Travel Diaries – Rockhouse in Negril, Jamaica

by Tamu McPherson

Travel Diaries – Rockhouse in Negril, Jamaica

Judging by Tommy Hilfiger’s Spring / Summer 2016 show during New York Fashion Week, fashion has finally caught on, #IslandGirlsDoItBetter. From the lush landscape visuals of #ShalasStLucias on Instagram, Shiona Turini’s Bermuda Fashion Week mentorship program or Queen Naomi’s throwback photos in carnival attire, the waves have been steadily rolling towards the West Indies. Pretty birds, we know the reggae tunes strumming in your head since Tommy’s show has you planning your next getaway to JamRock — I’m still kicking myself for not having my wallet to buy a crochet bikini while I was there last month ($20 USD — beat that!) — so here are 10 reasons why you should make that visit to Negril and Rockhouse hotel.

  1. The Vibes – From TripAdvisor to Travel + Leisure  and countless industry nods in between, Rockhouse has won a great deal of awards and is seen as a standard bearer in the Caribbean travel industry. Part of its allure? The vibes! Once you get to Rockhouse, you never want to leave. Located in Negril in the westernmost area of Jamaica, Rockhouse melds Negril’s laidback feeling with a casually chic atmosphere. Negril is the center of Jamaica’s hippy culture: the pace is slower, smiles contagious and those stereotypes? Well, fragrant. For all of you gypset chic vacationers — this place is for you! The positive energy at Rockhouse is contagious. Within a few hours you’ll be saying erryting alright? and naturally the answer is Ya mon!
  2. The Villas & the landscape – The @rockhousehotel twitter handle is “In a house on a rock in a bay on a reef on an island in Jamaica.” Sounds like a nursery rhyme right? This is a description of Rockhouse’s fantasy like villas. I stayed in one and upon opening the door I began contemplating my move from NYC. My laptop can go on that desk… I can have breakfast out on the veranda overlooking the bay… Sunset cocktails…. And it’s not just these villas, the whole property is beautiful, sitting on the cliffs of a bay it seems to just naturally emerge from the jungle, as though it were there since the beginning of time. All of the hotel’s buildings are constructed with local timber and volcanic rock and blend perfectly with the landscape. The property is atop Pristine Cove and the colours of the sunsets in this area will make you weep.
  3. Speaking of the landscape, from a little bridge on the property you’ll notice a “jump at your own risk” sign. Take this with a wink and a nod (there are no guard rails). Have a ball and let out a scream as you jump into the gorgeous blue bay. I can’t think of a better way to wake up and get ready for the day! If jumping from heights isn’t your thing, don’t worry, there are ladders around the property that you can take to get in for a swim in Pristine Cove; take the opportunity to snorkel and check out the beautiful coral ecosystems on site!
  4. Rockstar approved – The hotel was founded in 1972 and was one of the first hotels on Negril’s West End. Guests from the 70’s included a who’s who of stars like The Rolling Stones, Bob Dylan and island hero, Bob Marley. Imagine being a fly on the wall at the jam sessions that this hotel has seen!
  5. They Give Back – In 1994 a group of Australians purchased Rockhouse and the property has continued to maintain the “one love” ethos of Jamaica. Rockhouse believes in spreading the blessings and giving back. The staff is happy and vibrant and take great pride in the property and their work! While speaking with one of the owners he shared with me part of the hotel’s guiding principles: the staff members are  partners in their success. Spreading the blessing seems to be the Rockhouse style. No way is this more evident than in the Rockhouse Foundation. Founded in 2004, through their foundation, the Rockhouse hotel has invested nearly $3 million in improving and modernizing five Negril school as well as renovating the Negril Community library. One of these schools, Moreland Hill Primary and Infant school was the first to have a computer learning program that the Jamaican government wanted to put in all schools but could not afford to do so. From the buildings to the tools, to support the teachers the Rockhouse Foundation invests in the future of Jamaica’s youth. Ask one of the managers about volunteering at one of the schools if you’re so inclined. Definitely my kind of voluntourism.
  6. Also along the lines of Rockhouse’s responsibility initiatives, it’s green! Rockhouse is Green Globe Certified and even established the Negril Area Green Globe Quiz competition in efforts to enhance local student’s environmental awareness. From the Rockhouse Organic Garden on property producing the fruits, veggies and seasonings you’ll find in your meals to the team’s concerted efforts to reduce the use of natural resources, air emissions and hazardous materials, you can rest assured that your stay at Rockhouse will leave a minimal carbon footprint.
  7. The food – Any Jamaican will tell you, it’s hard to find a restaurant with rice & peas as good as your granny makes it, or oxtail, or ackee and salfish… the list goes on. Whether it is a patty by the pool, breakfast of fresh juice and ackee and salfish from the Rockhouse Restaurant on Pristine Cove, or a platter of curry goat, oxtail, & stew peas from Pushcart Restaurant & Rum Bar Rockhouse has you well taken care of. The ‘nyammings from Rockhouse will have you dreaming of Jamaica weeks after you return home. The reggae music history adorning the walls of Pushcart is also a must see.
  8. The Music – Pushcart Restaurant & Rum Bar actually has live music every night and if you’re lucky you might even catch a concert while you’re in town. Adjacent to the restaurant is the Sunset Terrace — a blank canvas space with bay views — and Rockhouse has been known to have the top Jamaican acts, like Chronixx perform there. And no trip to Rockhouse is complete without an Instagram in front of Pushcart’s Sound Sound System Wall of Fame.
  9. The Spa – In between cliff diving and  dancehall remember,  you’re in Negril! It’s time to chill out. And there is no place better to do this than Rockhouse’s Spa from a simple mani-pedi, to massages and reflexology the spa will have you zen in no time. While there, ask about the new bathing ritual — trust me, you’ll thank me later.
  10. Lastly, you need to recharge! We’re all on the go and connected 24/7. At 6 collections a year, the closest that some of us get to irie vibes is that Tommy Hilfiger slow. The extra day you took after Paris fashion week is not vacation! At Rockhouse, you suddenly slow down and adjust to vacation mode.

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