Actually everything was even better than simply "irie." Irie is a Jamaican term meaning everything is good or nice or pleasing. I can tell you that Round Hill Resort and Spa was way better than just nice or pleasing.
Round Hill sits about 25 mins from Jamaica's Sir Donald Sangster International Airport in Montego Bay. You won't see Round Hill from the highway as you drive along the coast. All you will see is a guard shack with a small sign that simply reads "Round Hill." Only guests of the resort and villas are allowed beyond that point. The remaining drive really sets the scene for what you are about to experience. Round Hill is elegant and luxurious but in a very subtle way. The small, palm tree lined road from the entrance to the resort lobby tells you this is a secluded gem of a place.
Nothing about Round Hill says "opulence" or "pretentiousness" that you find at some 5 star luxury resorts around the world. The words we heard from those around the resort trying to describe what they love about Round Hill were "understated luxury" or "Laid-back chic." The word we heard probably most often was "relaxed." That is exactly what you feel as soon as you approach the small check-in desk. The welcome rum punch for sure helps the relaxation process but you already feel your stress being left behind once you hear the words "Welcome to Round Hill."
Round Hill, once a sugarcane plantation, now converted into an amazing setting of private villas and resort guest rooms set along one of Jamaica's most secluded stretches of beach. You really feel as if no one even hardly knows this place exists, except for the other guests that you see, some of which are made up of famous actors/actresses, music celebs, the business world's who's-who and even some of the British Royalty.
It was a treat to hear stories about how JFK wrote his inaugural address (the famous "ask not" speech) while staying at Round Hill. Or how Ralph Lauren can be spotted sitting in his favorite area by the pool relaxing and reading a book (he happens to own one of the villas onsite). Or how even some of the Queen's relatives like to make Round Hill their tropical hideaway. So no...its not a secret place, but it maybe has been forgotten about in this age of "I must have an all inclusive resort in the Caribbean."
For those of us who have stayed here at Round Hill, we now appreciate the fact that it appears to be off the mainstream radar. It is not one of the mega resorts offering all you can eat and drink 24/7 that so many are flocking to. No, its a reminder of what luxury travel used to be like and hopefully will be returning to once again. It's a place where someone can experience incredible cuisine prepared by award winning chefs. It's a place where you can ask the bartender to "create you something fun and tasty" and he does just that...and it tastes amazing!
It's a place where staff gets to know your name. A place where you never ever feel rushed to do anything. It's a place where staff pays attention to detail. That is what luxury travel is all about.
So let's recap our stay. We opted for a deluxe ocean view room in the Pineapple House. The resort is made up largely of villas but there are a few deluxe ocean view and oceanfront rooms for those wanting more of a resort-type stay. The decor was what some designers may call "shabby chic." Ralph Lauren had a hand in decorating each room and you feel some of the "polo" influences but the white colors and dark woods remind you of the fact you are at a Caribbean resort and not some 5th Avenue high-rise hotel. The bed and sitting areas were cozy but the highlight of the room was the view. Our routine every morning was to get up and open the shutters letting the sounds of the Caribbean into our room while we brewed a fresh pot of Jamaican Blue Mountain coffee. Yes, your room is stocked daily with the ever hard to find and most delicious Jamaican Blue, as they call it. That is some of the best coffee you can ever have anywhere in the world. So needless to say we savored our coffee along with the view.
The only remark about the rooms that I think every traveler should be aware of is this is not your typical resort room. There are no TV's in the room. There are some windows with just shutters, no screens. This is why some call it "shabby chic." The rooms were meant to be an extension of the relaxation process not a place to hide away in and be bombarded with everything going on back at home or around the world. Yes there is wifi in the rooms for those that just have to stay connected but disconnecting is what Round Hill supports.
And for those that like upgraded bathroom products, Round Hill's rooms are stocked with Elemis toiletries. Some of them may have made it back with us in our luggage...maybe.
Our days consisted then of the following (after our morning routine) agenda. We made it to the restaurant that serves breakfast every day. Our toughest decision...did we want banana pancakes, french toast, coconut pancakes, veggie frittata, delish omelet, or maybe just some fresh off the tree fruit and some more of that amazing coffee? Then we would head back to our room, change into our pool wear and head to the pool, which was just steps away from our room. No need to get down the pool (there's only one) or beach at the crack of dawn to throw a towel on chairs. There was always ample places to call home for the day. Then the next toughest decision...how long do we hold out before ordering one of their knock your socks off rum cocktails? As the saying goes...it was 5 o'clock somewhere. Then we would walk down to one of the two beach bars and order one of their incredible lunch items such as the jerk chicken summer rolls or the jerk chicken breadfruit taco or maybe their chilled gazpacho. And naturally we would accompany lunch with another one of their rum specialties.
Then once we felt would could take anymore relaxation for the day, we would head back to the room and get ready for one of Round Hill's themed dinners. Each night they have a special dinner planned where the menu and entertainment follow a specific theme. We loved their Caribbean themed night because we got to try some of their native Jamaican cuisine such oxtail and salt fish etc. And the reggae band was a great accompaniment to dinner. Their beach BBQ was also delish and great fun and NO shoes required.
But one night we decided to splurge a little and try their 5 course dinner at what Round Hill simply refers to as, The Restaurant at Round Hill." I won't give you a course by course description because the menu changes daily. But I will tell you that it is worth every penny (few pennies actually). Let me just say that the meal was capped off with this delish concoction of chocolate and almonds top with 24kt gold. That's right...gold.
But before we enjoyed the evening's dinner, we would head to the cocktail bar that is adjacent to the seaside terrance restaurant for our pre-dinner beverage of choice. The bar also entertained guests with some form of live music each evening adding to the already relaxed but elegant ambiance.
The only times we deviated from this daily agenda was once when I decided a deep tissue massage was calling my name from the resort's lovely spa. The spa sits on its own stretch of land and beach away from the main resort area. This allows guests, who really are looking for a serene vacation, a place to really escape it all. There were hammocks for those who just wanted to cuddle up between two trees for a nap with only the Caribbean making any form of noise.
The second time we deviated was when we decided to give the afternoon tea service a try. This was a traditional tea service in full British style. Every guest can sit and listen to classical music while enjoying tasty finger foods and fine teas from around the world. It was a real treat that we highly recommend taking advantage of.
Costs are not going to be discussed here. This is not a resort that you decide to go to because you want to compare its cost to some other Caribbean or Jamaican resort. There is not an apples to apples comparison out there. You want to come to Round Hill because you want to experience what travel was like back in the hay day of classy resorts that the world's rich and famous sought out...like Grace Kelly or Bing Crosby or Kirk Douglas, etc who all made Round Hill their vacation destination. If you try to compare Round Hill to some all inclusive option, you are missing the mark by a long shot.
So when you are ready to be treated like a celeb and allowed to escape the stresses of work and home and when you are ready to savor some of the best food and drink this world has to offer and when you are ready to remember the real things that make someone happy and healthy...it will be time for you to visit Round Hill. And you too will come home saying...everything irie mon.