Hotel Mocking Bird Hill
Historical Traveler Reviews Hotel Mocking Bird Hill Port Antonio
We spent 2 nights there and it was more then enough! from the scenery and location it was a nice spot. But on our arrival the room was not ready and cleaned and the clothes of the previous guest was not removed. We also encounted other guest in our room. Lots of mosquitos (no nets) and also a few lizzards were our room mates. The food was average but overpriced. The owners could be a bit more accomodating with guest problems. Last comment: it will be not on our list of our next visit!
Beautiful Setting, Extraordinary Food, Gracious Hosts
We were looking for a place in a beautiful setting, with a restaurant that would allow us not to have to wander about in the morning and evening in search of adventure, that would leave us alone if we wanted to be left alone, take care of us when we needed something. Hotel MockingbirdHill proved to be all of these things during our week-long stay.
Shall we start with the complaints to get them out of the way?
1) The roads from Kingston are, shall we say, unfinished, and you need to leave three hours to get to Port Antonio and the long road up the Hill to the Hotel from what in Jamaica is a major highway, and what in any normal country would be a path to a farm. The entertainment factor, between wandering goats, bicyclists, and other local encounters, makes the time pass quickly, but it's hard work for the driver. You can get a driver if you don't feel like doing the road work yourself. Either way, there is no way around the three hours.
2) The Hotel is on a bluff on a Hill above the ocean in a rural area. That means that you hear the whistles, calls, cries, coos, chirps, rustles, shrieks, caws, and trills of many varieties of Jamaican birds. You can't turn off this noise. The room windows are open to all of nature. Nature includes, from time to time, a local yapper of a dog, owned by a neighbor down the Hill. You may want to feed the dog some of the local ganga, but at 10 at night or 6 in the morning, you may not want to wander out of your room to find the dog, either. Dog gets tired after about 45 minutes and stops of own volition, or somebody's ganga.
3) The Hotel is one of the more expensive places in Port Antonio. That still makes it SUBSTANTIALLY cheaper than many a flea-bag I have stayed at in New York, London, Paris, and for that matter, Akron, Ohio, Charlotte, North Carolina, Newark, New Jersey, and other even less glamorous places. I suggest that if you wish to travel on the extreme cheap, don't come to this Hotel. If you don't need to count every penny, you will find the dollars you do spend are worth it. The costs arise from such things as the fact that they pay their staff a living wage and thus retain high quality people over many years, recycle their water, maintain the property properly, have enough staff aboard to be attentive to the guests, and buy quality foods. As my living in a shack on the beach days are, for better or worse, over, I found the price -- circa $250 a night for the room for two, circa $55 a day per person for two extraordinary and completely filling meals -- vastly worth it. One caveat: the pricing may not work as well for a la carte drop in visitor as for the daily deal, but I had no experience of that, and can't address the a la carte issue.
4) There is no four.
Let's go now to the positives.
1) The rooms are set overlooking the mountains and the sunset, above tropical forest. They are comfortable, and serene, and the more expensive rooms (I was in one) have balconies with hammocks. We spent many hours in ours. Our neighbors spent many hours in theirs.
2) The hotel is comfortable. The furniture is clean, simple, well-kept, attractive, available. There is an upstairs bar and sitting room with a small library overlooking the forest and the Caribbean far below. Magnificent site to watch the sunset. Below is a swimming pool. Clean, lightly chlorinated, perfect temperature, just big enough for lounging or laps, with a shallow end for children and a deep end for stretching the legs.
3) The restaurant is astounding. Every breakfast includes, more or less, amazing home-baked breads, a medley of tropical fruits, good Jamaican coffee, cereals and yogurt (occasionally the yogurt, also fresh and home made wasn't available), cooked to order eggs (we liked the one with onions, sweet peppers and some form of local greens), a small plate of breakfast cheeses, and a small plate of vegetables (tomatoes and cucumber). We basically never ate lunch. No need, no room, no competition. Dinners were a choice of three fish or meat entrees and a couple of vegetarian, maui-maui with a different recipe each night, various forms of chicken, various forms of shrimp, lamb, all in various sauces. But before that is a choice of ever changing appetizers, the most breath-taking of which was a seafood sampler of about ten different items on a single plate. And the soups. Extraordinary soups, island seasonings, deeply seasoned, but never overwhelming, as in, they are not "just hot." Balance and variety, and verity. By the time you get to the desserts, you don't need them, but it's hard to turn down flaming crepes, creme brulee, home made tropical ice cream, fruit parfaits, banana splits, and various rum-based confections. Before you get to dinner, the drinks upstairs are worth drinking -- our favorite was the Mille Fleur Night, a rum and coconut based mixture made up a little differently by Opal and by Clive, two of the hotel's experienced staff. The cook was found by the owners about a decade ago, knowing only how to prepare steamed fish, and has trained up day by day over the years under their tutelage. Years later, his innate talents have had a chance to explore cookery. By now, he demonstrates enormous understanding of food and unique, broad-palated, and multitudinous, recipes that take advantage of local ingredients, applied with a balanced and creative hand.
If you get tired of hanging out at the Hotel -- we never did, though we did decide to enjoy a bit of Port Antonio, too -- you can either hire a driver which the Hotel will arrange for you, or drive around the Port Antonio area. The town is comparatively untouristed, the marketplace a trip and a half. We spent most of our time at Winnefred Beach, 15 minutes from the Hotel, popular with locals and a comfortable mix of us foreigners, people looking to sell you jewelry and beads, boat rides and lunch, and local Jamaicans enjoying their own sands and waters. The Hotel provides snorkeling gear. The reefs have been somewhat challenged, but they are alive, and have their share of tropical fish and different types of corals. The Hotel's co-owner, Barbara Walker, daughter of one of the country's most respected diplomats, now retired, will also set you up for half-day or day-long hikes, river rafting, and the other local adventures. She knows what she is doing and selects people who are reliable, fairly priced, and integrated in the local economy.
Barbara is an artist, mostly sculpture, and her gallery is up from the hotel. Worth a look if you are interested in art, the themes being heavily focused on the travails of being a woman, but her sense of shape, texture, and weight give it some gravitas as well as beauty. Her art isn't pushed at guests, but it is present, and adds soemthing special. Shireen, her partner and co-owner, was in Germany and the Netherlands while we were at the Hotel, so we can't report on her, but Barbara is an available host who does a nice job of balancing being there and giving you space, as both you and she may need.
Oh yes. I had business while I was there, unfortunately. The Hotel made their phone available to me, which helped a lot. They were in the process of getting wireless Internet put in just as we were there. So even that is likely to be available by now. There aren't phones in the rooms. Or TVs. Or TVs anywhere. We didn't exactly miss them.
Go to the bar upstairs, have a Mille Fleur Night and think of the good things that are still in the world.
Great view, comfortable rooms
Enjoyed our visit at Mockingbird Hill, although overpriced, especially the famed restaurant. One simple breakfast for two topped out at $52 U.S., and we're not talking lobster omelettes here. The place has a fabulous view from its moutaintop perch, but the long (and crumbling) road left it a bit too remote for regular walks to the main road. Because of the cost and location, I would recommend a night or two stay. The innkeepers were very accommodating. Shireen was very nice and helpful and Barbara could be, too, however, her unsolicited political opinions were rather offensive and left us leaving on a negative note. The dogs were well behaved even if they did have freedom of movement, but we love dogs.
Don't ask for more coffee!
We were paying US$16.50 per person for the much vaunted "Mille Fleurs" breakfast. When the bill came they had added US$5.50 for "Extra coffee" beyond the 2 cups per person we were "entitled" to. Unbelievable at these rates - but, I fear, typical of the view this hotel has of its customers - "Milch cows"! No mention of the fact that they had not provided the Yoghurt which figured in our expensive breakfast menu.
I also concur with the comments in another review regarding dogs. Dogs should not be wandering around the eating area.
