Port Antonio Rising

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How two music executives are resurrecting a legendary Jamaican town

On the north coast of Jamaica is a lush and languid town called Port Antonio. Anyone who knows it knows of the Blue Lagoon’s bottomless lore, the tangles of tropical forest that give way to staggering ocean vistas—and that fame has quietly slept here for over a century. This is the place Jamaica’s tourism began—and somehow, the place it’s remained most right.

“In the 60s and 70s this was the place to be,” says Steve Beaver, partner in the parish’s boutique hotel gem: Geejam. As he sits at the awesome Bush Bar, framed by rainforest, the soft-spoken, Hong Kong-based music executive says, “We want this to be the epicenter where music, film, fashion and photography collide—we just looked at the bigger picture of ‘Porty’ as a whole—and aim to enlarge that.”

Hong Kong is a long way from Jamaica, and Steve first came here six years ago to meet British music executive, legendary entrepreneur and Jamaican citizen, Jon Baker. They were to collaborate on a reggae project and Jon insisted Steve make the trek to the island, to see his world-class recording studio and residence on six acres of verdant Portland land. When Steve was headed to Nashville for work, he finally agreed: “I told Jon fine, I’ll come down, but I only have 2 days.” Three weeks later, he was still right here! “The ideas flowed incessantly,” Steve says, “and it would soon become my favorite place in the world.”

Thus Jon’s property became the Geejam Hotel, and Jon and Steve unlikely hoteliers. “We approached it the only way we knew how,” Steve explains with a smile, “as if we were launching a new album.” But it worked, and from the start, Geejam’s unmatched, edgy/earthy luxury has attracted a steady cache of tastemakers, ranging from Kate Moss to Bjork.

While the hotel found its able footing, Jon and Steve were thinking bigger: “We realized that however great we could make Geejam—seven rooms doesn’t make a destination,” Steve says. That’s about to change. On the basis of Geejam’s success, Jon and Steve have been tapped by prominent Jamaican-born businessman Michael Lee Chin to rehab and run three of the town’s most storied spots: the Trident Hotel, the Blue Lagoon restaurant, and the Trident Castle. Yes, a castle.

Set to open December 15th, the Caribbean’s only castle will, without doubt, be the region’s hub of hip opulence. A tour of the fortress reveals ceilings to heaven, an epic veranda—and what’s set to become the biggest natural light photo studio for islands around. “Jon is a true visionary,” Steve says, “The castle will host fashion shoots, film shoots, weddings, galas…there’s a groundswell of interest.”

Around the corner is another beacon of this new Port Antonio trilogy: The Trident Hotel. “It’s been dormant for so long and to see the initial movement—and then real progress— has been so inspiring for everyone involved,” Steve says. Construction is set to be completed before the end of the year, but the bones show spacious seaside villas with private infinity pools and a dramatic, open-air lobby. So two guys in the music business, with the help of a native, major investor, are brilliantly reimagining and rebuilding elements of a tucked-away paradise—all on the island that’s a music capital of the world. It makes as much sense as anything else here, which is just the right amount.

(Photography by William Richards)

 

Digging Jamaica? Visit the 100m Shop and get your jerk-reggae-patois-sunshine fix. (Sunscreen recommended.)