Sunday, March 01, 2009

Jimmy Buffett in American Way Magazine

Jimmy Buffett's Caribbean
by Mark Seal

Caribbean | the Bahamas | Jimmy Buffett | Jamaica | Haiti

Celebrating the release of his latest CD, Far Side of the World, Jimmy Buffett takes us on his ultimate island-hopping tour of the tropical paradise.

I’ve always looked at life as a voyage … with a thousand ports of call behind me and, I hope, a thousand more to see,” writes singer/songwriter Jimmy Buffett in his best-selling autobiography, A Pirate Looks at Fifty. Few performers epitomize their geography better than Jimmy Buffett does the Caribbean. Born in Mississippi, he did a stint in Nashville, but didn’t find his voice — or his audience — until he moved to Key West, Florida, in the early ’70s. As Buffett’s star rose, his sails opened and he began living his songs, captaining all manner of boats throughout the Caribbean and piloting the Albatross, a 10-passenger Grumman seaplane. Parrotheads, as Buffett’s band of global groupies are called, have reason to rejoice this month: the release of Far Side of the World, his 33rd album.

So doff the tie and throw away the wristwatch. It’s time for an island-hopping weekend with Jimmy Buffett in the Caribbean.


LODGING"One of my favorite hotels in the whole Caribbean is in Haiti: the Oloffson in Port-au-Prince. From Lillian Hellman to Graham Greene, it has an incredible literary history. To me, it’s the Caribbean of the ’30s. In Nevis, you can either stay in a big, fancy resort like the Four Seasons, or you can get into Hurricane Cove, near the airport. It has verandas and palm-lined beaches. [On Harbour Island in the Bahamas] I have some friends who run the Pink Sands Hotel, which I like. [On Jamaica] I stayed over at Strawberry Hill, which is one of Chris Blackwell’s Island Outpost hotels. I also stay at Goldeneye, which was Ian Fleming’s house. Goldeneye is a wonderful spot. It’s like being in a James Bond movie. If you want action, go to St. Barts. I owned a hotel there, which was more of an all-night bar than it was a hotel, but it burned to the ground. Now my favorite hotel there is the Eden Rock."

“I took my kids to the Bob Marley Museum in Kingston, Jamaica. If you’re a Bob Marley fan, you should go there. It’s a funky little place, but worth going to. The great thing about the Caribbean is the diversity of the music. I have made it my business to collect CDs from the islands. Calypso, reggae, soukous, zook, you name it, I like it.”

“I always liked Papillote underneath Trafalgar Falls in Dominica. It serves mountain chicken, which is like these large frogs. Of course, everything tastes like chicken, but they’re great. There’s a hot waterfall and a cold waterfall up at the falls. They’ll take you from the airport and drop you at this little restaurant, and then you can hike to the falls and come down and have a meal.”

“I’ve always wanted to do ‘The Jimmy Buffett 10 Best Bars in the Caribbean’ as a show. Just get in my seaplane and play these bars. I’d start in Bimini at the Compleat Angler, where Hemingway lived and which influenced The Old Man and the Sea. Then the Staniel Cay Club in the Bahamas and Happy People Marina. Happy People has a great dance floor and Staniel Cay’s got a great dinner. Then I would go to Kaye’s on Rum Cay, which is down at the end of the Bahamas. It’s a very remote, very beautiful island. From the Bahamas, I’d stop at the Turtle Cove Inn in Providenciales, which I would put as one of my top 10 seafood restaurants in the world. They do the best fresh conch dishes there. I’d then go to the Anegada Reef Hotel and play there. After that, Le Select in St. Barts, where I let them use the Cheeseburger in Paradise trademark for the restaurant and I get to eat and drink free for the rest of my life. If I was heading south from there, one of my other little spots would be the Admiral’s Inn in Antigua. It’s where all the yachties go. And there’s Frangipani, a great little French hotel with a great restaurant in Bequia.”

“I eat breakfast at Eden Rock on St. Jean Beach in St. Barts. I like the view because I used to live in St. Jean. I wrote a couple of books and albums there, and I used to rent a room at the Eden Rock. It was kind of my office.”

“The most deserted beaches I’ve ever seen are on Long Island in the Bahamas. There are a couple of little hotels there and this incredibly long pink sand beach. The beaches in Barbuda, off of Antigua, are absolutely beautiful, too. The reefs have some of the best diving in the world.”

“Up-island in the Bahamas, I’d have to say Harbour Island. You can fish there, and there are nice restaurants and a marina. Just look up “Bonefish Joe” Cleare, and he’ll take you fishing. I think every island has a Bonefish Joe, but he’s probably the best one.”

“There are beaches in Jamaica, but I go for the mountains. I really like islands with mountains. It’s that incredible rivers-meet-the-ocean kind of thing. Dominica is probably my favorite, and Jamaica as well. I like the Cockpit Country up in the Jamaican mountains. Tropically lush plants. And it just smells good. You get away from the heat of the beach and get into altitude, and there are farms up there and beautiful rolling hills and mountains and rivers, and you can see the ocean.”

