When you think of Jamaica what comes to mind? The Caribbean island nation is not just the birthplace of Bob Marley’s music or Usain Bolt’s speed but also James Bond 007. Back in the 1950s British author Ian Fleming penned his iconic novels about the MI6 spy from his home on Jamaica’s north coast at Goldeneye. Not only were the books a global success, but they went on to spawn one of the most famous film franchise of the last half-century.
And to date three of the 25 official James Bond have been shot in Jamaica. The very first was in 1962, which saw Sean Connery meet Ursula Andress on the beach, as she submerged from her search for seashells before the pair took on Dr No at Crab Key.
Now the latest Bond movie, Daniel Craig’s No Time To Die (April 3, 2020) has brought the latest incarnation of 007 back to Jamaica to retire from MI6. Scenes were shot in Ocho Rios near Goldeneye, with set photos seeing Bond reunited with Jeffrey Wright’s Felix Leiter.
And last, but certainly not least, was 1973’s Live and Let Die, which saw Jamaica itself play the fictional island of San Monique.
In this classic Bond outing, Roger Moore shot scenes at the classic resort of Half Moon, Montego Bay, where he took on a venomous snake and double agent.
James Bond Experience at Half Moon Jamaica review: A Licence to Thrill in Double-O Heaven (Image: HM)
A part of 007 history, Half Moon now offers a James Bond experience package – one that gave Express.co.uk a licence to thrill, fill and chill.
Just a short 10-minute drive from Montego Bay’s international airport, the Half Moon resort is spread across a generous two miles of sandy beach, giving guests a wonderful feeling of spacious privacy.
No wonder it’s been the place to stay in Jamaica for the British Royal Family over the years from Her Majesty The Queen and Prince Philip, to Princes Charles and Harry, not to mention, JFK and Jackie Kennedy.
Half Moon was first formed in the 1950s by a group of American, British and Bermudian entrepreneurs who wanted to spend their winter holidays on the tropical beaches of Jamaica.
Purchasing the land and opening a hotel, the resort gets its name from the half-moon shape of the shoreline where the 10 surviving original cottages are located – one being where Moore shot his Bond scenes for Live and Let Die.
The Half Moon cottage rooms are homely and luxurious (Image: HM)
From the moment we arrived at the columned open-air entrance to the lobby, it was clear there was something very authentic about Half Moon. Not just the beautiful period furnishing that could have featured in an episode of Poirot, but also the exceptional service from the staff.
As soon as our car door was opened we were welcomed with warm smiles and acknowledgment by name – an impressive touch across the board.
Given our own golf buggy to get around the resort, we ventured a short way past palm trees and friendly characters to our upstairs apartment in Cottage No 4.
The sizeable rooms, again stunningly equipped, featured a lounge area and large balcony right on the beachfront. “We’re going to spoil you this week”, one of the maids assured us. We’d arrived in paradise and in luxury lodgings that Bond himself would be more than happy with – especially the wonderful air-conditioning.
Roger Moore filmed Live and Let Die scenes at Half Moon (Image: EON)
Licence to Thrill (Bond-related activities)
As part of the James Bond experience package, we had the opportunity to try out Half Moon’s exciting activity programme. This kicked off with a speed boat tour around the bay, looking out for Dr No’s henchmen across the ocean while having a go at driving across some pretty choppy (but incredibly fun) waves.
Next up we channelled Goldfinger with a round of golf across the road at the awarding-winning 18-hole course, accessed from the main site by an underground tunnel via our buggy – how very Bond!
Opened in 1962, PGA tournaments have been held at this beautiful walking course that was once a sugarcane estate. Each hole has its own character, but watch out for the surrounding palm trees as they can particularly difficult to escape if you find yourself stuck in a group of them.
Luckily, Half Moon’s golf course is equipped with expert caddies – some who have worked there for decades – who know the course like the back of their hands, and are very helpful with the odd technique tip even if you’re not quite a pro just yet.
Half Moon’s impressive golf course is just across the road (Image: HM)
Last, but not least, our active highlight on the Bond experience was scuba diving. Sean Connery’s 007 found himself in a few sticky situations during Thunderball, but luckily the Water Sports team located at Half Moon were on hand for a simultaneously exhilarating and relaxing experience.
Sadly it was a bit warm to wear a tuxedo under our diving gear, but we were quickly trained up in the Olympic-sized swimming pool before heading out in another speed boat to plunge deep into the Caribbean sea. Following a rope down to the bottom, we landed softly on the ocean floor and found ourselves surrounded by a variety of large (but friendly) tropical fish.
