The group in Ocho Rios. From left to right Chris Chambers principal of The Chamber Group PR dermatologist Rosemarie...
The group in Ocho Rios. From left to right: Chris Chambers, principal of The Chamber Group PR; dermatologist Rosemarie Ingleton; fashion designer Keneea Linton-George; Novia McDonald-Whyte O.D., senior associate editor, Jamaica Observer.Photo: Courtesy of Rosemarie Ingleton

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Dermatologist Rosemarie Ingleton, MD, lives in Brooklyn, but grew up in St. Andrew, Jamaica, and tries to make an annual trip “back home.” This time, the derm to the stars (Ashley Graham, Adriana Lima, Chrissy Teigen) stayed at the historic Jamaica Inn in Ocho Rios, on the North coast. It’s an elegant but deeply relaxed 48-room hotel run by members of the Morrow family since it was established in 1958. Over the years, it has hosted luminaries such as Katharine Hepburn and Noel Coward. Marylin Monroe and Arthur Miller honeymooned here, while Winston Churchill favored Suite 21, where he liked to paint on the terrace. Ingleton, who plays reggae in the waiting room of her Manhattan dermatology office, immediately immerses herself in island life, tipping back rum cocktails and lounging on the beach (“with sun protection, of course”). Here she shares her favorite spots—and highly specific recommendations on what to eat.

“Jamaica has a curfew. Now is not the time to go running around the island, so choosing an amazing hotel is important, since that’s where you’ll spend most of your trip. The Inn is its own little world, where you can just rest and read and swim and have cocktails and dress up for dinner. Everything I need is there. It’s special and intimate—I took my mother there for her birthday—and it’s family owned, so it has this warm, homey vibe. Many of the staff members have been there for decades, and they have a resident dog, a black Lab named Shadow. People play croquet on the lawn, with instruction from Carter, the resident expert, and they serve afternoon tea at 4, which you can have on the beach. It’s not for the party seeker who needs to be entertained, and, you know, have limbo lessons and reggae dance lessons. The vibe is more ‘leave me alone and let me be.’

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The view from cottage 5 at Jamaica Inn.

 Photo: Courtesy of Jamaica Inn
Kids are allowed but only age ten and up. I don’t like huge all-inclusive hotels with tons of people, and kids running around screaming and needing a giant slide in the pool. I love kids—I have two grown kids of my own—but when I’m on vacation, I like to relax. I like properties that are peaceful and low key. I love Goldeneye, too, which is further up the coast and another little secret paradise. The common thread for me is private, luxe, and a clearly Jamaican vibe. I don’t want to sit on a resort that could be anywhere and think, ‘Wait, where am I, again? Am I in Florida?’ I want to know I’m in Jamaica.
 

You have to apply for permission to visit the island and get a documented COVID test 72 hours before departure. You also need to get another COVID test at least 72 hours before re-entry into the U.S. Since I was only there for a long weekend, on-property testing was arranged by the concierge at the Jamaica Inn right when I arrived, so it would be ready when it was time to leave. On the way from the airport, my driver from the Inn gave me my first ice-cold Red Stripe, and he's playing Bob Marley’s “One Love” on the radio as he’s whisking me off to the hotel. That’s how we welcome Jamaican nationals when they come back home. So it was like a whole vibe, and it starts from the airport.

 
I get to my hotel, where they greet you with a nice Planter’s Punch rum cocktail. I literally went straight to the room, changed into my swimsuit and met my friends down on the beach, because they had been there for a few days before I arrived. All rooms have views of the water, and they’re pretty and calming, with four-poster beds and white linens and white curtains. My bedroom window looked out onto the blue water with the fish swimming below. For lunch, I ordered my favorite thing to eat in Jamaica: a whole red snapper with fried bammy triangles, which is made of cassava that’s pressed, coconut water from a fresh coconut with a straw, and another Red Stripe. If you’re at a resort, you have to specifically request whole fish, which they normally don’t do. But you can also go to any fisherman’s shack by the seaside in Ocho Rios (a short drive and the concierge can direct you) where they come in with fresh fish every day, and they’ll cook it for you. I’m the girl who goes to a seaside shack and picks out my food and waits with a Red Stripe for it to be grilled while talking crap with my friends and locals.
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A whole red snapper with fried bammy triangles.

 Photo: Courtesy of Rosemarie Ingleton

The beach at the Inn is ultra-private and just a secret paradise. You’re a part of the Caribbean Sea but you’re in this crystal-clear alcove, and it’s nice and calm for swimming and snorkeling. The Inn is more about paddle boarding than jet-skis, and the water is as blue and clear as it could possibly be. On the beach, there are palm trees, thatched umbrellas, blue beach chairs, and an ample expanse of nice, soft sand. There were not a lot of people there, maybe three other lounge chairs with occupants. But even when the place is filled, it never feels crowded—like, there’s no rush to grab a spot on the beach. On the property, there are Hawksbill turtle nests which hatch in the sand every summer. I didn’t see any, but the Inn has a special calendar with projected hatchling dates.

We had dinner under the stars at the Inn’s outdoor restaurant. I like that people dress up a little for dinner—as the website says, “evenings here are dapper.” This is not, by any means, getting dressed up formal—just put on your pretty, colorful dress and throw on your heels if you want to, which I did. It’s candlelit, and there’s a little band playing traditional Jamaican music, so we got up and danced a few times. When they played “All Night Long” by Lionel Ritchie, we couldn’t resist. They change the menu every night, and I had the curry lobster.
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The next morning, we had a traditional Jamaican breakfast at the Inn. No pancakes—bring out the cornmeal porridge, please, which I had for breakfast all the time growing up. The people in the kitchen are so happy when people request Jamaican fare. And you must have it with Jamaican Blue Mountain coffee. Oh my god, it’s the best in the world. I specifically request it. We traditionally sweeten it with sweetened condensed milk—that’s the way Jamaicans drink coffee. In the U.S., I have almond milk or whatever, but when I’m there, that’s my thing: freshly brewed Blue Mountain coffee with one teaspoon of sweetened condensed milk. That’s home to me

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Ocean Spa

 Photo: Courtesy of Jamaica Inn

I recommend an afternoon at Dunn’s River Falls. I’ve been going there since my childhood—I used to road trip with my family and friends for the day. They have these beautiful gardens nearby as well. You have to rent special shoes to climb the Falls, so you don’t slip, and I highly recommend getting a guide. You will think you can do it until you step on a rock and see how slippery it is, and the falls are pretty high. You hold hands and form a chain to explore it.

Before we went to the airport, we went to Scotchie’s Jerk Centre (14 DaCosta Drive, Ocho Rios), which is mandatory. They have two locations on the island, and everyone goes there because it’s good quality jerk. It’s not stylized, it’s just really good food served on a paper plate and wrapped in foil. During non-COVID times, there’s loud Jamaican music playing and families and everyone’s laughing and chatting, and it’s a joyful party atmosphere. But because of COVID, we just took our food to go. The two things to get are jerk chicken and jerk pork, and you should get extra jerk sauce and roasted yam or hard dough bread.”

Ingleton’s Jamaica Packing List

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