Michael Gross reports from his seaside utopias
AUTHOR MICHAEL GROSS has more than a dozen books to his credit and has written for almost every magazine and newspaper you can name, including AVENUE, where he has served as both real estate editor and acting editor. His much-anticipated next book, Focus: The Sexy, Secret, Sometimes Sordid World of Fashion Photographers, will be published in July, following New York Times best sellers like Model, 740 Park, and House of Outrageous Fashion. After spending 21 straight winters on St. Barthélemy, Gross says he needed a change and began taking alternating midwinter trips to Jamaica and the Mayan Riviera.
In 2011, we planned to go to Egypt, but the morning we were set to fly, we woke up to a revolution in Tahrir Square, had to regroup fast, and ended up in Jamaica, where my wife has close friends. Before we discovered St. Barts in the 1980s, we’d gone several times to a Yucatán town known for diving and snorkeling called Akumal, and in 2012 decided to return. Both places have the things we need most to relax: wonderful people, living reefs and a lifestyle that’s as simple as it is sophisticated.
From sea to shining sea
We are both swimmers and snorkelers and will dive into almost anything: lagoons, beaches, cliffs, blue holes, caves. Otherwise, we read, cook, shop and just relax. And we also like to just poke around. You never know what you’ll find.
Putting down roots . . . with a little reggae!
In Jamaica, we’ve stayed at the luscious resort Round Hill (above), in a house perched on the cliffs of western Negril (right); at the all-inclusive Couples Tower Isle, owned by our friends the Issa family; and this winter at Te Moana, a rustic little cottage on the water just outside Ocho Rios. In Mexico, we love to start at either Kin Sol Soleil, a boutique hotel created by the architect Jose Luis Moreno, or Esencia, owned by our pal Kevin Wendle. We have also rented villas in North Akumal, one called Blue Tang, right on a protected lagoon called Yal-Ku, and another on the beach called Casa Maya, with a reef within swimming distance.
It’s a small world after all
We ran into Bergdorf Goodman’s fashion director Linda Fargo in the parking lot at Esencia! Round Hill attracts the families of Ralph Lauren, Steve Schwarzman and Bob Pittman, all New Yorkers; both times we’ve gone our friend Princess Elizabeth of Yugoslavia has been there and introduced us to an interesting, international cast of characters. In Ocho Rios, we had dinner with Jamaican superstar Chris Blackwell, the record mogul turned hotelier and rum maker, who is as charming as he is accomplished and brilliant.
The last supper
Couples Tower Isle has a new pan-Asian restaurant called Bayview, where you eat in a couple of pavilions hanging over the water (right). Everything—the ingredients, the presentation, the service, even the wines—were as good as anything we’ve ever eaten in New York. In Mexico, we always go to Los Pelicanos on the main square in Puerto Morelos for peel-and-eat shrimp and ice-cold Coronas.
Beware of . . .
Sea urchins! I stepped on one in Negril and never want to meet another.
We had great lunches at the Jamaica Inn in Ocho Rios and GoldenEye in Oracabessa Bay. After jerk chicken, we swam for an hour all alone in GoldenEye’s man-made lagoon.
I can’t travel without . . .
. . . my Cressi spearfishing mask and snorkel and my iPad for reading New York newspapers. They’re the only things from home I want to see on vacation.