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Terry Ward, Contributor
Singer Bob Marley perhaps summed up Jamaica’s laid-back vibes best when he crooned, “Don’t worry about a thing.” With sugary beaches lapped by clear waters and verdant mountains, Jamaica promises the quintessential Caribbean vacation. There are delicious seafood and jerk dishes to sample and vivid sunsets that should be taken in at a beachfront bar to the sound of mellow reggae beats.
The third largest island in the Caribbean, Jamaica has diverse landscapes and intriguing culture and history. Your vacation can be intrepid and adventurous or all-out luxurious. The best hotels and resorts in Jamaica offer friendly service, beautiful beaches, world class spas and wellness programs as well as activities for kids, golfers and more. Here are our picks for the 10 best Jamaican Resorts.
Best Overall Luxury Resort: Round Hill Hotel And Villas
Round Hill Hotel And Villas
Who Will Love It: Detail oriented couples and families
All-Star Amenities: Spa with Elemis aromatherapy products; pickleball and tennis courts; fitness center; childcare
What Not To Miss: Monday night’s candlelit beach barbecue by the sea
On Jamaica’s North Coast just west of Montego Bay lies one of Jamaica’s original luxury resorts. Round Hill Hotel and Villas, which cascades down a hillside to a secluded beach, opened in 1953. The property known for refined tropical elegance has 27 privately owned villas and 36 oceanfront rooms and suites designed by Ralph Lauren. The concierge team can arrange dinners in private villas and organize outings like a swim in a bioluminescent lagoon or a bespoke coffee tour in the Blue Mountains.
The Round Hill Spa, inside an 18th-century home with a private beach, is a property highlight. Dining options include complimentary afternoon tea service and Caribbean seafood grilled over indigenous logwood. While luxurious in every way, Round Hill Hotel is also family-friendly. Active families can play pickleball and tennis, and go waterskiing, tubing and kneeboarding in the bay.
Best Beachfront Resort: Half Moon
Who Will Love It: Families and couples looking for fun and refinement
All-Star Amenities: Overwater bungalow treatment rooms in the spa; wakeboarding; scuba diving; equestrian center
What Not To Miss: Seeing baby sea turtles hatch with the resort’s conservation program
Location: North Coast
Queen Elizabeth II, Prince Charles, JFK and Jacqueline are among the esteemed guests who have checked in to storied Half Moon. Today’s guests are a mix of active families and couples looking for a Caribbean vacation with no shortage of entertainment on and off the soft sand. Families can spend their vacation lounging or staying active on the two-mile-long beach. Kayaks, pedal boats, standup paddleboards and snorkeling gear are all free for guests to enjoy. Guests can also visit the resort’s equestrian center and take a lesson in go for a beach ride that might include splashing in the surf.
Guest rooms in the Great House mix contemporary and classic touches, with four poster beds and private balconies with plush lounge chairs overlooking the sea. The resort’s extravagant Rose Hall Villas with five to seven bedrooms offer space and seclusion. Dining options range from a casual barbecue spot to the romantic Sugar Mill restaurant. Some you time in Fern Tree Spa’s tropical gardens after a treatment in an overwater bungalow is worth arranging childcare for.
Most Exclusive Resort: Goldeneye
Who Will Love It: Vacationers who are all about barefoot elegance, salty hair and beach time
All-Star Amenities: Spa with healing elixirs made from herbs and roots grown at the resort’s farm; kayaking; paddleboarding; clifftop views; lagoon
What Not To Miss: Swimming in the resort’s Lagoon, fed by fresh spring water and the sea; the sunset at Firefly a 15-minute drive from Goldeneye
Location: Oracabessa Bay
Some of Jamaica’s most stunning beaches await just east of Ocho Rios along the quieter sands of Oracabessa. It’s fitting that one of Jamaica’s most legendary hotels sits here too. Goldeneye, British author Ian Fleming’s original estate—where he reportedly created James Bond—is now a luxurious hotel with lagoon cottages, beach villas and beach huts. Goldeneye’s casually luxurious accommodations have outdoor tubs and netted canopy beds.
Low Cay Beach at Bizot Bar serves ackee and saltfish for breakfast, and the Bamboo Bar has rum drinks, Red Stripe beers and Jamaican jerk. Field Spa is situated in a cottage at the edge of the resort’s lagoon and offers wraps, facials and massages using herbs and roots grown in the property’s gardens. Staff can arrange a visit to Firefly, the modern home that was once owned by writer Noël Coward, which has one of the best sunset views in Jamaica. From the James Bond connection to the private lagoon accommodations, it’s hard to imagine a more seductive stay than Goldeneye.
