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TravelPod Member ReviewsGreat Huts Port Antonio
Well everyone, we're back from our two week trip to the beautiful Caribbean. We were thrilled to miss all the record-breaking snowfall you experienced in our absence but happy to be back home in good 'ole Beantown, U.S.A, which by the way, now seems to be universally known as "The Town" (thanks Ben...not sure it's the right image but I'll still take the recognition).
This is the first in a set of four reviews I'll be submitting, in no particular order, from this familiarization trip. To view videos from our trip to Barbados and Jamaica, visit my YouTube channel at http://www.youtube.com/ultimateislandescape. For pictures of this trip, visit my photo album at http://www.facebook.com/ultimate.island.escapes.
The following is my review of Great Huts, an eco-tourism resort located in the quaint town of Port Antonio and adjacent to Boston Bay Beach on the east coast (A.K.A. - The jerk pork/chicken/fish capitol of Jamaica) :
As a travel agency owner I have traveled to many places throughout the Caribbean and have stayed in all levels of accommodations. What I have found, without exception is that they all have their high points and their low points and absolutely no resort is right for everyone. I advise the readers of this site to look at the overall rating of this particular resort. If you are a frequent user of TripAdvisor you should know that to be listed #1 is quite an accomplishment.
I have visited Great Huts on two occasions which is typically not my practice being a travel agent who tries to experience as many hotels as possible during one trip. But this was my vacation and I wanted to stay where I would feel most at home and be immersed in the natural beauty and endearing, down-home hospitality of Port Antonio. If you have never visited this side of Jamaica, then you must go. Great Huts is located adjacent to Boston Bay Beach and within minutes of attractions such as Reach Falls, Rio Grande Rafting, The Blue Lagoon, the Blue Mountains, Frenchman's Cove Beach and so many more. You could visit each one within a week and still have time to lay on their private cove beach for suntanning in a hammock or deck chair. There's even a diving platform at the top of a cliff if you're daring enough to try. If not, it's a good vantage point for watching the surfers ride the waves into Boston beach. If you want to take lessons, ask for Charlie. Anyone at the resort will be able to tell you who he is and I recommend him because I've watched him ride and teach - he excels at both.
The drive from Norman Manley International Airport in Kingston is a 2.5 hour trek but not to be missed. You will wind though the peaks and valleys of the Blue Mountain range with magnificent views of the local farmlands, wildlife and the light clouds that hang in it's crevices. In fact, it's a very large part of the reason I choose to vacation on the east coast of Jamaica.
As you make the turn to the entrance of Great Huts you will see that, located right outside the hand-carved wooden front gate, is the Boston Jerk Center, reputed to have the best jerk chicken/pork/fish/lobster on the whole island and we are not able to argue this apparent fact. Tuesday night is the fish fry and reggae bash. Go there to dance to lively reggae music or to play a rousing game of dominos.
Once you pass through the gates your eye will not know what to focus on first. It is a masterpiece of visual stimuli. Oh, I'll admit, Great Huts is not for everyone and does not claim to be. That is the what gives it so much of its charm. This is a place for true nature seekers. If you are the 5-star hotel type, you will not like Great Huts. But if you are one who appreciates art, culture, natural beauty, wildlife and adventure all rolled up into one great place, then Great Huts is your dream destination.
Imagine stepping into your bamboo tree house perched on the edge of a 60 foot cliff with a perfect view of the turquoise waters and surfers below. You can see them but no one can see you through the lush greenery of the bamboo growing from the edge of the cliffs. Imagine lying in your hot tub at night listening to crickets and parrots and the sea crashing against the rocks and cliffs below while sipping you're specially made frozen cocktail from the bar or cold Red Stripe from your wet bar's fridge. You fall asleep to the sounds of the birds, the sea and light reggae music playing in the distance. What could be more relaxing and romantic?
Imagine sitting in a chair built into the side of the cliff watching the waves crash into the tide pools below with the vantage point of the Orenqequits, Bananaquits, and Hummingbirds who flutter above and below you.
Imaging waking to the smell of blue mountain coffee brewing and home-cooked Jamaican breakfast being prepared in the kitchen. Great Huts calls this breakfast continental but they are severely underrating it. Each morning Margaret would cheerfully deliver our choice of coffee or tea, fresh juice, eggs, toast and fresh fruit such as watermelon, honeydew and papaya. Cynthia even made the extra effort to prepare a hot bowl of corn meal porridge for me one morning after I mentioned that it was my favorite meal in Jamaica.
