My taxi arrived at the crack of dawn and its cool air conditioned breeze was a comfort as we drove along Montego Bay’s Hip Strip bound for Rose Hall. After a quick drive outside of city proper my driver made a quick left and popped open my door at the elegant entrance to one of Jamaica’s most celebrated luxury hotels.
Now in its 60th year, Half Moon Resort is located in the parish of St James on the north coast of Jamaica and sits amidst a sprawling private 400 acre estate. The property features beautifully landscaped gardens, a nature reserve, 197 rooms and suites scattered amongst white-rendered cottages and 24 jaw dropping villas. Half Moon sits on two miles of private beach, playing host to six fine-dining restaurants, 18 hole championship golf course, Equestrian Centre, 13 tennis courts, multitude of watersports and private Dolphin Lagoon.
I was greeted by the hotels PR Pro Diandra Shand who would play the role of Half Moon Spirit Guide, zipping me around the property on golf cart and playing paparazzi while I pranced on horseback. After meeting in the hotels white washed lobby we skipped over to the Seagrape Terrace, welcomed by a perfectly sunny morning where we sipped on cups of Blue Mountain coffee. I devoured a plate full of tropical fruit while watching the waves lap up onto the beach just a stones throw away.
After breakfast I was amazed as Diandra hustled along the beach in high heels as she toured me through some of the properties jaw dropping villas. From the oceans edge we marched up to the Equestrian Centre where horse fans have an opportunity to ride on the daily. Managed by Trina DeLisser, Federation Equestre Internationale Jumping judge, the Equestrian Centre features 28 groomed mounts, pony park, jumping/dressage arena and friendly local trail masters.
I was paired up with an enthusiastic guide after finding a perfect horse and helmet. I would be joining a group of guests that morning to enjoy Half Moon’s signature experience, Swimming with Horses. We trotted past luxury villa’s in search of the beach as the sun blasted across the horizon. While guests switched into their swimsuits guides removed each horse saddle before helping us hoist ourselves back on our beast. The group formed a single file line which soon marched bareback into the ocean. As our horses scaled the sandbar our legs sunk further into the sea. Just as my horse was about to lose its footing on the oceans bottom my guide instructed me to lay flat on my belly and push back, grabbing onto its tail. The whole group of us spent the next few minutes on our backs being pulled through the water by the huff and puff of a horse parade. Back on the beach we were all drenched and filled with sun-kissed giggles.
Lunch that afternoon would be enjoyed al fresco on the Oleander Terrace where Chef Omar Sybblis serves up traditional Jamaican fare at The Pepperpot. I started off by slowly sipping a Dark and Stormy while tan enthusiasts squirted themselves with sunscreen on the beach below. Chef Omar prepares a fresh chutney trio (featuring coconut, starfruit, pineapple and spicy tomato) which pair perfectly with the spicy offerings on his homegrown menu. Highlights at The Pepperpot include crispy Jerk BBQ Chicken Wings, Braised Oxtail with Broad Beans and steamed Snapper and Bammy with coconut milk and cassava cake.
I also enjoyed dinner at Half Moon Resort’s fine dining Sugar Mill Restaurant.
After lunch we waddled to the Fern Tree where I spent the next two hours loitering in quiet calm. The Spa at Half Moon offers a 68,000 sq ft sanctuary for the mind and body where guests can appreciate traditional Jamaican treatments amongst hardwood floors, grand entryways, lush tropical gardens, relaxation lounge, waterfall, yoga pavilion, sauna and meditation labyrinth.
A smiling therapist greeted me with a cold glass of water and outlined The Fern Tree Signature Massage treatment which starts with a ritual foot bath of Jamaican Cerasee. She then walked me to the oceans edge where private cabanas stand propped over rolling waves. Their signature massage is truly tropical, featuring an essential-oil blend of allspice, ginger and orange. The treatment is finished with infused body compress and a Jamaican rum splash. As I waddled back from the beach in my comfy white robe I couldn’t help but smirk. Half Moon offers guests a wild variety of unforgettable experiences and it seems as though I would bid adieu smelling like a rum spiked Pina Colada.