There is no doubt that the location and general ambience are very fine but it is all a bit over hyped and over priced in my view
This is a difficult one for me - I want to join the bandwagon & say how wonderful the hotel is, but, the truth be told, there are several areas of significant shortcoming. -the dogs - 7 to be exact. They have free run of the hotel, including the dining area. The biggest problem to me was at night when they barked & howled. What a shame - such a beautiful setting & dogs barking at night. Don't expect to sleep through the night. The innkeepers are either oblvious to the problem or just don't care...-don't drink the water from the tap! No warning signs anywhere.
There is a glass in the bathroom by the sink - I used it - and lost an extremely precious vacation day the next day due to "Montezuma's Revenge". The innkeepers response? - yeah, it was probably the water - the glass is there to brush your teeth & you're suppose to spit out the water! A warning sign would be a nice touch....-Service-dinner service coudn't be slower if one tried. Expect to wait, & wait & wait.........
-Communication - My 17 year old daughter emailed me via the innkeepers ( only the innkeepers have internet access) & the innkeepers never bothered to share the email with me - not very nice-I emailed the innkeepers a short note after we returned from our trip thanking them for there hospitality & attaching a weblink to our photo album of our trip - never got a response - curious, because when we were booking our trip there the emails were all responded to in a timely manner....
Great getaway from the crowds!
My husband and I spent 5 days including our anniversary at Hotel Mocking Bird Hill. We were looking for something tastefully elegant "far from the madding crowd" where there would be plenty to do when we felt like doing something and nothing to do when we didn't. This is the place.
There's a lot to see in the area, whether you use the local guide agency or go on your own. We went climbing up behind a waterfalls, hung out at the local beaches, horseback riding, and rafting on the Rio Grande.
Your hosts at the hotel are lovely; they'll make sure your stay is perfect. We got all the help we needed to make arrangements for outings, massages, and meals. The food is fantastic, though too abundant! We particularly liked being at a hotel where most of the guests were NOT American.
It's worth going out of your way for this one, particularly if you want a culturally interesting, very relaxing, and exquisitely gourmet vacation!
Extraordinary vacation at the Hotel Mockingbird Hill
My wife and I have just returned from our stay at the Hotel Mocking Bird Hill and words cannot do justice to the special place that Barbara and Shireen have created. We were originally drawn to their hotel due to their focus on the environment and giving back to the local community, plus catering to vegetarians (my wife is vegetarian, I am vegan). We were there for our 1 year wedding anniversary and I don't think it would have been possible for us to choose a more special place to celebrate our first year together. There are so many wonderful memories and this is due in large part to Shireen, Barbara and their professional and friendly staff (Clyve, Opal and Moira in particular).
From the moment we arrived until the time we left, we felt well taken care of and treated like family. The cocktail hour on the veranda with rainforest, mountain and ocean views while listening to the nightlife is especially memorable. And the food! Our meals were varied and flavorful, made with local island produce freshly procurred daily.
Kudos to the chef! For breakfast, I would recommend forgoing typical breakfast food such as eggs and muesli and asking for the more traditional Jamaican breakfast that I had; calaloo (a kale-like vegetable) cooked with onions, peppers and other tasty things; dumplings and fried plantains. As for the dinners... WOW! The chef overachieved the vegetarian/vegan meals that were prepared for us. I wish the restaurant was local to us here in Los Angeles. I would definitely go often! As for things to do in the Port Antonio area, we were there for 6 days and it was not enough. Our tours were organized through the hotel and performed by Wayne, Janet and Lorenzo of Atrractions Link Limited. The tours were varied and diverse and Wayne is full of lively stories of the island's history as well as his own experiences as a cyclist in the 1984 Olympics. We went on tours of Reach Falls (you hike/swim up and down a stream) with a local to guide you and can even jump off a 10 meter or so cliff into a pool of water at the end! Lots of fun! We also hung out on the beaches at Long Bay and Frenchman's Cove. Beautiful warm water and soft sand at both locales. It's nice to laze on the beach and drink Red Stripes (the local beer). We went on a hike in the Blue Mountains led by Shawn (another local Jamaican) who was very energetic in sharing his extensive knowledge of the local flora and fauna. We ate fresh gauva, cocoa, rhubarb and grapefruit along the way while getting a botany education! I was struck by the diversity of plant life on the island.
At the end of this hike, his father took us on a bamboo raft ride down the Rio Grande river. Quite relaxing and beautiful! The next day was a ride up into the Blue Mountains with a tour of a family owned coffee plantation that has sustainability in mind (all organic and shade grown). I'm not a coffee drinker but it sure was tasty... and STRONG!
:) We continue on from there to a national park for a short hike, lunch and a view of Kingston far below. On another day we toured an the Nonsuch caves. A short tour, but worth it. I enjoyed the bats, my wife a little less so! ;-) Plus the views of Port Antonio and the ocean from there are worth the trip. We also went to the Blue Lagoon. A little too commercial for me, but still a nice place to have a drink and laze in the sun on a pontoon platform in the middle of the lagoon (no sand to lie on here). We spent only one half day at the hotel and used it to walk the grounds (paths lead off into the woods surrounding the hotel) and to swim in the pool. My wife and I love animals and there are a fair number of cats and dogs that befriended us while we were there. If you do go to Jamaica, I would recommend avoiding the all-inclusives on the more developed west side of the island at Negril and Montego Bay and stay at Hotel Mocking Bird Hill on the less developed east side near Port Antonio. It is much more relaxing, and I think you will get a much richer experience by interacting with the locals and not large numbers of tourists. It is rare to find a locale that places such a premium on treating guests to such personalized care while also focusing on treading lightly on the environment and giving back to the community. My only regret from our trip is that we did not stay longer.
We hope to someday go back to Jamaica and Hotel Mocking Bird Hill.
The Hotel Mocking Bird is a stunning place with good facilities for someone with limited mobility. My husband and I had a wonderful, relaxing holiday. The hotel was beautiful and the food was amazing. We had a great time sampling all the different meals, watching fireflies amid the sounds of the forest. The homemade breads were especially delicious, cocktails lovely. The vegetarian menu was very good and there was a good choice every night. The staff are really friendly and helpful. They made our holiday really special.
The rooms were beautiful with a verandah and a hammock looking out towards the sea. It was also nice to see that they were so environmentally conscious.
We really enjoyed our stay. The hotel is far enough away from town to have a quiet time but near enough to town to make it easy enough for sightseeing.
There was so much to see and do that we only really skimmed the surface. We left a part of us in Port Antonio and will definitely be going back to stay at Hotel Mocking Bird.
A most special stay
A wonderful stay; the result of immense hard work. What we saw was simply serene, gracious and elegant. Our room overlooked a fabulous sweep of lush rain forest and magnificent flora, with the crystalline Caribbean curving into the horizon. The great staff provided excellent service. Service with warm, natural, tropical smiles.The food was phenomenal. Every day we ate like royalty, indulging in what they aptly describe as Creative Caribbean cuisine.We recommend Hotel Mocking Bird Hill to all who want true Jamaican feel in a casual and relaxed atmosphere with an emphasis on personalized service, gourmet dining.We had a most special stay.
If you love flowers and quiet relaxation:
For complete relaxation, personal service, and excellent food, Mockingbird Hill is the best. It is a small and intimate hotel where all the staff will attend to your every need. The view of the Blue Mountains from the 3rd floor bar area is breathtaking. There are plenty of comfortable chairs to relax in and read, or talk with the other guests. One can sit in the open area, lean back and gaze at the stars without the "light pollution" that keeps the stars from shining brightly at home. Shireen and Barbara are perfect hostesses, and they make you feel as if you are a freind visiting their home. If you stay here, they will help you arrange any tours you desire. (I highly recommend Wayne Drysdale of Attractions Link Ltd. for all the times you need transportation and tours). My favorite memories are of listening to the hummingbird wings as they feed at the huge orchid tree at the edge of the building, while all the stress of home melted away. The only drawback of the hotel is the lack of air-conditioning (although there are plenty of fans to keep the air moving) and the uncomfortable beds (rather hard) But the rest of the amenities, the personalized attention and overall comfort and beauty of the property more than make up for that. Be sure to go out the front door after dark to enjoy the blooming night jasmine.
TripAdvisor Reviews Hotel Mocking Bird Hill Port Antonio
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