Half Moon Resort in Jamaica celebrates 60 years of providing families and couples with a private getaway on Half Moon Bay, nestled on the warm waters of the Atlantic Ocean. The walls of the welcoming front lobby are full of pictures of dignitaries (including Canada’s own former Prime Minister Paul Martin), celebrities (Richard Branson), royalty (Queen Elizabeth II, Charles, and as recently as 2012, Prince Harry), and iconic historic figures like Jacqueline Kennedy, who penned a premature will on Half Moon stationary in 1960, a full three years before her husband’s assassination.
I had the chance to stay in one of the original cottages from 1954, complete with mahogany dining room suite and secretary’s desk, made on-site, as are many of the furnishings and draperies. There is a comfortable feel to this resort, from the seven bars to the staggering 54 swimming pools, many of which are private for the villas or shared cottages which sprawl across two miles of beachfront, over 400 acres of land, including a 20 acre natural reserve. Each cottage has the stamp of the original owners, and no two are the same. My rooms comprised of a living room, dining area with table, and a spacious bedroom and a washroom you could easily hold a cocktail party in.
The staff at Half Moon Resort seem like a large family; many of them have been with the resort for decades, including a few who joined in the 1970’s. Returning guests are greeted warmly and many choose to stay in the same rooms during each visit. 17 American families, three of whom are still active owners today, started the resort. I had the chance to meet some of their descendants, who visit very frequently, during my stay.
Because of the expansive beach front, it’s easy to find a private spot to lounge on a beach chair, sip a tropical drink and catch up on your reading. The only downside to the warm waters of the ocean here is that it doesn’t really cool you down when you enter the warm waters, but that’s what the tropical drinks are for, right?
The waters come into play a few times at Half Moon Resort; one of the most unique activities is the Beach Ride on one of their 26 horses. I was a little concerned about actually swimming with the horses, but we did it. We jumped on bareback (note to self: the jumping part is a little painful when you hit that backbone) with our swimsuits on, and were led out to the ocean where the horses really do swim, in a galloping straight up kind of way. We held on to their manes, flat on our stomachs, and then slid down their back to hold on the tail and be pulled around in a slow motion underwater equine waterski. Kids as young as eight can enjoy this activity, or simply go for a trail ride. Experienced riders can take jumping lessons in their paddocks.
The Half Moon Golf course is “Jamaica’s Augusta” and has been the only host of the Jamaican Open since 2007. The high end Sugar Mill restaurant is located at the golf course, where maître d Solomon has been greeting guests since it was a more casual grill back in the 60’s. There is a caddy requirement for golf, but you can choose to walk the course or take a golf cart. The golf carts are used heavily outside the golf course itself, as a quick way to zip between buildings, the fitness centre, the 13 tennis courts, and the two main restaurants.
Tours outside the resort can be arranged, and we took a visit to the Good Hope Estate, an original plantation home steeped in Jamaican history. After touring the great estate home, and enjoying a horse and carriage ride through the grounds, we did what you might expect to do in this idyllic setting: We went ziplining and tubing. These seemingly diverse features of the Good Hope Estate actually combine to make it a great place to take a family, combining historical learning with some extreme sports. And what better way to finish the day than with a rum tasting from Appleton Estates.
My next encounter with rum came at the Fern Tree Spa back at Half Moon Resort. While it might have seemed wasteful to have rum splashed on my back, and subsequently on my feet during the massage, it was a fitting way to end a traditional Jamaican experience.
Half Moon Resort welcomes children; their 22,000 square foot Anancy Children’s Village for the younger set, and a Hype Zone teen activity centre as well. The 13 tennis courts give the eight on-staff tennis pros plenty of room to offer group and individual lessons for the whole family. With 197 rooms and suites, plus 31 four, five, six and seven bedroom villas, families of all ages, sizes, and generations can be accommodated.
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Kathy was on a press trip hosted by Half Moon Resort.