Jamaica, Mon: Diana Cheats On Florida At Half Moon's Fern Tree Spa
As much as I love the Sunshine State, I like to get the heck outta dodge on occasion. And the most recent such occasion was my belated honeymoon. Off my beloved and I toodled earlier this month, just a few latitude points south to Half Moon, a veddy elegant-without-the-attitude resort in Montego Bay.
The vibe is different there, but the weather? Shockingly similar to Southwest Florida’s. Like many Naples snowbirds who reside on waterfront properties during their time up north, Hubby and I like being near the water during our "off season" too. And Half Moon is super-close; only 75 minutes by air from Miami.
Upon landing, we were lucky to catch a rare “cold” front, giving true meaning to chilling out: think 82 degrees vs Naples’s 92 + matching dew point, with a refreshing breeze 24-7. While touring the property via golf cart (Yours Truly is a pro at this kind of driving as it’s my little community’s preferred mode of transport to get around Isles of Capri), I discovered the hotel’s Fern Tree Spa, described as “a sanctuary nestled between rolling hills and the azure waters of the Caribbean Sea.”
As many of Florida’s day spas are nestled in a strip mall, this was a nice venue change.
I popped into the spa for a peek, and the soothing scent of lemongrass quickly piqued my senses. To my right was a large cabinet prominently boasting two of FBP’s favorite lines, Elemis and Redken (story links here and here). Its mission statement: ”Our treatments use only the best products and natural ingredients from indigenous plants, herbs and fruit trees, designed to enliven the senses with immersive experiences deeply rooted in our culture.”
What's not to like about that?
The spa’s comprehensive menu featured three categories:
1. Revitalization - Three tub treatment options (coconut milk soak, Jamaican Bush or seaweed bath); four types of scrubs (Jamaican herbs + cerasee; allspice/sugar, coffee/coconut; mint); six different body wraps (four incorporating myriad Elemis products, plus traditional aloe/lavender and honey/coconut combos); four anti-aging treatments (again, deploying Elemis).
2. Massage - 14 options
3. Facials by Elemis - six different varieties
Fern Tree also offers extensive salon services (hair, nails and makeup), especially convenient for bridal and bachelorette parties. (There were several gal groups during my visit.) Given the humidity, much like ours in Florida, these ladies are experts at wielding a flat-iron for frizz-free locks.
With all these choices, I was feeling a tad overwhelmed, and sought the expertise of spa manager Janet Clarke. She oversees a team of 45 professionally certified therapists, considered the island’s best.
But don’t just take my word for it: Fern Tree has repeatedly won the Jamaica Observer’s Spa of the Year - the paper names several celebrity guests to boot - and the spa’s reception wall showcases its numerous awards.
“With every new spa client, we set aside five to ten minutes ahead of your appointment to discuss which treatments best suit your skin type, customizing as necessary," says Janet. "For example, if you want a massage but suffer from sunburn or sensitive skin, we suggest rosemary reflexology or ocean waves reiki.”
Many of the treatment ingredients are hand-picked by the spa staff from the property’s lush herb garden.
Remembering Dana’s recent interview with Sapelo Skincare's founders, I opted to skip controlled inflammation. (FYI, I have TLC's No Scrubs in my earbuds as I write this.) I shared my concerns with Janet, who agreed. We discussed my planned week-long itinerary - Appleton rum tasting, swimming in the sea with horses, and other waterside fun - and scheduled a “soothing coconut milk soak” late afternoon on my last day.
It was the right treatment: despite the clouds and occasional rain, I suffered photosensitivity after too much time in the water. I seriously don't know how that happened, because I took what I thought were full precautions: I slathered myself with waterproof SPF 50 and topped it with SPF clothing, the subject of one of FBP's first posts.
Still, I was an oozy, rashy mess.
My spa pro Sophia prepared the coconut milk and oat powder mixture, and filled the tub with luke-warm water, pouring and stirring the potion. I slid in and soaked, occasionally splashing it on my face and hair too.
After a half-hour, Sophia arrived with a thick bath-sheet-sized warmed towel that I was to use to gently pat myself dry. The towel felt amazing, leaving enough of the ingredients to caress and hydrate my beleaguered skin overnight.
A nice surprise awaited me at the spa, too. Earlier in the week, Janet and I had discussed common beauty, ahem, challenges, among women in our respective locales: hello Three Hs: heat, humidity and horrifying winged pests. Remembering our chat, she left a Bush Bath sachet sample filled with herbs, fruits, roots and leaves for at-home trial, plus Country House Mosquito Repellent Spray, her preferred Jamaican-made lemongrass-infused insectifuge.
The timing of Janet's anti-bug prezzy couldn't have been better; alas, we returned home to a Collier County press alert about how bad the mosquitos sitch is in our hood. I'll test the lemongrass repellent and report back in an upcoming post.
Until then, allow me to leave you with a few festive honeymoon snaps. Don't worry - they're all G-rated: