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Three posh vacation villas in Jamaica

December 25, 2012

Sharing costs with friends or family can make these opulent vacation villas in Jamaica more affordable for a special get-together of friends or family.

The island of Jamaica is a popular tourist destination because of its tropical climate, craggy coastline with white sandy beaches, lush tree and ground vegetation, verdant golf courses, zesty foods paired with reggae and rum, and long tradition of warmth and hospitality.

A one-week stay at a five-star, professionally staffed villa in Jamaica doesn’t come cheap –especially during high season, which runs from mid-December to mid-April. But the costs of a sybaritic experience can be whittled down substantially when it’s split among one or more families, or a tribe of friends.

Each of these exceptional properties is uniquely steeped in history, offering privacy, security, luxury amenities and great views. They are self-contained playgrounds that can comfortably accommodate 10 to 18 guests for a mix of rest and relaxation, on-premise activities and nearby exploration — making them perfect venues for celebrating a milestone birthday, anniversary or a memorable family reunion.

Sugar Hill

Sugar Hill in Jamaica

Pool at sunset at Sugar Hill Villa in Jamaica

The sprawling one-level private villa was built about six years ago. Owned by an American family, its spacious, well-designed layout is conducive to guests who want to spend time together and may also want to spend time apart. It has a large, welcoming living room with a peaked ceiling at its center. Two master suites and two guest bedrooms flank it at each side, all with hand-carved, mahogany four-poster beds and beautiful ensuite bathrooms; each master also has an adjoining study/office, and one has an outdoor shower.

An expansive wraparound veranda with wood-shuttered, floor-to-ceiling doors affords commanding views from every room, overseeing the large pool and gracious deck; the carefully pruned tropical garden with blooming plants and fruit trees; and the sparkling Caribbean at the bottom of the hill. The unattached three-bedroom guesthouse nearby has a recreation room with pool, ping-pong and foosball tables.

Guests can dine al fresco under a flower-covered trellis on the terrace, in the formal dining room or at the top of the romantic two-story sugar tower of hand-cut stone. There is also a hot tub, a fully equipped gym, an open-air pottery studio beneath the house and a stone pizza oven outside the kitchen. The tasteful furnishings and decor of Sugar Hill reflect the owner’s appreciation of the artistic and cultural heritage of Jamaica. Museum-quality paintings, sculptures and whimsical folk art can be found both indoors and out.

Sugar Hill is one of 67 privately-owned estate villas, ranging in size from two to seven bedrooms, set on the 2,200 acres of land that comprise the Tryall Club, former home of the Johnnie Walker golf championship. Once the site of a coastal fort built by the English to defend against Spanish and French invaders and pirates, it later became a working sugar plantation and then a coconut farm. A stone aqueduct and functioning waterwheel on the grounds date back to 1834.

For a nominal fee ($100 per person, per week) guests at Sugar Hill become temporary members of the Tryall Club, which includes access to the 1,000-foot private beach with a café on the water, reduced fees at the 18-hole golf course, nine all-weather tennis courts, a kid’s club and fitness center and the historic 18th-century Georgian Great House, which offers dining and afternoon tea.

OUR PHOTO GALLERY OF SUGAR HILL 

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Rio Chico

Rio Chico in Jamaica

Relaxing family room at Rio Chico Villa in Jamaica

Both the villa and the grounds of RIo Chico have the charming patina of age. Originally built in the late 1800s as a guesthouse for nearby Dunn’s River Falls, it went through a series of owners until 1992, when it was sold to its current owner, Gordon “Butch” Stewart, owner of Sandals Resorts and Beaches Resorts, as a family getaway. Stewart tastefully refurbished the house, which is one of four private villas in Jamaica now managed by Sandals.

Upon entering the iron gates and long driveway of Rio Chico, guests are enveloped in a private park-like enclave bordering the Caribbean Sea. Running streams, rivers and cascading waterfalls can be seen and heard throughout the lush, tropical 14-acre property dotted with stone bridges and lily ponds.

