Jess Blumensheid
Writer | Editor | Nomad


Irie in Jamaica

"Mo-Bay" (Montego Bay for short) is on the tourist-laden western tip of Jamaica's North Coast. Many a cruise passenger or newlywed flock here for its quaint beaches and dazzling waters. But beyond downtown's bend of Jimmy Buffett's Margaritaville and base-heavy beachfront clubs there are acres of private land offering crescent-shaped beaches lined with designer digs and decades-long history.

Less that two hours and barely one Red Stripe in, I'm already sun-baked and drowsy. While adding my third layer of SPF 70, I stumble into the mohagany-lined lobby of Round Hill, an 18th-century plantation house on Montego Bay's quiet western curve. A charming staff dances around us, scurrying off with our luggage, offering rum punch on ice and ushering us to striped-cushioned rattan chairs on a veranda designed by Ralph Lauren. Across the way a sparkling azure Caribbean Sea beckons us and does so every chance it gets. 

Night falls to the smell of smoky Vape mosquito repellant and a spirited chorus of tree frogs and chirping geckos. Come morning, sunlight seeps between the cracks of the plantation-style wooden shutters. I awake to the smell of fresh-brewed Blue Mountain coffee from the kitchen of what was once Oscar Hammerstein's summer villa. Right outside the door of the master bedroom is the original desk he propped himself up against to write the pages of The Sound of Music, which goes without wonder, as the top of the desk still adjusts to the tilt Hammerstein preferred to support his weak back.

Breakfast is a spread of tropical fruit so sweet it tastes like candy, scrambled eggs with spicy Jamaican sausage and small portion of salt fish and ackee, which I was warned was an acquired taste despite it being a staple in Jamaican diet. I sampled but am disappointed to report that I did not conquer the salty platter. I left this sunny 10-acre hideout feeling fat, tan and happy (or "irie," as the rasta mons say).