The plane coasts over turquoise waves and for a second, it looks like it’s about to touch water. When the wheels meet the island’s concrete runway, passengers and crew members erupt into cheers and applause.
This isn’t a typical scene aboard an aircraft, but as it’s the inaugural flight to Montego Bay, Jamaica—one of three new daily non-stop JetBlue Airways routes from Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport to the Caribbean—applause is more than appropriate.
The routes are part of the airline’s overall strategy to reach 100 daily flights from FLL airport. “When we look at prospects for growth at Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood, we see massive opportunity," says Ian Deason, JetBlue's vice president, airports, adding that infrastructure projects such as construction of the new south runway will be vital to JetBlue’s growth. Airport officials also expressed their commitment to South Florida and Caribbean destinations such as Montego Bay.
A coastal city hugged by green picturesque mountains, Montego Bay serves as a fitting introduction to Jamaica. An indication of the country’s rich history, many resorts here once operated as sugar plantations, including the award-winning Round Hill Hotel and Villas. The charming property has been a destination for the elite since 1953, and personal black-and-white photographs of icons such as John F. Kennedy, Grace Kelly and Zsa Zsa Gabor adorn the walls of the hotel’s cocktail bar. Though many come to Round Hill to stay in one of the 27 stunning private villas, they return year after year for the locale’s unparalleled service; about 70 percent of the staff has been with the resort for more than 15 years.
Round Hill Hotel and Villas
One of Round Hill's oceanfront Pineapple Rooms, designed by Ralph Lauren
Montego Bay offers a well-rounded choice of activities. History buffs can tour Rose Hall Great House to learn about the mysterious White Witch, and nearby, golf fanatics can play a round on one of Rose Hall’s celebrated oceanfront courses. The Good Hope Great House, situated on a hill, has the most heart-stopping view of Jamaica’s mountains, and thrill seekers can indulge in zip lining and jungle river tubing on the estate via Chukka adventure tours. Afterward, seek out Scotchie’s for the quintessential Jamaican meal and order jerk pork with a side of festivals (corn bread fritters)—you won’t be disappointed.
Morning view from Good Hope Great House
Sun worshipers should head to the beach town of Negril, the island’s “capital of casual.” Voted one of the best beaches in the world, Seven-Mile Beach is a fascinating stretch of resorts, restaurants, bars and shops. Watch daredevils cliff dive while the sun sets magnificently at Rick’s Café, and for dinner, feast on sweet curried Black River shrimp or traditional jerk chicken at Tensing Pen.
Aerial view of Tensing Pen
Black River shrimp
For the most exclusive and luxurious experience, however, think Bond. James Bond. Drive or fly west from Montego Bay and discover GoldenEye Resort, unmarked (save for a small purple flag) and tucked away in Oracabessa. Originally home to Ian Fleming, the creator of James Bond, the property has since been transformed by English businessman Chris Blackwell into 52 acres of—for lack of a better word—bliss. From a walking bridge entrance to man-made island to poolside dining, GoldenEye lacks no amenities or imagination.
View of Low Cay Beach at GoldenEye Resort
Stay in a secluded lagoon cottage, each with a private dock, and kayak or paddleboard to FieldSpa for a healing water bath of fresh-harvested pimenta, leaf of life and wild ginger. Fleming’s original villa is still intact, featuring its own pool, gardens and staff as well as the author’s original writing desk. Villas and cottages are equipped with custom-designed furniture, outdoor showers and all of Fleming’s James Bond novels, a reminder of what the idyllic setting can inspire.
Balcony view from Villa 13 at GoldenEye
Signature outdoor soaking tub
Whatever you do during your time in Jamaica, don’t save GoldenEye for last. With crystal waters at your feet and a cold Red Stripe in hand, you may take a cue from Fleming and never leave. But, if reality eventually beckons, a trip back to paradise is just a short plane ride away.