Upcoming visit to Jamaica

I’m going on this visit with Alan.  For those of you who may not know, Alan is one of the owners of SunVillas.  He and I will be meeting up with our concierge, Latoya, to visit many of our current villas, explore a few new ones, take lots of pictures and find some interesting things to share with you in future blogs.

It’s going to be a busy trip.  While we’re there, we’ll be checking in with owners, visiting dozens of villas and staying at three different properties – Nutmeg in Spring Farm, Selah in Runaway Bay and Jasmin Hill in Ocho Rios.

I’m extremely excited about staying at Nutmeg Villa.  It was recently renovated and is now a beautiful, 6-bedroom, 4,600 sq. ft. villa, located in the Spring Farm area of Montego Bay…just up the “mountain” from Half Moon Resort. The villa is enviably located on five acres of tropical gardens with magnificent views of the Caribbean Sea.  http://www.sunvillas.com/villa/nutmeg

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On our last trip to Jamaica, we drove past a really cool looking driveway and I couldn’t tell what it lead to or where it went.  Alan said…Selah (Say-la).  Well, this time we’re staying there. The villa sits on a private beach at the edge of the Caribbean Sea in Runaway Bay.  I can feel the sand and surf on my toes right now.    http://www.sunvillas.com/villa/selah

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Jasmin Hill Villa is located directly on the ocean in Ocho Rios, just a little over an hour’s drive east from the Montego Bay airport.  My husband and I have been visiting this quintessential Jamaican villa since the late 80’s.  What I love about Jasmin Hill, in addition to its excellent service, is that it is walking distance to the center of town.  I’m especially happy about catching up with the staff who have become our friends over the years and seeing the new kitchen they just opened up.  http://www.sunvillas.com/villa/jasmin_hill

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Be sure to check back in a couple of weeks for more spectacular photos and a first-hand report of the visit.

Warm and sunny regards,

Donna

Purely Jamaican Souvenirs

A Jamaican villa vacation is worthy of any bucket list, and once you’re here it won’t take long to fall in love with our island and its people.  But now it’s nearly time to leave.  You’ve just stayed a week – maybe two if you were lucky – basking in the warm Caribbean sun, bathing in the crystal clear, azure blue water…dining on some of the most delicious food in the world and now…the time has come to get the bags packed and think about what you’re going to take home.  Yep, it’s time to think about…souvenirs.

Maybe it’s because you want to give a gift to someone when you return or maybe you just want something to remember your wonderful Jamaican villa vacation.  In any case…think about all the things purely Jamaican that you can share with friends and family when you return.  Jamaican artwork seems to top the list of favorites, but there are plenty more to choose from.

Here are some ideas shared by other visitors…hope they’re inspirational and help you find just the perfect souvenir.

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  • “My suggestion as a keepsake for yourself is original artwork, which is typically watercolour & ink, sometimes oil or pastel. It can be rolled in a tube, to be later framed at home, and hung on a wall as a reminder of your trip.”
  •  “On our first trip we bought a black and white oil portrait of Bob Marley. We have a collection of black and whites of various artist, so we were thrilled.”
  •  “For my family I always purchase a carving or a piece of art. They too are my favorite purchases for myself.”
  •  “Wood carvings, rum cream, rum, blue mountain coffee, art work, Craven A cigarettes, seasonings, and clothes from downtown shops have all been gifts people have appreciated or that we have when we’ve come back home.”
  •  “Carved turtles with their names on them delighted the grand kids. The homemade bottle of jerk sauce direct from the villa chef thrilled the hot freaks.  A bottle or two of rum creme does it for us.” 
  • “I love the artwork, from carvings to paintings.”
  •  “For friends I love to bring back spices and sauces from Hi Lo and some of the various grocery stores.  Also Greys sauce for meat and fries. Jamaican shirts with flowers for the guys, they are so light weight and beautiful. Bags and purses for my gal pals.  For Moi: Jamaican floral dresses all colors and styles. They are great to wear in the heat here in Southern California.”

Let us know what choices you make.

Happy shopping!

Jamaica’s National Symbols

Jamaican Flag

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On August 6, 1962, the flag of Jamaica was unfurled for the first time. The birth of an independent Jamaica was, perhaps, the most significant event in the nation’s history. Today, Jamaicans celebrate the day to commemorate that historic moment.  It is a day of national pride and commemorates the country’s achievements.

Jamaican Coat of Arms

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The Jamaican national motto is ‘Out of Many, One People’, based on the population’s multiracial roots.  The motto is represented on the Coat of Arms, showing a male and female member of the Taino tribe (the island’s original inhabitants) standing on either side of a shield which bears a red cross with five golden pineapples.  The crest shows a Jamaican crocodile mounted on the Royal Helmet of the British Monarchy.

