by Candyce Stapen
This resort sprawls across 400 acres, blooming with bougainvillea, hibiscus and oleander and shaded by palm, almond and seagrape trees. Instead of city-like, high-rise accommodations – as is this case elsewhere on this stretch just east of the Montego Bay airport and town — the rooms here spread out in one or two story buildings and the beach stretches for 2 miles.
The resort also offers a range of engaging activities for families. Among them are horseback riding, playing mini-golf or regular golf, as well as tennis, croquet and bicycling around the beautiful grounds. The resort also offers thoughtful children’s programs where they can learn some Jamaican dialect or participate in traditional crafts, all in a dedicated “village” of colorful buildings just for them. And when the kids are off enjoying those things, you can sneak away to get pampered at the Fern Tree Spa — one of the Caribbean’s top spas, with two spectacular overwater bungalows where you can have a massage to the sound of the rolling waves.
Half Moon has been welcoming guests since 1954, when it opened with 17 cottages and 30 beachfront homes. Established by a group of wealthy investors, the resort has attracted such notables as Joan Crawford, Clark Gable, HRH Princess Margaret, Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip, as well as John F. Kennedy and Jacqueline Kennedy.
The resort is eminently family-friendly. As part of Half Moon’s Very Important Little People’s services, children receive a welcome drink and a gift; they also meet a representative of the children’s program who gives them a schedule of activities and welcomes them. The staff also offers adults welcome rum or fruit punch and cold towels.
Our Editor Loves
- Onsite horseback riding
- Children's and teen clubs
- Spectacular beach setting
- Horse Back Riding
- Water Sports
- Children Programs
- Connecting Rooms
- Family Room 5+
- Free Wi-Fi
- Game Room
- Kids' Pool
- Kids' Theme Meals
- Meal Plan
- Onsite Dining
Find the Best Price for Your Stay
Half Moon has 398 accommodations, including the bedrooms in the villas. It's nice that the resort offers a variety of accommodations and that these are spread throughout the property. Although a handful of villas front the beach, most settle into green lawns that face each other like suburban streets, the equivalent of a block away from the sand. Standard hotel rooms -- which are anything but -- are located closer to the main reception area.
These units rate among the resort's most luxurious lodgings. We really like the Imperial Suites because they offer oversized bedrooms and large living areas with plenty of space for a cot, plus large patios and often semi-private pools shared by just a few other rooms. Both the bedrooms and the living areas have televisions. It's a special treat for families to sit on the outdoor patio and enjoy room service breakfast while savoring the sea views. Kids like splashing in their "own" pool, shared between a few suites. The Imperial Suites have both ocean and garden views.Â
The Hibiscus Suites, our next favorite lodgings, are beachfront, offering sitting areas (smaller than those in the Imperial Suites), plus one or two bedrooms, as well as large bathrooms. If you plan on having a child sleep on the pull-out couch in the sitting area, you might want to request a suite with a door between the sitting area and the bedroom. Some suites have just an open archway without a door. The sitting area and the bedroom each have a television and all suites have either balconies or patios. The Hibiscus pool, located behind the Hibiscus units, is one of the resort's main pools with a swim-up bar and water sprays.
Located in the West Cottages, the Royal Court and the Oleander Courtyard come with large sitting areas. In some units, the furniture feels more formal than in other units. The smaller Junior Suites in the West Cottages come with sitting areas and patios or balconies.
Located in the Oleander Courtyard, Deluxe Suites have living rooms and kitchens on the first floor and a bedroom upstairs. Deluxe rooms, located in the West Cottage area, have garden or sea views while the superior rooms, situated in the Oleander Courtyard, have garden views.
All of Half Moon's rooms come with refrigerators, mini-bars, coffeemakers, bathrobes, televisions and balconies or patios. Cribs and cots are available.
From the outside, the white-washed villas with their front and back verandahs, private pools and decks are impressive. Villas come with between four and seven bedrooms, all with ensuite bathrooms. Each villa comes with a cook, butler and housekeeper, too. The villas work well for multi-generational families and large families. The main sitting areas have inviting couches with throw pillows; however, some bedrooms look outdated with a blase decor, clunky televisions and old bathrooms. Nonetheless, the villas do provide the most private space for the money.