The two-story, colonial-style main house has six large bedrooms, which are tastefully decorated with beds covered in Anichini linens. Each room has a private bath and full-length patio overlooking the beach, the sea or the exquisitely landscaped Italianate gardens with stone walls. For privacy, the house is divided, with two separate stairways leading to the front and back bedrooms. An additional bedroom (with ensuite bath) is located on the entry level.

The expansive living space on the first floor includes a formal sitting area; a chandeliered dining room; an informal family room with a billiard table and mirrored, fully stocked bar; and a media room with a library of DVDs. Many of the ceilings are hand-painted by a local designer.

A self-contained two-bedroom cottage is only a two- or three-minute walk from the main house, and is ideal for older teens, or nannies and young children. A charming open-air chapel (made of stone) sits on the eastern side of the property. Rio Chico has welcomed many international celebrities and dignitaries over the years, including UN Secretary General Kofi Annan, Congressman Joe Kennedy, Donatella Versace, Robin Williams, Boy George and Wesley Snipes.

The property has 2,000 feet of protected shoreline with two white sand beaches, two freshwater swimming pools filled by a tributary to the falls, a heated Jacuzzi and a lighted tennis court. Guests can use the “toys” available on site to participate in water sports, which include snorkeling, sailing, kayaking and aqua cycling.

Most impressive, however, is the attentive and professional staff who cater to the whim of every guest — including a butler, lifeguard, laundress, housekeepers and chef, Ignazio Podda, who hails from northwestern Italy. Chef Podda sits down with guests upon arrival to create inspired menus incorporating both Jamaican and continental dishes. Each evening, the house team finds a magical new dinner setting, either on the beach, in a river or on a romantic patio overlooking the sea.

OUR PHOTO GALLERY OF RIO CHICO VILLA 

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Fleming Villa at GoldenEye

Ian Fleming Villa at GoldenEye in Jamaica

Bedroom at the Ian Fleming Villa in Jamaica

With no sign marking its entryway, guests need to know where they are headed to find GoldenEye Hotel and Resort. Although this might hint of exclusivity, the tone at this 21-unit boutique resort set on 52 rustic acres is casual and friendly. Both the villa and the nearby wood-framed beach and lagoon cottages appear natural and unpretentious; they almost fade into the densely treed forest.

The Ian Fleming Villa is the historical jewel of this seafront property, now owned by legendary music producer Chris Blackwell, who many credit with introducing reggae music to the world. Fleming entertained playwright Noel Coward and Prime Minister Anthony Eden here and, more recent celebrity visitors have included President and Secretary of State Bill and Hilary Clinton and Pierce Brosnan.

Ian Fleming came here to work from January to March, producing one of his James Bond adventure novels every year for 14 years. It’s hard to imagine the author not being distracted by the picture window that opens onto a sunken garden and the sea. Fleming’s original writing desk remains in one of the bedrooms, and aficionados can find other interesting historical artifacts on premises.

The villa, originally a three-bedroom home, has been expanded to five bedrooms set around a pool area (the main house with three bedrooms, and the pool house and the sweet spot, each with one) and a large media room with a stocked bar. All the bedrooms have both indoor and outdoor bathrooms.

Guests can arrange to have their dinner served at Fleming Cave on the beach, but they can also take advantage of the hotel amenities, which include a spa, a sandy beach and pool, a swimmable lagoon, a glass-bottom boat, kayaks and two restaurants: the Bizot Bar, open for breakfast and lunch, and the Gazebo, a tree-house style restaurant that excels at Jamaican fare. Blackwell also operates several other eco-friendly Island Outpost properties on the island, including Strawberry Hill, The Caves, Geejam and several private villas.

OUR PHOTO GALLERY OF IAN FLEMING VILLA AT GOLDENEYE 

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If you go:

Check these websites for availability and rates, which vary by season. Be sure to inquire about any extra costs, such as transportation to and from the airport, meals, greens fees, and off-site tour excursions.