Best Resort For Couples: Geejam Hotel
Who Will Love It: Free spirts and creative couples looking to escape the masses
All-Star Amenities: Recording studio; gym; private beach; over-sized showers; cryptocurrency accepted
What Not To Miss: Sipping a negroni surrounded by rainforest and sea views at the Bushbar
Location: Port Antonio
Tucked away in the foothills of the Blue Mountains outside of Port Antonio—Jamaica’s mellow and scenic Northeast Coast—Geejam pairs rockstar vibes with cozy accommodations for stylish couples. Rihanna and Drake are among the major names who have recorded in the hotel’s onsite music studio—music industry vets Jon Baker and Steve Beaver developed the property—and rustic cabins that feel like fantastical tree houses have names like Ska, Rocksteady and Drum and Bass. High rollers can book a private villa with housekeeping staff and a private chef.
While far-flung, couples that venture to Geejam Hotel will enjoy peace and solitude while taking a dip in the infinity edge swimming pool with sea and rainforest views or venturing down to Geejam’s Bay, the natural cove a short walk from the hotel. Geejam Hotel provides the antitheses of the cookie cutter honeymoon experience and a vacation that is delightfully unscripted.
Best Resort For Families: Bluefields Bay Villas
Bluefields Bay Villas
Who Will Love It: Families looking for the ultimate multigenerational luxury escape
All-Star Amenities: Villa accommodations with swimming pools; dedicated butlers; private beach
What Not To Miss: A sunset cruise on the resort’s private boat
Location: Jamaica’s South Coast
A stay at Bluefields Bay on Jamaica’s South Coast near Savanna La Mar is relaxing and indulgent. Guests settle into one of six secluded villas overlooking the sea. The Jamaican estate has flower-lined pathways, and staff anticipate guests’ every need. The luxurious villas have two, three, four and six bedroom layouts; it is ideal for multigenerational gatherings when groups want some privacy but to come together throughout the day for activities and Caribbean influenced meals prepared by private chefs.
Staff can arrange professional nannies to watch children so adults can enjoy some grown-up relaxation time at the pool or private beach. The resort even caters to seniors with elder care services.
From the littlest guests to grandparents, every guest can enjoy their vacation at Bluefield’s Bay and choose from a wide variety of activities like snorkeling in the Caribbean’s warm waters, floating above coral reefs in a glass bottom boat, playing tennis or hiking in the surrounding hills.
Best Resort For Golfers: The Tryall Club
The Tryall Club
Who Will Love It: The family golfer who aims to please everyone and play as much as possible
All-Star Amenities: Audubon-certified golf course; pickleball concierge; villa accomodation
What Not To Miss: Improving your game with a small-group lesson from the Golf Academy
Location: Sandy Bay
The Tryall Club just west of Montego Bay is known for timeless Jamaican glamour. The hotel has 92 luxurious and privately owned villas spread throughout its beachfront grounds. Each comes with a butler, chef, housekeeper, laundress and gardener.
The resort spans 2,200 tropical acres overlooking the Caribbean Sea and feels more like a neighborhood than a hotel. Golfers can spend the bulk of their days playing the Montego Bay Golf Course. The Ralph Plummer-designed course winds its way through the grounds of the 17th-century sugar plantation. The Golf Academy has expert instruction for all handicaps and skill levels.
The Tryall Club’s other amenities include a Beach Club with an infinity edge pool overlooking the beach and a water sports facility with kayaks, Hobie Cats and paddleboards. There’s even a pickleball concierge. The informal beachfront restaurant serves Jamaican dishes, burgers and pizzas, while at the more formal Great House, a bar and restaurant in a hilltop mansion built in 1834, serves complimentary afternoon tea service on the veranda at 4 p.m.
Best Design Hotel: Rockhouse Hotel
Who Will Love It: Escapists
All-Star Amenities: Private villa-style accommodations with thatched roofs; sea views
What Not To Miss: Getting a Blue Mountain coffee scrub spa treatment in the garden spa
Location: Negril’s West End
With a cliff top location overlooking a quiet cove and stone and thatched roof villas built atop the volcanic rocks, Rockhouse is one of Jamaica’s most seductive stays. A Negril mainstay for couples in search of escapism, the property has a gorgeous infinity edge swimming pool overlooking the Caribbean Sea. To access the turquoise waters below to swim, guests can walk down sheer steps cut into the cliff face.
