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Hotel Love: Rockhouse Hotel & Spa

There comes a time in every beyond-busy girl’s life when she has to stop and reset. Generally it’s when she starts to operate on a more robotic basis than a human one: sleep, eat, work, and repeat. It’s when the idea of merely thinking about your to-do list is a tiring ordeal. This is the time to turn all the way down and when it hit me the past October I listened. And knew exactly where I wanted to do it. In Jamaica. On a cliff. At Rockhouse.

My mission was simple: I wanted a longer “power weekend” kinda of getaway so I knew I had to stay within one timezone. Since I’d already penned Columbus Day weekend into my personal travel schedule I knew that the Caribbean would be my best bet for a shorter jaunt. And as I was traveling dolo, I wanted the thrill of discovery along with a few hints of familiarity. Duh, Jamaica.

Located on the literal western tip of Jamaica in Negril, Rockhouse has been a longtime favorite of my travel-savvy friends and colleagues, so I had put it on my “must-do” list years ago. It wasn’t until I was having dinner at the hotel’s sister hotspot in New York City that it clicked. If I wanted to do nothing, I had to go somewhere that “nothing” was the main activity. I booked my flight that night.

Getting There
While it’s possible to fly directly to Negril via an inter-island transfer, most international flights will come into nearby Montego Bay. From there, it’s about a 1.5-2 hour scenic ride from Mo’Bay to Negril. I arranged my transportation through Rockhouse directly with a company called Kenny Tours and had a private, air conditioned can waiting for me upon arrival. With both of my trips to and from the hotel I found Kenny’s staff to be super courteous and serve as unofficial tour guides for the route. A complimentary stops to nearby convenience stores for a Red Stripe and patty for the ride didn’t hurt either. Gratefully both rides could be charged to my room instead of me having to fumble for cash at the airport. It’s a long ride no doubt, but once I arrived it was quickly forgotten.

Much Ado In The Name of Nothing
Upon walking into Rockhouse and eerie sensation develops. It’s quiet. Not exactly silent, it’s a blend of the water that surrounds you, trees in the breeze and Jamaican nature doing it’s thing. Though unsettling for a city-dweller at first, it’s a sound you will soon miss upon leaving. This sense of overall calm, manifests itself throughout your time at Rockhouse. From the design of the property to the people it employs, there is a serious commitment to chill.

After checking in, I ventured to the main social area, the pool. Aside from honeymooning couples and a funny group of maturely “I’m just so happy to be away from my kids” rowdy friends on their 4th round of rum punches, the overall vibe was super chill. As the property is small in size with only twenty villas and 14 hotel-style rooms/suites you quickly start to feel as if you are in a small, privileged club of people who equally share good taste and travel and a serious commitment to relaxation in style.

As a seasoned solo female traveller I’ve grown accustomed to leery looks from women and sheepish smiles from their men while vacationing at a typically couples/group style property, etc (trick: Always greet the woman first and smile like you mean it) but happily the mood of the place seemed to had let everyone’s guard come way down. Strangers quickly become social buddies during breakfast and dinner, and I quickly learned that once you mention you’re from Brooklyn everyone is your friend.

Aside from the spa and restaurants, the main attraction of Rockhouse is the cliffs the property sits on, and then jumping off of them into the Caribbean Sea. As I planned to become one with my beach chair and possibly start on the great African American feminist novel, I didn’t schedule any sight-seeing activities but local attractions such as zip-lining, waterfalls, hiking and cooking classes were all at my disposal. The hotel itself boasts daily sunrise yoga classes, demonstrations with Chef Warren Rowe and cocktail parties plus a weekly excursions to visit a nearby school which benefits from Rockhouse’s charitable arm, The Rockhouse Foundation. Sadly, I saw that I had missed one of Rockhouse’s own live music nights that have tend to feature the country’s biggest artists like Mr. Vegas and Tarrus Riley, who was scheduled the week after my visit.

But if you’re like me and your dedication to moving as little as possible is serious while on holiday, Rockhouse makes it so you truly never have to leave the property to experience Jamaica. From chats with staff to afternoons spent revisiting my favorite books and finally getting to saved Pocket articles, I lazily spent most of my time zoning out to my own music and reads while sitting upon a cliff in a bikini while jerk chicken sandwiches and Appleton rum magically appeared.

When I did decide to move, it was to the Spa Pavillion so I could take my “nothingness” up a notch by scheduling a Signature Tropical Massage. As my treatment began with the spa’s notable foot washing ritual, I quickly learned why it’s commonly referred to as one of the best new gems in the Caribbean. The blend of local products, amazing decor, proven techniques and genuine Jamaican hospitality makes for a memorable experience. Joyce, my partitioner quickly became my best friend as we chatted about island life, Brooklyn’s dominant Jamaican community, food and general commonalities. Her smile was warm, genuine and familiar. And then she put me to sleep with her massage.

Where To Eat
Rockhouse has three main dining options, its namesake restaurant is open for breakfast, lunch and dinner that features a “new” Jamaican twist on its food. The Pool Grill & Bar is the go-to place for good Jamaican fare brought to you while sun worshiping in the daytime. For dinner, I found myself most drawn to Pushcart, it’s sister restaurant which borrows heavy from Dancehall culture for its decor and Jamaican street fare and traditional staples for cuisine. Diners familiar with New York’s Miss Lily’s will feel right at home as it’s sister restaurant goes beyond with it’s food and attitude. Walking to and from Pushcart from Rockhouse is was a treat as it allows for you to see the entirety of the property and how it changes from day to night.

Where To Stay
As I didn’t see the need to, sadly I didn’t book one of Rockhouse’s notable villas and opted for a Deluxe Standard room instead. With it’s mosquito-net canopied four-poster beds, Jamaican wood interior, shutters and outdoor shower I felt as if I were on a really chic safari complete with an Ankara-print daybed/sofa for lazy mornings reading. What you won’t find is a television or alarm clock but if watching TV is important to you while staying at Rockhouse I’d ask you to reconsider your priorities. Thanks to a gracious cleaning lady I was able to sneak a peek at two of the property’s famed Garden and Premium Villas, some complete with their own private and semi-private cliffside patios. Anchored by a bed in the center, these mini studio apartments are perfect for a couple honeymooning our looking to reconnect as you never once have to leave your space to enjoy your time by the cliffs and the property’s in-room dining services. For groups of couples, the villas are definitely the way to go. Groups of single/not-so-single friends can easily enjoying rooming next to each other in the Deluxe Standard Rooms and Studios for a chic, away-camp type of vibe. Be sure to check their rate schedule to plan your trip, any time is a good time to visit however visiting during the Fall allowed me to take advantage of it’s lowest rates and experience the property with less people in the way.

Overall, I can see why the hotel has a tribe of return visitors that come back for a yearly, must-do holiday. Perhaps next time I’ll see what Rockhouse can give with a group of friends and fun, but for a weekend to reconnect with myself, it was all that I needed.

Pros
Remote, yet safe location
Property wide free wi-fi access
Exclusivity yet the vibe is very laid-back. No stuffiness here.
Guest shop was stocked with authentic/local finds plus needed sun staples at reasonable costs
Environmentally conscious practices implemented throughout

Cons
If you REALLY want to watch TV you better bring a laptop. Sports fans I feel for you.
Lighting. As the property boasts a garden to navigate throughout, lack of lighting in certain areas contributed to me getting lost for a few minutes.
Availability. Guests book Rockhouse months in advance so plan accordingly for large groups or special events.

Info: Rockhouse Website

Last 5 posts by Shannon Washington