In Jamaica, a '90s Hotel with Timeless Appeal


For the Time Capsule series, we spotlight a cherished restaurant, hotel or landmark that’s changed remarkably little over the years. This week, we visit Jakes in Jamaica.

THEN

In the early 1990s, Sally Henzell opened Jakes, a restaurant in the middle of the fishing village Treasure Beach on Jamaica’s southwest coast. Soon there was a tiny thatched bar, a few cabins and a pretty pool. She kept adding rooms, always chic, funky, awash in color (”poems in cement,” she calls them). Named after Ms. Henzell’s family parrot, Jakes catered to locals, backpackers and artists seeking tranquility. Ms. Henzell, who was born in Jamaica to British parents and married filmmaker Perry Henzell, had been coming to Treasure Beach since childhood, when her father built a family cottage there (eventually that too became part of the hotel). The art director for her husband’s film “The Harder They Come,” starring Jimmy Cliff, Ms. Henzell infused Jakes with a bohemian, multicultural vibe, more ’60s than ’90s in spirit. It was always the antithesis of a gated resort. Guests could watch fishermen taking out their boats, and walk down the road to find a beer in a village shop or study an intense game of dominoes.

NOW

These days, Ms. Henzell’s son, Jason Henzell, runs the place. He has added extravagant villas and a budget hostel (in 2014, to honor those original backpackers), as well as another restaurant, Jack Sprat, a hit with locals and visitors. Everyone gathers for grilled fish, jerk chicken, lobster pizza or coconut curry octopus, lots of music and conversation. Ms. Henzell’s first rooms are still there, as is the little bar next to the pool, and the original restaurant up front. The main activities haven’t changed much—guests snorkel on the reef, head up the Black River to fish or birdwatch in the mangroves and then make a stop at Floyd’s Pelican Bar, which floats a mile off shore. Newer offerings fit right in: outdoor farm-to-table dinners, tours of local farms, pickup games of basketball or soccer in the sports park. The pandemic shut down the park—and the hotel— last year but now guests and locals alike are back, watching cricket and downing Red Stripes.

CREATIVE JUICES

Jamaica’s beauty has long inspired artists—professional and amateur—to hunker down for a while. Here’s where a few notables found inspiring hidey-holes.

Ian Fleming, author of the James Bond novels, at his villa in Jamaica, Goldeneye, in year 1964.



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Ian Fleming came to Jamaica while working in naval intelligence in the 1940s and then built Goldeneye, where he wrote his James Bond novels between 1952 and 1964. Now called the “Fleming Villa,” his former cottage is within one of the island’s most fashionable resorts (goldeneye.com).

Sir Winston Churchill first went to the Jamaica Inn in 1953, where he enjoyed painting. He preferred the White Suite (jamaicainn.com).

At posh Round Hill resort, Oscar Hammerstein, the original owner of Villa 12, wrote “The Sound of Music” in 1959 (roundhill.com/villa12).

In 1976, Alex Haley settled into Sally Henzell’s family cottage on Treasure Beach to finish writing “Roots: The Saga of an American Famly.” Treasure Cot, as it’s called, is one of the 12 cottages and villas now on offer at Jakes (jakeshotel.com).

ISLAND TIME

A few key dates in Jamaica’s tourism history

In 1931, Charles Lindbergh landed the first Pan Am Clipper, the amphibious Sikorsky S-40, in Jamaica, en route from Miami to Barranquilla, Colombia. The ‘Caribbean Clipper,’ a similar model, is shown here in Miami in 1937.



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1891

Jamaica, a British colony at the time, stages an international exhibition in Kingston to promote tourism.

1931

Charles Lindbergh lands the first Pan Am Clipper in Kingston Harbor (a similar model shown here in Miami in 1937).

1953

Marilyn Monroe and Arthur Miller honeymoon in Montego Bay.

1962

Jamaica gains independence from England.

1972

The film “The Harder They Come” introduces reggae to America.

June 2020

Jamaica becomes one of the first Caribbean countries to reopen during the Covid-19 pandemic.

SHARE YOUR THOUGHTS

If you’ve traveled to Jamaica, share your travel tips with other readers. Join the conversation below.

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