listening to your elders

Jamaicans have used traditional bush remedies to heal and nurture their people for centuries. At Fern Tree, the spa at Half Moon, the creation of a unique Spa Elder is a natural extension of this tradition. Part healer and part herbalist, the Spa Elder is designed to unite both traditional remedies and the present day spa experience by building local ingredients such as fruits, herbs, flowers, bark, and roots into the foundation of each treatment as well as spa philosophy. Consultations with the Bohiti – literally, “one who knows the wisdom of both plant and spirit worlds” in the native Taino language – can be used for advice on indigenous skin or body treatments; a detailed prescription of therapies suited to individual needs; or simply for learning about Jamaican herbs and rituals. It’s a brilliant idea. And the kind of service you’d expect to find at a lifestyle and wellness center or at a more traditionally defined luxury resort, like the bespoke Spa Shaman at Four Season Resort Nevis. With such a bounty of knowledge at their well-trained fingertips, the Spa Elder is a real resource for both spa novice and hardcore spagoer alike. After reading me and sensing my need for a deep detox, Elder Stella suggested I try the Cerasee Body Scrub, a mix of herbs and ground cerasee combined with essential oils to slough off dead skin. (Cerasee is known throughout Jamaica as a great skin cleanser with the ability to both sooth and heal. It’s also frequently brewed into a tea and used as a weekly detox – and occasional hangover cure.) Followed up with a moisturizing massage, I left the spa feeling lighter, brighter and tingly clean all over. As for the detoxifying effects of the cerasee, that became explosively clear only a short time later – after which I made a mental note to go in search of it in tea form.  The moral of this particular spa story: listen to your elder.

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better a half moon than none at all


Touching down in Montego Bay, I am reminded vaguely of Cancun, Mexico’s sunny, all-inclusive answer to Tijuana. The hotels in Jamaica aren’t as monstrously immoderate yet the enfilade of one over-developed beachfront property after another radiates the same unsettling heat of population density. It appears as though MoBay, as the touristic area is called, has been developed in hopeful homage to the success story just across the Caribbean. More to the point, that means catering to the specific needs of an all-inclusive American tourist: cheap food, cheaper liquor, and cheap building. And while I certainly can’t begrudge anyone their right to a value-for-money vacation, I often question why anyone would choose a foreign holiday when their destination of choice seems purposefully built to shut out anything and everything that might qualify as foreign. Gated resorts, anodyne surroundings, food and drink in excessive quantity, if not quality – wouldn’t it be more economical to go to Florida? So you can imagine the smile that turned my frown upside down when my car turned into Half Moon, a 400-acre antidote to the rash of Cancunitis. Tucked away in the Rose Hall enclave of Montego Bay, the 56-year-old resort features two miles of empty, white-sand beach set against a lush and lengthy jungle landscape. In addition to spacious villa-style accommodations – and a dolphin lagoon – there’s Fern Tree, the spa at Half Moon, with signature beachfront spa suites and its very own Spa Elder. Plus, despite being booked to capacity it doesn’t feel remotely crowded. In fact, outside of the restaurant I don’t see a blessed soul, let alone a wristband reveler – or machete-wielding homophobe.

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