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Finding Irie

Even during a pandemic, Jamaica’s Half Moon Resort continues driving its storied legacy into the future

Article by Catherine Trifiletti

Photography by Tony Powell

Originally published in Potomac Lifestyle

One thing the coronavirus has taught us is that we should never take connection for granted. Connection to people, connection to places and, perhaps most importantly, connection to optimism. As we slowly creep back to our regularly scheduled routines, it’s only natural to fantasize about a retreat away from the grim reality that has plagued our daily lives for the past nine months.

Jamaica holds the key to such escapism. The power of the island nation’s natural beauty commingled with its laid back culture renders it the perfect covid hideaway. There has never been a better time to take a cue from Bob Marley, who once sang: “Don’t worry about a thing.” Why? “Because every little thing is gonna be alright.” Whether or not your optimism has endured through the global health crisis, Jamaica offers irie and the opportunity to at least fake it for a while.

Jamaica is taking the pandemic very seriously, but, because of its economy’s reliance on tourism, the country is eager to safely welcome back visitors as high season commences. Incoming travelers are required to provide proof of a negative Covid-19 test to the Jamaica’s Ministry of Health & Wellness before arrival. Entry to the country is granted once the authorization is presented at Montego Bay’s Sangster International Airport. Similar to the States, mask ordinances are active in retail and public spaces. As of the writing of this article, there is also an 8 p.m. curfew strictly imposed by Jamaican law enforcement to discourage large gatherings.

Fortunately, if Half Moon is your destination, you won’t need to go far to satisfy your vacation reverie. The storied Jamaican gem has followed a phased reopening approach in order to effectively implement health and safety protocols. Rose Hall Villas led the charge in October, followed by the property’s new development, Eclipse, in November and the oldest section of the property, Founders Cove, earlier this month. Each of the three luxury accommodation options offer varying experiences based on your group size, budget and overall travel goals.

Founded in 1954, the resort holds the increasingly unique designation of being privately owned. Three families, including one hailing from Maryland, have maintained lofty standards for their 400-acre property over the last six decades. Salamander Hotels & Resorts assumed management of Half Moon in 2019, further solidifying its stronghold on the luxury market in Jamaica. Helmed by BET co-founder and local philanthropist Sheila Johnson, Salamander has five properties in its portfolio, including its signature Forbes Five-Star hotel, Salamander Resort in Middleburg, Virginia. Johnson’s involvement was likely a factor in Forbes’ Four-Star Rating of Half Moon earlier this year – the first Jamaican hotel to receive the prestigious distinction.

Sandwiched between verdant mountains and two miles of sparkling turquoise ocean, Half Moon maintains a balance between its rich historical roots and upscale modern touches. Of the property’s impressive equilibrium, general manager and 30-year veteran staff member Shernette Crichton says, “It’s barefoot elegance with old world charm.”

An early morning walk along the property’s coastline will give life to Crichton’s high praise. The quiet breeze and the day’s first light will also help transition your internal clock from Eastern Standard Time to Island Time, a welcome reminder that traditional timekeeping doesn’t carry weight in Jamaica. If you’re lucky you may spot hummingbirds fluttering about and sea turtles nesting in creamy white sand. If your timing is really good, a spry staff member may climb a palm tree and shake down fresh coconuts for you.

For couples, one of the Eclipse’s 57 spacious suites is an optimal choice. With its proximity to two onsite gourmet restaurants, three bars, the spa, fitness center, tennis courts and salt water infinity pool, Eclipse embodies convenient and modern luxury. The Eclipse’s open-air lobby design wastes no time showing guests what they came for– balayage blue sea and palm trees. Lots of palm trees. The location, which opened last year after a multi-million dollar overhaul, is equal parts classic and contemporary.

Families should reserve one of Half Moon’s 28 villas, each of which include a chef, personal butler and housekeeper, plus a backyard pool and golf cart to explore all of the property’s offerings. Set on impossibly lush green landscapes, the stark white colonial structures offer comfortable luxury and unmatched privacy. Celebrity couple Kanye West and Kim Kardashian can vouch from their visit to the villas earlier this season.

On finding irie at Half Moon, Potomac resident Meg Thompson credits the property’s “ambience, swim up bar, friendly staff and endless activities.” For Moussa Moaadel, also a Maryland resident, the vacation spot can be summed up in a few words: “simply marvelous.”  

ACTIVITIES GALORE

  • Fern Tree Spa

  • Wellness Cabanas

  • World Class Golf

  • Flood-Lit Tennis/ Squash Courts

  • Fitness Center

  • Children’s Village

  • Equestrian Centre (private lessons, sand stroll, surf and turf and pony rides)

  • Standup Paddleboarding

  • Pedal Boats

  • Snorkeling

  • Kayaking

  • Sailing

  • Windsurfing

  • Scuba Diving

  • Water Skiing

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