Luxury Re-Defined By Ruth Chisholm Which images do your minds conjure up when you hear the term luxury? For some it is a tapestry of colours, divine views, exquisite décor, aromatic spas and fine dining. For others it is simply doing nothing, bearing no charges or daily task lists and having nothing expected of you except relaxation. Or better yet, knowing that your needs are being managed by a capable cadre of professionals and all you need to do is show up. The term luxury is yet another relative thing, all dependent on ones perspective. It therefore does not depend solely on price or location. It seems to speak to that which is different from your daily experience. Luxury could be your transferal from the here and now of traffic, deadlines and other elements of your daily routines to a physical and more importantly mental haven for rest and relaxation. Paradise on the Edge Great Huts in Portland does not offer the all-inclusive package of the North Coast. It does not promise fluffed pillows and turn-down service, international buffets or swim up bars. Great Huts offers a back-to-nature experience. The get-away offers an array of tents, huts and mind-blowing tree houses all built to compliment the natural aura of the property. A walk through paths thickened by trees and delicately placed African Art takes you down to the waters edge where guests can bask in the legendary tranquil blue waters of Portland. The huts, tents and tree-houses are so intimately designed that all guests have a sense of privacy. The property is charming in its simplicity yet bold and daring in its creativity. Each hut, tent or tree-house is still equipped with electricity and „in-door‟ plumbing – well- all your porcelain requirements are guaranteed, just imagine showering under the moon or sunlight in a space cloaked by bamboo. Great Huts is the brain child of Dr. Paul Rhodes, who wanted to offer Jamaicans and visitors an Afro-Caribbean experience that worked with the local community and environment. Located at the rear the renowned Boston Jerk Centre, Great Huts dares patrons to think outside the box of air conditioning, cable television, and all the amenities of the typical hotel or resort. According to Dr. Rhodes building Great Huts was “in [his own] very small way, embracing African art and culture with respect”, especially, “not just building another "usual" Euro resort.” He had a love for camping and was deeply inspired by African Art. So developing a facility that seemed to combine both came naturally. His parents first introduced him to Portland and Jamaica on a whole through their varied stories particularly about rafting trips down the Rio Grande. After numerous visits to Portland his one-week vacations turned into four-week hiatuses. Rhodes soon affirmed his personal love for the parish and after selling his medical practice in Washington, D.C. he turned his attention to Jamaica in 2003.
Dr. Rhodes was convinced that huts were perfect for the cliff like land space that he purchased. His land surveyor tried to convince him to bulldoze the entire property but he disagreed. To him the “cliff, rocks and jungle” made the idea even more perfect. “Our
occasional continental African visitors have complemented us by saying Great Huts feels real.” He has been asked why huts vs. villas? He referred to a colleague of his in the Jamaica Tourist Board, who continuously corrected him whenever he said Great „Huts‟. “She always said Paul don‟t‟ you mean Villas?” he stated. Well Paul is confident that “Jamaica certainly does not need another Villa as [there are already] so many. Do we really need more all inclusive [hotels] to exclude the community and sense of the real Jamaica?” He admits however, that most local guests have not been happy at Great Huts as many of them desire and quite frankly need the amenities of the more popular hotels or north coast resorts. This is not a criticism of his former patrons as Rhodes feels everyone has his or her preferences. “Most of our guests love Great Huts. But some find it to be horrible and honestly, most Jamaicans are not comfortable here. The lizards, no air conditioning, no real parking lot… [Just] too natural.” Great Huts is ideal for persons with interests in, nature, African culture and who don‟t mind something a few notches above rugged camping. Guests are primarily from North America, with others arriving from Western Europe, New Zealand, Japan and Israel. Dr. Rhodes travels to and from D.C. so the property is managed full time by a Jamaican, Peter Lewis who leads a staff of seven. Great Huts is comprised of six huts, three tents and two tree-houses. Allin “Skanka” Hottat is the resident chef who prepares local and international meals on request. Breakfast, along with wireless internet, is included with reservations of the larger huts and tree-houses. So guests can check on their email between sunbathing on the cliffs and relaxing in the tent, hut or tree-house of their choice. Entertainment is based on the number of guests at Great Huts at any given time. Dancers and drummers from Portland and its environs are some of the program highlights. Great Huts also hosts cultural programs such as the "Jamaica Shalom" to discuss Caribbean Jewish history and explore its connections to Rastafarian culture in February and the Marcus Garvey Conference in the summer. “We don't really need to list activities although we offer outings.” Rhodes added, “…and most people just groove on the natural vibe, the friendliness [and] the hammocks are everywhere for reading or holding the one you to love.”
The Future There are plans to build another tree house and construct some additional tents. But right now Rhodes is focused on maintenance and more maintenance. He admits that he did go through periods where he went from paycheck to paycheck while developing Great Huts. He also affirms that he did not take out any loans and did it all little by little. But the dream was alive and the idea of Great Huts survived the challenges of inefficient laborers, nearly endless red tape in dealing with basic utility companies and lack of faith from tourism and development professionals. When asked about the rumors of large developments Rhodes does not seem too concerned. “I don't worry about other hotels and competition,” he said, “we are unique and even if other Eco-resorts open up and I hope that they do, there will be room and love
for Great Huts. There may be a load of doctors in town but there is always space for a good one who cares.” Rhodes hopes that Portland grows and develops “but in a manner which is green and sustainable.” According to Rhodes they should not “overbuild,” He encourages developments like Sandals for example to “encourage outside visits to the town so that local persons can benefit.” His sincere wish, one that is shared by many Jamaicans is the hope that “developers don't privatize large local beaches.” His advice to small business persons and mini-entrepreneurs is “do your homework, don't borrow at ridiculous interest, join up with good people and respect your gut instinct and do what you love.”
So if you want to try a different type of luxurious vacation consider Great Huts in Portland. It promises to surprise you with an incomparable experience in going against a conventional resort escape. There is no shortage of tranquility, cool breezes and fresh sea air way off the beaten path. Website – www.greathuts.com Rates – Smaller Huts $35 per person per night Larger Huts $139 based on double occupancy Tree-houses $167 based on double occupancy