Mention Jamaica to anyone and you’ll likely get a response based on pre-conceived notions of the Caribbean island’s biggest clichés: it’s dangerous; the all-inclusive resorts are full of cheesy couples trying desperately to rekindle their fading romance; and, um, enough with the Bob Marley already. It is true, of course, that Montego Bay and Negril have been overrun with chain resorts and silly frozen rum drinks.
On the opposite side of the island, however, in Portland Parish, we found a genuine, undisturbed, tropical paradise. The town of Port Antonio is certainly not undiscovered, though. In fact, it’s been a destination for Hollywood royalty for over half a century.
Here’s what we loved most.
After flying into Kingston and before starting the three-hour drive north to Port Antonio, have a Red Stripe at the Grand Port Royal, the beach bar 007 frequented in the first Bond film Dr. No.
Getting to Port Antonio involves long hours on a bumpy, windy road. But reward comes in the form of luxury boutique hotel The Trident. It’s where Beyonce, Jay-Z and Solange came to party last year – and it’s run by Jon Baker, the founder of Brit hip-hop label Gee Street.
No need to wander far from the hotel right away – have dinner at the Trident’s swanky speakeasy Mike’s Supper Club, where the Japanese-Jamaican fusion cuisine comes with a side of live jazz.
Portland is surrounded by jungle, and in the middle of that jungle are gorgeous waterfalls and swimming pools. Tom Cruise barred his abs at Reach Falls in the classic 80’s flick Cocktail.
For a lunch of grilled conch or jerk chicken head to the Cliff Hanger, which, as you might expect, is perched on the cliffs overlooking the Caribbean.
Baker also runs the GeeJam Hotel, which includes a recording studio where Amy Winehouse and No Doubt, among others, have recorded.
Stay for dinner at the GeeJam and catch house band The Jolly Boys, a traditional Mento (pre ska or reggae) band that formed in the 1950’s and was named by Errol Flynn.
Imagine shooting your next video at the magnificent Trident Castle – Snoop Lion did.
For those who saw the Cameron Diaz/Tom Cruise flick Knight and Day (anyone?), relive their scene at the pristine beach at Frenchman’s Cove. Sean and Ursula hid from the maniacal Dr. No there as well.
Heading west out of the jungle takes you to Ocho Rios, where you’re just an hour and a half from Montego Bay airport but still in the heart of Jamaica. Sandals Royal Plantation hotel offers boutique all-butler luxury with all-inclusive convenience.
Check out Ocho Rios’ Green Grotto Caves, which 70’s Bond villain Doctor Kananga (were they really all doctors?) used for his underground lair.