I recently had the good fortune to stay at the unique and quite remarkable Golden Eye resort in Ocho Rios Jamaica. This is no ordinary resort or hotel, it is a private collection of lovingly cared for private villas, cottages and beach huts.
Before I wax lyrical about the rooms, the service and the incredible beauty of the resorts surroundings, let me first take you on a fascinating historical journey.
Renowned English author Ian Fleming discovers 15 acres of tropical overbrush, formerly a donkey racetrack, is for sale in the small, buzzy banana port town of Oracabessa Bay, Jamaica. Fleming telegraphs the local realtor, and bought the land. Fleming then sketches his dream villa on a desk blotter, naming it, GoldenEye. Once built he returns to dream up his super agent 007, James Bond.
Typing out 2,000 words a day, Fleming writes Casino Royale, the first of his 13 James Bond novels, all of which were written in his bedroom at GoldenEye. Three of the books — Dr. No, Live and Let Die and The Man with the Golden Gun - are set in Jamaica.
Britain’s Prime Minister in 1956 Sir Anthony Eden and his wife spend three weeks at GoldenEye. Eden writes to Fleming:“I do not think that there is any other place anywhere that could have given me the rest I have to have. The bathing, the beach, the seclusion, the size of the grounds were all just perfect to enjoy and be concealed.”
In 1961 Dr. No, the first Bond novel made into a film, is shot in Jamaica. At Fleming’s suggestion, Chris Blackwell is hired as a location scout and consults on the movie’s soundtrack.
In 1964 Playboy publishes the last interview with Fleming. In it, he explains the inspiration behind the name of his villa: “I had happened to be reading Reflections in a Golden Eye by Carson McCullers, and I’d been involved in an operation called Goldeneye during the war: the defense of Gibraltar, supposing that the Spaniards had decided to attack it.” Fleming sadly passes away on August 12th.
In 1976 Chris Blackwell, founder of Island Records buys Golden Eye, “I thought of living there,” he says, “but I never did—I just went there sometimes, swam there sometimes, let friends and family stay there sometimes. You could say it was a house I used as an entertaining place.”
In 1989 Blackwell sells Island Records and founds the Island Outpost group of boutique hotels, buying the Marlin in Miami’s South Beach and kicking off the fabled city’s rebirth as a hip destination.
In 2007 having already added 25 acres to the original 15-acre estate over a period of 30 years, Blackwell announces plans to add cottages and huts to the mix of villas that make up GoldenEye
In 2016 GoldenEye introduces…the Beach Huts! Blackwell fell in love with the beach hut concept on a trip across Jamaica back in the 1980s. Now, he’s built a hamlet of huts. All are designed so you feel one step away from sleeping under the stars.
When Chris first began building, he started with a hut for himself, then added one for his mum, then he built a one-, two- and three-bedroom villa. Each had its own style and vibe, and all were designed to be very private, enclosed in a lush jungle of tropical plants and trees. Chris furnished each with sexy outdoor showers and deep clawfoot tubs set between oversized palm leaves. All had airy verandas and kitchens. These timeless luxuries, paired with the thoughtful way we arrange your room (Blackwell Rum, hand-dyed batik robes, our selection of bath and beauty products made with local botanical ingredients), make your stay at GoldenEye extraordinary.
My wife and I were fortunate enough to stay in a beachside 2 bedroom villa. There are four Two Bedroom Beach Villas. Each opens directly onto Low Cay Beach. These two-story villas feature two spacious bedrooms (up and downstairs), both with king-size beds and en-suite bathrooms. The downstairs bedroom has an adjoining private garden with outdoor shower. Upstairs, the bedroom porch looks out to the sea. As with all Beach Villas, each is furnished with a full kitchen and private porch with outdoor dining table.
It is all the luxury you could want or need, no thought has been spared to create a villa that compliments its natural surroundings, blends easily into the gardens and forests and offers you the very finest of accessories and modern services without ever compromising on its natural charm.
The Resident Manager, Nejla Nourai is perfect for a resort this unique, she is everywhere, and can be found at breakfast, lunch and dinner and is so bohemian you would think she was a true Jamaican herself but is not, she is in fact from Algeria. She exudes the Island Outpost way of life and makes you feel right at home from the very start of your vacation.
