Amazing beaches are a given in Jamaica, but for a taste of authentic Jamaican culture Zimbali Retreats is hard to beat. At this intimate, family-run retreat with just five cozy wooden cabins, they welcome you like family. This tranquil mountain hideaway is all about simplicity, fresh air, and fine food. It only takes a day to slow down and tune into the rhythms of nature.
Let the morning unfold slowly on your private porch with a freshly brewed cup of Blue Mountain coffee. As the sun creeps above the hilltops, keep an eye out for brightly colored parrots and tiny hummingbirds—early morning is a great time for bird watching.
Once you’re fully awake, take advantage of the unique opportunity to get to know some authentic Rastafarians. Take a hike with local forest-dweller, Fire. Follow his sure-footed lead through the shady forest, wade through cool streams, drink sweet-tasting spring water, and stop to watch mountain critters scamper through the undergrowth. At his forest camp, Fire gets out his well-worn cooking pot. Relax as he tells you about Jamaican culture and the Rasta way of life—why he doesn’t cut his hair or eat red meat—and stokes up the embers, and then dices, sauteés, and seasons an Ital meal for you. (It’s the Rasta diet and is typically meat-free, packed with fresh vegetables, and highly spiced.)
Back at base, take five and relax in the double hammock on your porch or, if your muscles are weary from the hike, wander on over to the Serenity Spa, where the knots and tension can be pummeled away in an open air setting—whatever you need to recharge your batteries, as the evening activities are yet to come.
The highly acclaimed cooking tour begins with a guided walk around Zimbali Retreats’ seven-acre organic farm. The uber-friendly staff will happily crack open a fresh coconut for you, or pick the perfect mango, as they show you the hundreds of different crops they grow—herbs, spices, fruits, and vegetables—all using traditional farming methods. Lend a hand and help harvest some seasoning peppers, spring onions, and callaloo—you’ll be feasting on them shortly.
Make yourself comfortable in the cooking studio while the chefs walk and talk you through each step in the process of preparing their mouthwatering dishes. The produce comes straight from the farm, and although they serve no red meat, each dish is so packed full of flavor you barely notice. There’s no set menu, as the chefs take inspiration from whatever is fresh, but soups, salads, wraps, dips, and cakes all make regular appearances.
After a five-course feast and plenty of physical activity, your bed beckons. Lulled by the sounds of the forest around you, you’re quickly lulled into the soundest of sleeps.