Our family (2 children, my wife and I and my parents) have visited the wonderful resort several times over the last few years. Without exception, the resort is idyllic, from walking out of your room steps away to the sandy beach, to an amazing and authentic staff, and complemented by a delicious array of food available at the resort and several great restaurants just a few minutes away. If the goal is to relax, Half Moon has few peers!
by Sophia W
I spent a night at Half Moon and I was so upset at myself for doing so. The grounds were spectacular, the service impeccable, the food delicious and the spa outstanding. I had a full body massage done and access to the spa area. I was so in love with the place that I missed the lunch buffet! The tranquility in the spa area was just what I needed. I was alone in the private pool and almost imagined that I owned the place!
The room was large and tastefully decorated. I enjoyed sitting on the balcony at night and just hearing the sea right in front of me. If you are looking for night life and a party then this is not the destination for you but if you want pampering then you should try it.
I will definitely be back and it will be for way longer than one night.
Beach and Pools
Although Half Moon's beach isn't particularly wide, it does stretch for 2 miles, with two main areas for sunbathing separated by rockier shores and coves. That means there are plenty of places to sit, including shady spots under palm trees. The main cove, a lovely half moon swath from which the resort takes its name, is called Sunset Beach and typically has calm waters perfect for splashing with your toddler.
If you want a secluded spot in the sand, plunk yourselves down on Sunrise Beach. It's another sandy stretch that you can walk to from the main reception area (a long walk), but are better off using one of the property's bicycles or golf carts to reach as it's nearly a kilometer away, close to the villas area.
To get to the two beaches, you can walk, bike or take one of the frequent resort shuttles.Â
Pool lovers are delighted because Half Moon has a whopping 54 pools, many of which are private or semi-private since they come with the villas or serve a cluster of a few rooms. As a result, the pools are rarely crowded. Even the two long pools catering to all guests - the Hibiscus pool with its swim-up bar and water sprays, as well as the Olympic-size lap pool - rarely feel crowded since there is so much room to spread out on the property.
The daily resort fee covers the use of snorkeling gear, wind surfing equipment, kayaks, pedal boats and floats -- all of which are available at Sunset Beach. Hobie Cats are available to rent for between $50 and $80 (depends on the size of the Hobie cat) for 45 minutes. And banana boat rides ($30 for 15 minutes), water skiing and wakeboarding (30 min for $75 or lessons for an additional $30) are also available. The resort's boat can take you out on hour-long snorkeling tours to the reef, too ($40 for adults, $20 for kids 12 and under).
The daily resort fee also covers the use of the fitness center, the 13 tennis courts (including lighted courts), volleyball court, croquet court and the mini-golf course near the children's village. Landlubbers can swing through the Robert Trent Jones Jr. designed golf course. The Golf center offers two-hour family beginner lessons, as well as one-hour junior golf lessons for ages 6 to 14.Â
At the resort's equestrian stables, children younger than age 6 go on pony rides and older kids take an arena lesson followed by a "walk" on the property. Treat kids ages 8 and older -- and yourselves -- to a beach ride followed by a swim in the warm Caribbean Sea with the horses. Sitting atop a horse as he strokes through the water is a memorable sensation.
The Anancy Children's Village, a large, grassy and gated area, features a children's wading pool, and tot play area, plus indoor, air conditioned rooms in separate colorful cottages. The programs divide kids into ages 3 to 6 (potty-trained) and ages 7 to 12. Children make puppets, craft masks and listen to Anancy stories based on the mischievous Jamaican spider whose adventures provide teachable lessons. What's also nice is that even the younger children go out of the compound to explore the property. They build sandcastles and go on pony rides.
Kids ages 7 to 12 play mini-golf, shoot baskets in the pool, saddle up for a beach horseback ride and go on crab hunts. The programs operate daily, year-round from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. and cost $55 including lunch and snacks for a full day and $35 for a half-day with a snack.
Hype Zone for Teens
For teens, 13 to 19, there's the Hype Zone, open from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. The Hype Zone is much bigger than it first seems when you enter the lobby. Formerly the old spa, the Zone features a variety of spaces designed to engage teens. Teens can browse the Web at Chat Bout (Jamaican slang for chat rooms); challenge each other at video games at Playazz; and do Karaoke and dance at the VYBZ Lounge -- a large room tricked out like a disco that's open during the high season winter months. Teens also play basketball, tennis, volleyball and mini-golf. And there's a billiard table, Ping-Pong and foosball table here, too.
