Beyond the beaches: a cultural guide to Jamaica & Strawberry Hill by Harper's Bazaar

It's time to rethink your perceptions of Jamrock

By Ella AlexanderMar 15, 2019

As the northern hemisphere whimpers its way through the winter, there is an island so bright and colourful that even the iridescent feathered hummingbirds blend into the background. These are animals that have been furnished with a peacock-like coat so luminescent it changes colour from angle to angle – Prada and Dior would kill to dream up something so visually impressive – but, here, they just blithely form part of the vista. Jamaica simply doesn’t do grey.

Palm trees peg powdery beaches, dotted with scruffy green and red fishermen boats. Music reverberates round the mountains and the air vibrates with the lilt of reggae, dancehall and calypso. Even the local dialect Patois sounds like song. People walk slower by day, and dance longer into the night. They smile more. Jamaica is where people come, as its most famous resident once sung, “to feel alright” – and, truly, it’s a challenge not to.

Hotels with a musical twist

Unsurprisingly, a number of hotels reflect Jamaica’s musical influence. Strawberry Hill, which is nestled high in the extraordinarily beautiful Blue Mountains overlooking Kingston, is owned by Island Records founder Chris Blackwell. This secluded, tranquil spot was where Marley recovered after being shot in 1976 and his choice proves he was a man of good taste. The air is different up here, clearer, cooler, calmer.

Each cottage in the resort is nestled within the curves of the mountains, enveloped by velvety, towering plants that creep round the balconies overlooking the sort of soothing view that instantly calms the mind. The rooms are simply, yet stylishly decorated with four-poster beds shrouded in muslin curtains that point towards the French doors that give rise to impressive sunrises. These are elegant treehouses for lost boys and girls seeking peace amid nature.

A bar and restaurant weaves round the central part of the property, serving mouth-wateringly good shrimp curry and oxtail shepherd’s pie to a soundtrack of Jamaican reggae. The piece de la resistance is its infinity pool which looks down over the rolling green mountains and Kingston below. Make sure you seek out hotel manager Diana Marley, whose colourful stories and experiences of Jamaica (and some of its most famous residents) will stay in your mind long after you’ve left the island.

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