Honeymoon in Jamaica

Continued (page 2 of 3)

The town of Port Antonio is a land apart, with a slower beat, an elegant past, and eye-filling scenery. The beaches are superb: Boston, San San, and the romantic Blue Lagoon—more of a spring-fed oasis than a beach, begging you to swing from an overhanging vine. If you wonder where jerk chicken and pork came from, this area is the source. Just follow the smoky aroma to a roadside stand and order a plate of the spicy stuff, slow-cooked on pimento wood in open pits.

The Sounds You'll Hear

Walk into any hotel lounge, sidle up to a beachside bar, pass a MoBay street corner: Jamaica pulses with music. It's steel bands and limbo; your grandmother's folk and calypso ballads like "Matilda" and "Island in the Sun"; the latest soca, ska, and reggae; and the new rage, dancehall, with its bumpy rhythms and racy lyrics.

You'll hear a smoothed-over dancehall in the lounges and clubs along the Hip Strip in MoBay. For a moodier evening, catch the veteran jazz guitarist and composer Maurice Gordon at the Ritz-Carlton Resort in Montego Bay. Out in Negril, join the happy, dancing crowds at Alfred's Ocean Palace. You'll swing and sway by the sand, pausing to swig a Red Stripe beer or a rum punch concocted by one of the entertaining bartenders. In Port Antonio, night brings out the sultry beat of crickets and frogs, as well as the sounds of jazz-inflected reggae at clubs like the Blue Lagoon, which has a huge deck set over a luminous bay. Or kick off your shoes and dance to the live reggae and calypso bands at the Dragon Bay Hotel's thatched-roof Cruise Bar, named for Tom Cruise, who shot Cocktail here.

Where You'll Stay

The island has enough variety for every taste and budget: stylish beachside resorts, cozy inns, private villas with snappy service, and the famous all-inclusive resorts, which charge a single up-front fee for all fun and games, food and drink. Of these, one of the best is Couples Negril, tastefully spread across 18 acres at Bloody Bay, romantic to the last detail. Take one of the 18 suites (there are 216 rooms), each with a balcony over the sea or garden. Go windsurfing, snorkeling or just plop yourselves down on the beach (swimsuits optional at one end). Another surefire choice is Sandals Dunn's River, which combines Mediterranean chic with kicked-back Caribbean flavor on a fine beach. Royal Plantation Ocho Rios was recently selected for membership in the Leading Small Hotels of the World organization. Built 50 years ago as the last word in island elegance, the resort today reflects the grace of days gone by.

Imagine your own sprawling Shangri-la: Half Moon Montego Bay, 400 smartly manicured acres and a curving two-mile beach, seven restaurants and two bars. Golf or tennis, anyone? Try out the resort's excellent Robert Trent Jones Sr. golf course, or the tennis courts surrounded by gardens. You'll snorkel for hours in the shallows just off your terrace, paddling among the blowfish, big pink conchs and bright parrot fish. Stay in a whitewashed villa and enjoy the good life that has brought Queen Elizabeth II, Roger Moore, and the Kennedys to Half Moon. Round Hill Hotel and Villas, eight miles west of MoBay, is a Caribbean legend, a refuge for celebs then and now: from Clark Gable, Grace Kelly, and Paul McCartney to Demi Moore and Sigourney Weaver. Ralph Lauren, who owns a villa here, decorated the main bar and lobby. Stay in the 36-room Pineapple House Hotel by the sea or in one of 27 private hillside villas, which come with a private pool and a housekeeper who cooks your breakfast of fresh fruit, eggs, and banana pancakes. Stake out the glam new spa, set in an 18th-century plantation house by the sea.

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