Round Hill in Jamaica…


Round Hill in Jamaica (Photo: Emily O’Dell)

After beginning our Jamaican adventure in Treasure Beach, my friend and I took the three hour ride to Montego Bay to relax at Round Hill Hotel and Villas. While we had enjoyed exploring beaches in the south far away from the tourist circuit, we were feeling ready for resort life–resting on the beach and doing absolutely nothing for a few days. Where better to unwind than at the renowed Round Hill, which has been the hotel of choice for royalty and celebrities ever since it opened in 1953.


Still waters (Photo: Emily O’Dell)

The property received attention recently when Prince Harry and Meghan Markel stayed there for a friend’s wedding (other royal visitors have included HRH Prince Michael of Kent and Princess Elizabeth of Yugoslavia). JFK and Jackie honeymooned there, and years later he wrote his “Ask not what your country can do for you, but what you can do for your country” inaugural address poolside in Villa 25. Believe it or not–Oscar Hammerstein wrote The Sound of Music on the hotel grounds in Villa 12, after meeting the real-life Maria von Trapp on the property. Other famous guest have included Sir Paul McCartney, Emma Thompson, Paul Newman, Grace Kelly, Alfred Hitchcock, Bing Crosby, Noël Coward, Lupita Nyong’o, Emma Watson, Taye Diggs, Pierce Brosnan, Ian Fleming, Truman Capote, Michael Douglas and Taye Diggs. While we were there, the Walton family was staying there too.


Make yourself at home (Photo: Emily O’Dell)

We stayed in Pineapple House, which has thirty-six oceanfront guestrooms. Our room, like all the rooms in Pineapple House, was designed by Ralph Lauren, who owns two of the twenty-seven villas on the property and also designed the hotel’s common areas and bar (each villa comes with a personal chef, housekeeper, and gardener). In fact, he’s even designed an entire fashion collection around his love of Jamaica. For his charity in Jamaica and promotion of the island, the Jamaican government honored him with its Order of Distinction, with the rank of commander, and put his face on a Jamaican stamp.


Checking in (Photo: Emily O’Dell)

What attracted me from the moment we checked-in was our private walkout patio with a beach view. While it was tempting to take a nap in our four-poster mahogany beds after our three hour ride from Treasure Beach, we wanted to enjoy the water before sunset–so we put on our swimsuits and hit the beach.


Take a seat (Photo: Emily O’Dell)

We ordered Jamaican nachos, pesto pizza, and gazpacho to our beach chairs, along with the necessary libations, so we could refuel after our journey to the hotel and get some energy before hitting the water. As you can see in the photos, the water was translucent and still–as inviting as could be. My friend got in touch with her inner child and climbed atop the floating trampoline (too fun!), while I prepared my goggles to go and greet the colorful fish.


The beach awaits you (Photo: Emily O’Dell)

After taking in the sunset, we retired to our room to prepare for dinner. I placed a call to the head concierge Kingsley Blake, who is a legend not just at the hotel but in Caribbean hospitality in general (he will be retiring this year, so I am glad I met him before he does). We wanted to arrange a night trip to Rose Hall, said to be haunted by the ghost of Annie Palmer, and knew he would have the best advice on how and when to go (with his help, I hired a driver to go the following the night).


Time to feast (Photo: Emily O’Dell)

On our walk across the property to dinner, we passed by a lovely library, and caught a glimpse of some Americans in the television room “watching the game.” Dinner was a white tablecloth affair, and featured an impressive menu. The evening began with piano music followed by a female singer who belted out dance songs, as guests of all ages took the dance floor and got their groove on.


Dinner time at Round Hill (Photo: Emily O’Dell)

For dinner, I ordered New Market Roasted Pumpkin Gnocchi (I was in a vegetarian mood), but the menu and buffet featured many fish dishes: Steamed Local Snapper, Pan-seared Salmon, Whitehouse Grilled Lobster Tails, and Lemon Thyme Grilled Mahi Mahi. Some of the Jamaican fare on the menu includes: Grilled Local Spiced Jerk Pork, Traditional Rice and Peas, Sauteed Callaloo, Yellow Yam, and Honey Garlic Glazed Carrots. The service was top notch, and we enjoyed watching the other guests dance the night away.


Breakfast in paradise (Photo: Emily O’Dell)

The next morning, we were in for a real surprise–a breakfast buffet that had everything from coconut pancakes and guava parfait to ackee with salted fish and callaloo. I especially recommend the Island Blast smoothie–banana, celery, cucumber, pineapple, parsley, ginger, coconut water–all sourced from Round Hill’s organic garden (they try to use as much locally grown sustainable produce as possible). After relishing each bite of our coconut pancakes and guava parfait (truly out of this world), we sauntered back to our room to put on our swimsuits for another day of practicing the fine art of doing nothing on the beach.


Beach time (Photo: Emily O’Dell)

On my last day at the resort, I took a short seaside stroll to the hotel spa–housed in an 18th-century plantation house with a rolling 10 acre beachfront lawn which slopes down to the water–and lunched on calamari and a refreshing pineapple and watermelon salad. Then I got a text from a friend–telling me to go see Johnny Cash’s house nearby, where she had been his guest twenty years before. It was time, I realized, to take one last unexpected adventure before I left paradise for good.


Dive in (Photo: Emily O’Dell)

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