The Blue House - posh meets peace
Janet Silvera, Hospitality Jamaica Coordinator
There is no sweeter sound than singing birds and no view more alluring than an array of sun Vandas orchids accompanied by heart-shaped leaves and the youthful stems of colourful bougainvilleas.
Couple that look and feel with Bohemia yellow poinciana, which is the rarest personalised service that takes you to the apex, and food that unveils the taste buds to that gastronomic experience you must search long and wide to find.
These are just a few of the attributes that places boutique bed and breakfast The Blue House in Ocho Rios, St Ann, at the top of its game for some of the most discerning travellers who either make you or break you in their reviews of the accommodations industry online 'Bible', TripAdvisor.com.
With a mere five rooms - which includes a one-bedroom cottage that sleeps up to a family of four, to a superior room, tagged the 'Upper Room' - The Blue House could very well be Ocho Rios's biggest secret, but this is not necessarily so, having earned TripAdvisor's coveted 2012 Traveller's Choice award and earning a 9.2 point standing from Booking.com in 2015.
"We appeal to people who come to Jamaica for the real thing," says Elise Yap, who operates the bed and breakfast with her brother, self-taught chef Darryl, and mother Gloria.
Although very popular with US and Canadian visitors, The Blue House, which opened nine years ago after Yap was wiped out financially in the United States, Europeans who have no interest in all-inclusives have been flocking to the serene family setting.
It was not always like this, Elise Yap tells Hospitality Jamaica. In the early days, she was forced to do 'all-you-can-eat' buffets on a Friday night to sustain the bed and breakfast facility.
Today, her faith is cemented by the success and the impact the earnings from The Blue House has afforded those in need. "God led me to do this, and it's His business" she explains, adding that God sent people to stay at her home/business, so she could build homes for those without.
Her charity's - Bread Basket Ministries - mission is to serve the poor in Jamaica so that they can uphold their God-given dignity. And the goal, Yap says, is to alleviate human need and suffering in Ocho Rios by helping to provide the basic necessities of life to the poor, the neglected, and the marginalised.
"The interesting thing about The Blue House is God took away all of my money because he was trying to get my attention for years, but I was too busy being busy," Yap admits.
At The Blue House, no printed menu is done. Instead, food is served in a communal-style setting and is cooked with love by a barefoot chef by the name of Darryl.
Before arriving at the fabulous bed and breakfast facility, all guests are asked their preferences and any known allergies.
"We then create meals based on their choices," says Yap. Breakfast is included in the room rate, while dinner could cost up to US$30 per person per night.
Authentic Jamaican meals are what they pride themselves on. However, the talented and travelled chef throws in Italian, Thai, Greek, or Chinese occasionally.
Chef Darryl started cooking at age seven, and his passion is evident in the scrumptious meals he prepares.
Like me, who is still in awe by the tranquillity, beauty, and service above par, those who stay at The Blue House always comment on their time spent.
Here are some taken from TripAdvisor.com
Posh Meets Peace
"I loved the rooms at The Blue House. We reserved the family room but were upgraded to the Upper Room. I loved the elegant decor and at the same time slept so well, lulled by the sound of the raindrops on the banana tree (I think) leaves just outside the window I left open. The only thing more charming than the rooms was Elise, who is an engaging conversationalist. The food was so amazing, I proposed to Darryl in hopes that we could live out the rest of our days together in barefoot bliss."
"Everything was just perfect for us: the occasional dip in the pool, the 'fighting' hummingbirds, the views at breakfast, the Caribbean colours, the meeting and greeting of fellow worldwide travellers, the taste of Darryl's kitchen ("that dish alone is worth the flight!" a quote from my overwhelmed brother), the smiles and early morning greetings from the staff, the patience and expertise of our expert driver/guide Patrick and the wonderful insights and stories from our host Elise."
Trip of a Lifetime
"Amazing!!!!!! Beautiful flowers everywhere. I mean everywhere. It was always a good time to take a selfie. It was just so perfect. The private pool was overlooking loads of beautiful bougainvillea and orchids and mango trees and on and on and on with mountains and ocean as the backdrop."