Back in 1972, Chris Blackwell, the Jamaican-born founder of Island Records, bought Strawberry Hill, an 18th-century coffee plantation, now an 18-room hotel, perched high above the city in the Blue Mountains, and ever since then, there’s been a connection on the island between the hospitality and recording industries.
Blackwell’s company, Island Outpost (+1 876 946 1958, islandoutpost.com), operates Jamaica’s loveliest hotels – Strawberry Hill (strawberryhillresort.com), Goldeneye (goldeneyehotel.com), Jake’s (jakeshotel.com), the Caves (thecavesresort.com). And now Geejam (geejam.com), one of the island’s best-known boutique studios – where the likes of Björk, Gorillaz, Gwen Stefani, and Sly and Robbie have recorded – has added a hotel to its facilities.
Geejam is located in the foothills of the John Crow and Blue Mountains on the northeast coast of the island close to Port Antonio in the heart of the bush on the six-acre San San Estate. The hotel has seven double rooms – three de luxe cabins, one suite and a self-contained three-bedroom villa – as well as a ‘healing spa’, pool, gym and treetop restaurant. It’s not far from the Blue Lagoon and Frenchman’s Cove, which Blackwell rates as his all-time favourite beach.
‘The setting is incredible,’ he once enthused. ‘High cliffs on either side and lush mountains in the distance – but what makes it special is that the river runs straight from a cave down the beach and into the sea so you can swim from freshwater to saltwater.’ He recommends lunch from one of the palapas that sell jerk chicken, rice and peas, curry goat, roast breadfruit and other local specialities. ‘Nothing fancy, but it’s really nicely done.’
There have also been changes at Goldeneye, where Ian Fleming wrote 17 of his James Bond novels. In addition to a complex of five luxurious available-to-rent villas – the Fleming House, Royal Palm and three others in which the bedrooms are all named after characters in the novels – there’s a planned 100-acre residential development of lagoon villas, cottages and suites, available to buy. Other facilities will include an Ayurvedic spa, restaurants and an organic farm (goldeneyedevelopments.com).
It’s claimed the Bahamanian archipelago numbers 700 islands (some, admittedly, barely more than sandbars). The countless beaches are some of the most beautiful in the world, their pale sand tinged pink and surrounded by perfect aquamarine sea.
With so many islands to choose from, it’s no wonder they offer something for everyone when it comes to hotels. Head for the most modish and low-key, Harbour Island, just off Eleuthera, and you’ll find another of Chris Blackwell’s Island Outposts (see Jamaica), Pink Sands (+1 242 333 2030, pinksandsresort.com) – 25 pastel-painted cottages designed by Biba founder Barbara Hulanicki. Better still, stay at the Landing (+1 242 333 2707, harbourislandlanding.com), India Hicks’ white-on-white über-chic bohemian hangout, a collection of handsome clapboard houses dating from 1800. If the latter is close to sublime, then Atlantis (+1 954 809 2100, atlantis.com) on Paradise Island verges on the ridiculous, at least in terms of scale. With 3,769 rooms and villas, 28 restaurants, 11 swimming pools and a giant aquarium filled with 200-plus species of marine life, it’s not a place for the faint-hearted. But if luxury and glitz are what you’ve come in search of, you’ll want for nothing, and the toughest decision you’ll make each day will be whether to eat Japanese – there’s a Nobu, natch – or French with a creole twist at Café Martinique, which is overseen by none other than Jean-Georges Vongerichten.
Compared to Atlantis, Sandals Royal Bahamian Resort (+1 242 327-6400, sandals.com) – which calls itself ‘a world of unbelievable splendour’ on its own private island – seems almost modest in scale, despite its claims that its gardens rival those at Versailles. For those with a taste for this sort of opulent all-inclusive, there are 11 further Sandals across Jamaica, St Lucia and Antigua.