Nestled in the midst of the lush vegetation of hills outside Port Antonio and boasting breathtaking views of the Caribbean Sea lies a hidden oasis. Welcome to Hotel Mockingbird Hill, a quaint edifice that may be perhaps one of Jamaica's best-kept secrets. Operated by eco-savvy owners Shireen Aga and Barbara Walker, Hotel Mockingbird Hill is undoubtedly Jamaica's most environmentally friendly hotel, "where simplicity is a style in itself and indulgence is guiltless".
The reputation of the hotel's eco-friendly nature has grown over the past 18 years, gathering with it several accolades, most recently the 2010 Virgin Holidays Responsible Tourism Award for The Best Accommodation for the Environment, plus Green Globe certification.
In addition to using energy-saving lighting, solar energy and water heating, the hotel utilises anaerobic waste-water treatment, has a solid waste management programme, uses low-flow toilets and water-saving showers and faucets, in addition to practising rainwater harvesting with a 65,000-gallon capacity.
The environs of the compound, which is certified as a wildlife habitat, are 'pure' - no pesticides or other chemicals have been used in the gardens. Food - as much as possible - is sourced locally or in close proximity to the property, to support local suppliers, as well as to reduce food miles.
Single-use items such as straws and plastic utensils are used neither in the kitchen nor restaurant, and a carbon-offsetting programme, in conjunction with the Jamaica Conservation Development Trust, is currently underway.
This unique eco-friendly setting provides both intimacy and the comforts of luxury accommodation. And guests enjoy too, the informal, laid-back atmosphere, along with the staff's old-fashioned Jamaican charm.
Aga and Walker see it as providing comfort in a responsible fashion, with guests encouraged to explore Port Antonio's rainforests and highland valleys filled with fascinating Jamaican plant and animal life, the nearby white sandy beaches, Jamaica's Blue Mountains where you'll be guided along footpaths under misty, forested canopies, or the Rio Grande, where you can go rafting between rolling hillsides and the lush Jamaican rainforest.
And what keeps Hotel Mockingbird Hill green? "A passion for what we do," says Walker. She continues, "It is always a good feeling to be recognised for one's efforts. And the awards [we've won] also serve to encourage us to keep improving our performance."