“I like to eat at my own restaurants in Jamaica. Margaritaville in Montego Bay, and Marguerite’s, which is the restaurant next to it. Marguerite’s is the best restaurant in MoBay, and not just because I happen to be in business with them. It’s kind of a combination of jerk and Cajun, and it’s really nice there. I’m getting ready to go down in a couple of weeks to open Island Village [a Margaritaville clone] in Ocho Rios. Then there’s a little hotel and restaurant called The Caves in Negril, which is a great spot. It’s just basic Jamaican: beans and rice and jerk. It’s also a great place to stay because the rooms are carved out of caves.”

“Here’s what I bring back from the islands: King, the great grapefruit drink that you can’t get in America. I will shop for wine in St. Barts. I love blush wines. Everything is exorbitantly priced in St. Barts, but one of the great bargains is the rose wines. The other thing is this great coconut oil from Nevis that they press down there. Of course, there’s no sunscreen in it whatsoever, but it’s the best coconut oil around. I collect hot sauces from all the islands. Naturally, each island thinks it has the best peppers. My favorites are Matouk’s from Trinidad and Pickapeppa from Jamaica.”

“First, I’d go to Le Select in St. Barts and have a Ti Punch. If I could pick anywhere for dinner in the Caribbean, it would be Maya’s on St. Barts. Maya’s is right on the water and they have great French-Creole cuisine. After that, I’d go to Bete A Z’ailes, a great place for music on the harbor. I’d finish my night at Le Ti-St. Barths, which is as close to the misbehaving that I remember when I owned my hotel on St. Barts.”


“There’s this incredible hike from Cap-Haïtien, a city down on the water in Haiti, up into the old fortress of Henri Christophe, who was the first king of Haiti. He built these palaces that were based on Versailles and San Souci right there in the jungles of Haiti. They’re all ruins now, but it’s amazing to take the walk up the road they built to this fortress. Last week, I took my son over to Brimstone Hill in St. Kitts, which is the fortress that’s called the Gibraltar of the Indies. It has an incredible history of the Amerindians that the French were fighting. The fort has monkeys climbing all over it. You can take a cab ride from the airport in St. Kitts. It’s worth a day trip.”


“I can tell you how ‘Cheeseburger in Paradise’ got written. It was probably 1974, and I was on my very first boat, a 33-foot sailboat. We had gotten into some weather and had to go into Ponce in Puerto Rico to get fixed. We sailed from Ponce with a rigged-up bow spread that was broken, and it was a rough passage. We sailed into Roatán, got off the boat, and were starving. We were dying for a cheeseburger after being at sea for 10 days eating fish. And there, like an oasis, was this brand-new restaurant at the Village Cay Marina. We went in and just started gobbling cheeseburgers and drinking piña coladas because we were so glad to be on land. We had about three cheeseburgers each. For some reason, as I was walking out I looked and saw a package in the kitchen and the label was written in French: Cuoderrie Produit de Cheval. Do you know what cheval is? Horse. I went back to the guy and said, ‘This will never do. You’ve got a good idea here, but you’ve got to take the horse meat off the menu.’ We went back the next day and the owner was very proud that he’d gotten real hamburger from Puerto Rico, and we sampled the cheeseburgers again. I wrote the song right there: ‘Cheeseburger in paradise, heaven on earth with an onion slice.’”

jimmy buffett's caribbean essentials

eden rock, st. barts; $275-$1,550; 011-590-590-29-79-99

four seasons nevis, nevis; $495-$2,550; (869) 469-1111

goldeneye, jamaica; $1,250-$5,000; (876) 975-3354

hotel oloffson, haiti; $69-$113; 011-509-223-4000

hurricane cove, nevis; $125-$325; (869) 469-9462

pink sands hotel, bahamas; $655-$2,100; (242) 333-2030

strawberry hill, jamaica; $325-$775; (876) 944-8400

the caves, jamaica; jamaican; all inclusive; (876) 957-0270

eden rock, st. barts; breakfast; $17-$20; 011-590-590-29-79-99

le select, st. barts; casual; $5-$9; 011-590-590-27-86-87
margaritaville, jamaica; casual; $18-$23; (876) 952-4777

marguerite’s, jamaica; caribbean/cajun; $8-$23; (876) 952-4777

maya’s, st. barts; french-creole; $20-$40; 011-590-590-27-75-73

papillote, dominica; caribbean; $22; (767) 448-2287

admiral’s inn, antigua; (268)

anegada reef hotel, anegada; (284) 495-8002

bete a z’ailes, st. barts;

compleat angler, bahamas;
(242) 347-3122

frangipani, bequia; (784) 458-3255

happy people marina,
bahamas; (242) 355-2008

kaye’s, bahamas; no phone

le select, st. barts; 011-590-

le ti-st. barths, st. barts;

staniel cay yacht club, bahamas; (242) 355-2024 or (954) 467-8920

turtle cove inn hotel, providenciales; (649) 946-4203

attractionsbob marley museum,
jamaica; (876) 927-9152

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