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.
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.
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.
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.
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.