GoldenEye has been a low-key hub of cool since James Bond author Ian Fleming first designed the lush estate in the town of Oracabessa, on Jamaica’s North coast, in the 1950s. Since the beginning, this hideaway has played host to the glitterati and literati – writers, musicians and heads of state. Now owned by Jamaica-raised Chris Blackwell, the visionary entrepreneur and founder of Island Records, GoldenEye has maintained its standing as one of the Caribbean’s most star-approved stays. Through careful preservation and his discerning eye, Blackwell has ensured that the relaxed allure of Ian Fleming’s GoldenEye endures. Set along the pristine coast, among lush tropical gardens and around the calm waters of the property’s lagoon and secluded beaches, the 52-acre estate now encompasses 45 units. Guests can book Fleming’s own private two-bedroom villa—with three guest villas—where his writing desk still stands just as he left it. The villa was built to the author’s specifications and comes with a private butler and access to a private beach.
Upon arriving at GoldenEye, guests are driven along a winding gravel driveway, flanked with groves of swaying palms and tropical fruit trees donated by past guests like Kate Moss, Naomi Campbell, Jude Law, Willie Nelson and Martha Stewart. Guests of the Fleming Villa continue along the driveway to the right, past the decades-old intertwined fig trees to where the restored home sits at cliff’s edge. The three-bedroom home—the original structure that Fleming designed—features open-plan living and dining areas and is located just steps from the Fleming Beach, accessible only to guests of the villa. There are also two new poolside cottages on the grounds, giving large groups and families extra room to spread out, as well as Fleming’s private swimming pool, a media room and bar, and a sunken garden overlooking the sea.
Guests staying in a Lagoon Cottage or one of the Lagoon or Beach Villas make a left on arrival and walk through the open-air Fleming Room – a library and games lounge – before crossing the bridge over the resort’s private lagoon to the beach and lagoon villas and cottages. Ann Hodges, Jamaica’s leading architect, and renowned interior designer Barbara Hulanicki were called upon to design and decorate the new accommodations to perfectly complement the property’s existing footprint. The Lagoon Cottages appear to float on the water, offering lagoon access from private docks, while Lagoon Villas feature outdoor patios that lead to the water’s edge. The barefoot-chic Beach Villas are situated on Low Cay Beach and open directly onto the white sand. All villas have a spacious, bright living room and a fully-equipped kitchen with Smeg appliances. Both villas and cottages have entirely private gardens with outdoor showers.
The Beach Huts are freestanding one- and two-bedroom octagonal structures built to varying heights. Some Beach Huts are snuggled against Snorkeler’s Cove. Others are positioned for best views of the Caribbean Sea, Oracabessa Bay and Button Beach. Each is designed with a private veranda, oversized louvered windows and high ceiling, removing the need for air conditioning. The layout for the huts promotes indoor-outdoor living, lending the impression of staying in a luxe beach hut.
Custom-designed Jamaican furniture, crisp white linens and African fabrics.
The villas are outfitted with bath and beauty products made using local botanicals, hand-dyed batik robes, and Royal Hut’s fine handmade linens. In a nod to Blackwell’s music industry background, all accommodations feature a Logitech Squeezebox sound system that can channel any radio station or genre of music from around the world. Complimentary Wi-Fi is also available throughout the property.
Perched on the western arm of Low Cay Beach is GoldenEye’s beach casual restaurant, Bizot Bar, named for frequent guest Jean-Francois Bizot (1944-2007) – the journalist, musical taste-maker, founder of Paris-based world music radio station Radio Nova, and great friend of Chris Blackwell. The breezy spot serves breakfast, lunch, light bites, and tropical cocktails, as well as the cool sounds of Radio Nova, which is live-streamed at Bizot Bar.
The Gazebo encompasses an all-day outdoor lounge and an evening-only restaurant, serving up local fare with an international twist—with a side of sunset views overlooking the calm waters and Low Cay beach. The resort is also home to Sha’been, a poolside bar with a rooftop lounge and games room, and the Bamboo Bar on Button Beach, a laidback rum bar specializing in Jamaican Jerk BBQ and grilled fish pulled straight from the sea.
Low Cay Beach
The half-moon-shaped Low Cay is the hotel’s main beach with 500 feet of smooth sand for sunning, relaxing and swimming. Located offshore is a small island with palm trees and lounge chairs for guest’s enjoyment.
The protected lagoon is one of GoldenEye’s most unique features. The lagoon’s warm waters are a combination of seawater and underground spring water. Always peaceful and placid, it is ideal for swimming laps, snorkeling, stand-up paddle boarding or floating around with a Red Stripe
The spot where guests swim out to sea to explore GoldenEye’s coral reef and the Oracabessa Fish Sanctuary.
Trained lifeguards can arrange for everything from beach towels and snorkeling equipment to kayaks, paddle boards, sailboat and glass bottom boat rides, or even deep-sea fishing expeditions.
Island Inspired Activities
The fun and fitness-focused experiences range from stand-up paddle boarding to sunset yoga classes to daily group runs around the local area. A range of relaxing and uplifting beauty and body therapies using locally farm- and wild-grown herbs and flowers are available at the lagoon-side FieldSpa at GoldenEye – guests can even kayak to their spa appointment from their Villa.
Established in 1995 by Chris Blackwell, the GoldenEye Foundation serves to empower the local community and encourage sustainable development. Over the years, the foundation has spearheaded many impactful initiatives around Oracabessa, including the creation of a fish sanctuary, a coral reef rehabilitation program, the development of public health programs, and leadership and sporting opportunities for children. Guests can follow in the footsteps of Michael Caine, Kate Moss, Quincy Jones, Johnny Depp, and Bill & Hillary Clinton and plant a tree on the property with a $1,000 donation to the foundation — a tradition started in the 1950s by British Prime Minister Anthony Eden.