The first thing you notice as you arrive at Half Moon, driving through the manicured lawns and well-maintained tropical gardens, is the incredible ocean view. This is a delight which will consistently meet you throughout your visit to the venerable resort in Montego Bay. As you enter reception through the pavilion-style lobby, you are granted the luxury of checking-in while watching the ocean slowly welcome you not only to the hotel, but Jamaica too. After a long flight, it is always a pleasure to be met not only with the views over the ocean and the humbling Blue Mountains in the background, but also a rum cocktail, setting the tone for a remarkably pleasant trip.
I stayed in one of the Ocean View rooms at Eclipse, situated right on the beach with a panorama that I could enjoy from my wrap-around balcony. The decor was simple, but chic and elegant. The view from my king size bed was one of palm trees overlooking the ocean, and that was all the decoration I needed.
The resort offers a variety of accommodations to suit a range of groups. Rooms are split across the Eclipse at Half Moon, Founders Cove at Half Moon and Rose Hall Villas at Half Moon. In total there are 210 elegantly appointed rooms and suites, as well as 27 villas, all with easy access to resort amenities along a private beachfront. The villas go up to seven-bedrooms, and are perfect for families, groups and golfers, with each featuring a living and dining room, outdoor living space and private pool. Each villa comes with a butler, housekeeper and a cook. So attractive have they been over the years that Half Moon is able to boast past guests such as HRH Queen Elizabeth II, as well as other members of the British royal family.
One of the highlights of Half Moon, and any visit to Jamaica, is the beach. The resort lays claim to a private two-mile stretch, all of which is set up for your active enjoyment (bikes are also available to hire to explore the beach, resort and surroundings). It was here that I met some local vendors who have as much longevity and value as the resort itself, having maintained a presence and relationship with their stalls on the beach for over 17 years. Chatting will remind you of why you love Jamaica long into the future when you reflect back on the country and your vacations here. Half Moon also offers beachside service and dining at their BBQ Grill, offering traditional Jamaican fare.
For dinner and drinks I dined at the North Pointe restaurant. Here the sunset views give you an incredible vista, and, if you’re lucky, which you often are here in Jamaica, a breath-taking sunset. As the endless layers of golden pink water merged with the infinity pool, you can quite easily lose yourself in the view. I began with the Half Moon’s signature cocktail – the ‘Legacy 65’ – which is made with traditional Blackwell rum. It was created by the staff as an homage to Jamaica’s history of sugarcane production, honouring and raising a glass to all those who worked, and continue to work, in the many sugar cane plantations on the island. The drink itself was sweet, fruity, boozy and delicious.
Typically at home I eat a vegan diet, so it was refreshing and unexpected to see a wide array of vegan options on the menu (I later learned there is also a vegan cafe situated in the onsite spa). Despite these delicious offerings, I had previously decided that when in Jamaica I would eat as Jamaicans do (sorry veganism!). As I had anticipated there were numerous jerk items on the menu, but after many recommendations from various members of the team I opted for the sticky ribs as my main dish. Never would I imagine that I could describe ribs as decadent, but the reason for their many recommendations became clear. Falling apart from the bone they were the epitome of juicy, sticky and utterly delectable. I also had the popcorn shrimp, served with a spicy chutney, leaving me too full for dessert.
Instead I retired to watch a local jazz band play on the veranda of Lester’s Bar, which overlooked (you guessed it) the ocean, as well as diners in the Haywards restaurant. As I enjoyed the music alongside the nightly sound of crickets and tree frogs, I admired the stunning gardens around me. Jamaica is a fruitful land which Half Moon celebrates with their onsite banana, apple, coconut and mango trees. Consistently throughout the resort it is evident they always try to emulate the feeling of being outside when you are inside.
The following morning I ate at the Haywards restaurant where I was able to enjoy a traditional breakfast of ackee saltfish and dumplings. Breakfast was served buffet style, so I further indulged with a side of bacon, fried plantain, boiled green banana as well as a side plate of fruit. When I enjoyed the offerings of fruit juice, I was told by a server that “coconut water is the only juice to quench your heart,” meaning this was all I drank for the remainder of my stay.
There are a wide range of activities available onsite, ranging from horse riding on the beach, golf, tennis or ocean view yoga. My chosen form of exercise was to simply swim in the infinity pool, which was generous enough in size for lengths. For a deeper sense of complete relaxation and retreat, there are three additional pools in the resorts’ Salamander Spa to indulge in. Attention to detail does not go amiss here, providing an opportunity to further retreat within a retreat. You can also enjoy the private gardens, where all herbs used in services and cooking are grown on-site.
While unfortunate, it is impossible to not mention that we are living in a time of Covid-19. Half Moon went above and beyond my expectations; never once did I see a staff member without a mask, while hand sanitizer was available throughout the resort and cleanliness was maintained to the highest standards. But what impressed me the most was that in the midst of having to adapt to this new way of living and working in hospitality, what I was met with by staff and locals alike was a Jamaican’s natural flair for warmth and friendliness. The ability to maintain that human connection in a time like this is laudable. When I spoke to Laura Redpath, the resort’s brand and communications director, about my experience, she said: “Since we opened in 1954 our number one priority has always been to ensure that our guests feel welcomed, comfortable and safe. And we do not want this to change because of Covid-19.”
This sentiment was evident throughout my time with Half Moon.
As an added bonus, the Half Moon shopping village which neighbours the resort, have converted their once grocery store into a hospital where rapid Covid-19 antigen and antibody testing is available onsite for guests. This proved to be remarkably convenient, meaning I could get tested just hours before my flight home. On my trip back to the airport, talking to the driver and already reminiscing about my soon to be over stay, he said: “You can go anywhere in the world, but you will never find a nicer set of people than in Jamaica.” After my stay at Half Moon Resort I would be inclined to agree.