Rum, Royalty and Relaxation: Why Jamaica Is A Must-Visit
Stay in the same place the actual Queen has vacayed, eat yourself stupid on world-class food, and swim with horses in the wild...
From Bob Marley to the birth of Rastafarianism, coconut cocktails to wellness options galore, Jamaica has somewhat of a reputation when it comes to chilling out.
But nothing can prepare you for quite how happy you’ll be after a break in the Caribbean paradise.
MTV headed to Half Moon Jamaica for a few days to soak up some sun and bathe in the afterglow of its grin-inducing, calming and bewitching charm. It’s such an island institution that 2019 sees it celebrating its 65th(!) anniversary, and they really are pulling out all the stops to make it as special as possible.
Here are five reasons why it’s everything you’ve dreamed of, and a bewildering array more…
Forget pilates - swimming with horses is the new mindfulness
Start to list all the animals you’d hope to swim with in your lifetime, and the list is predominately aquatic.
Sealions, dolphins, sharks, otters… numerous cuddly, adorable water-babes spring to mind.
So when we were offered the chance to swim with actual horses, we were equal parts excited and very, very confused.
Half Moon’s equestrian centre is as world-class as they come, with acres of space for horses to graze and canter (that is, if you can dodge the adorably friendly goat and dogs also meandering around).
While they offer horsey options galore, it’s their ‘Turf & Surf’ experience that will blow you away, starting with a gentle trot through the lush greenery of the grounds, before walking onto the beach and riding bareback directly into the sea. Yep, you read that right.
The horses’ happiness and health are key - and while not every horse enjoys a swim, the ones selected for the experience love it, and benefit from the healthy cardio workout that comes along with the swim.
As you splash into the water, and the tides rise, you slowly slide back until you’re both submerged, and you’re holding onto your horse by their mane and then tail, swimming with your horse as they power their way through the waters.
It’s surreal and incredibly unique, allowing you to bond with your equine as you both swim through the tropical, sun-kissed waters.
As far as mindfulness ‘being in the moment’ experiences come, they don’t get much better.
The accommodation is literally fit for a Queen
With 12 accommodation options on demand, and a variety that extends back to its past (you can stay in some of the original villas) to its impressive future (the resort is about to launch tasteful but modernised new suites), there are accommodation options for everyone (the Queen, Prince Harry, David Bowie, Mariah Carey and many more have all visited before).
If you’re feeling your spenny oats, then splash out and stay in its array of ocean suites, which are enormous (up to almost 2,000 sq ft), and the epitome of refined luxury. Not only do you have space for days (the walk-in wardrobe is bigger than most inner-city flats), but they back out onto the beach itself, allowing you to soak up the beach vibes first thing in the morning and very last thing at night.
Palm trees sway, fresh coconuts are delivered on demand, and you’re immediately transported into the ultimate Caribbean dream.
Food for days (and weeks, months, and years)
It’ll probably come as no surprise to hear that Jamaica has great food - but what will dazzle you is the sheer cornucopia of options.
Moonchies is a beach-side grill that delivers mouth-watering plantain, burgers and grilled corn to hungry lounge-lazers and swimmers.
Il Giardino offers Italian in style, with either indoor or al fresco dining and near-Michelin starred delights that pull from the resort’s own garden, and hand-made pasta. Throw in an array of fresh seafood, and a delicious selection of wines (we recommend a Chianti), and you get the best of both worlds - the sumptuous flavours of Italy in the stunning surroundings of Jamaica.
Or for a truly incredible bucket list experience, we recommend you head to The Sugar Mill, awarded as Jamaica’s best restaurant for very good reason. Chef de Cuisine Christopher Golding has taken Jamaican cuisine and elevated it to drool-worthy heights, marrying traditional Jamaican fare (seafood, jerk) with internationally canny gastronomy.
Start with crispy jerk chicken rolls with cho cho slaw and sorrel-dark rum chutney, before trying the crayfish bisque soup with breadfruit and papaya seed cracker. Move onto coconut milk and annatto poached Chilean sea bass fillet with crisp green plantain, and finish with an array of delicious, boozy Jamaican rums.
Yoga, healthy eating, and cannabis massage FTW
And we haven’t even got onto its newest foodie offering, Ital Cafe - a raw vegan offering housed within the resort’s Fern Tree Spa - a haven to wellness both nutritional and physiological.
Before treating yourself to all manner of pampering, head to the cafe to try its array of surprisingly tasty dishes, born from the ‘Sunfired Food’ concept, where fresh organic vegetables, fruits and herbs are cooked by the sun.
We heartily encourage dabbling in the array of options on offer - jerk eggplant steak, mobay jack seed cheese and vegan pizza are standouts, while the chill-infused wellness shots will take your breath away in the best way possible.
As with everything else at Half Moon, even its treatments offer unique spins on the traditional. The Fern Tree Signature Massage starts with a cerasee foot bath, before pampering your body with a signature blend that includes cannabis (when in Jamaica), and a rum body splash that’ll wake your aching muscles.
The treatment is bliss, and the aftermath just as dreamy, with an array of waterfalls and pool to soak in afterwards.
If you want to really embrace the wellness vibes, then we can’t recommend the yoga and mindfulness sessions enough - not only are they expertly led, but the classes are held on wooden cabins hanging over the ocean, with one wall completely open to the elements. Feeling the gentle breeze of the waves as you bend into Downward Dog, and zenning out with nothing but the ocean’s horizon in front of you is a truly special experience.
Become your own personal chauffeur for the holiday
Oh, did we forget to mention that there’s even the option to hire your own golf cart?
If that sounds a little OTT, then just let the fact that the resort has a whopping 400 acres of grounds and two miles of beachfront sink in.
We mean, sure, you can use them as intended on the resort’s own 18-hole par-72 championing golf course, but if you’re not a keen golfer you can still make use of them to save your legs - especially a few coconut rums down, when you need to get back to your room forthwith.
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