Now more than ever do I realize that I will never be content with a sedentary life, that I will always be haunted by thoughts of a sun-drenched elsewhere.
― Isabelle Eberhardt
Paradise On The Edge – Great Huts – Boston Bay –
Great Huts is in the Northeastern parish of Portland, Jamaica, just outside of Port Antonio. This unique and very special resort occupies a small area on the cliffside of the famous Boston Bay/Beach.
Maybe you’ve heard of Jamaican Jerk Chicken, but you may not know that the popularity of this famous spicy and flavorful seasoning began right here near the beaches of Boston Bay. Every summer they even host a huge Jerk Festival in Portland.
To get to the entrance of Great Huts, you can drive or walk between the main Jerk Center road in the middle of Boston Beach. There are several options on this main road for jerk pork, chicken, fish, roasted breadfruit, festival(sweet fried dough) and many other popular Jamaican dishes.
The roadside vendors also sell various types of fresh fruit juices, like pineapple and soursop juice in old re-used but clean rum bottles. I bought these almost on a daily basis to stock in my fridge and sometimes mix with my favorite Wray & Nephews Overproof White Rum.
A new little restaurant was opened up recently by one of the surf school instructors I met nearly 10 years ago.
He hailed me up one night when I was driving through the jerk center road. I was surprised because I hadn’t seen him in a few years, and he recognized me right away, even in the dark.
Formula is his nickname and Formula’s is the name of his restaurant. It is the last shop on the right before you reach Great Huts. I ate their twice and the meals were delicious and obviously cooked with love since his mother runs this quaint and humble little restaurant.
Great Huts 2007
In 2007, Great Huts had already been completed and I finally had an opportunity to spend a little more time in this area. I had a family event to attend in Ocho Rios and Maggie and I planned to spend a few nights at Great Huts before the rest of the family arrived in Jamaica.
We stayed in the Bamboo Tree House, which is a two story hut right on the cliff overlooking the bay. We were blown away by the views and the natural eco-friendly style of the hut. It has an open air bathtub with a shower situated right near the edge so you can see down through the trees and into the bay while you bathe outdoors, privately, of course.
Great Huts 2011
I returned in 2011 by myself and found that Great Huts had created a new hut called the African Sunrise. I booked it for the entire week. For the first three days, I did not have my luggage because somehow it got delayed on this non-stop trip from Fort Lauderdale to Kingston.
That one drawback, actually made it quite an interesting experience for me in my first few days after arriving. I realized that I didn’t really need so much stuff, and since I was staying in a hut in a rural part of the island, it only added to my whole minimalistic experience!
All, I had was the clothes that I came in, which happened to be a marina(tank top undershirt) a button down shirt and jeans. That first day, I had hoped to receive my luggage, so I didn’t do much but roll-up my jeans and wear only my marina.
On my third day, I took a taxi out to Port Antonio to do a little shopping in the market. My main goal was to get something to swim in. I bought a pair of swim trunks, flip-flops, and another marina, Jamaican style, with the large holes. It’s kind of like wearing a net around your torso! I also got a beach towel and a little beach bag with Jamaican colors. Everything, except the marina had Jamaica written all over it.
My tourist transformation was complete!
This taught me to always pack at least a pair of shorts and a t-shirt in my carry-on bag for future travels. Being so secluded in these beautiful natural surroundings with only a view of the sea, conjured up fantasies of being stranded in an island paradise.
However, I wasn’t so lonely. My parents were also in Jamaica but they were staying in Ocho Rios. My parents, two of my uncles(mom’s brothers) and their cousins visiting from England, took the long 2-3 hour drive across the North Coast to visit me for the day in Boston Bay.
It was really a nice surprise to see them. Although, I knew from early that morning that they would be coming, I didn’t know exactly when. I was down at Great Huts’ private beach reasoning with Ree-I a local rastaman, when my uncles and my cousins showed up on the beach unexpectedly. I immediately introduced them to Ree-I and excused myself to show them around. My parents waited for us at the top of the cliff in the lobby/kitchen area.
After, I took some pics with them by the diving platform we climbed the natural staircase to meet my parents in the lobby and take a stroll around the lush resort. I really wanted to show them the new African Sunrise hut that I was staying in.
