“Could I get you two a beer? What about a joint? We could cook up some food if you’re hungry.”
Mark’s bare footsteps echoed across the wooden floor, his dreadlocks falling in front of his face, as he rolled a generous joint atop the bar. I watched and sipped a Red Stripe; the nocturnal creatures of the Canaan Mountain filling the silence.
I knew nothing of Zimbali Culinary Retreats when I booked a three-night stay for me and my wife. We had never been to Jamaica, and the flight to Montego Bay lined up perfectly with my wife’s spring break.
I arrived with no expectations; I left with a promise to return.
For four days, Mark and his wife treated us to an unforgettable resort experience. As our world reopens and our wanderlust is renewed, I’ve got five reasons why a culinary and cannabis retreat to Zimbali is the perfect post-pandemic getaway for every type of traveler.
Google “Zimbali” and Tripadvisor will tell you that it’s the number one rated restaurant in the country. The cuisine far exceeds the hype. Fresh-squeezed soursop juice. Spicy hash patties. Jerk shrimp, pumpkin soup, fish cooked in coconut milk. Every meal was a true taste of Jamaica, nearly every item on the plate was sourced from Zimbali’s adjacent farm. A six-course cooking show, Zimbali’s pièce de resistance, will likely be the freshest meal you’ve ever had.
The Cultural Experiences
If Bob Marley and marijuana are your only point of reference for Jamaica, prepare to be thoroughly educated in the island’s rich culture. From African drumming performances and lessons to wood carving workshops with a world-renowned artist, every authentic experience brings you closer to the island’s culture, history, and soul. For the ultimate experience, you can hike to Camp Survival to meet Fiyah, the Rastafarian who has lived off the land for 30 years. He upholds the Livity of Rastafari and is ready to introduce you to Rasta Ital Cooking. Chatting with Fiyah in his bare-bones camp is an immensely enlightening experience that will alter the way you see our world.
…and in case you were wondering, yes, the “herb” is fantastic, too.
Mark and Lisa will help you plan every moment of your stay, though you’re always free to call the shots. We opted to spend one day down in Negril, bumming out on the beach and watching Jamaican rum convince tourists that they should dive off of the 35-foot cliffs at Rick’s Café. Do you want to snorkel in Booby Cay, party with pirates on the private Half Moon Beach, or down rum punch on Cloggy’s sandbar half a mile from shore? Mark and Lisa are happy to oblige.
The famed cooking show is the main draw for Zimbali’s visitors, but even at full capacity, you’ll only share the retreat with five other overnight couples. There are few neighbors atop the mountain; the livestock may very well outnumber the people that call this patch of Little London home. Quiet moments spent swaying in the hammock on your private patio, listening to the hee-haws of the farm’s lone donkey, are simply sublime.
At its heart, Zimbali is a home above all else. Mark, Lisa, their children, and their staff welcome every visitor like an extended family member. This oasis, far removed from the run-of-the-mill resorts and tourist-pandering shops along the coast, grants you a unique glimpse into this loving Westmoreland community.
As an added bonus, those lucky enough to venture down post-COVID will enjoy two new perks. A brand-new swimming pool with an expansive stone deck, dubbed the Mountain Lagoon, was just built footsteps from the guest rooms. Mark is also proud to announce that Zimbali has recently received their Tier 2 Cultivation License, which means there’s going to be exponentially more ganja to go around.