The National Fruit – Ackee

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Ackee (Blighia sapida) is the national fruit of Jamaica as well as one of the major components of the island’s national dish – ackee and saltfish.  Although the ackee is not indigenous to Jamaica, it has deep rooted historic associations. Originally, it was imported to the island from West Africa, but now grows here luxuriantly, producing large quantities of edible fruit each year.

The National Bird – Doctor Bird

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The doctor bird, or swallow tail humming bird, is one of the most spectacular of the 320 species of hummingbirds. It lives only in Jamaica.  These birds’ beautiful feathers have no counterpart in the entire bird population and they produce iridescent colors characteristic only of this family. In addition to these beautiful feathers, the mature male has two long tails which stream behind him when he flies. For years the doctor bird has been immortalized in Jamaican folklore and song.

The National Flower – Lignum Vitae

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The island’s national flower, Lignum Vitae, was found here by Christopher Columbus. The flower is native to continental tropical American and the West Indies. In Jamaica, it grows in the dry woodland along the north and south coasts of the island.  The plant is highly ornamental, producing an attractive blue flower and orange-yellow fruit, while its crown has a distinctive rounded shape. Its name, translated from Latin, means “wood of life.”

The National Tree – Blue Mahoe

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The Blue Mahoe is the national tree of Jamaica. It is indigenous to the island and grows quite rapidly, often attaining 20m (66 feet) or more in height. The tree is quite attractive with a straight trunk, broad green leaves and hibiscus-like flowers. The flowers change color as they mature, going from bright yellow to orange red and finally to crimson.  The name mahoe is derived from a Carib Indian word. The ‘blue’ refers to blue-green streaks in the polished wood which give it a truly unique appearance.

 

 

Jamaica’s National Dish

Most people would guess that Jamaica’s National Dish is Jerk Chicken.

But the truth is…it’s Ackee and Salt Fish.

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Ackee is the national fruit of Jamaica. It was brought to the island by the infamous Captain Blygh as food for the workers in the sugar cane fields. The appearance of the dish is somewhat like scrambled eggs, but there the resemblance ends. Although ackee is fairly bland in taste, the combination of the salt cod and unique Jamaican spices give it a flavorful and distinctive taste.

So it goes without saying that this is a must-have recipe if you want to cook like a Jamaican. It’s a savory dish with lots of salty flavor and is so versatile you can eat it for breakfast, lunch or dinner!  It’s great served with callaloo and fried green bananas (pictured above.)

Salted cod can now be found in most supermarkets. If you can’t find it, try a West Indian grocer or Portuguese fish store. In cities with large Jamaican communities canned ackee is easy to find, or you can order it online at http://www.cannedackee.com.

We’ve provided a recipe below so you can try it at home, but the best way to sample this unique Jamaican dish is to stay in a Jamaican villa and have it prepared by a villa cook. They’re bound to include a secret ingredient or two that never shows up in a recipe!

  • 1 can ackee (or 2 cups cleaned fresh ackee), rinsed and drained
  • 1/4 pound salt cod (or pollock)
  • 3 strips thick-sliced bacon, cut in 1″ pieces
  • 1 medium yellow onion, halved and sliced
  • 1 scotch bonnet pepper (or habanero), seeded and quartered
  • 2 sprigs fresh thyme
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 medium tomato (Romas work well), seeded and diced
  • 1/4 cup green bell pepper, diced
  • 2 scallions, in 1/2-inch slices
  • 1/4 cup water
  • Black pepper, to taste
  1. Bring 4 cups water to a boil. Pour over saltfish and let sit for 30 minutes. Rinse and pat the fish dry with paper towels. Tear fish into bite-sized pieces and set aside.
  2. Cook bacon over medium-low heat until rendered. Add onions, bell pepper and scotch bonnet and cook, stirring frequently until softened, but not brown. Add thyme, and garlic and continue cooking two minutes longer. Add tomato and water and bring to a simmer. Add ackee and black pepper; stir gently to blend and simmer, covered for 10 minutes. Add more water if necessary. The ackee should be moist, but not dry. Remove thyme, and scotch bonnet if desired.
  3. Taste for seasoning and add black pepper and salt if necessary. Serve hot with collards, Johnny cakes, boiled green bananas or bammy (Jamaican cassava cakes.)

Notes:

If using canned ackee; drain over a colander and rinse thoroughly. Set aside to drain until ready. If you are using fresh ackee, (and you should only do so if you are familiar with the preparation, as if not properly cleaned ackee can be toxic) clean the ackee by removing the black seed and the pinkish membrane inside the yellow, fleshy portion. Parboil the cleaned ackees for 5 minutes, drain and set aside.

Bon appetit!

 

The Jamaican Villa Experience

Most people who visit Jamaica have heard about villas but do not pursue this option because of lack of knowledge.  Hotels and the all-inclusive package hotels are advertised extensively and are easy to book. Everyone knows how to check into a hotel and go to restaurants. However the fully staffed Jamaican villa, is relatively unknown.

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Why stay at a Jamaican villa instead of an all-inclusive hotel?

There are four great reasons…

  • Privacy and Space
  • Personal Attention and a Genuine Local Experience
  • The FOOD
  • Cost

Privacy and Space – No lines to wait in, no restaurant reservations to make…and NO CROWDS. Instead you have blissful privacy and the space to relax with your friends or family.  All our villas are located on large beautifully landscaped sites, most overlooking the sea.  And last, but not least, don’t overlook the privacy factor as a MAJOR contributor to stress reduction.

Personal Attention and a Genuine Local Experience -The attention you receive from the staff at the large hotels and all-inclusives, is minimal. All of our villas are fully staffed with cook, housekeeper, laundress and gardener. They are a large part of the villa experience. Many visitors return to the same villa year after year because of their attachment to the wonderful staff and the attention they receive.  The quote below is taken from a review of a recent guest.

“I miss the villa also but I miss the staff as much. They had the perfect balance of attentiveness and making us feel like we were alone there.  We came as strangers and left dear friends behind.  I can’t wait to go back and I pray the staff will be the same.”

The FOOD – Ask any repeat traveler to Jamaica where the best restaurant is and most will tell you “the villas”. Villa cooks are fantastic. They can whip up a wonderful western omelet or prepare a superb Jamaican specialty such as ackee and saltfish. It’s your choice. You can ask that the cook to “surprise” you with her Jamaican cooking skills, or work with her to plan out your meals. Our experience is that the food is so good you don’t even want to think about going out to a restaurant!

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Cost – Imagine all this for less than you would pay to stay at most hotels or an all-inclusive resort. With typical prices ranging from $3,500 to $15,000 a week, and most properties accommodating six to 12 adults, the cost per person ranges from $450 to $1,000 per week. Add food, ground transportation and tips, and the average cost is $750 to $1,500 per person per week. Hard to beat!

SunVillas Jamaica Inaugural Blog Post

Welcome!
We are excited to be announcing this latest addition to our website because it’s a great way to share our unique experiences and knowledge about one of our favorite places on earth…Jamaica….and the joys of staying in a private, fully staffed Jamaican villa.

Our clients often tell us how nice it is to speak with real live people who actually know what they’re talking about when it comes to booking a villa in Jamaica.  We know Jamaica like no one else!  And so the very first thing we’d like to do is introduce you to the SunVillas team.

Meet the team
We thought you might like to know who is behind all those emails and phone calls, so here we are.

SunVillas Team_700The SunVillas Team…Reg, Donna, Alan and Latoya

Owners Reg Irvine and Alan Marlor started SunVillas in the mid 1990’s after spending a number of years vacationing in Jamaican villas.  Early on, they sensed that the uniqueness of a fully staffed Jamaican villa was not well known and that visitors to Jamaica were missing a wonderful travel experience.   Combining their marketing and technology expertise and thanks to the power of the newly developing internet, SunVillas was born.   Since that time their reputation in Jamaica is unexcelled. Reg was born and raised on the island and between he and Alan, they personally know every villa and every villa owner/manager we represent.
Our full-time concierge, Latoya Soares, resides in Ocho Rios with her husband and two adorable 8-year old twin boys.  Latoya handles all the local details for your SunVillas vacation, including airport transfers, other ground transportation, meal planning, and tour accommodations for local trips and much more – basically whatever it takes to make your stay comfortable and memorable – and always with that beautiful smile of hers!
Villa Agent, Donna Kreutz works out of the SunVillas Fort Myers office and has known Reg and Alan since “way back” in their corporate days.  In fact, Donna and her husband were among some of the first SunVillas clients.  Donna looks forward to the team’s regular island visits and her knowledge and love of Jamaica is evident in the personal attention she provides each and every client who is searching for the perfect Jamaican villa vacation.
Frequent team visits keep our knowledge of the villas, staffs and owners current to guarantee your Jamaican villa vacation is the best possible experience ever.

Next…
In future blogs we’ll be addressing such subjects as “why a villa?”, “how a villa experience compares to an all-inclusive resort”… we’ll present featured villas, discuss some of the mouth-watering island cuisine, highlight some of Jamaica’s famous residents and visitors, and now and then we will even be presenting a few factoids about Jamaica that you might not know yet, but we’re pretty sure you’ll be surprised and entertained.