Staying at Golden Eye opened our eyes, we have stayed at several properties across the Island, but no where like Golden Eye. Once you arrive, a seamless check in takes place and then you are shown to your private cottage, beach hut or villa. Now its time to lose your inhibitions, kick off your shoes and embrace life like it should be embraced, easy going, stress free and with a wickedly delicious rum punch in you hand.
There are no formalities at Golden Eye, you simply kick back and blend in with other like minded souls doing exactly the same thing, escaping life back home, a life of pressures, bills, taxes and politics.
Breakfast Lunch and Dinner are as you would expect, informal affairs, you dine at the very excellent Bizot Bar located just steps from the sea and their freshwater swimming pool.
At night the resort shimmers with flaming torches along the paths and sea front.
Chilled out Reggae music plays from the bar and you can easily forget not only where you are but who you are as you get swallowed up in the Island Outpost lifestyle.
The staff are friendly but super attentive, nothing is too much trouble; housekeeping, the incredible grounds staff, management, water sports and of course not forgetting the chef , his team and the incredible bar staff, a team dedicated to ensuring you have to worry about nothing.
The food is refreshingly Jamaican, but with a clever twist, their young self taught Chef, Alex Ford, who joined the resort in 2017 is an incredible find and a promising young talent. His dishes surpassed our expectations and offered us so many incredible surprises.
He has a flair for innovation and experimentation which results in dishes with flavour and texture combinations that will have you asking how and why, but you will be so glad he did.
The resort also has the very excellent and rustic Bamboo bar which serves an amazing jerk bbq along with fish caught that day and delivered by small boats which you simply have to try.
In addition there is the Shabeen Bar, a delightful area where on one evening we were entertained by local drummers and treated to a heady selection of cocktails, again, it’s a place you have to try, there is no standing on ceremony here, everyone chills and everyone enjoys themselves, I can’t see how you wouldn’t.
During our stay we had a tour of the Ian Fleming Villa. Pictures do not do this amazing property justice, it has to be seen to be believed.
Fleming Villa ranks among the Caribbean’s most enchanting retreats and captivates those in search of natural beauty and privacy.
Sited on the GoldenEye property yet on its own, separate parcel of land — with private beach, private pool and tropical gardens — Fleming Villa offers guests the best of both worlds: the seclusion of a villa vacation and the switched-on scene of a small, sophisticated resort that’s just a short walk away.
If you are lucky enough to book the villa, it comes with its own dedicated resident staff. Your butler will arrange for anything you’d like to do during your stay; your cook will prepare local Jamaican specialties. Your housekeeper will arrange for meals to be served wherever you’d like on the property (two favourite choices: between the two almond trees in the sunken garden or on the beach, where there’s a grill chiseled into the side of the rocky cliff).
Fleming Villa, the original structure that Fleming designed, has three bedrooms — a master suite, a queen-sized bedroom, and a bedroom with two twin beds. Each of these bedrooms has its own large, tropical garden bath area with claw foot tub and a garden shower. Newer additions to the property include two very private, stand-alone one-bedroom cottages, Sweet Spot and Pool House. Each has its own veranda, claw foot tub, outdoor shower and king sized bed. The cottages sleep two adults and an infant crib is available on request
And while you never have to leave Fleming Villa, you may want to book a massage at the FieldSpa, meet for snacks at Bizot Bar, browse the boutique and explore all things GoldenEye. Really, it’s the best of all worlds — and the very best of Jamaica.
The resort has won a huge array of awards over the years since its opening and continues to do so, recently winning this month the World’s Leading Luxury Hotel Villa 2022 award at the Grand Final of the World Travel Awards.
So, an award winning resort it is, and it will continue to be, but how do I sum up my stay at Golden Eye, well, it’s very simple:
Golden Eye is like no where else I have stayed, it offers guests something totally unique, escapism, pure escapism but with that wonderful outpost lifestyle, and in the capable hands of the ideal GM for this resort, Nejla Nourai , your stay will be memorable, that’s a guarantee.
Upon checking out, all you have to do is look back over the bridge to the main part of the resort and bid it adieu, never goodbye, you’ll be back, I know we will!