Everyone’s idea of paradise is a little bit different. For me, if I can roll over in the morning in a cozy king size bed to the soothing sound of the Caribbean Sea outside my patio door, I’m in heaven. This is exactly what San Bar Villa in Port Antonio, Jamaica offered me and the feeling was captivating.
Through the wonders of coincidence I was asked to visit this seafront oasis for a couple of days so that I could share it with you all. It was a spur of the moment request and I’m so glad I had room in my schedule to get to Portland because not only was this villa experience charming, my entire time in the surrounding area was amazing and I’ll be going back as soon as my schedule permits.
San Bar and its sister villa, San Cove are located in the San San area just outside the town of Port Antonio on Jamaica’s east coast. They are elegantly set right on the sea front and from the road side you wouldn’t even know this kind of paradise exists behind its gates. These properties offer complete privacy from the road while exposing you to the contrast of living life on the sea.
The two villas are joined by a breezeway in the middle and although they are two separate experiences they can also be rented as one for much larger groups. I experienced only San Bar because the smaller San Cove was undergoing renovations at the time of my stay, but as you can see on their websites they each offer the same luxurious experiences, including a personal chef, a butler and a housekeeper.
Now, on with my review!
When I arrived at the property I was greeted at the gate by Rose, the housekeeper on duty that day. She helped me get situated inside and then accompanied me on a full tour of the six-bedroom San Bar side of this property. The feeling I got as soon as I entered the wide open villa was one of peacefulness. I was immediately struck by what I saw from the veranda overlooking the sea. Before coming to Port Antonio one of my readers made sure to tell me to go find Monkey Island. Standing on this veranda I could see that I would practically be sleeping on Monkey Island! It was within swimming distance so I didn’t have to look very hard.
The main living area of the villa is beautifully decorated with a crisp, beachy feel to it. When all the patio doors are wide open the fresh sea breeze flows freely through the house. I never turned on a fan nor an air conditioner during my entire time at the villa.
On this main entry level you’ll find the living area pictured above along with more sitting space to the rear with a comfy sectional sofa and a flat screen TV, although I’m not sure who would want to watch TV with a view this spectacular. However, if you’re traveling with children it may come in handy to keep them entertained.
Also on this main level is the fully equipped kitchen complete with two oversized stainless steel fridges, a gas cooking range and two ovens. Since the villa has its own private chef, guests can either leave the kitchen and cooking duties to him or opt to use the kitchen themselves. If you prefer to have the chef prepare all your meals he will accompany you to local supermarkets to pick up fresh ingredients for each meal.
Andre, the chef of several years here, told me that lots of guests like to be in the kitchen learning while he’s cooking up Jamaican meals. This is the part I love about villas in Jamaica – they provide a more true Jamaican experience because you can spend time with the staff and learn a LOT about the food and culture. They’re always more than happy to share the experience with you.
I was only at the villa for two nights and for my first meal I chose my favorite, brown stew chicken. The second night I chose a curry vegetarian option with white rice. And for my breakfasts I stuck with my veggie omlette addiction each day. I stayed in the kitchen with Andre on my first evening simply because I can’t resist the aroma of brown stew chicken cooking on the stove.
That photo was the meal in progress. Once the cooking is finished and plated it was the magic touch of my personal butler, Glendon, who made me feel like an honored guest at this giant table with one special setting. On the plate we have Jamaican brown stew chicken, my favorite pumpkin rice, green salad and fried plantain. Champagne was the finishing touch on my welcome dinner.
On the top (third) level of San Bar villa are four beautiful bedrooms, each with their own ensuite bathrooms. All bedrooms have ceiling fans, air conditioning, and sliding doors that open onto verandas overlooking the Caribbean Sea and Monkey Island. On the main level of the villa there is a fifth bedroom (the one I chose) off the main living area. It also has its own bathroom and sliding door onto the main veranda. The sixth bedroom is on the deck level below and walks out onto the pool deck area. In total, the villa can sleep eight adults and six children, or 14 adults if some are willing to double up and share a room. Here’s a gallery I’ve put together with photos of each bedroom.
Click on the first image to open up the gallery and scroll through larger images.
My room was the very first image in the gallery, the blue bedroom. Each morning I woke to the sound of the sea outside and the smell of fresh coffee brewing, compliments of the butler, Glendon
As mentioned, Glendon and Andre are at the service of villa guests 24/7, and stay in separate living quarters within the villa. Both of them are on site at all times, there if you need them and out of your way if you don’t. I was more than happy with the company of both.
