Cushioned, carpeted and curtained with greenery, Kanopi House’s treehouses are set deep in the rainforest, flanked by 100-foot, vine-wrapped banyans. The hotel’s philosophy is equally green – all the wood is sustainable, no trees were felled when Kanopi House was built, and local craftsmen and artists contributed to the design.
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A bottle of wine and free breakfast for two on your first morning at Kanopi House
Four treehouses: three one-bedroom treehouses, one two-bedroom treehouse.
Noon, and later if there’s availability. Check-in is equally laid-back (but call the hotel to let them know when you’ll arrive).
Double rooms from £256.79 ($330), including tax at 20 per cent.
Rates include a selection of teas and coffees stocked in-room; use of kayaks and snorkelling gear; and access to the entire property, including the Blue Lagoon.
Indulge in an in-room spa treatment with one of the expert therapists.
At the hotel
Gardens and a library including DVDs. In rooms: iPod dock with Bose speakers and free bottled water.
Our favourite rooms
Almond Tree has a gargantuan, hand-carved four-poster, retractable windows and doors that open out onto the rainforest. Spanish Elm is the largest treehouse, and has its own dining and lounge area, a spacious bedroom, an outdoor shower and a wraparound deck fit for a filmstar.
No pool, but guests have direct access to the Blue Lagoon – according to legend, its bottomless and inhabited by an elusive dragon.
Laid-back linens for lounging around and different swimwear for each day of your stay – you’ll probably spend more time in water than on the ground. Don’t bring a shoe collection fit for a millipede – chances are you’ll pad around barefoot.
US$30 a day covers the cost of feeding any pets you bring along. Smokers can light up wherever they like.
Little Smiths aged seven and above are welcome (the treehouses’ steps and heights aren’t designed for tiny tots). Extra beds are free for children sharing with adults, and babysitting with staff is US$30 an evening (give 24 hours' notice).
This hotel is as green as its surroundings – materials are locally sourced, bathrooms come with showers instead of baths and Kanopi House regularly donates to local causes.
Find your favourite view by sitting at a different place each night. On balmy evenings, eat outside on the pink limestone terrace.
The emphasis is on relaxation – think Caribbean cool, and add spice with a lagoon-blue necklace or banana-yellow bandana.
Gather in the communal treehouse, the Living Room, for meals cooked up in the House Kitchen. Continuing the wood-and-white theme, the Living Room’s hand-crafted mahogony day-beds are dressed in white linen and scattered with cushions. Shots of colour come via the views – the open-plan space overlooks the jungle and Alligator Head. Pick a banana from one of the trees on the deck, but don’t get full – freshly caught snapper, lobster or meat cooked on the open grill, flavoured with herbs and greens plucked from the mountain garden, await. All the Jamaican staples (callaloo, plantain, ackee, breadfruit, yam, wild cocoa, sweet potato and curry) are present and correct, cooked with love by Elaine and served by Carla – entertainer, housekeeper, and all-round superstar.
Have pre- and post-dinner drinks at the Living Room, and set the mood by lining up playlists on the house iPod.
Kanopi House disdains set timings, so you can eat and drink whenever suits you – just ask ahead.
None, however breakfast lunch or dinner can be be served in your room if ordered with 24-hour notice.
Norman Manley airport in Kingston, served by Caribbean Airlines (www.caribbean-airlines.com), is the nearest airport, two hours’ drive away. Alternatively, for US$1,350, four people can share a helicopter flight (with restricted baggage).
Kanopi House is hidden away, with a semi-secret location. It’s easier to let the hotel’s drivers pick you up and drop you off – they will also ferry you from A to B while you’re on the island. If you want to be independent, there is plenty of parking space. Port Antonio is the nearest town, a 10-minute drive away.
Worth getting out of bed for
Frenchman’s Cove is fit for a film set, with its white sand shores, clear waters, enormous climbing trees and tarzan swings. Lunch on jerk chicken and rice, or freshly caught fish cooked for you on the beach. Long Bay, a 45-minute drive from the hotel, is a great spot for surfing –after your salty session, toast the gnarly waves with an ice-cold Red Stripe. Forget Venice – float down the Rio Grande on a bamboo raft, your boatman steering the way as you recline in the two-person settee. The four-hour trip includes a Jamaican buffet lunch, cocktails and chilled beer. If you’ve over-indulged in all things jerk, set off on a bike ride in the Blue Mountains. Along with the historic coffee plantations, there will be a wealth of butterflies, blossoms and birds to admire on your way. Kanopi House can organise all the above (and more).
