It was business as usual at Celine’s, on Hellsbire Beach, when model Tami Williams dropped in on a gloriously clear Wednesday afternoon this summer. The no frills, brightly colored seafood restaurant was well into lunch service, dishing up heaping plates of fresh lobster, fish, rice, and beans to the mostly local crowd that frequents the half-mile swath of sand near Kingston. The handful of sun-seekers who had made the trek sipped Red Stripes as the waves lapped the shore, the day grew long, and the dinner throngs began to roll in.
This lesser-known, arguably more authentic side of Jamaica—a place far from the manicured resort towns of Montego Bay and Ocho Rios—is where Williams feels at ease. She was raised in Kingston and St. Elizabeth Parish, and grew up going to Hellshire with friends and family. “Hellshire is the real Jamaica,” said Williams, who took Travel + Leisure on a tour of her favorite spots, wearing our top picks from the new resort collections. “The way the restaurants here prepare their fried or steamed lobster and fish is out of this world. And then of course you have to have a few festivals.” (For the uninitiated, a festival is like a sweet fritter.)
Williams has come a long way from Hellshire. She’s currently one of the most sought-after models in the business, having shot campaigns for Valentino and walked the runways for Dolce & Gabbana and Calvin Klein. New York and Paris may offer her fame and fortune, but Jamaicais the place that grounds her. “Tami was so excited to bring us somewhere she knew, somewhere she felt at home,” says photographer Jerome Corpuz, who, along with T+L fashion editor Melissa Ventosa Martin, traveled with Williams across the island.
The crew made its way to Port Antonio, another under-the-radar spot, where Williams met up with her friend, fellow Jamaican model Aneita Moore. Set on the northeastern coast, the town was a popular escape for the likes of Errol Flynn, Dean Martin, and Elizabeth Taylor in the 1950s, but had fallen off Holly wood’s radar by the 80s. It still attracts a discerning clientele, however. Williams brought the group along to the unspoiled beaches and bays that Port Antonio is still famous for, like tiny Frenchman’s Cove, wide, expansive San San Bay, and the jungle-shrouded Blue Lagoon. “Everything in Port Antonio is a bit tucked away—you have to work to find it,” says Corpuz, who stayed at Crystal Cove, while the rest of the crew based themselves at its sister property, Goblin Hill Villas at San San, and the elegant Trident Hotel. “In another era, people used to come with their yachts. Now, the scene is just mellow and beautiful.”