Since I was alone in the villa I had plenty of time to chill out and get to know all the staff at San Bar. Andre the chef pretty much just took care of my meals and was less visible than Glendon the butler. He was super friendly, funny and loves to sing. He’s been at this villa for around four years and his cooking is ON POINT! I died and went to heaven with each dinner I had. Andre seems like a Jamaican food specialist although he told me that he can cook anything guests desire. I never tested out the American meal theory because I’m in Jamaica….I wanted Jamaican food.
Glendon’s purpose as the villa butler is whatever you need him for. He is the one who had the coffee brewing early in the mornings and had my meal times set just perfectly. I also saw him doing pool maintenance and he always made sure I had a cold drink in my hand.
For me personally, the BEST part about having Glendon around was for accompaniment. I’m not very familiar with Portland parish yet so he was my sidekick on the road. We set out early each day to take in Reach Falls, Boston beach and famous jerk center, Portland marina, Blue Lagoon, Monkey Island and many other spur of the moment things he thought I should see in the area. My time was limited so it really helped me to have him tag along, plus he’s a young and a lot of fun! He inspired a post I wrote the other day called “9 Reasons to Love Your Jamaican Butler”.
Glendon also told me that when they have guests who don’t drive themselves he will personally arrange all transportation for excursions and accompany the guests if they want him to.
On the housekeeping team I met both Rose and Lydia on separate days. They come to work in the morning and leave before dinner time and are in charge of making up the rooms, keeping the villa tidy and turning down the beds late in the day. Since I was on the road for many days before arriving at this villa, Lydia was an absolute doll and did a load of my laundry for me. I totally would have done it myself but she insisted. What a sweetheart!
Things To Do In The Area
It was a crying shame that I only had time to stay in Portland for a couple of days because there is SO MUCH to see and do there! But with the help of Glendon, a boat, my car, and the pure beauty of the area I was able to take in enough to hopefully get others to come visit this amazing parish!
I will be blogging about all of the places mentioned in the previous section over the coming weeks so stay tuned for those. With each one that I add I’ll come back to this review and link to them for your convenience.
While At The Villa
There are a lot of special things I loved about being at this villa, in particular, just “BEING” at the villa was one of them. I’m sure if I had been part of a larger group staying here my experience would have been completely different. But what I loved the most was sitting on my laptop on the veranda each morning, sipping a Blue Mountain coffee.
Occasionally I would see tourists from other villas sail past on kayaks or bamboo rafts. On my second morning I was up particularly early, probably 6:00 am and saw a couple kayaking out to Monkey Island. How beautiful. San Bar and San Cove have kayaks for guest use as well, and I’m not sure where to find the bamboo raft guides but I’m positive that Glendon can work that out for the guests.
Each night the waterfront gazebo at the villa brought a little bit of magic into my life. After dark I sat down there both nights enjoying my surroundings. With the gazebo lights illuminating the water below I was fascinated by the underwater life. Huge (and many!) stingrays lazily swim around in the water below, fishing for their meals. Thousands of smaller fish going on about their business, and larger fish jumping in and out of the water. All the while, Glendon was happy to keep my refreshments coming while sharing his knowledge of the sea life below.
Although I didn’t get a chance to take a dip in the villa swimming pool I did check out the entire pool deck. It is a fantastic, fully equipped feature of this villa. There are plenty of lounge chairs on the deck, a rinse-off shower beside the pool, a full wet bar on this level for refreshments and the killer sound system from the house is wired down around the pool and inside the gazebo. Even though I’m a huge advocate for getting out and truly experiencing Jamaica I would completely understand if guests spent most of their time at this villa.
The vacation villa lifestyle in Jamaica is ideal for families and groups traveling together. As mentioned earlier, San Bar and San Cove can be rented individually or together for larger groups. The biggest benefit of a villa vacation is that it feels like being home even though you’re away from home….but you don’t have to make your own coffee in the morning and the views are much prettier!
For groups this type of vacation is perfect. Whether you’re a family, a wedding party, a reunion, a girls group or just a bunch of friends who want to get away, vacation villas are far more intimate and personal than a hotel or resort.
Portland is far from the hub of tourism in Jamaica and although it takes a little extra time to get there, once you reach you’ll have zero reasons to care about the tourist traps. There is SO much to see and do in this parish that you’ll never even miss the touristy parts of Jamaica.
Finally, I would like to offer a HUGE thank you to the owners and staff of San Bar and San Cove villas for their hospitality, and for giving me the push that I needed to visit Portland again after so many years. I truly enjoyed my stay and am now inspired to get back to the area ASAP! And as usual, I’ll give an extra shout out to Budget Rental Car Jamaica who makes ALL of my road trips in Jamaica possible.
For more information and bookings at these two villas please visit their websites: