When Gentedimontagna founder Pavia Rosati went to GoldenEye in Jamaica, she couldn't stop taking pictures. It was a small attempt to capture a perfect tropical hideaway.
ORCABESSA, Jamaica – When I went to GoldenEye, I couldn't stop taking pictures. It was a small attempt to capture a perfect tropical hideaway. When you read so much about a place, you worry that it won't live up to the hype. Not GoldenEye. It exceeded my expectations.
The setting is boho chic cool. Have a GoldenEye rum cocktail at Bar Bizot. Pull a banana off a bunch hanging right there. Time for a paddle around the lagoon. Or a swim in one of the two pools. Or a snorkel. Oh, look a famous indie movie star is reading a book to his kid. Music is everywhere and always at the perfect volume.
The staff is terrific. General manager Jenny Wood ensures everyone stays happy and never wants to leave. Concierge of cool Clayton Hinds arranges excursions if you can tear yourself away, and is great company. Our driver Oneil knows the best places to eat on the north side of the island. The waiters were funny and sparky, and the cooks taught me to make their insane akee with salt cod. (The outstanding food of Jamaica is another photo story.)
Am I gushing? I've barely started.
Look right on the bridge, and you see the Caribbean.
Look left on the bridge, and you see the lagoon that winds behind the island.
There's a little island right off the shore with a bar, chairs, and photo-ready palm trees.
Chairs and umbrellas arranged in front of the beach cottages. Miraculously, cocktails and cool towels appear throughout the day.
The pillars at Bar Bizot are covered with old record albums: Nina Simone, Jazzmatazz, Rolling Stones, and of course Bob Marley.
The saltwater pool outside Bar Bizot has a golden eye. Get it?
In the gazebo, Ian Fleming photos line the walls, and reggae is everywhere.
The playful signs (and menus and website graphics) were painted by my pal, the artist and author Leanne Shapton.
GoldenEye provides the gear for all water sports: paddleboards, kayaks, snorkels, and a glass-bottom boat.
The cottages along the lagoon are a whole other kind of romance and calm. We grabbed flippers every day and went swimming through these waters.
The field spa where I had a heavenly massage staring out onto the lagoon. (Well, for 15 minutes until I fell asleep.)
Tell me this guy's not posing for me.
One night we took a ride up to Firefly, Noel Coward's former home on the hillside. Everything in the house has been preserved. These sketches were on a table in his studio.
Noel Coward's living room. He was great friends with the mother of GoldenEye owner Chris Blackwell, as well as Ian Fleming. Talk about a boho chic scene.
Assorted objects in the living room at the Noel Coward house.
Noel Coward's "Sail Away" on the record player. The house is full of charming details.
A statue of Noel Coward in the garden. I can only assume he spent many happy days like this.
Noel Coward's final resting place. Not a bad view to ponder throughout eternity.
The beach in Port Maria, downhill from Firefly.
How I spent my days: reading with a Blackwell rum cocktail nearby. The bag is Hayden Harnett, the pink sandals cost $4 in Jaipur. The robe was theirs; I should have brought one home.
Outdoor shower + hammock = the ultimate spa.
My neighbor got a hand making sandcastles from one of the staff. Everyone on Team GoldenEye is funny, kind, and so, so cool.
Guests can plant trees on the property to benefit the local community.
This is one family that planted a tree. Others include Kate Moss, Martha Stewart, Bob Marley.
On our last night, they set up a dinner table at the end of the pier. We invited our new friends Michael and Kim to join us. It seemed selfish not to share.
The view from the dinner table. Later that night, all the guests watched the Oscars at Ian Fleming's villa.
We thought four days would be enough. We could have stayed for weeks.
PLAN YOUR TRIP
Fly: Sangster International Airport (MBJ) in Montego Bay has direct flights to many US cities and is an hour and a half away by car. Norman Manley International (KIN) in Kingston is two hours away. The hotel will arrange transfers to either. Ian Fleming International Airport (OCJ), just a few minutes away, caters to the priate jet and helicopter crowd. (How we wish the airport code was "007.")
Drive: Jamaica is a former English colony, so they drive on the left side of the road. You can rent a car to get around, but GoldenEye has excellent drivers who can guide you to the best area attractions and local jerk shacks. Good to know: The island is deceptively large, and the roads aren't all fantastic. Distances may take longer to cover than you might think.