Goldeneye, Jamaica

Shaken, not stirred.

By Jenn Rose Smith
Jennifer Rose Smith at the Goldeneye Resort in Jamaica

From the moment I discovered the Goldeneye Resort online I wanted to go there: a private estate-turned hotel on a pristine stretch of beach in northern Jamaica. Once the home of James Bond author Ian Fleming, the property offers the rare treat of experiencing Jamaica how it might have been in the ’50s: quiet, secluded, and exclusive. So when Michael and I packed our bags for a long weekend in February, our sights were set on Goldeneye. A relatively easy day of flying landed us in Montego Bay, and we glanced anxiously out of our taxi window towards the beach. We didn’t know that we would find so much more than white sand and teal waters in Jamaica. Looking back, I can’t think of a place more colored by its people — their beautiful round vowels and genuine friendliness. How can a culture be this chill? Well, start by living in paradise…

photographed by jennifer rose smith and michael spruiell

The first thing that hits you in Jamaica is the landscape: Our two-hour drive from the airport in Montego Bay to Goldeneye carried us along a picturesque shoreline flanked by lush green mountains. When we arrived at Goldeneye, the crystal blue water and white sand was almost surreal. Is this a dream?

And next, the people. We were truly welcomed every step of the way on our trip by the Jamaican people. Theirs is a culture that’s warm, laid-back, and genuinely friendly. According to our driver there are four seasons on the island: summer, summer, summer, and summer. Maybe that’s why locals like Mezanne Moo-Young (who we met hanging out at the Bizot Bar) have such killer tropical style.

“JA” has long been a retreat for artists and writers seeking inspiration (and relaxation.) Author Ian Fleming, famous for penning the James Bond novels, set up shop on the island in 1946. He bought 15 acres above a small beach cove and built a bungalow there he dubbed “Goldeneye.”

Fleming wrote every single one of the Bond novels while living at Goldeneye in Jamaica, so naturally he sent James on more than one tropical adventure. The first film in the series ever made, Dr. No, prominently features the landscape of the island. (Here actors Ursula Andress and Sean Connery enjoy the scenery between takes.)

Today, Fleming’s beachside bungalow is part of the larger Goldeneye Resort. And for those willing to shell out the clams, you can even stay in the Fleming Villa and enjoy his own private beach. (Yes — it really does look like this.)

Once checked in, we delighted in the simple beachy design of the hotel’s lobby featuring Fleming and Bond memorabilia. There were old paperback novels, framed newspaper clippings, and a few strategically placed backgammon boards. Everything about it was just right. I’m taking serious notes for my future beach bungalow.

Goldeneye Resort is also known for being a water sport haven — there were kayaks, paddleboards, tubes, and a glass-bottom boat all at our disposal on the beach.

We couldn’t wait to try a bit of snorkeling and go looking for sting rays.

Me (doing my best Ursula Andress) on the coast of Jamaica.

Fortunately, Goldeneye keeps the Bond theme at a tasteful bay. There are plenty of touches around the property that are purely Jamaican — like these colorful wooden chairs overlooking the sea.

Our favorite clipping from the lobby was an interview with Ian Fleming titled How to Write a Hit Novel where the author quipped “Fortunately, I had an island hideaway.”

We had almost every meal of our trip at the Bizot Bar, Goldeneye’s chill outdoor bar and restaurant.

The bar is plastered with colorful album covers. Reggae is the heartbeat of Jamaica, and all of our dining was set to the soundtrack of Jimmy Cliff, Toots & The Maytals, and (of course) Bob Marley.

Every meal we had at the Bizot Bar was incredible, and our favorites included spicy Jamaican fish cakes (pictured here) and pepper pot soup.

We opted for one of the lagoon cottages, which I can’t recommend enough. I enjoyed practicing yoga on the back porch followed by a dip into the crystal clear water. Hashtag namaste, mon.

The hotel owner’s wife designed all of the textiles around the property including the brightly colored robes in each room. We loved the claw-foot tub in our cottage bathroom.

… but the outdoor shower was hard to beat for pure tropical refreshment.

Our Camille Styles intern, Paige, has family in Jamaica and she tipped us off on Scotchies — a jerk chicken spot that’s a favorite among locals.

The bartender at Scotchies greeted us with the same friendliness we encountered throughout the island. And hooked us up with a few red stripes, too!

As a 4th generation Texan, I think it should bear some weight when I say that Jamaicans know how to barbeque. I can’t even think about Scotchies without going into a full-on chicken daydream. The meat there was so tender, and yet still had that perfectly seasoned crispy skin that makes for the perfect bite.

Our driver Laurel was one of the most joyful people I’ve ever met. She’s a tour guide, a Jamaican history expert, an impressive driver, and an awesome person to have lunch with. Needless to say, we agreed to not hold back on getting messy at Scotchies.

Back at the resort, I still wasn’t over the color of the water. So many shades of aquamarine…

Paddleboard: one of the preferred modes of transportation for the staff at Goldeneye Resort.

The end of our long weekend came too quickly, and we had to decide what to do with our last half-day in Jamaica. Our choice was easy. We spent our last hours on the island doing what’s (arguably) the best thing to do there — just laying on the beach and dreaming.

book your stay at the goldeneye resort here
and make sure to request laurel blair as your driver!