The boutique hotel’s 40 guest rooms and villas are furnished with custom-made furniture made of local wood. The architects and designers were inspired by simple lines, nautical forms and nature. Guests can lounge on private terraces and balconies overlooking the calm waters of Pristine Cove, where snorkeling among tropical fish is a favorite pastime. Paddleboards—complimentary for guests to use—are another fun way to get out on the water.
Experience true vacation relaxation while sipping a tropical daiquiri in a lounge chair by the pool or book a massage or scrub using locally grown coffee at the resort’s serene spa. Every guest should carve out time to spend on the golden sands of nearby Seven Mile Beach before returning to their villa to soak in the sunset and warm sea breezes.
Best Resort For Big Groups: Hyatt Zilara Rose Hall
Hyatt Zilara Rose Hall
Who Will Love It: Couples looking for an adults-only vacation with great group amenities
All-Star Amenities: Nightly performances like live theater and Jamaican street music; spa with 11 treatment rooms; beach and pool cabanas
What Not To Miss: Sipping a cocktail by a fire pit overlooking the soft sand beach
Location: Montego Bay
Hyatt Zilara Rose Hall, an all-inclusive and adults-only property in Montego Bay, is popular for weddings and conferences for a reason. The resort has tons of appealing amenities for big groups from nightly entertainment to a spa with treatment rooms overlooking the water. The property’s 344 rooms and suites have private balconies with ocean or garden views. Swim-up suites are a worthy splurge with private pools and butler service.
Restaurants are better than typical all-inclusive options and include the fine French restaurant Petit Pariz, an open-air Jamaican restaurant overlooking the beach and DiRosa Italian, which serves wood-fired pizzas and grilled seafood. Bars scattered throughout, including two swim-up pool bars, English sports pub and a piano bar make it easy to party from day into night. Live music and performances are offered each evening too.
Best Resort for Business Travelers: S Hotel Jamaica
S Hotel Jamaica
Who Will Love It: Travelers looking to mix business with pleasure in a beachfront setting
All-Star Amenities: Spa; dedicated workspaces; yoga mats; airport transfers can be arranged
What Not To Miss: A sunrise swim in the sea at Doctor’s Cave Beach; the subterranean bathing circuit and saunas at Irie Baths and Spa
What Not To Miss: Montego Bay
S Hotel Jamaica is a central and urban beachfront base along Montego Bay’s famous Doctor’s Cave Beach. All 120 rooms and suites are bright with crisp white linens and big windows that let in lots of natural light and views of the Caribbean Sea and the city. All accommodations include complimentary WiFi, multi-plug USB connection device, dedicated workspaces and air conditioning so worker bees can stay comfortable. Business travelers can spend their downtime exploring the surrounding entertainment zone, the Hip Strip or by sipping a cocktail at the poolside bar overlooking the beach or de-stressing in the saunas. The hotel’s gorgeous underground wellness area Irie Baths and Spa is designed to look like a natural cave.
Many restaurants are a short walk away on the Hip Strip, but the hotel’s lobby bar and Rocksteady restaurant serve regional and international dishes with a focus on seafood.
Best Wellness Resort: Tensing Pen
Who Will Love It: Bohemian beach travelers
All-Star Amenities: Massage hut; yoga; spa; sea views
What Not To Miss: Complimentary daily yoga sessions in an open-air hut
Location: Negril’s West End
Cottages hand-built from stone, bamboo and thatch dot the cliff top at Tensing Pen, a rustic-chic resort with a wellness focus on Negril’s West End. Travelers looking for a reset can enjoy quiet sunrise swims in the sea, yoga sessions with salty breezes and a healing massage in an oceanfront treatment hut.
And while it is a wellness resort, Tensing Pen isn’t too strict or stringent. Refreshing dark and stormies are the open-air bar’s specialty, and the Lodge restaurant serves decadent dishes like grilled Caribbean lobster. The concierge can help you book off-property activities too like organic farm tours, horseback riding on the beach and waterfall treks.
About Terry Ward, Your Jamaica Guide
I’ve dedicated my career to covering travel as a freelance writer since 2000 when I quit my first (and only) desk job to travel the world. I visited Indonesia, Fiji and Australia as a budget backpacker, and I have lived in Sydney, Southern France, coastal New Zealand and my current home, Florida. I have explored all corners of the U.S. and the Caribbean including the island of Jamaica, which is one of my favorite destinations. You’ll find me reporting on such diverse travel topics as scuba diving, educational vacations and cultural trends in publications like CNN, National Geographic, The Washington Post, Condé Nast Traveler, Travel + Leisure, AARP and many others.