutral tones, Caribbean colonial furnishings and a lovely four poster bed.
My husband pulls back the curtains and we step onto the expansive terrace, situated only steps away from the Caribbean Sea--so close to the waters edge, we can see the fish swimming below. As we begin to settle in, we hear a familiar knock at the door and a waiter appears with our welcome drinks.
We sit back on the comfy loungers and listen to the waves gently lap against the rocks.
Children wave from a passing boat.
An egret lands on our balcony for a quick hello before moving on.
The beach awaits, but for now, just this.
We are home.
- Consistently ranked as one of the top resorts in the Caribbean, Jamaica Inn's spacious rooms and cottages are decorated with Caribbean colonial furnishings, along with comfortable upholstered pieces slipcovered in crisp white cotton.
- There are no clocks, televisions, or electronic distractions, which makes Jamaica Inn the ultimate escape for an unplugged romantic honeymoon or getaway.
- There is excellent wifi across the property. You can check your email from the comfort of your beach lounger.
- We prefer the patina and history of the original buildings, but if you’re drawn to more contemporary accommodations, the newly constructed cottages may appeal to you. Our favorite room will always be the White Suite. Understated and elegant, the room features an oversized veranda situated at the waters edge, a large bathroom with clawfoot tub and breathtaking views of the Caribbean Sea. Other amenities include, beautiful gardens, a private pool and direct access to the sea for swimming and snorkeling. You can also retreat to The White Suite’s private peninsula, a favorite spot for sunset cocktails and star gazing.
- Start your morning with a leisurely breakfast on your veranda ( be sure to order a fresh fruit platter, and warm banana bread)
- An afternoon on the picturesque beach is not complete without lunch delivered to your lounger. A simple, but delicious grilled shrimp Caesar salad paired with wine or Teddy’s famous Planters Punch is an excellent choice. (Also, be sure to try the tuna melt, it’s one of my favorites!)
- Dining at Jamaica Inn is an elegant affair (collared shirts and closed toe shoes for the gents and dresses, skirts or an elegant caftan for the ladies). Meals are served under the stars on tables dressed with antique silverware, candles and crisp linens. I enjoy getting dressed up for dinner so I try to stay on property at least a night or two to take advantage of the lovely setting.
- One of the benefits of being a repeat traveler is discovering new places. Some of our favorite restaurants to dine off property include: Toscanini, Ms. T’s Kitchen, Golden Eye, Scotchie’s and Lobster Dave.
- At Jamaica Inn, you can do as much or as little as you like. Paddle boarding, snorkeling, croquet, kayaks and sunfish sailing are complimentary. Stay in shape in the small but well appointed fitness center or indulge in some pampering at KiYara, the ocean front spa. If/When you're ready to leave the property, the staff can arrange visits to nearby Dunn’s River Falls, prepare a picnic basket for lunch at Noel Coward’s beloved Firefly Estate (the views are truly stunning), or take a day trip to Port Antonio to explore the unspoiled natural beauty of Jamaica’s north coast. If you’re feeling adventurous, a morning trip to the Irie Blue Hole is a must.
If you have any questions about the property, feel free to ask me in the comments section or shoot me an email.
(855) 441-2044 (US & Canada toll-free)
P.O. Box 1, Main Street
Ocho Rios, St. Ann
Jamaica, West Indies