Sugar Hill

Located 25 minutes from Montego Bay Airport atop Barnes Hill on Sandy Bay, Hanover Parish.
Sleeps 14 adults, prices start from $2,500 a night depending on season. Shared cost, per couple, for seven couples: approximately $357 per night.

Rio Chico

Located 90 minutes from Montego Bay Airport, outside Ocho Rios in Saint Ann Parish. Sleeps 18 adults, prices start from $6,430 a night. Shared cost per couple, for nine couples: approximately $714 per night.

Fleming Villa at GoldenEye

Located 73 miles from Montego Bay Airport, 20 minutes from Ocho Rios on Oracabessa Bay in Saint Mary Parish. Sleeps 10 adults, prices start from $5,500 per night, including a full breakfast. Shared cost per couple, for 5 couples: approximately $1,100 per night.

Other Resources

If you are planning a trip to Jamaica, you may want to read my fellow travel writer, Laura Paquet’s article on Three Great Ways to See Jamaica Beyond the Resorts on her blog, Facing The Street.


[This article was published in The Huffington Post on December 25, 2012.]


Also on More Time To Travel:

  • Reply
    Alexandra
    December 30, 2012 at 1:56 am

    On such a cold and dank New England night, this post was most welcome. I have never been to Jamaica. This post allowed me to imagine I were there, so thank you.

  • Reply
    MyKidsEatSquid
    December 30, 2012 at 3:51 am

    I think that’s a great idea to share a villa, rent a house instead of getting hotel rooms, especially if you’re in a group. Thanks for walking me through your experience.

  • Reply
    ruth pennebaker
    January 2, 2013 at 5:06 pm

    I look outside and it’s cold and gloomy — then back at your incredible photos. These places look like pure heaven.

  • Reply
    noel
    July 28, 2013 at 6:48 pm

    Wow that’s quite posh, love the details and beautiful appointments add a chef and what’s not to like. I guess I’ll have to round up 14 of my best friends to make it more affordable to my standards 🙂

  • Reply
    Muza-chan
    July 29, 2013 at 3:11 am

    Great post, I wish to vist Jamaica someday…

  • Reply
    Ruth
    July 29, 2013 at 3:44 pm

    All three areas look so inviting. Your photos are wonderful!

  • Reply
    Marisol@TravelingSolemates
    July 30, 2013 at 6:34 am

    What a fab round up of Jamaican Villas. We’re not into touristy mega-resorts so it’s great to know about this choices. Your photos alone made me feel I was al ready there

  • Reply
    Dana Carmel @ Time Travel Plans
    August 1, 2013 at 5:32 pm

    I love Jamaica – it’s my second home since my husband is Jamaican. And I love villa stays. We renewed our vows at the Tryall Club and stayed at their Xanadu villa. Absolutely fabulous!

    • Irene S. Levine
      Reply
      Irene S. Levine
      August 1, 2013 at 5:39 pm

      The Sugar Hill visit I wrote about was in Tryall! What a lovely place to renew your vows~

  • Reply
    Marcia
    August 1, 2013 at 11:25 pm

    Villas are my preferred type of accommodation. You’ve got some lovely ones here, Irene.
    Tryall’s a stone’s thrown from where I am, I drive by every so often but I’ve not stayed in any of their villas. It just doesn’t make economic sense so I wait until I can get several friends together and split the rental cost.

  • Reply
    Lisa Wood
    August 3, 2013 at 5:02 am

    Sitting here in the Cold part of winter I drooled over all of your pics from Jamaica….I so wished that I could be there right this minute, sitting on the private beach of Sugar Hill ordering a cold drink from the cafe 🙂

  • Reply
    Devin
    June 30, 2014 at 9:11 am

    Herb and spice mixtures like this can also be used as gifts.
    Africa and India started to supply Middle Eastern civilization with spikenard
    and ginger. Oftentimes, such food can be bought in different local stalls together with the tarik (pulled tea).

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