Jamaica's Half Moon Debuts $75 Million Renovation

Courtesy Half Moon

A storied Jamaican resort adds rooms without sacrificing its legendary sense of privacy.

Hotels often want to tell you what they have: Michelin-starred cuisine, Himalayan salt caves, sushi concierges. A year and a half ago, when the Half Moon  in Jamaica launched a $75 million renovation, the goal was to show off what the resort didn’t have.

“We have the luxury of space—lots of it,” said Guy Steuart, the Half Moon’s chairman. The resort wanted to add capacity, and with two miles of uninterrupted Montego Bay beachfront, “we could have put stacks of towers hard against the beach.” Instead, the resort chose to set its new rooms low and well back from the water, something only a property as generously endowed as the 400-acre Half Moon could do.

“What sets us apart is abundance,” said Steuart. “You don’t feel constrained or compromised.” The centerpiece of the renovation is a complex called the Great House, which architects were able to position parallel to the waterfront, exposing each room to trade winds while creating sight lines “so that there’s nothing in front of you except ocean, sunrises, and sunsets,” said Steuart. “We don’t need to crowd anything.”


From left: The resort in 1979; Debbie Reynolds and her children vacationing at Half Moon. Courtesy Half Moon; Bettmann Archive/Getty Images

The renovation coincides with the 65th anniversary of the Half Moon, one of the Caribbean’s oldest resorts. Founded by 17 prominent families from the U.S., U.K., and Bermuda, the hotel has been visited by Queen Elizabeth II, Prince Philip, and Princess Caroline, as well as John F. Kennedy, who spent a month there before his presidential inauguration.

The resort’s original 35-acre plot has been enlarged more than tenfold while keeping the number of guests relatively low. “You will never have to race to the beach to secure a chaise here,” said Steuart, whose grandparents were among the Half Moon’s original investors. (His father also served as chairman.)

An additional benefit of the renovation is its non-impact environmentally. Like most Caribbean resorts, the 64-year-old Half Moon has seen the kind of waterfront damage that comes not only from over-development but also from hurricanes and changing seas. The new landscape was designed to “let the sea come in, dissipate its energy, leave sand, and generally do what it wants,” said Steuart. Opens in December; Rooms from $263.

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