Where the rainforest meets the sea in coastal Jamaica, Geejam's luxe cabins take their cue from the ubiquitous coconuts: dark on the outside, with bright white interiors. Run by two trend-setting music producers, this sunny retreat is home to a low-key recording studio, a favorite of artists including Grace Jones. Enjoy the ever-present music over refreshing cocktails and aromatic curries beneath century-old fig trees at the alfresco Bushbar.
Seven rooms: three one-bedroom cabins, a studio suite and one three-bedroom villa.
Noon. Earliest check-in, 3pm.
Double rooms from $425.00, excluding tax at 26.5 per cent.
Rates include Continental, Jamaican or English breakfast. An additional supplement of $100 a room, each night is payable on certain holiday dates such as Easter and New Year, including 26 December 2011 to 2 January 2012.
Guests are given a mobile phone, programmed with numbers for all the hotel services, to use throughout their stay. Stay five nights or more and a free laundry service and airport transfers are included. You can admire the hotel's waterfall from the Day Dream canopy deck.
At the hotel
Private beach, gardens, gym, recording studio, DVD library and free WiFi throughout. In rooms: flatscreen TV, iPod dock, Bose speakers, Apple TV home theatre and music system, DVD/CD player, minibar and free bottled water.
Our favourite rooms
We love Ska for its Jacuzzi on the veranda and Mento for its secluded hammock hidden in the trees. That said, Drum & Bass is definitely the hot stepper. This junior suite on the ground floor of the recording studio comes with an enormous veranda, a sofa that calls for sprawling on, a Philippe Starck bathtub with stunning panoramic views, a steam shower, and folding windows which open the entire room up to the balmy tropical air. Water babies will love Sanwood, the three-bedroom villa, designed by Anthony Wade in the late ’60s, with its own pool and a nautical theme. Look out for Banksy doodles.
If no-one’s staying in the three-bedroom villa, guests can use its pool. Otherwise, it’s all about the private beach.
Conditioner – Jamaican hotels tend not to provide it, and it’s a necessity after all the sun, sea and sand; there is mosquito repellent in each room, but pack your own if you're prone to bites. Bring your guitar for midnight jamming.
Leave your pets at home. Smokers can light up outside.
Little Smiths are welcome, with free cots for babies and extra beds for children. Babysitting is US$10 an hour, plus US$5 for each additional child (with 24-hours’ notice), and the restaurant has a children’s menu.
Wherever you sit, you’ll have 180-degree panoramas.
Cool and colourful, just like your surroundings – sea-green shirt or coral dress, Havaianas in a fruit-salad shade and sunglasses worthy of a platinum-album artist.
Eat alfresco at the laidback Bushbar, built around two three hundred year-old fig trees, and lit romantically at night with candles. Offerings are Jamaican-Asian, with dishes such as spicy lobster pasta, red Thai shrimp curry and grilled mahi mahi with cream sauce and capers. Breakfast is worth writing home about (so we are) – croissants and bread baked by the in-house pastry chef, fruit and vegetables freshly plucked from the gardens and West Indian specialities: steamed dumplings, ackee, salt fish and plantain. Bushbar sits at the edge of the rainforest, surrounded by lush greenery and with the ocean in sight – expect wow-factor views.
The bar area is casually distinguished from Bushbar’s eating space by the sleek, scarlet-cushioned sofas. It’s a sociable, sexy space, where you can easily pass the night lounging around. Sip on a Green Daisy cocktail and play tech-geek – there’s a huge Apple screen on top of the bar, loaded with reggae, rock, R&B and chill-out tracks. Sometimes a DJ takes to the decks – expect dancing, throbbing bass, and an early-hours retreat to your cabin.
Breakfast is served between 7.30am and 10.30am, lunch is noon until 3pm, and dinner is from 6.30pm to 9pm (but it can be later, if you ask ahead). Drinks are served in the bar from noon until 10pm.
The 24-hour room service includes items from Bushbar’s menu until 9pm. After that, sandwiches, salads, snacks and drinks can be ordered.
Lot 122 Skippers Boulevard, Off Newpond Road, San San, Port Antonio P.O. Box 7312, Portland
Norman Manley airport in Kingston, served by Air Jamaica (www.airjamaica.com), is the nearest airport, two hours’ drive away; for guests staying five nights or more, the hotel offers free private transfers (usually from US$180 for two guests). Alternatively, for US$381, you can take a 20-minute private flight over the Blue Mountains and along the coastline to a nearby airstrip known as Ken Jones. The drive from here to Geejam takes around 30 minutes.
Port Antonio is a 15-minute drive from Geejam. The hotel has free parking.
Worth getting out of bed for
Frenchman’s Cove was voted one of the world’s top five beaches and is just a five-minute drive from Geejam (the hotel’s drivers will take you there). The beach has soft white sand, shimmering waters and a river with enormous climbing trees and Tarzan swings. An entry fee keeps the hordes at bay, but Geejam’s guests get free passes. According to popular legend, the Blue Lagoon is bottomless. It’s also a brilliant place to tap into your inner child – there is an almond tree with branches trailing the lagoon’s waters, so you can climb, dive, and repeat. Take a kayak out and spy on the amazing waterfront houses. Put aside three hours to float down the Rio Grande on a 20ft bamboo river raft, admiring Port Antonio’s hidden coves and inlets on the way. Geejam can organise all of the above (and more).
