Luxury wellness retreats are as mandatory among celebrity health gurus and influencers as super greens. What could be more enjoyable (and Instagram-able) than starting each morning with a sunrise yoga session overlooking the ocean, followed by a workout on a balmy beach?
Jamaica Inn’s old school charm and discretion appeals to high achievers and burned out executives. Marilyn, Sir Winston, TS Eliot and Kate Moss have all stayed here. Bond creator Ian Fleming ordered a martini, shaken not stirred, at the bar.
You know Jamaica Inn is going to be luxurious from the moment you arrive. Located on Jamaica’s north coast in Ocho Rios, a 90-minute drive from Kingston, the hotel consistently features in the top 10 Caribbean resorts, winning Best Hotel in the Caribbean at the 2016 World Spa Awards. It feels more like staying at a friend’s grand beach house than a five-star hotel.
Built in 1950 and run by the Morrow family for the last six decades, the low-rise blue and white suites run the circumference of Jamaica Inn's private beach Cutlass Bay, accessible only via the hotel or by boat. A small pool sits in front of the beach and the beautifully manicured grounds include a croquet lawn where you can learn to play under the tutelage of resident expert Rupert. In keeping with the home from home vibe, the hotel’s black labrador, Shadow IV, roams freely, happily clambering onto your paddleboard or joining you in the waves for a swim.
What’s on offer
We stayed in one of 48 colonial-influenced beach house bedrooms, with thick wooden louvre slats instead of windows, and a verandah the size of a Wandsworth back garden filled with fragrant jasmine.
Antique Jamaican dark wood furniture complements the light stone floors; original Art Deco lights and mosaic mirrors add flair to the bathrooms. If you want up-to-the-minute technology, don't come here – there are no TVs, radios or even kettles in the rooms. It’s all part of switching off.
The Wellness Week Retreat has been running for the last five years, with plans for another next summer. Each day is bookended by yoga and meditation, spanning the disciplines of pranayama, vinyasa, slow flow and Hatha yoga. This is complemented by HIIT sessions, like Jonny’s Bingo Wing Blast and Bikini Burn, and Em’s Furey Fitness and Booty Burn, which were not for the fainthearted.
The 30-40 minute sessions meant you could give it your all and push yourself out of your comfort zone. Beginners might struggle, but by day three I was puffing less and could feel my fitness levels and recovery rates improving. After a decadent summer, this was just what my body needed.
Tell us about the treatments
Small but beautifully situated in jungle-like vegetation on the cliffs, the rustic open-air Ocean Spa is crafted from dark wood, stone and bamboo. It offers three treatment rooms which are completely open on one side, facing the ocean.
Ocean Spa uses Naniki Naturals products, locally made by Rina Smith, a Canadian who has lived in Jamaica for 32 years. Her shea body butter and Jamaican brown sugar and coffee body scrub smell, and feel, divine.
I chose a jet-lag busting Aroma Massage with tangerine from a wide choice of locally-blended oils including eucalyptus, peppermint, rosemary, grapefruit, lavender and lemongrass.
My charming therapist, Charlene, sprayed my hands and feet with a peppermint cleansing spray and rubbed them with a hot towel before applying oil, and the perfect amount of medium pressure to my legs, back, neck, arms, face and head. The sound of raindrops above me and lapping waves below was wonderfully soothing.
Breakfast at the hotel's only restaurant, Shanti, is hearty and satisfying. Choices range from the national dish of salt fish and ackee – a type of tropical fruit – to scrambled eggs, porridge and eggs benedict. Fruits such as papaya, mango, watermelon and pineapple are carved into edible works of art. Order a coconut water and someone will shin up a tree, pick you a coconut, slice off the top and serve it with a straw.
A light lunch menu of Greek dips, veggie and Caesar salads is available, while dinner tends towards typically Jamaican dishes like blackened jack fish with jerk sauce, grilled sea bass, spicy prawn jambalaya and goat curry.
It's pretty easy to go dairy- and gluten-free here, although you will need cast iron willpower to resist the home-made banana bread straight out of the oven. Planters Punch is offered to all guests late morning on the beach, making it very tempting to start cocktail hour before lunch... not a great idea if you have a workout looming!
Who would like it?
High flyers and entrepreneurs in search of a switch off, as well as those who love a bit of old school glamour.
• The baby turtles at Oracabessa beach, where game warden Mel digs out the newly hatched turtles and allows you to wash them before setting them free on the sand.
• Lunch at Stush in the Bush, an amazing organic farm in the hills which specialises in farm-to-table vegan cuisine.
Room rates at Jamaica Inn start from £245 per night for a Superior Balcony Suite, based on double occupancy and excluding breakfast. Dates and prices for the 2018 Wellness Week will be available at: jamaicainn.com