Vacation Diary – Runaway Bay

Exploring the Secret Side of Jamaica from a Private Cliff-Side Paradise

After a short direct flight from Montreal, my family and I were greeted in Montego Bay by a reassuring sight: a sign reading “Katherine Scott party” held by Denton, our driver for the week, arranged through our Concierge team.

Off to a good start, things only got better at Hidden Bay Villa when the gate swung open to sparkling sea views. The villa staff even came out to welcome us, Downton Abbey style, with a tray of refreshing cold towels – definitely a ‘pinch-yourself’ moment! Next, it was off for a tour of the property with Shandar, the villa butler, as our guide. Designed by award-winning architect Ann Hodges, the brand new villa and guest cottage looked straight out of the pages of Ocean Home magazine – all beautifully carved woods, natural fabrics, and breezy beach house accents.

A thirst-quenching cocktail and a dip in the pool later we thought life couldn’t get any sweeter – that is, until we heard the magic words: “lunch is served.” Who knew our chef would be none other than Uonie Lyn, Jamaica’s first female Chef of the Year? After our first delicious meal, I asked Chef Lyn to toss out my original menu plan and surprise us – looking forward to each meal and guessing what new dessert she might invent next was a highlight of our trip!

With such wonderful food (and a never-ending supply of rum cocktails) we did our best to get outside and work up an appetite; luckily there was plenty to do without even leaving the grounds. In the mornings, when the water is calm, the snorkeling at Hidden Bay is fantastic. Two stone staircases lead directly down to the sea and the nearby coral reef, where we saw hundreds of tropical fish and even a couple of rays swimming by! A third staircase takes you to the quiet sandy beach, where you can swim or beachcomb for treasures washed up by the waves.

It was tough to tear ourselves away from the villa, but we made time for a few memorable excursions. Steering clear of the busier tourist sites, we climbed Mahoe Falls in Ocho Rios and had it completely to ourselves, along with a private guided tour of the lush tropical gardens. Thanks to a tip from Chef Lyn, we spent almost an entire day at Rio Nuevo, an off the beaten path attraction, where we kayaked down the river to the sea and a wild pebbled beach, before touring the onsite museum.

More than anything else, what really made our vacation at Hidden Bay Villa special was the staff, who were friendly and thoughtful down to the smallest detail. Case in point: the ice water, flavored with slices of a different fresh tropical fruit every day, or the team taking us for a night out at a local karaoke bar. I’m sure Runaway Bay will remember our table of enthusiastic, if tone-deaf, Canadians for a long time to come!

Find out more about Hidden Bay Villa, Jamaica

Katherine Scott