Looking for a great spa in Jamaica? Most are found in Jamaica's Northwestern corner, near the beach resort towns of Negril and Montego Bay. There are lots of direct flights to Montego Bay, and the resorts there are just 15 minutes from the airport. Negril is about an hour and a half drive from Montego Bay.
This makes Jamaica a quick warm weather spa getaway, especially from the East Coast. And the massage therapists tend to better than many other Caribbean destinations. It is also known for its hot springs, which I wasn't able to explore.
Jamaica is known as "the land of wood and water," with mountains and rivers as well as beaches. The spas are excellent, but you can also find ziplines, horseback riding, hiking, hot springs, historical sites, and a lively party scene. Accommodations range from all-inclusive resorts for couples or families (even nude resorts for adults) to affordable properties to luxury hotels and inns.
The best spas tend to be in the luxury properties,... but Spa at Rockhouse Hotel is an affordable standout. The weather is at its finest between November and April. For something completely different (and cooler in summer), try Strawberry Hill in the mountains outside Kingston, at the other end of the island.
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Round Hill has been a casually elegant getaway for the rich and famous since it first opened in 1953. Set on its own 30-acre private hillside peninsula and commanding all the shoreline, Round Hill has 27 private villas (one owned by Ralph Lauren) available for guests and the 36-room Pineapple House, decorated by Lauren himself. It's so close to the water you can hear the waves while you drift off the sleep. Walk along the shoreline to the spa, set in a historic plantation house with sweeping lawns, giant trees, and hammocks and lawn chairs perfect for relaxing. I had a fine deep tissue massage here customized with essential oils of lemongrass and rosemary, making it an aromatherapy massage. Round Hill is just 20 minutes from Sangster International Airport in Montego Bay -- but feels a world apart. Tel. 800-972-2159 or 876-956-7050. Book now.
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This is a large hotel set back from a nice stretch of beach, with colorful rooms, yellow and pink hallways, and prints of parrots. There are crafts vendors on the beach and a jerk center for parties. American business travelers used to luxury accommodations and top-notch service feel at ease here. The spa is small, hearkening back to a more modest era, but I had an absolutely wonderful deep tissue massage here. LaToya "listens to the body" and for me, a spa is only as good as the treatment. A beach with small shade trees is a great place to chill, plus there's an 18-hole golf course, White Witch, considered one of the best in the Caribbean. Other nice features: a kid's club, a gazebo for getting married, and plenty to do off-property. Tel. 876-953-2800 or 800-241-3333. Book now.
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Rockhouse is an affordable boutique hotel perched on the rocky cliffs of Pristine Cove, a few miles away from Negril's famous "Seven-Mile Beach." So it's off the beaten path, a little quieter, and everything, including the spa, is built of stone. Guests swim in the sixty foot horizon pool or take the stairs carved into the rock down to the cove for snorkeling on the reef. The best rooms are thatched-roofed villas right at the cliff's edge -- perfect for sunset-watching. The Spa Pavilion at Rockhouse is small but lovely, with three treatment rooms surrounding an open air reflecting pool. I loved this spa. The treatments incorporate beautiful essential oil blends, products and protocols created by Linda Hall, owner of Caribbean Essentials. If had an awesome body scrub hand-made with organic brown sugar, green tea and a blend of mint essential oils, and discovered they're not quite as fussy about draping as they are in American spas. Tel. 876-957-4373 Book now.
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Fern Tree is the largest and most lavish of Jamaica's spas, a 68,000 square-foot indoor/outdoor sanctuary with hardwood floors, grand entryways and opulent furnishings. Treatment rooms open to a private garden terrace, and you can have the doors open or closed. Couples may reserve over-water spa bungalows.Families, wedding parties and groups can book a separate spa cottage with separate living and spa treatment areas for maximum fun and comfort. Fern Tree also houses a relaxation lounge, yoga pavilion, sauna and steam rooms and meditation labyrinth. All signature treatments begin with a welcoming footbath, and incorporate indigenous herbs, flowers, bark, roots and fruits. Fern Tree also has a Spa Elder who is available for classes and private consultations to develop personalized wellness and rejuvenation programs. Tel. 876-518-0477. Book now.Continue to 5 of 6 below.
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Perched 3,100 feet above sea level in the Blue Mountains, Strawberry Hill is the exception to the rule about Jamaican spas being on the beach. This former plantation has a Main House and twelve handcrafted colonial-style cottages sprawled across 50 acres. Each cottage gives you a private mountainside tropical haven with panoramic views of Kingston, Jamaica's capital city. The Strawberry Hill Living Spa specializes in stress relief and organic healing based on the five elements practiced in Ayurvedic philosophies. The Spa has five treatment rooms, including a specialized hydrotherapy room as well as a yoga deck. The hiking is tremendous in these bio-diverse mountains. It's hour from the Kingston airport. Tel. 1-800-OUTPOST (U.S. and Canada) or 876-622-9009. Book now.
06 of 06GoldenEye was once the home of James Bond 007 creator Ian Fleming, and is now a super-expensive, super-exclusive retreat nearly two hours east of Montego Bay. You can get here by renting a car, hiring a driver, or taking a commuter flight. The 52-acre compound includes the original 3-bedroom house that was Ian Fleming's, set on a bluff between the sea and a Bond-like lagoon that is peaceful and placid. You must rent Ian Fleming's whole house, but there are other cottages and villas in other settings, including beach-front. Field Spa is a two-cottage complex that used to be Naomi Campbell's private retreat. The main building has three treatment rooms, while the octagonal King Room (which used to be her bedroom) is equipped with an outdoor shower and bath. Treatments include indigenous ingredients like pimento, ginger, and "leaf of life." Tel. 876-975-3354. Book now.