Half Moon Resort is for Jamaican Dreamin’

Half Moon Resort is for Jamaican Dreamin’

Horses in crystal clear waters, white sand beaches, rum and sugar served in a coconut: this is the idyllic promise of Jamaica, the third largest island in the Caribbean and frequented by more than 4 million tourists a year. It’s a promise certainly kept when you stay at Half Moon, the 400-acre resort that lays claim to nearly two miles of the sparkling sands and waters of Montego Bay. I visited Jamaica this spring to see the whole island, and the 70-year-old Half Moon is a must-see on the island for a number of reasons.

Half Moon’s sheer size and amenities are reason enough for many couples and families not to venture far off the property. With two miles of a private white-sand beach, an equestrian center, 11 lighted tennis courts, and an 18-hole championship golf course, most guests stay active on-site. What impressed me most was the huge, state-of-the-art gym, complete with a spin room and friendly attendants offering water refills and healthy snacks. A “kids’ village”, carefully hidden behind the gym, offers a place to play even for the little ones (from 3 to 12 years old).

I was pleased that there were so many activities within Half Moon as the four restaurants in Half Moon, particularly two, are excellent and well worth working up a big appetite for. The first restaurant, Delmare, blends Jamaican cuisine with classic Italian dishes and won “Restaurant of the Year” last year from a local newspaper. Executive chef Claudio Facchinetti, an Italian who fell in love with Jamaica years ago, wants to further elevate the restaurant, as well as Jamaican and Italian cuisine, beyond Jamaican chicken and pasta, respectively. Since he arrived at Half Moon four years ago, Facchinetti appears to be on his way to making Delmare one of the “top five restaurants in the Caribbean.” A standout feature of the dinner menu is the Jasper Oven (half grill, half oven) serving up locally caught snapper, monkfish and other meats, all served with Panzanella Salad, a classic Tuscan light chopped salad that Facchinetti has perfected. Another standout on its own is the Spaghetti Neri Alla Scogliera, a visually captivating pasta dish featuring squid ink “spaghetti” and a cornucopia of seafood topped with vibrant red tomatoes.

In addition to Delmare, Half Moon boasts another must-see restaurant, Sugar Mill Restaurant. It takes a five-minute drive from the main lobby to cross the busy street and get to the Sugar Mill restaurant, but once you know the origin of the restaurant, the “off property” location makes a lot of sense. The restaurant, now over 50 years old, embraces an actual sugar mill still standing from 1676. At night, the mill spins the water and provides a complementary soundtrack to the crickets and frogs that live in the thick side of the nearby mountain. Along with countless candles and strings of lights, the entire setting of the Sugar Mill restaurant is utterly enchanting. But unlike “touristy” restaurants that rely on visual spectacles at the expense of serving good, decent food, the cuisine at the Sugar Mill Restaurant is remarkably elevated. The butternut squash and white bean soup, as well as the Cho Cho stuffed jerk chicken rolls and papaya salad are excellent, as are the panfish gnocchi and the yardman (Jamaican slang) stuffed stew with plantain fritters. dorado male and stuffed jalapeño peppers. Christopher Golding, a Sugar Mill chef de cuisine for more than 13 years, is just as focused as Chef Facchinetti across the street.

When you’re not dining or gaming, Half Moon offers a number of inspiring spaces to savor. My room, one of the Hibiscus rooms located directly on the beach, was beautifully decorated with whimsical paintings by West Indian artist (born in Jamaica) Shane Aquart and straw hats and items made by Jamaican women from Beenybud. Outside, you could enjoy the sparkling, almost neon-blue water, or come back for an outdoor shower, shaded by huge palms and ferns right from the bathroom. There’s something indulgent about a tropical outdoor shower. One way to top off such a shower at Half Moon is with an overwater massage in one of the two Jatoba wooden bungalows, part of the resort’s Fern Spa.

One afternoon, after a massage, I joined Half Moon General Manager Shernette Crichton for iced tea. Warm and elegant, Crichton exudes the aura of a restorative luxury vacation. She wants Half Moon to be, “the BEST Resort in the Caribbean.” With such a lineup of amenities, dedicated chefs’ kitchens, and pristine real estate, Half Moon might well own that title.

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