Mille Fleur is an organic restaurant within Hotel Mocking Bird Hill, owned by a local artist and peppered with paintings. The food is pricey but flavour-packed – try the coconut and garlic soup, fish with spicy mango-and-shrimp sauce and the homemade breads and jams. Dickie’s Best Kept Secret (+1 876 809 6276) is an unassuming, cliff-hugging building on the road leading west out of Port Antonio. All the food is home-cooked by Dickie, with dishes such as ackee on toast, steamed fish and garlic lobster. Sea Side Restaurant serves up a hearty Jamaican breakfast at Folly Road, overlooking the east harbour. Both decor and atmosphere are laid-back and local, and the menu is determined by the fishermen’s finds.
Take your pick from Port Antonio’s reggae-playing beach bars and roadside rum-shacks.
The minute we stepped off the plane into the hot Jamaican air, the island’s laid back, come-as-you-are attitude washed over us, urging us to leave our worries far, far behind. And we did, as we bumped eastward along the A1 coastal highway towards Port Antonio, site of Kanopi House. There’s no better way to experience the nitty-gritty of local Jamaican life than being on the road.
Passing pastures where livestock shared the ground with soccer-playing children, we were tempted by dozens of roadside Rum & Jerk stands with walls of reggae-pumping stereos. At the three-hour mark, we needed a stretch, so our driver took us to a grassy hut overlooking the sea, where we filled up on jerk chicken and Red Stripe, a theme of the trip, as it would turn out.
As we pulled up to Kanopi House an hour later, our driver explained that even most locals aren’t aware of its existence. It’s not difficult to tell why: we did some major off-roading to reach this cluster of cabins deep in the wilds of Blue Lagoon, a notch in the coast fed by a cold-water spring. Swimming here means immersing yourself in running hot and cold water – a strange and pleasurable sensation.
Comprised of a main cabin right on the Blue Lagoon, the property spreads up a hill to five, wood-frame, peak-roof bungalows. Each rises high on stout wood timbers, which is why the hotel refers to them as treehouses. The aesthetic is consistent throughout—thatch roof, wooden shutters, walls made of French doors. (I was particularly struck by the vaulted bungalow ceiling, an intricate geometry of beams.)
Fridges are stocked with local delicacies like Jamaican crisps and spice cake, and the equation of Bose dock plus cushy sofa equalled a perfect reprieve from the steamy Jamaican afternoon air. The cabin interiors are furnished with local crafts, and in keeping with the au-natural vibe, there is an outdoor as well as an indoor shower. There’s nothing quite like communing with Mother Nature while washing away the cares of the day.
But you miss the point of Kanopi House if you don’t plunge into the jungle along the concrete paths that splay out from the hotel. Banana trees hang heavy and the air is a concert of birdcall. We followed a path down to the Blue Lagoon and happily splashed right into the water, as there is no beach to speak of. Afterward, we gazed out over the scene from an adjacent, perfectly perched pavilion. This would become our favorite spot to while away the time, books and beer in hand.
Breakfasts and dinners at the main house, prepared by Kanopi’s proprietress extraordinaire, Carla, are feasts. We of course had that signature spicy chicken one evening, then a whole roasted bass the next, all of the dishes concocted from ingredients Carla had grabbed at the local market that day, or in the case of the fish, as caught by her sons that very afternoon. And both meals were accompanied by the sounds of the sea, washed down with a white wine from a vineyard in Kingston, Jamaica’s raucous capital.
Two days in, and looking for a bit of adventure, we drove through Port Antonio and up into the Blue Mountains with a tour guide, Steve, ending up at a spot on the Rio Grande River. Here we boarded an elongated bamboo raft and, with the mountains behind us and our toes grazing the water, we drifted down towards the sea for the next three hours. The sights were as varied as those from the road. Flutes, coconut art, tropical bouquets and Red Stripe were offered up by kids wading into the river, and along the way, we passed teenagers snorkelling for dinner.
Steve let us stop and explore whenever we had a mind to. We jumped off to swim in a sun-dappled lagoon, and we had a great conversation with a local craftsman about his wares. On the way back to the hotel, we hopped out at a roadside shack and placed an order for a couple of thighs, cooked fresh in an open-air hut underneath a sheet of metal siding. Around us swarmed peddlers offering more vibrantly coloured bean necklaces, (more) Red Stripe, and freshly bottled coconut juice. After a mini-spree, we hopped back into the car and bumped back down the road to Kanopi.
Make no mistake: an excursion to Kanopi House is for the dashing adventurer, not the pina-colada-and-beach-chair bum. There’s a reason Errol Flynn is one of Port Antonio’s storied residents. (And a juicy piece of trivia: when Mrs Smith and I were on our raft ride, we passed through a narrow strip between two tall rocks that was dubbed 'lovers lane' by Erol Flynn, who brought a different girl there every day. So we saluted him with a kiss ourselves as we passed by.) We hesitate to call our stay roughing it, because everything was top-notch. But the Jamaican way of life imbued our experience. Soaking up the sun with a good beach read has its place, but for our money, nothing re-energises you like an adventure for two in a tropical paradise.