Located on Jamaica’s north coast is Half Moon, one of the most iconic 5-star luxury resorts in the Caribbean region. Set on 400 acres of manicured grounds, the Half Moon resort in Jamaica is a mere ten-minute drive from the Sangster International Airport in Montego Bay.
Opened in 1954 by a group of seventeen American, British, and Bermudian families (three of which are still involved in managing the resort), Half Moon Jamaica recently underwent US$75 million in renovations as part of its 65th anniversary.
With a wide variety of activities and 800+ welcoming staff, many of whom have been with the resort for decades, it is the sort of place I will return to time and time again, whether traveling solo or with family and friends.
Half Moon Jamaica: First Impressions
Once through the gates of Half Moon Jamaica, I was immediately captivated by the grand design of the entrance of the Great House with tall Greek-style Corinthian columns. Guarding the lobby are two magnificent lions leading to a large open-plan reception area with a spectacular view of the sea.
Within the lobby with beautiful furniture, all of which are designed by Half Moon’s design doyenne, Joan Coore, and made on-site, are some stunning artwork by Michael “Lester” Leszczyński depicting Jamaica life. A polish immigrant to Jamaica after World War II, Half Moon has the largest private collection of Leszcynski’s art, much of which are displayed throughout the resort.
Fun fact: Also, in the lobby at Half Moon Jamaica is a copy of Jackie Kennedy’s handwritten will and testament, which she wrote out while staying at the resort.
Half Moon Jamaica: Founders Cove, West Cottages 1 (Prestige Ocean Suite 1015)
When Half Moon in Jamaica first opened in 1954, the resort had a group of thirty beachfront rooms, and seventeen whitewashed cottages on thirty-five acres of land. Today, ten of these original West Cottages remain and are incorporated into Founders Cove at Half Moon. Now expanded to 400 acres, Half Moon resort in Jamaica has an additional 28 villas and 210 rooms and suites, many with their own pools. These are part of the newer wings: Rose Hall Villas at Half Moon and Eclipse at Half Moon.
During my recent visit, I had the opportunity to stay in one of the original West Cottages within Founders Cove at Half Moon. Upon entering the cottage at Half Moon Jamaica, I was overwhelmed by the size and grand nature. Not only did it have a spacious bedroom and bathroom with a whirlpool tub, but there was also an entrance room with a baby grand piano, a large lounge, and a kitchen fully stock with a range of cold and refreshing drinks. In the front of the cottage with somewhere between 1,500 and 2,000 square feet is a pool with a lounge area, and in the back is an outdoor terrace leading to Sunset Beach.
One of the Prestige Ocean Suites, it is one of (if not) the best within Founders Cove at Half Moon and is most often booked by celebrities, dignitaries, and royals. Now, if only the walls could talk, as we couldn’t confirm any royal or celebrity names from the housekeeper. This is as it should be, as Half Moon Jamaica is known for its privacy and discretion when it comes to hotel guests.
Half Moon Jamaica: Food & Dining Options
One of my favorite things about Half Moon is how Jamaican food (produce, sauces, and spices) are at the heart of the culinary experience of this 5-star luxury resort. This isn’t often the case for most luxurious Caribbean resorts whose menus are primarily American and European. So each morning, I looked forward to having a traditional Jamaican breakfast at the Seagrape Terrace located on the ground floor of The Great House. I loved the wide selection of fresh fruits, local drinks (guava pineapple juice, mango carrot juice, sorrel, coconut water, etc.), and traditional breakfast dishes like fried plantains, yams along with ackee and saltfish, the national dish of Jamaica.
Lunch most days was at Moonchies beach grill. My favorite was the jerk pork (or chicken), with roast sweet potatoes and fried Bammy, a traditional Jamaican cassava flatbread.
On days when I didn’t want to have a big lunch, I’d have a delicious tropical fruit smoothie from Lester’s Cafe, named after the artist Michal Leszczynski whose artwork adorns the resort.
Dinner was normally at Il Giardino for authentic Italian cuisine or the Sugar Mill, Half Moon’s signature restaurant. Located on the former Running Gut Estate on the Rose Hall Sugar Plantation, Sugar Mill under Chef Christopher Golding is an award-winning fine-dining restaurant known for its unique twist on Jamaican food.