Half Moon has good food. With four restaurants, plus a beach barbecue buffet on Friday nights, there's plenty of variety. Our two favorites are Il Giardino, the Italian restaurant, and the Sugar Mill, located near the golf course adjacent to a historic water wheel and sugar mill.
First of all, Il Giardino is air-conditioned -- a blessing for those who don't feel comfortable without AC. For those who prefer to dine al fresco, Il Giardino offers a terrace. Then, there's the food. We especially like the fresh, homemade pasta and the chef's willingness to accommodate allergies. Such flexibility works well for kids. Although there is no formal kids' menu, the restaurant serves half portions of several dishes, including pastas, and will create spaghetti to your child's liking. Il Giardino also offers tasty grouper and other fish, as well as veal chops, lamb and chicken.Â
At the Sugar Mill, you can dine on the terrace or indoors. A signature dish is Solomon's Boston Jerk Brochette. After the server brings the skewer of jerk pork, chicken, fish, sausage and beef, he sets it aflame with aged rum. The dish is named after Solomon, the charming maitre d' who has been at Half Moon for decades. Other tasty items include the jerk chicken spring rolls, jumbo shrimp saute and smoked scallops.Â
From the children's menu, kids choose hamburgers, chicken fingers, hot dogs and spaghetti.Â
The Seagrape Terrace, named for the many seagrape trees that shade the tables, faces the beach and the ocean. As the main restaurant, the Seagrape serves a daily buffet breakfast, as well as a la carte items along with lunch and dinner. Children's menus are available. For lunch, choose from reasonably priced tuna, crab and other sandwiches and salads, as well as entrees of chicken and grilled fish. The gazpacho soup is very good. For dinner, the menu features items such as rack of lamb, duck breast, grouper and other locally caught fish. In the evening, there's always live music at the Seagrape.
Planning & Tips
All About the Extras
The Very Important Little Person (V.I. L. P.) night time service makes bedtime special.
You can have freshly baked cookies and milk arrive for your little one ($8) or you can add a storyteller who will relate a tale as well as bring the milk and cookies at tuck-in ($25 for one to two children sharing one room). Reserve ahead if possible.
The $30 per room, per night resort fee covers wireless internet in addition to tennis, croquet, mini-golf and all non-motorized water sports. Also included are daily bottled water, local phone calls, happy hour snacks, bicycle use on resort property and daily morning coffee.
Half Moon also offers a variety of packages. Some include golf or spa treatments. Others include some or all meals.Â
The onsite fitness center has all manner of cardio and weight equipment and also hosts beach yoga and aerobics classes, as well as spinning sessions.
Babysitting is $8 per hour for one child and $4 for each additional child per hour.
The Art of Smart Timing
High season starts around mid-December and runs through mid-April. Traditionally, shoulder season can be mid-April through May and November to mid-December. Low season tends to be June through October. Always check for packages and plan ahead deals that may lower traditional rates.
Half Moon Resort is located in Montego Bay, about a 15-minute drive from
Donald Sangster International Airport. The resort can arrange shared transfers for $20 roundtrip or $12 per child. You can book a private transfer through the hotel for $140.
The property is very spread out. If you prefer to catch a ride in a golf cart instead of walk between the pools, horses, beach, etc. and your room or villa, just call the concierge for a complimentary lift. Half Moon's shuttle bus can ferry you to the golf course and a nearby shopping center. For venturing farther afield, taxis or private drivers can be arranged.Â
For Mom and Dad
At Half Moon's 68,000-square-foot Fern Tree Spa, you can create a custom experience by meeting with a spa elder, or guide, who designs a program for your stay. Find out which scrubs, what scents and which treatments are best for your goals. Or simply sign-up for one or more of the spa's treatments and massages. Our favorite treatment is the 80-minute Fern Tree Signature massage that incorporates a variety of techniques and massage oils, as well as a splash of Jamaican rum. Fern Tree devotes much of its space to creating an indoor/outdoor oasis to use for the day, not just for a pre-appointment 15 minutes. Relax by the plunge pools or swim in the lagoon pool accompanied by the sound of the waterfall fountains.Â
For a fun dinner off property, take the complimentary shuttle to Mystic India restaurant nearby. You can charge meals to your room here, and the food is truly delicious and authentic.