Editors' Picks


Barefoot luxury, romantic, idyllic

Oracabessa Bay, Oracabessa, St Mary 00000

(876) 975-3354

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At a Glance

This is the kind of island hideaway that James Bond might wash ashore on and coolly assess with a knowing smile.

Indagare Loves

  • The romantic thatch-roofed villa housing exactly the kind of bar you want to find at the end of an empty beach.
  • The two-bedroom beach cottages with huge daybeds downstairs
  • The decidedly cool vibe throughout


When the gate opens at GoldenEye, 20 minutes outside Ocho Rios in the town of Orcabessa, the view isn’t so golden: all you see as you drive past the guardhouse is a dense stand of brown tree trunks, with green leaves capping their tops. A minute or two later, you’ve driven further into the jungle and alighted near a couple of nondescript buildings that turn out to be the reception. This 21-room property may have a famous name and a polished reputation, but for the first few minutes it definitely refuses to play the luxury-property game.

Then you walk into a small lounge, decorated with local art and photos of author Ian Fleming, whose property this was in the ‘50s and ‘60s—and the curtain goes up. Beyond is a scene perhaps not quite worthy of a James Bond opener but pretty dramatic nonetheless. First, at the edge of the mainland where you’re standing, about two stories above sea-level, you encounter a suspension bridge leading over a gorgeous turquoise inlet. Down its steps, you reach a short slice of beach kissed with surf, wind and sunlight. On the left are a row of idyllic one and two-story wooden cottages, with front porches facing the sea. In the distance, there are two pools, one that hugs a raised terrace, and the GoldenEye infinite pool facing the sea. Behind is a romantic thatch-roofed villa housing exactly the kind of bar and restaurant you want to find at the end of an empty beach. Bridge, beach, bar—in fact, the whole construct is the very image of the kind of island hideaway that Bond might wash ashore on and coolly assess with a knowing smile.

Welcome to the latest incarnation of GoldenEye, which has had more lives than, well, a super agent, and each one more unlikely than its predecessor. Once a 15-acre donkey racetrack, it became Ian Fleming’s refuge in 1952, and here over the course of twelve winters the former secret service commander holed up to write all but one of his fourteen Bond books. For Fleming, less was much more as the four-room house, named after its owner’s first WWII mission, had no indoor plumbing or air conditioning.

GoldenEye began receiving paying guests in 1992, when reggae and rock music producer Chris Blackwell (whose mother, Blanche, was reportedly Fleming’s last lover) acquired the property. At first, he rented out only the main house and three cottages he’d added near it. Later, though, he acquired the lagoon and land beyond, allowing his vision for GoldenEye to grow. By then, Blackwell had become the owner of a handful of other Jamaican properties, and had long experience in creating unusual or unexpected retreats. With an expanded GoldenEye, he would now go a step—more a leap—further.

The beach houses and lagoon-side cottages and suites are not for everybody—they require a certain sensibility. It’s a very simple place at a luxury price point, but it’s harder to find this kind of feeling than it is to find traditional luxury. It’s nature-based, about making it as comfortable as possible to live around nature, to be able to hear and see all the things around you—the sea, the fish, the birds.  Accordingly, the beach villas have a stripped-down and simple open-plan design. A big day bed in the living area, an outdoor garden shower, a king bed on a landing just a few steps away, plus an ample front porch and a good-size kitchenette. The lagoon-side counterparts, perhaps because of the kayaks and paddle boards on the docks, seem to propose a more energetic vacation, although here too guests could avoid any exercise and just roll from their beds right onto their docks and straight into the water.

Indagare Tip

Consider making an entrance by helicopter. From the Montego Bay airport, the 2-hour drive becomes a 30-minute flight.

Who Should Stay

Anyone who wants to go somewhere new and fun and who won’t mind that it isn’t quite definable. Whatever it is—luxury nature retreat, as Blackwell describes it, or something else—it has an interesting, engaging and decidedly cool vibe.

Written by John Cantrell

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