If you’re seeking a complete escape reminiscent of a Bond film, look no further than Goldeneye, located on the northern coast of Jamaica in Oracabessa. The resort was once home to Ian Fleming, and still contains the villa (and the actual desk) where he wrote many of the James Bond books, starting with Casino Royale. The property was later purchased by famed music producer Chris Blackwell, founder of the Island Records label that launched Bob Marley’s career. Mr. Blackwell remains the owner to this day, and regularly stays on property (we actually saw him during our visit, dining with none other than Grace Jones). Such lore, along with a stunning location and loads of privacy, makes Goldeneye a favorite haunt of celebrities (our driver even proudly showed off the TAG watch given to him by Shia LeBouf). However, I consider all this history and allure to simply be icing on the cake. The true appeal of this resort lies in its ability to serve up the perfect combination of local flavor, natural beauty, and intimate experiences that allow you to truly achieve a relaxed state of mind and simply…be.
Achieving a relaxed state of mind is a wonderful feeling. When I travel, the motivation can vary greatly: sometimes I like to travel be stimulated by history and culture (i.e. Europe), and other times, I want to completely check out from reality and just…be. My wife and I were looking for the latter in choosing a 4 day getaway to the Caribbean, and were pleasantly surprised that we both managed to escape our every day reality, while also stimulating our senses and learning a great deal about the island nation of Jamaica. We were intrigued by the nature of the Goldeneye resort, with just 50 units spread out over the beach and jungle areas, offering a great deal of privacy as well as pristine natural beauty. (We were essentially looking for the opposite of a large all-inclusive where we would have to fight for beach chairs and dinner reservations). We found exactly that—and so much more.
Local Flavor. Thoughtful Design.
One of the best features of the Goldeneye resort is how it effortlessly showcases touches of the local Jamaican culture. The colorful units reflect Caribbean architecture and seek to maximize the best of island living with outdoor showers and kitchens. The rooms feature robes and towels made by local artisans. Even the lounge cushions are made using local fabrics that show creative interpretations of local fowl. The in-room coffee (French press!) features locally-sourced beans from Jamaica’s Blue Mountain. This place makes you feel the depth and breadth of local culture significantly more than a larger resort would ever be able to, all delivered in an effortless ‘barefoot luxury’ way.
In addition, the staff members really let their individual personalities shine, and gladly share bits of their life on the island. It was obvious that the staff enjoyed working at this resort, as they treated guests like family and truly took an interest. We had hired a driver for a daily excursion (“Pops”) who went above and beyond our scheduled tour. He said we couldn’t leave Jamaica without seeing the view from Firefly, which was the famous playwright Neil Coward’s estate. Pops graciously drove us up the mountain to Firefly after our official tour concluded to show us the view. Along the way, he shared with us a realistic portraits of life on the island, as well as his recommendations on the best local food to try (goat curry, for the win!).
Do Everything. Or Nothing at All.
The beauty of a beach resort is you can choose to laze about the day and do nothing more than order cocktails from the beach, or partake in activities that allow you to be more active. At Goldeneye, you’ll definitely want to do both.
One of the primary advantages of the resort’s location is its unique layout of an island jungle, flanked by the Caribbean sea on one side, and an azure crystal-clear lagoon on the other side. This unique set up allows for a variety of activities, ranging from a glass-bottomed boat tour to snorkeling right off the beach.
James Bond Beach
One of the must-dos is to kayak around the island, and head from Button beach across the bay to James Bond Beach for lunch. While the name sounds glamorous, the beach is only OK (relatively speaking), but you’re here for the Jerk Chicken, so nothing else matters anyhow. We counted ourselves as Jerk Chicken experts by the end of the trip (we ate it 5 times!), and hands down our favorite spot was the shack on James Bond Beach. The Jerk Chicken is made to order (takes at least 45 min…but you’re on vacation, so who cares). Obviously, nothing quenches the burn of a scotch bonnet pepper sauce more than a local Red Stripe, of which you will be drinking plenty.
Going Further Afield: The Blue Hole
Although you’ll never want to leave the stunning vistas of the resort, you would be remiss not to visit the Blue Hole when staying in the area. A relatively new tourist attraction, The Blue Hole is a series of waterfalls and swimming holes that cascade down a jungled hillside. The water has an electric blue hue due to the limestone in the water, and provides an incredibly refreshing swim. If you’re feeling adventurous, you can even take a leap of faith off a platform into the largest pool. While the nearby Dunns River Falls is more famous, we were advised that it is significantly more crowded due to the cruise ship tours. Fortunately, the Blue Hole is not as accessible to day tours, so the crowds remain relatively thin.
Pro Tip: You will need a guide to properly take you through this, as it doesn’t have a lot of infrastructure. Fortunately, outside the main entrance you can hire guides. Bring cash, both for the $20 entrance fees, as well as the guide. If you book a tour through the hotel, they will set up a guide as well. Our guide was Travis and he was very helpful.
Heading back from The Blue Hole, it’s worth stopping in the city of Ocho Rios to try some more Jamaican fare at Miss T’s. While I don’t recommend the jerk chicken there, the Goat Curry and the Oxtail stew are two Jamaican staples that the restaurant does extremely well. Although a bit touristy, the food is spot-on and the vibe is enjoyable.
Things to Know:
-To reach Goldeneye, you’ll need to fly into either Kingston or Montego Bay airports, and both are about a 2 hour drive away. If you’re American, I don’t recommend renting a car in Jamaica as they drive on the ‘other’ side of the ride (same as in the UK).
-Mosquitos are prevalent at Goldeneye, and pretty much all of Jamaica. Fortunately, the resort provide multiple forms of bug spray, as well as mosquito nets. Be prepared to apply the bug spray profusely and often.
-The property lacks in physical fitness facilities, and there is no gym. However, you’ll make up for that doing all of the included activities (kayaking, paddle boarding, snorkeling, tennis etc). They do offer yoga a few days a week around sunset.
-The property only has 50 units total, but offers several room types. Beach Huts are private and tucked a bit back in the jungle (Ours had a private ‘dune’, which basically doubles the amount of space with the outdoor kitchen and lounging area.) Beach Cottages are right on the beach. They appeared luxurious, but aren’t quite as private given they are on the main beach. The lagoon cottages seem to offer privacy and stunning lagoon views, plus more room.