Tucked into 110-acres of tropical hillside and hovering over a tranquil bay carved out by the Caribbean Sea, Round Hill Hotel and Villas is a secluded oasis embracing the unique topography of Jamaica.
Just west of Montego Bay, Round Hill has called Hopewell parish home since 1953, when founder John Pringle opened the property with 27 oceanfront cottages and 36 ocean view suites. Today, the original accommodations remain, but offer a slight upgrade. Still referred to as cottages, the two-bedroom homes have been renovated to offer up to six bedrooms, with 24 of the 27 cottages now boasting private pools. As for the oceanfront cottages, all 36 suites were recently revamped by American designer, Ralph Lauren, a frequent guest and cottage owner (actually, he owns two cottages on property).
Much like the hotel’s early days, which attracted international aristocrats to purchase villas and rent them out seasonally, the villas are still privately owned, allowing guests a choice to rent out an entire villa, a suite within the villa, or an oceanfront room in the ‘Pineapple House’ quarter. Clutching onto its original charm, the property features a tropical palette, combining crisp whites, with a whimsical island flair and sophisticatedly modern allure.
We caught up with Round Hill’s Managing Director, Josef Forstmayr, who has been with the property for 30 years, to learn more about Round Hill’s historical happenings as well as their most requested rooms, or should we say cottages.
What’s the most requested room?
Cottage 20. It’s a spectacular, six-bedroom, premium luxury villa.
What makes it so special?
It sits on the edge of the rainforest and is very romantic. It has the most beautiful cotton trees with huge trunk lines. One bedroom is a type of treehouse that hangs on the cliff, with a separate swimming pool. We use it a lot as our honeymoon suite—cottage 20, number 84B.
What is the rate?
It ranges—right now, it’s about $5,679 per night. In the winter (high season), it’s about $11,379 per night.
What room is your personal favorite?
My favorite is one of the smaller houses, Cottage 24. It still has the old black and white tiles. It was originally owned by Xavier Dormeuil who was from a very well-known French family who founded Dormeuil fabrics. He sold the cottage eight years ago to the grandson of Round Hill’s original owner, Lord Monson. He completely restored it; what I call, ‘polishing the jewel’. A lot of the original furniture was rehabilitated, like the dried banana trash furniture; woven almost like cane furniture but because the banana leaves are flatter, it has a softer texture, so lacquered with the white paint, it’s just lovely. They extended the bathrooms but kept the original tiling. They kept the original kitchen and living room but added a swimming pool. It’s very charming and hidden; a true cottage and how Round Hill started. To me, it’s one of the most authentic and I’m happy to see how well appreciated it is by others.
Any fun facts about the hotel or rooms?
I can only refer to the people who came before us—there are a lot of stories but what happens at Round Hill stays at Round Hill! John F. Kennedy wrote his inauguration speech here in Cottage 25. He was elected in November 1960 but obviously they have this handing over period so he and Jacqueline Kennedy spent Christmas of 1960 at Round Hill (they also spent their honeymoon here). That Christmas, he was with his half brother, Mike Canfield and of course, Jacqueline. We have photographs of them in Cottage 25—and that’s where he wrote his famous speech, “Ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country.” It’s a great memory.