Round Hill Hotel & Villas in Jamaica was built as a colony of cottages for the rich, famous and glamorous of the 1950s. Today, not much has changed: the family-friendly resort’s shore-side pool villas, perfect spa and Ralph Lauren-designed suites make it the Caribbean hotspot of choice for wannabe JFKs and Jackie Os.
Get this when you book through us:
A bottle of wine in your room and $100 to spend in the spa
11am, but flexible, subject to availability. Earliest check-in, 4pm.
Double rooms from £533.41 ($650), including tax at 25 per cent. Please note the hotel charges an additional room tax of $4.00 per room per night prior to arrival.
Rates include use of the kids’ club and non-motorised watersports, but exclude breakfast ($39 for full American-style breakfast).
The grounds are impeccably maintained. Get a closer look during tours offered each Friday afternoon by the head gardener. The tour includes a peek at the garden of rare tropical orchids.
Early September to early October.
At the hotel
Spa with seven treatment rooms; five tennis courts; beauty salon; library; gardens; gym free WiFi throughout. In rooms: tablet, Round Hill toiletries.
Our favourite rooms
All rooms are in the Pineapple House, and are designed by Ralph Lauren. The second-level rooms in Pineapple House are closest to the beach, and offer the best sea views and ocean soundtrack. Of the Villas, the six-bedroom Signature Villa 18 has its own pool and bar, and can be rented as a whole, each filled with local art, rattan bar stools and mahogany four-poster beds. The six-bedroom Signature Villa 16 is the most luxurious with Anglo-Caribbean decor, white linens and colourful cotton fabrics.
The unheated outdoor infinity pool is made with 18th-century stone, and has views of Round Hill’s bay. The spa has an adults-only pool.
The Spa at Round Hill is set in a restored 18th-century house over 10 acres by the Caribbean Sea, and offers treatments using local lemongrass, botanicals from the grounds and stones plucked from the ocean. Overcome the previous night’s rum cocktails with the hangover massage, which diffuses toxins using Jamaican sweet basil.
No need to lug snorkelling gear: the hotel has plenty of fins and snorkels for guests.
Golfers can tee up at Tryall Golf Club, the Caribbean’s best course; Round Hill can make reservations and provides a free shuttle there and back.
Very welcome. There is a free kids’ club, plus a teen centre. Baby cots are free to borrow. Babysitting is $12 an hour (min. three hours). The restaurants all offer children’s menus. Extra beds cost between $79 and $159, depending on age and time of year.
Cottage 10 is a four-bedroom Classic Villa that was once a favourite of John F Kennedy and Jackie for its sweeping lawn, well-tended gardens and private pool. Nearly all villas have access to a shared or private pool.
Pineapple Kids' Club (ages three to six) and 7-Up Club (up to teens) are free. The programs have all-day agendas that include nature walks, sports, reggae lessons and arts and crafts, ending with afternoon tea from 4pm to 5pm.
When kids aren’t at the two clubs, the hotel has plenty of sports for them to try. The beach has snorkelling gear, glass-bottom boats and other equipment for kids. There are also tennis courts. In nearby Negril, Dolphin Cove (www.dolphincovejamaica.com) lets kids swim with friendly, well-trained porpoises.
The infinity pool has a lifeguard on duty each day between 9am and 5pm, with a paddling area for children.
The Grill welcomes children at all dining times, and has a menu that includes classics – grilled cheese, hot dogs, fish fingers, pizza and pastas – all named after cartoon characters and superheroes.
Babysitters are available for $12 an hour, for a minimum of three hours.
Cots are free for under-3s, extra beds for kids aged four to 12 range from $79 to $159, depending on the time of year, and extra beds for over-12s range from $79 to $159. Only one extra bed can be added to each room.
Round Hill has been recognised for its efforts to conserve natural resources through the use of eco-friendly energy and water practices and recycling initiatives. It also maintains an organic chef’s garden, where staff grow most of the produce used in the restaurant.
Choose a table facing the water to catch the best ocean views and cool breezes.