This was actually my parents second visit to Great Huts but they had never actually stayed here. My mom initially scoffed at the idea of actually staying in any of the huts.
She is extremely afraid of lizards and other outdoor wildlife!
Mom grew up in the country, where there wasn’t even electricity until the 90’s, so I am not sure how she never became accustomed to our little green bug-eating friends.
I know then, she never imagined she would be sleeping in the amazing Queen of Sheba Hut 2 years later with her children and grandchildren! But, I had other plans in mind! 🙂
The main entrance and lobby area is also where the kitchen, dining, media, and lounge area is located. Above this on the second floor is an even larger dining area with tables, another lounge area and dance floor, which is really used for weekly evening entertainment.
Great Huts 2013
Last summer, I had another opportunity to stay at Great Huts and this time I was able to get my entire family to stay there with me for one night. I really wanted my nephews to have this experience, and they were not disappointed. One of them even said we should have stayed there the whole time while we were in Jamaica! They spent their last night here and I spent another 2 nights after they left.
Thoughts About Great Huts
Great Huts is such a unique and special place. The entire property is canvased with trees and tropical plants. There are many different types of fruit trees including the rare noni tree. Various types of harmless animals are found all over the resort. So be prepared. Turtles, guinea pigs, talking parrots, hermit crabs, lizards and the Great Huts dogs that roam freely and might even follow you around looking to make a new friend.
You can rent a bed and small space in a communal area, usually occupied by backpackers looking for an economical hostel type of stay. The huts range in type from small private huts with sand floors to the larger huts categorized as royal with stone or concrete floors and hot/cold water. It is an eco-friendly resort, so you will find most structures are built with natural elements.
Many people say they don’t like to visit the same destination or stay at the same resort more than once, especially because there are so many places to choose. I could say that about many places, but Great Huts is not one of them. I will visit here over and over, because I always enjoy my time spent here. Maybe even one day I’d love to own it! “Dr. Rhodes, are you reading this?” LOL!
My family didn’t have to stay here, since our purpose for visiting Jamaica was on the other side of the island. We went totally out of our way on a 5 hr drive across the island just to get to Great Huts.
I admit it was all due to my convincing them how much they all would enjoy it. My sister wasn’t too keen on sleeping in a hut. My sister had legitimate concerns, however, she did not get eaten alive by mosquitos and she wasn’t too hot, even without air-con.
In the end, I believe everyone enjoyed the experience and I am glad I had the chance to take them out of their comfort zones a little.
If you are a nature lover and appreciate eco-tourism, you will appreciate the natural surroundings. I have met the most interesting, friendly people here at Great Huts like honeymooners, backpackers, volunteers and families. I can almost guarantee that once you stay here you won’t want to leave, because it is just so relaxing.
Culture, Environment, and Community
Dr. Paul S. Rhodes is the owner of Great Huts and has been deeply invested; developing maintaining and participating in programs within the community and also through the resort. In Port Antonio, a homeless shelter and rehab center are one of many projects that Dr. Rhodes has been a part of for several years now.
In addition to the beauty of this paradise on the edge, there are many cultural influences, that are evident in the make-up of the entire resort. Not only are the huts African themed; some models are actually designed as replicas found through research. I believe, that even in the resort library, you may find some of the resources that were used. Artwork, wooden/stone sculptures, and pottery are found displayed throughout the resort.
Weekly entertainment includes a cultural show depicting traditional African dances, Jamaican folk music, and even a demonstration of the evolution of these early dances up to the current Jamaican dance trends. Don’t worry, you will have a chance to learn a few dances if you wish to, at the end of the show!
Great Huts also promotes a sustainability program which incorporates the use of solar panels for water heating, recycling programs for glass/plastic bottles where the glass bottles are sold back to the bottling companies and the plastics are recycled through the Jamaican Recycling Program. Even food scraps are put to good use by using it for compost creation in their own gardens and/or donated to local pig farms.
You can even receive discounts on accommodations if you plan to do volunteer work in the community!
For more information on volunteering or donations you can visit the Shelter’s website below:
Click this link Portland Rehab Management or
Copy & Paste in a new browser: www.prmhomeless.org/
In case you missed it, here is the link to visit the Great Huts website: www.greathuts.com
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