‘Beauty widout grace like rose widout smell’ – Jamaican proverb.
If you ever have the good fortune to visit the Round Hill Hotel & Villas in Montego Ball, Jamaica, rest assured you will be cocooned in an intoxicating blend of both, for beauty and grace are present in abundance at this secluded slice of Caribbean heaven. Me and the fitter-half (as I like to call him, since he hit 40 and went all triathlon on me) took a children-free break here in April with the excuse that we were invited to the most incredible wedding there. To be honest, if it wasn’t for the fact we had two small people to return for, I think we might have been tempted just not to come back – although saying that, it would have worked out pretty pricey to just take up residence there, no matter how tempting.
A former sugarcane plantation, Round Hill is a favourite with the Ralph Lauren set, in fact the 36-room oceanfront Pineapple House and Seaside Terrace restaurant were recently redone by the designer himself (Mr Lauren just happens to also own one of the 27 private villas). If that doesn’t impress you much then reflect upon some of Round Hill’s other star-studded associations: John and Jackie Kennedy spent their honeymoon in Villa 10 and returned often, although when president-elect he actually rehearsed his inauguration speech poolside in Villa 25, oh and Oscar Hammerstein is said to have written “The Sound of Music” in Villa 12, which he owned at the time. Pretty fancy.
We didn’t fancy re-mortgaging our house and so booked into one of the oceanfront rooms, which are, frankly, stunning. Impeccably designed the room was cool in shades of white, wood and blue and offered both style alongside comfort. But of course, the most impressive thing about it was undoubtedly the view – oh that view… framed beautifully in plantation shutters, it was almost unreal. Simply spectacular.
Mornings were spent breakfasting in the outdoor restaurant, where they offered a selection of freshly made omelettes and pancakes, pastries and smoothies. Then it was time to settle down for the day at Round Hill’s private beach,
no better place to lounge and soak up the sun – I did attempt to read a book, but it was all too exhausting so ditched that plan after reading and re-reading the same page every day for the first three days of the holiday!
It was super-hot while we were there, but little sun-chairs and floating ‘islands’ tethered in the sea a little out
from shore meant you could cool off in the crisp clear water while still enjoying the sunshine on your back. We may or may not (totally did) have enjoyed an afternoon of rose drinking with fellow wedding guests on that floating island… it was pretty much bliss.
If you do fancy dragging yourself off your sun-lounger, Round Hill does offer a number of sporting pursuits and we had a go at paddle-boarding (harder than it looks, fell of multiple times) and there’s also water-skiing, wake-boarding, SCUBA-diving and other sports available.
Given that we were there to enjoy a week of child-free relaxation, we did of course – in between the wedding festivities (of which there were many!) – build in some time to visit the oceanfront Spa, noted by Conde Nast Traveller as one of the best in the Caribbean. We enjoyed a couples-massage followed by a glass of Champagne and fruit plate on the stone pier that juts out into the ocean. Pretty much heaven.
Dining at Round Hill is a similarly fantastic experience, with the award-winning culinary team there serving up a wealth of contemporary Caribbean cuisine. We enjoyed one particularly lovely evening of BBQ dining on the beach, with fire-torches lighting up the ocean-front: not only was the food delicious but the setting absolutely magical. Just what this almost 10-year married couple with two young children needed!
We did manage to venture ‘off property’ one day for a day trip to the stunning Mayfield Falls in Westmoreland. You can take a guided tour through the cascading waterfalls and when I say “through” I literally mean walking through – which can be challenging at times, but is a pretty amazing experience. Definitely do it, even if you’re not the strongest swimmer, as your guide will take you through shallow areas if necessary and for the more adventurous he’ll also point out the best place for bomber-dives! Top tip – definitely bring water shoes with you, you can hire them but it’s best to bring your own. I would also advise the ladies to wear a one-piece costume as I’d have felt a bit precarious in a bikini given all that rushing water!
If you’re looking for relaxed luxury, you’ll find it at Round Hill – a true Caribbean Queen.
Round Hill Hotel & Villas, John Pringle Drive, Montego Bay, Jamaica.