In a cosy cottage clinging to the cliffs, you’ll find Dickie’s Best Kept Secret (+1 876 809 6276). Despite its tucked-away location, it’s not so secret anymore, as rumours of Dickie’s culinary skills (delicious Jamaican breakfasts and five-course lunches and dinners) have secured a loyal following. Award-winning chef Norma Shirley heads up Norma’s on the Beach at the Sea Splash resort (+1 876 957 4041) in Negril. A fusion of Caribbean, Asian and South American flavours, dishes include grilled red snapper with a garlic butter sauce, or jerk pasta with chicken, basil and sun-dried tomatoes. Anna Banana’s is a low-key but popular eatery on Fisherman’s Beach, with simple Jamaican food. Seafood features largely (try lobster, conch or shrimp) and there are nightly specials such as curried goat or stewed peas. The bar’s fresh and fruity cocktails have a potent rum kick (+1 876 715 6533).
Take your pick from the friendly beachside shacks – they’re all stocked with golden rum and hip-swaying reggae sounds.
Customs cleared, we stroll out of the airport at Kingston and make a beeline, a waspline even, for a placard with our names on it. The person holding it is our official Jamaica Tourist Board driver, Garfield. We like him immediately. I mean, his name is Garfield: how can you not? After loading our two little carry-ons into his spotless minibus, we set off on a meandering, northeasterly, almost three-hour journey full of hairpin turns, breadfruit-selling Rastafarians, and intrepid goats, towards Geejam in Port Antonio.
The foliage we pass is so green, and the sky so utterly azure, it all looks fake. Photoshopped. On our final approach, we notice that the actual hotel sits in a large, sweeping bird sanctuary. And, dear me, is it ever lush here. Lush like a Brahms symphony, I suggest to Mrs Smith. Lush like the imagination of a child, she counters. It’s that inspiring.
We are immediately met by three Geejam staffers, Ayola, Adrene and Jason, who introduce themselves, welcome us to Jamaica and lead us straight to the handsome and aptly named Bushbar. The bar literally sits in the middle of a forest, and offers phenomenal views of the Caribbean Sea. Views we happily take in, along with an intermittent but raging concert of bird calls and lots of rustling in the leaves.
We finish our drinks and Ayola leads us up, way up, a pretty stone path to her favorite room on the property, which also happens to be our accommodation for the weekend. All of the rooms reference typically Jamaican genres of music and ours is Ska. Located at the very southwest of the property, Ska is actually a two-level wooden cabin that features a Jacuzzi; a furnished terrace; an iPod dock with epic soundsystem; Apple TV and movie library; crisp, modern, all-white interior design and furnishings; fully stocked complimentary minibar and snacks and an absolutely outrageous 180-degree view of the surrounding hills, beaches and sea from practically anywhere you care to sit or lay. We are verily outraged by the view. This is good.
Ayola gives us a Nokia cellphone pre-loaded with the numbers of everyone working at Geejam, our key, and vanishes back down to the bar area. There are quite a few aerobically challenging things to do in and around the property, according to the activities binder on the desk, but our plan is to bask in inertia.
Geejam runs its own private WiFi-enabled stretch of sand called the Mack Beach and we set off there first. The Mack is located at the end of a very long descent down several sets of stairs cutting through some Jurassic-level flora. The rustling around us is intense. So much so I dub it the Rustle Crowe. Mrs Smith rolls her eyes.
White sand and crystal-clear warm water meets us at the bottom of the stairs and Mrs Smith jumps in immediately. The combination of hugely bright, high-definition greenery set against this limpid water really makes everything – including these two Smiths – look so charged with life.
After a couple hours of lying perfectly motionless, kayaking, body surfing and more motionless-ness, we trek back up the stairs and plop down on our immaculately white bed for a bit of rest and channel surfing. The room’s bathroom, while narrow, boasts a massive shower with an insane rain showerhead that must be a foot wide. You don’t so much shower as white-water-raft standing up. The soap, not a named brand, but locally produced, is made out of cerasee – bitter melon – and mint. Mrs Smith notes cheerfully that it would make a delightfully refreshing salad.
We plump for a late supper at the Bushbar, which at 8pm is completely deserted. Our portions of Asian-accented West Indian are a little light, but we’re assured chef would have magicked up some more had we mentioned it. We’re in Ska, but had we stayed in Sanwood, the original villa, you can have your own chef prep some Jamaican home-style delights. Still, we’re fans of getting out there and exploring the local eateries rather than staying put.
Having said that, we start off the next day with breakfast in bed: freshly baked croissants is a nice touch, too. Ready to explore the world outside the property, we want to seek out Frenchman’s Cove, a place widely acknowledged as heartbreaking in its splendour. A quick call to guest services and in two minutes, towels and a driver appear at our front door.
About 10 minutes later, mine and Mrs Smith’s jaws drop. Frenchman’s Cove is jarring in its loveliness. The pristine white sand, the water, the swing above the water, the gentle slurping of the waves, the fluorescent green mountains flanking it. It’s a stunner from top to bottom and a can’t-miss for any visitor within a days’ drive of it. How do places like this even exist?
Pondering this most existentialist question for four leisurely hours on a chaise lounge, drinks in hand, we find no answer. But we resolve to mull it over some more at this very same spot in the near future. With sunset nearing, we placed another quick call and Geejam sends over another driver to fetch us. His name is Bentley. Bentley! I love the fact that Jamaica is full of people named Garfield and Bentley. Had we stayed longer I’m sure we would have run into some Hamiltons and Carlisles.
Sadly, we don’t get to see every part of the sprawling property over a single weekend. I am particularly keen to experience the famous recording studio (where hotel guests can book a professional recording session) but that’s what ‘next times’ are for isn’t it?
Geejam is not the easiest hotel to get to. But verdant panoramas, its foundation of modern accouterments, close proximity to first-class beaches, assiduous attention from the staff and an easy-going vibe, make Geejam worth any trek. Ya man!
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