I found the entire staff at Great Huts to be wonderful. Many have been there since the resort opened and will remember you each time you visit. They are warm and genuine and unobtrusive but will see to your every need. You only need ask and you shall receive. Hence, Cynthia and cornmeal porridge. In fact I can't say enough about how accommodating the staff is. We had just arrived from a week long trip to Barbados and were laden with heavy luggage. Fabian and Raymond had the daunting task of moving that luggage on four separate occasions because I had reserved 3 huts to review, and they never once made us feel as though we were a burden. When I would apologize for the weight, they would smile and say, "No problem, mon." In fact they never made you feel as though anything was a problem and they seem to wear many hats here. They greet guests, transport luggage, take care of the grounds including all of Great Huts furry and feathered friends, help out in the kitchen, provide security (although none seems needed) and generally make the guests feel right at home. In fact, I so wish I could remember the names of each staff member so that I could mention them in this review but suffices to say, everyone was just terrific. Especially the general manager, Tanika who accommodated all my many moves.
Sitting together at diner-style counters in the communal breakfast area was a great way to get to know the other guests. Owner, Dr. Paul Rhodes, often takes this opportunity to greet new and repeat guests, address any concerns and generally make everyone feel at home. In addition to being the creator of Great Huts, Dr. Paul has founded and continues to oversee operations at the Port Antonio Homeless Shelter. If you are so inclined, you may make a donation to the shelter. Just speak to the general manager, Tanika and she will be happy to assist or put you in touch with someone who can tell you all about the efforts of the shelter. After hearing about the work these compassionate people are performing day in and out, we were more than happy to make our contribution.
Great Huts provides soft drinks, juice, water and beer to guests 24/7. Just take what you want from the public side of the large refrigerator and mark it down on the sheet which hangs on the door. At the end of the week your total usage will be tallied and you'll receive your modest bill. My husband and I ate and drank there freely for 5 nights/6 days and paid less for the privilege than it would have cost us to stay for just one night at most other resorts.
Great Huts does not serve lunch but this is a great time to try out the Boston Jerk stands where you can get a delicious whole jerked lobster for under $13 US or you can take the short trip to Frenchman's Cove Beach for a full lunch menu of local and international cuisine. Frenchman's Cove is rated as one of the best beaches in the world and is a must-see.
If I were you, I would stick around Great Huts for dinner as they serve some of the most delicious meals I have ever had in Jamaica. The chefs are artists in their own right. They served up everything from fish to chicken to beef to pork and my husband said the curried goat was to die for. I stuck with fish since I don't eat meat and with several different fish selections and a couple of vegetarian choices, in five nights, I never ate the same meal twice and each night the food was as good if not better than the last. I have dined at 5-star restaurants with big-name fancy chefs and in my opinion, they should be spending a few days at Great Huts taking culinary lessons. Bravo to the GH chefs!
Oh, and speaking of lessons - it is all the buzz that Great Huts may be providing these types of classes for their guests in the very near future. The head chef Ron's culinary creations are purely brilliant. I've always believed that great cooking can not be taught and although he once trained at some of the finest and most exclusive eateries on Cape Cod, Massachusetts, it is his innate ability to balance just the right amount of sweetness or spice in the nightly meals that convinced me Ron is a natural born chef. I wish they had this available when I was there because I would have loved to know how to make their slightly spicy soups and curried coconut shrimp. My mouth waters just thinking about it.
There are also rumors that Great Huts will be instituting drumming and dance classes in the future as well. If you are interested in learning more about the culture of Jamaica and its relationship to the African and Jewish diaspora, then you must not miss the Saturday night African Drumming & Dance show. The night we attended, Dr. Rhodes opened the evening with a brief description of what we were about to see and then entertained us with a couple of musical numbers of his own. He has quite a lovely voice. He also takes the opportunity to welcome all his guests and thank them for visiting Great Huts. It was a nice touch. When the drumming and dance segment began we found it most interesting, educational and entertaining. During the show the performers took us up through the ages of Jamaican music. They invited some guests up on the stage to dance along and we were led through dance moves inspired by Jamaican ska, to reggae, to dancehall, somehow ending off with good old fashioned rock and roll. We had a blast and worked up a nice sweat which prompted us to order a final round of frozen strawberry margaritas.
I must say though, my fondest memories are of the quite evenings we shared in the main living area of this unique and homey resort communing with fascinating, like-minded people from all over the world. I felt as though I were sitting in the comfort of my own home enjoying the company of wonderful new friends.
Since I'm a travel agent, I knew it would be helpful to personally experience more than one hut so I booked 3 for this trip. Our first two nights were spent in the African Sunrise hut. This 3-story round hut constructed of cement, wood and thatching sits high above the other huts and affords a 360 degree view with a 180 degree view of the Caribbean Sea. The first story is made from cement and is the foundation for the 2 stories above. It is round with an entry on two facing sides and interior walls are hand painted with murals depicting the diaspora of Africans to the Caribbean. As I viewed the impressions of slave storage in the bowels of trade ships and the chains and weapons used during these two month long passages, I was overcome with emotion. The artistry here is nothing if not thought-provoking and the talent displayed is beyond reproach.
From here a wooden ladder leads you to the second story which includes a wet bar complete with refrigerator and microwave and much to our delight, a hanging porch swing for two which directly faces the ocean. My husband enjoyed laying across it while reading. The light wind from the ocean assists with no effort in rocking you to and fro. Climbing the ladder to the top floor you will find the living quarters, including a queen size bed, a stand-up shower and a hand-carved chair and bench. At night you're able to close all the shutters on this level for privacy and to protect from the elements - to some degree. Remember, you are up high on a cliff with no surrounding trees to obstruct the view so it can get a bit breezy in the evenings. But, you'll feel as though you have natural air conditioning, especially in the warmer months. This hut is perfect for early risers who appreciate the beautiful sunrise this east side of the island provides.
On our third night we resided in the Almond Tree House. This two-story bamboo treehouse is aptly named for the almond tree that grows up directly through the very heart of the bamboo hut, its branches reaching out to provide strength to the structure and a handy place to hang my robe. It affords two fantastic views of the ocean and again, the sounds of the sea crashing below. There is a large soaking tub with hot running water that sits out on the edge of the hut's back opening and also includes a rain shower. It is fully shrouded by the hanging leaves of the Almond tree and surrounding bamboo. When you climb the stairs to the second story you are greeted by yet another ocean view, a large king bed and a table with two chairs for dining in or reading. Other amenities include a wood hand carved dresser and large dressing mirror. This hut is located adjacent to Bamboo Treehouse which is briefly described in the beginning of this review.
Our 4th and 5th nights at Great Huts were spent in the Queen of Sheba Hut. This massive three level hut is part coral cave - complete with indoor waterfall - and part bamboo hut. Since it was built on the side of an ancient coral cliff, one side of the cliff was left exposed to the inside of the hut while the outside wall was built of stone blocks. There is a large area of the stone wall that strategically depicts an almost as large and completely open Star of David, paying homage to the owner's heritage.
The entrance level houses the main living area and most amenities are located here. You'll have a king-sized hand-carved wood bed with african-style draperies tied about the four corners that sits up on its own perch as if built for the actual Queen herself. Adjacent is a full bath with tub and shower and an additional lower level sink and mirror for grooming. Next to the terraced trickling waterfall and just up a few stairs is a large passageway in the coral which leads to the outdoor shower area. Here you will also find a wood carved sink and additional toilet.
Back inside the hut you will see the high climbing wood carved staircase which brings you to the second level's massive bedroom, sleeping 6 guests comfortably in 2 queens, 1 single and a long sofa. The third level is the look-out tower and albeit is more a novelty than actual living space but the kids will love making a fort up there and pretending to be the Swiss Family Robinson. We found this hut to be perfect for a large family with children.
Oh, and one last tip. While relaxing on the Great Huts beach, say hello to Rudolph & Curtis who man the juice bar on the beach and try out the coconut water, served fresh from the fruit itself. For the best deal on hand carved wood and beaded jewelry check out Rastafarian Munga's creations (I apologize if my spelling is incorrect). You'll find his stand located next to the juice bar. If he likes you, and Munga seems to like most people, he'll not only cut you the best deal but will crack one of the fresh almonds for you that fall from the Almond tree house above.
I had the opportunity to view all the huts on this visit and each one has its own charm. I advise you to work closely with the staff or your travel agent in choosing the hut that's right for you or just send me an email and I'll be glad to help. I highly recommend huts along the water for guests seeking privacy and romance, the larger interior huts for families and true nature-lovers and the smaller interior huts for back-packers on a budget.
I'll be uploading lots of pics and videos from my trip to Great Huts so check back soon or just go and experience the magical charm of Great Huts for yourself. I recommend it with all my tree-hugging heart.
This review is the subjective opinion of a TravelPod member and not of TravelPod.com.
TripAdvisor Reviews Great Huts Port Antonio
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