90 miles south of Cuba, Jamaica is the fifth largest island-nation in the Caribbean and one of the most populous.
The beach, the breeze, the sunshine and most importantly the people make Jamaica one of the most popular destinations in the Caribbean.
Large international flights come into Montego Bay and Kingston airports daily, while regional airports and the new Ian Fleming International airport handle smaller aircraft. Then, of course, there are the many, many cruise ships that visit the island’s busy port of Ocho Rios throughout the year.
Jamaica is beloved worldwide for its strong musical history, and a visit isn’t complete without a live performance — whether at your hotel or on the beach in Negril. Enhance the experience with a bit of jerk from a local street shack and a doughy treat called a “festival.”
Any big development project is generally accompanied by a bit of trepidation from the locals. But with the right name attached to the project, the equation can quickly change, and in Jamaica, the right name is Chris Blackwell. The latest hospitality project from the Jamaican-reared music mogul is an expansion of the island’s iconic GoldenEye resort, formerly the private villa of James Bond creator Ian Fleming and now one of the choice hotels in the country.
Blackwell’s record label, Island Records, is generally credited with sharing the sounds of Jamaica with the rest of the world, and as GoldenEye prepares to increase its footprint, he finds himself playing the role of ambassador yet again. As the chairman of Island Outpost, which owns and operates The Caves, Strawberry Hill, and GoldenEye, Blackwell is devoted not only to preserving and cultivating places where guests can experience a slice of island paradise, but also to nurturing the culture whose talent brought him to prominence in the first place.
Since 1995, Blackwell’s nonprofit Oracabessa Foundation has supported GoldenEye’s hometown, not only through sustainable development but through community service initiatives as well: from investment in health and education to youth soccer programs and an annual fishing competition held every October.
Nationwide, Island Outpost and its portfolio of resorts has sought to boost the local farmers and fishermen, insisting on local products in its kitchens, establishing its own organic market garden in the middle of the island, and creating the Oracabessa Fishing Sanctuary to nurture the island’s depleted fish stocks. At GoldenEye, eighty percent of the food consumed on the estate is farmed or caught locally. Guests are encouraged to help out too. For every thousand dollar donation to the foundation, a tree is planted on GoldenEye’s property and designated with the guest’s name. Walking through the jungle-like grounds and spotting names on the signs for the donated trees is GoldenEye’s version of a Hollywood stars map.
As for the land, it’s certainly a place that’s worth preserving. Set around a freshwater lagoon that offers a two-hundred-fifty-meter straightaway, a delight for swimmers and kayakers, GoldenEye is the jewel of the North Coast. It’s little wonder that the recently completed cottages are almost all sold out. With a second phase of expansion that will encompass seventy neighboring acres, it’s no longer the remote hideaway it once was — but there’s a sense, frankly unusual in a hotel development, that just this once, every little thing is going to be all right.