Note: The above restaurants, except for Sugar Mill, are in the Founders Cove at Half Moon. There are also a few bars in this area, including Cedar Bar and Hibiscus Pool Bar. Beyond this, there is also the 19th Hole Bar at the Half Moon Golf Course. Also, once the Eclipse at Half Moon wing is fully complete (March 2020), there will be an additional seven bars and restaurants. This will include Delmare, a seafood restaurant, and Hayward’s specializes in buffet and freshly prepared Caribbean dishes.
Half Moon Jamaica: Beaches and Pools
Half Moon Jamaica is lined with two miles of private white sand beachfront. The two main beaches are Sunrise Beach and Sunset Beach, which is crescent-shaped, and the inspiration for the resort name Half Moon. Sunrise Beach is close to the new wing, Eclipse at Half Moon, and Sunset Beach is near the original West Cottages now, Founders Cove at Half Moon. Along with swimming and lounging, both are great for watching sunrise and sunset.
Beyond the beaches, most of the cottages, villas, and suites at Half Moon resorts in Jamaica have their own pool. There are also a number of large community pools, including the Olympic size one near the Hibiscus Pool Bar.
Half Moon Jamaica: Activities & Amenities
Like most 5-star luxury resorts, Half Moon in Jamaica has a wide range of activities for their guests to enjoy! With two miles of beachfront, one of the main activities for guests is the range of water sports, including snorkeling and diving. Guests can also hang out at the beach bars and go kneeboarding, parasailing, sailing, tubing, wakeboarding, and waterskiing.
For families, there is the Anancy Children’s Village, where children aged three to twelve can play and make friends supervised by nursery staff.
At Half Moon Jamaica, there is also a fitness center with state-of-the-art equipment and a full schedule of classes. For squash and tennis fans, there are eleven floodlit courts. There are also blue bikes for those who wish to cycle around and explore the 400 acres property.
For horse lovers, there is a large equestrian center at Half Moon Jamaica. Opened in 1986, the Half Moon Equestrian Center offers riding, jumping, and polo lessons for beginners and experienced riders.
Surprisingly, one of my favorite activities while at Half Moon resort in Jamaica was taking a golf lesson at the Half Moon Golf Course. Opened in 1962, the Half Moon Golf Course is an 18-hole par-72 championship course that was designed by renowned architect Robert Trent Jones, Sr., and modernized by Roger Rulewich. A novice to golf, I found myself quickly picking up the mechanics of the sport after a lesson with Kevyn Cunningham, Director of Golf. So definitely something to try again!
Now perhaps my favorite activity at Half Moon Jamaica, beyond exploring the resort and sampling all the delicious authentic Jamaican cuisine, was spending a day at the Fern Tree Spa, which has been open since 2007. The initial plan was to have a quick tour and massage, but the environment was so tranquil that I ended up spending most of the day there. First, snapping photos at the over-the-water bungalows used for spa treatments, and then in the main facility for a Fern Tree Signature Massage. I just spend time relaxing and drinking tea, and snacking on fresh fruits. I also wandered through the gardens, taking occasional dips in one of the small pools.
NOTE: There is a vegan cafe inside the Fern Tree Spa at Half Moon resort in Jamaica. Created in partnership with Dr. Aris Latham, who is considered to be the father of gourmet ethical raw foods cuisine in America, Ital Cafe serves up a range of vegan dishes, including Papaya Berry Pie. Now, I’m not really a big fan of vegan food, but I did love the range of juice shots (melon melody, green bush, papaya, tomato hot shot, etc.) that are chased with coconut water. So refreshing and yummy!
Half Moon Jamaica: The Verdict
Half Moon Jamaica is one of the finest 5-star luxury resorts in the Caribbean region. The decor is elegant at the expansive 400 acres resort but not pretentious or stuffy. The rooms are spacious, and the grounds are beautifully maintained. Plus the staff at all levels are welcoming and quite attentive. The majority of the delicious food is also unapologetically Jamaican/Caribbean.
Nightly Jamaican treats are also a nice touch. So along with the two miles of beautiful white sand beach and a range of activities, it is showcasing the best that Jamaica has to offer, and I look forward to visiting again with family and friends in the years to come. Especially since the rates are quite reasonable — during the low season, they start at US$250, and then during the high season, they start at US$425.
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