“Slow Down, Breathe, Be Here Now.”

Jamaica is justly known for its fabulous beaches, from the 7 mile stretch of white sand in Negril, to the coral reef-edged waters of Ocho Rios, to the mystical Blue Lagoon in Portland and the black sand of Saint Thomas. As a water baby, I have loved them all and yearned for more. Yet Jamaica is as much a country of mountains as it is an island in the sun, and those mountains yield riches of their own.

The water lover in me feigned rude indifference when a friend invited me to visit Jamaica’s Blue Mountains this weekend. I grew up in the shadow of the Canadian Rockies, I yawned; how can your jungle-smothered hills beat that? A Rocky mountain is a giant staggering wall of granite. It is the harshness of a Canadian winter. It is awe and overwhelm. The Rockies are a fortress that holds a very special place in my heart.

That said, the Blue Mountains are, in their lushness, also awesome and overwhelming. Steep ravines coated in flora plunge to narrow rivers and soar to jagged spines. They house people all the way up their twisting roads, and a seemingly infinite variety of plant life grows on treacherous slopes. Precarious feeling roads twist and turn and burst open on views that reach to the blue-green sea.

Perched mid-way up one peak, in an area called Irish Town (for the Royal Army Fusiliers stationed on the hill during World War II), hides a treasure of a get-away, Serendipity Holistic Resort. Just 45 minutes outside of the humid bustling heat of Kingston, the air is clean and crisp – crisp enough that the 4 inch down duvet I scoffed at on check in and compared to marshmallow cream was incredibly welcome in the middle of the night.

It’s a shocking delight (after four months in Jamaica) to experience chilled skin. Those reading this in the depths of a North American winter will scoff, perhaps even scowl, but waking in the middle of the night, walking across a cool tile floor, and then rushing back to snuggle under the fluffiest of covers was a luxurious comfort. As a fellow guest said the following day, it’s much nicer to be cold and have the ability to get warm than it is to be too hot and not be able to cool off. The mountain air is much more than a break from the heat and humidity:it’s also a respite from the mental and literal noise of city living.

Serendipity makes the most of their mountain-top perch. A series of waterfalls cascade through the property, with swimming holes gently landscaped to aid safe entrance without spoiling the effect of being out in nature. The eight cabins skillfully tread that fine line between rustic and elegant – yes, they have slow circling plantation fans and peaked wood slat ceilings, but they also have flat-screen TVs. A plethora of the most fantastic exotic plants, an organically integrated koi pond, buddhas of all shape and style, and a riverside open-air yoga studio, even the early-morning call of the Bantam rooster, all echo the call “slow down, breathe, be here now.” And the inviting chorus works.

I used to say that Blue Mountain coffee was the pot of gold at the end of Jamaican rainbows – now I know the mountains themselves are the hidden richness. They are the cool breeze, the laughing river, and the sunlight dancing across it all.