On a trip across Jamaica's untrammeled coast, native daughter Tami Williams shows off the latest resort collections in some of her favorite spots—and reminds us of the joys of going off the beaten path.
It was business as usual at Celine’s, on Hellshire Beach, when model Tami Williams dropped in on a gloriously clear Wednesday afternoon this summer. The no-frills, brightly colored seafood restaurant was well into lunch service, dishing up heaping plates of fresh lobster, fish, rice, and beans to the mostly local crowd that frequents the half-mile swath of sand near Kingston. The handful of sun-seekers who had made the trek sipped Red Stripes as the waves lapped the shore, the day grew long, and the dinner throngs began to roll in.
This lesser-known, arguably more authentic side of Jamaica—a place far from the manicured resort towns of Montego Bay and Ocho Rios—is where Williams feels at ease. She was raised in Kingston and St. Elizabeth Parish, and grew up going to Hellshire with friends and family. “Hellshire is the real Jamaica,” said Williams, who took Travel + Leisure on a tour of her favorite spots, wearing our top picks from the new resort collections. “The way the restaurants here prepare their fried or steamed lobster and fish is out of this world. And then of course you have to have a few festivals.” (For the uninitiated, a festival is like a sweet fritter.)
Williams has come a long way from Hellshire. She’s currently one of the most sought-after models in the business, having shot campaigns for Valentino and walked the runways for Dolce & Gabbana and Calvin Klein. New York and Paris may offer her fame and fortune, but Jamaica is the place that grounds her. “Tami was so excited to bring us somewhere she knew, somewhere she felt at home,” says photographer Jerome Corpuz, who, along with T+L fashion editor Melissa Ventosa Martin, traveled with Williams across the island.
The crew made its way to Port Antonio, another under-the-radar spot, where Williams met up with her friend, fellow Jamaican model Aneita Moore. Set on the northeastern coast, the town was a popular escape for the likes of Errol Flynn, Dean Martin, and Elizabeth Taylor in the 1950s, but had fallen off Hollywood’s radar by the 80s. It still attracts a discerning clientele, however. Williams brought the group along to the unspoiled beaches and bays that Port Antonio is still famous for, like tiny Frenchman’s Cove, wide, expansive San San Bay, and the jungle-shrouded Blue Lagoon. “Everything in Port Antonio is a bit tucked away—you have to work to find it,” says Corpuz, who stayed at Crystal Cove, while the rest of the crew based themselves at its sister property, Goblin Hill Villas at San San, and the elegant Trident Hotel. “In another era, people used to come with their yachts. Now, the scene is just mellow and beautiful.”
Solid & Striped one-piece, $158.
Onia one-piece, $150; The Row bag, $990 (Bergdorf Goodman, 888-774-2424); The Row sandals, $590 (The Row, 17 E. 71st St., N.Y.C., 212-755-2017).
J. Crew bikini top, $44, and bottom, $40; Valentino skirt, $1,980 (Valentino, 693 Fifth Ave., N.Y.C., 212-355-5811); The Row sandals (see above). Gabriela Hearst polo, $595; Flagpole bikini, $350; Eres bikini top, $215, and bottom, $170; J. Crew one-piece, $88.
Jamaica’s Quiet Side
Where to Stay
Built in the 1970s, the Trident Hotel remains the most fashionable place to stay in Port Antonio, with its 13 recently renovated villas all overlooking the sea. Enjoy a nightcap at the Time Bar, which is well stocked with Cuban rums. Villas from $500.
A collection of airy one- and two-bedroom suites, the Goblin Hill Villas are a 10-minute walk from sparkling San San Bay. Next door is a sister property, the three-bedroom Crystal Cove. Villas from $170.
Where to Eat
A half-hour drive from Kingston, Hellshire Beach is known for its no-frills, delicious seafood shacks, like Celine’s, where you can order grilled lobster or steamed fish for lunch or dinner.
Set on Port Antonio’s quiet Winnifred Beach, Cynthia’s draws a mix of locals, tourists, and foodies like Anthony Bourdain, who come to feast on jerk chicken and fish at communal outdoor tables.
What to Do
With its cool waters and hanging vines, the spring-fed Blue Lagoon is one of Port Antonio’s most popular attractions. Boat tours (from $30) are popular, and there’s also a small beach for swimming.
Home to species like the blue mahoe, Jamaica’s national tree, the 200-acre Hope Botanical Gardens is the largest public green space in the Kingston area.