It was literally like being inside an aquarium. But, being cautious that Blofeld’s henchmen could be hiding in nearby coral, our trainer Asquith lead us around the reef, pointing a wide-eyed, but shy, puffa fish hiding in a cave, not to mention a particularly flamboyant sting ray who seemed to be off in a bit of a hurry.
Before long it was time to resurface, but having never scuba dived in the past, we can safely say it’s an experience we definitely want to try again and again. Also, a whole host of other Water Sports were on offer, including sailing, while back on land the tennis courts and putting green were a welcome addition.
The Sugar Mill was an outstanding restaurant experience (Image: HM)
Licence to Fill (Food and Drink)
If you’re an avid reader of Ian Fleming’s James Bond books you’ll know his spy is a very serious connoisseur when it comes to what he eats and drinks.
The author often shares very precise instructions from Bond to his servers of exactly how he likes his food and beverages down to a tee. No doubt then, 007 would sincerely appreciate what’s on offer at Half Moon.
The Seagrape Terrace right on the beach hosted a very generous buffet breakfast each morning, offering favourites you’ll be used to but also with a distinct Jamaican twist. The coconut rice pudding and omelettes made to order – just as you like them – were a particular highlight, beautifully accompanied by an array of freshly-squeezed tropical juices and Blue Mountain coffee, which the ever-cheerful staff kept assuring us was the best in the world – certainly a contender!
Come lunchtime and the Seagrape offered welcome Jamaican favourites like Jerk Chicken, or if we fancied, good ol’ steak and chips freshly cooked to order.
Chilling out by Half Moon’s pools is a great way to unwind (Image: HM)
In the evenings we were really spoilt for choice. Stopping by the shore side Cedar Bar was an absolute must to kick things off with James Bond-inspired cocktails. Naturally, we ordered gin and vodka martinis (shaken, not stirred, of course) to sip as the sunset overhead.
A band of local musicians were a relaxing accompaniment as they serenaded us with some Bob Marley classics. As for evening fine dining, there were a number of tasty options. A more casual party atmosphere was the beach BBQ buffet which included a scrumptious and tender suckling pig to try. While the table-side entertainment of fire-eating and extreme limbo dancing was just like a scene out of Live and Let Die. Additionally, Il Giardino, the Italian restaurant was a real treat.
When we visited the chef offered us an improvised tasting menu, with the homemade pasta courses being particularly memorable. But the real stand out restaurant has to be the Sugar Mill. Located by the golf course, a five-minute shuttle bus delivered us across the road to this outstanding venue.
After a couple of cocktails at the bar, we received first-class service from a staff who really knew and loved the menu. The well-chosen wines accompanied the buttery Grilled Lobster Tail beautifully. While the pièce de résistance had to be Solomon’s Brochette. A succulent skewer of beef, pork, sausage, fish and shrimp flamed in front of you with aged Jamaican rum.
A view of the Half Moon beach from one of the cottages (Image: HM)
Licence to Chill (Relaxation)
Of course, even James Bond needs time off from saving the world. So once we’d been off on all our active adventures and filled up on delicious food and drink, we were in need of some serious relaxation. A trip to the Fern Tree Spa for a Jamaican All Spice Sugar Scrub, massage and Reflexology was just what was needed.
A recuperating and peaceful environment, the spa was just what an agent needs before heading back out on his next mission. Meanwhile, the main pool, equipped with water fountains and a swim-up bar and nearby jacuzzis were particularly soothing.
Lying back on a sun longer, reading Fleming’s Live and Let Die was wonderfully accompanied by a Caribbean Zombie rum cocktail. But probably our favourite spot for sunbathing, reading and being steps away from a swim in the sea, right back on the iconic Half Moon beach. A perfect spot for relaxation with a drinks menu always on hand.
The sunsets are breathtaking at the resort (Image: HM)
All in all, Half Moon is an outstanding Jamaican resort with a lot of history. Offering a unique and classic stay compared to other hotels on offer, the resort really stands out from the crowd. No wonder, it is the choice place to stay for British Royalty. Were James Bond himself to holiday in Jamaica in-between battling SPECTRE, the high-class and quality of this location from the rooms, food and drink to activities and relaxation would be the top of his list.
Double rooms at Half Moon start from $331 (£256) per room per night in low season, and from USD$325(£251) per room per night in high season. Please note that there is a daily accommodation tax of $4 (£3). Breakfast is included. For more information, please visit www.halfmoon.com.
Meanwhile, non-stop flights to Montego Bay, Jamaica from Gatwick Airport are available through Virgin Atlantic.