Sandals and kaftans are ideal for beachy meals, but trousers and long dresses are best for dinner at the Grill.
Chef Martin Maginley and his team harvest organic vegetables from the gardens to prepare contemporary Caribbean dishes at the Grill five nights a week. The other two nights are themed dinners: on Mondays, the hotel hosts a beach barbecue with a calypso band; on Fridays, a jerk-spiced Jamaican buffet is on offer on the terrace, with reggae, dancing or other entertainment.
Three. The Ralph Lauren Cocktail Bar, designed by Phillipe Starck, mixes tropical cocktails and a 500-bin wine list with snacks. The Pool Bar and Beach Bar are both open throughout the day, serving snacks and a cocktail menu of daiquiris, punches and rum drinks.
The Grill serves breakfast between 7.30am and 10.30am, then dinner service is from 7.30pm until 9.30pm. The pool and beach bars are open from 10am until 5pm and 6pm respectively for lunch and snacks.
A full menu of salads, sandwiches and child-friendly specials is available for delivery from 7.30am until 9.30pm every day.
Just west of Montego Bay – Jamaica’s second-largest city and a bustling tourist hub – Round Hill sits apart from the crowds on a secluded and tropical 110-acre peninsula on a stretch of Caribbean Ocean coastline.
Montego Bay’s Sangster International Airport (www.mbjairport.com), is the nearest option, a 30-minute drive from Round Hill. Airlines including Caribbean Airlines, United and Virgin Atlantic operate regular flights to Miami, New York, Montreal and other major cities in North America. Though it is a four-hour transfer from the hotel, Kingston's Norman Manley Airport is another option, receiving flights from London (with BA), Toronto (via Air Canada) and other international hubs.
If you fancy exploring beyond the resort, it’s a good idea to hire a car, and main coastal routes and roads are well maintained. There are rental desks available at the airport, and the hotel has free parking onsite.
Worth getting out of bed for
Though lazy days in the sunloungers can be tempting (especially when there’s a full cocktail service on offer on the beach), there’s no excuse to be lazy. For starters, there’s the vast array of watersports, including tubing, water-skiing, windsurfing, kayaks and Hobie cats. Everything you need to go snorkelling is provided; you can take a boat out sport fishing, sailing or on a sunset cruise, and tennis and golf are readily accessible. The fitness centre offers oceanfront yoga and exercise classes. Saddle up to explore Jamaica on horseback withChukka Caribbean Adventures, which leads riders over land and into the Caribbean Sea. Round Hill’s ‘English Style’ ride is a high-tea horseback that pauses at a polo field for afternoon tea. The company also offers ziplines, ATV rides and, interestingly enough, dogsledding.
Dine on the water at Houseboat Grill, a boat docked in Montego Bay’s Marine Park Fish Sanctuary that serves grilled lobster, spicy smoked marlin and other aquatic dishes. The fish dinners are especially impressive at Marguerite’s Seafood by the Sea, where the chef cooks elaborate flambéd meals to serve on the waterfront terrace. It’s only open for dinner, and reservations are a must. French-Caribbean fusion restaurant Nikkita’s on the Hip Strip of Montego Bay has one of the best champagne selections in Jamaica (+1 876 979 6373).
Pull off North Coast Highway at Falmouth Road in Ocho Rios to try jerk chicken from Scotchie’s. The no-frills open-air café specialises in chicken, but it also prepares excellent seafood, pork and sausages, all cooked on a fire pit. Find room at a picnic table to try jerk-seasoned specialties from Pork Pit on Gloucester Avenue (+1 876 952 1046). The giant cooktop sizzles with spicy, ginger-rubbed meats, including chicken and fish – best with fresh mango juice.
When Mr Smith and I saw space open up in our calendars for a three-day getaway, I started researching tropical islands. Using a formula based on maximum beach time and minimal flight time, I quickly zeroed in on Jamaica as the winner.
One can hop on a four-hour nonstop flight from New York to be on the beach by 11am on Friday, and not depart until 5pm Sunday. I would later learn that this is the same logic that draws many guests to Round Hill Hotel and Villas, and took it as a good sign that I’d chosen a place that attracts like-minded individuals who prioritize relaxation and efficiency.
As soon as we made our way through customs at Montego Bay airport a lovely gentleman from the hotel magically appeared to pull us out of a crowd and into his van for the 30-minute scenic drive to the hotel. Emptied out at the check-in area, we were confronted with a straight-on stunner of an ocean view and the question of whether we’d like a fruit punch or rum punch.
Two rum punches later (obviously), we piled into a golf cart with our bags and zoomed around a winding passageway lined with blooming hedges that recalled the much-discussed flower wall at the #kimye wedding. I’d posit that the motif worked even better in this context, but don’t tell Kanye.
We arrived at our Junior Suite housed in a sprawling villa, situated alongside a semi-private pool that overlooked a hilly expanse leading into the ocean. Our large room had wide-plank shutters to let in the breeze, dark rattan furniture and tropical prints that popped against the otherwise bleach-white color scheme. Upon closer inspection, I noticed that some of the finishing were in need of an update, but the room was perfectly comfortable and also rarely seen by us, because, well, we were here for the beach.
Changed into our swimsuits and slathered in sunscreen, we summoned another golf cart (here’s where I admit I never want to travel by anything other than golf cart ever again), and returned to the main resort area which provides all the excuses for never leaving the grounds once during your stay: beach, pool, bar, restaurant, spa, beautiful surroundings. You know, the basics.
We commandeered chaise lounges by the picture-perfect blue infinity pool that looks out over the oh-so-incredibly-blue ocean and eventually meets the even-bluer sky. It was monochromatic paradise. It was also lunchtime. We ordered pina coladas and fish wraps from one of the nearby attendants without ever having to give up our superior spot.
The staff at Round Hill is ridiculously kind and charming, and while they often operate on what might be referred to as ‘island time’, it’s hard to get too upset about it since you have nowhere else to be other than in a lounge chair soaking up sun and gorgeous vistas. To complain about much of anything would seem both ungrateful and at odds with the laid-back and perennially jovial vibe of the place.
This sensibility was on display later that night at dinner, too, when a circus troupe emerged to show off their jaw-dropping set of talents from fire-breathing and contorting to are-you-sure-this-isn’t-rigged balancing acts—mind-bending acts they managed to somehow make look ...mellow. Like, ‘Hey, no big deal. We do this every day.’ (Which, to be fair, they probably do. But still.) The adults in the crowd were thoroughly entertained and the children, of which there were plenty, appeared to vacillate between sheer joy and sheer terror.
We started out the next morning with a quick run on the resort’s mercifully short jogging path –the punishing hills and the thick humidity make one mile feel like three. We were rewarded upon our return with a jump in our pool, where we cooled off until our first meal of the day was ready.
The dining highlight at Round Hill is, hands down, the breakfast – a multi-course affair served at a time of our choosing on our own private patio. The fresh fruit plate taught me an important life lesson: it’s not that I don’t like papaya, it’s just that I’ve never had Jamaican papaya before. Jamaican papaya, as it turns out, is something I will start a fight with my husband over if there’s only one serving left – the same goes for Jamaican coffee.
It’s all ample fuel for the water sports made so readily available to guests that, even in spite of my commitment to laziness during this vacation, I felt compelled to give in. Paddleboards, kayaks and snorkels are within arms’ reach at a beachside gazebo. Sign a waiver, drag them all of three feet into the ocean and off you go.
If you only do one thing other than swim, sleep, and eat while at Round Hill, make it snorkeling. Even Mr Smith, who generally turns his nose up at the sport, deemed it worthwhile. A short swim in shallow waters will put you right in the midst of shimmering coral reefs and dense populations of colorful fish, bound to make you feel like you’re living in Finding Nemo.
Emboldened by that adventure, we later took out a kayak built for two, which taught Mr. Smith something he never knew about his wife: she’s a terrible paddler. But she does excel at planning the perfect tropical island getaway at the loveliest of resorts. So I suppose that more than makes up for it.