We had an extra day off from work because of Labor Day, so we decided to hop on a plane and end our 2005 summer in Negril, Jamaica. It was a no-problem-mon weekend, all right. The 3 days went by in a haze, and that wasn't just ganja.
by ext212 on September 15, 2005
Rockhouse Hotel was recommended to us by a friend who spent the previous Labor Day weekend there. I checked out the other websites for the surrounding hotels, and Rockhouse's was definitely the best designed. I'm very partial to pretty websites, so it was an easy decision to make. Rockhouse stretches across the cliffs of Pristine Cove on the West End Road of Negril. The "backyard" boasts a swimming pool on the highest point of the cliff. It reminded me of a hip-hop video set in Miami. During our three-day lazy stay, we thought Diddy would show up with bottles of Cristal while we lounged on one of the chairs equipped with umbrellas. Rockhouse forms the westernmost point of Negril, so the sunset views are unbeatable. There are ladders and stairs carved into the rocks that lead down to the water because there is no beach to speak of. This easy access was perfect when an urgent need to take a dip and snorkel came upon us. Whenever it got too hot, I was able to collect myself and stand to go in the salty Carribean Sea. The villas (US$195-$275) have thatched roofs and private sun decks. They are all situated on the cliffs right above the water. The studios (US$100-$150) look more like hotel rooms, but they still have balconies with beautiful water views. We stayed in one of the standard rooms (US$75-$125) because all the villas were booked, but we did not feel like we weren't part of the Rockhouse vibe at all. Our colorful room was right by the garden where harmless lizards played with each other on the trees. We had a queen-sized bed equipped with a mosquito net. We had the oscillating fan on the ceiling and also an air conditioner. We had our own private bathroom and our own safe deposit box for our valuables. Our fridge was stocked with the essentials: water and Red Stripe beers. We did not stay long enough to experience the rumored exceptional service, but all our needs were met with a No problem, mon whenever we asked. Our rooms were clean whenever we returned from a day of lazing around, valuables intact. We would go back to see our ganja buds untouched like our unfinished game of Scrabble. When we scheduled for a full body scrub and massage (US$60 per person for 55 minutes) on Sunday afternoon, our masseuse was able to set up her own table inside our room. For those who have more time to kill, Rockhouse arranges tours to the waterfalls. But if you are on a tight budget, you can start bargaining with the Jamaicans to take you there instead. They might even throw in a trip to a ganja plantation while you're at it.
Rockhouse also runs a restaurant and a café next to their hotel. Their menu is very simple while celebrating the essence of Jamaican cuisine. For a Saturday night dinner, we called a few hours ahead of time to book a table for two at 8:30pm. When we showed up, we were directed to our table by the outdoor balcony right away. Some couples had to wait at the bar and we assumed it was because they didn't call to make reservations. We like our food but are not as easily impressed with anything fried. Still, we enjoyed the conch fritter starter and especially loved the jambalaya, a Cajun-Creolan version of paella, or a stew of mixed seafood meats with tomatoes and onions. The portions are more than enough for one person. The bar overflows with whatever fruit punch you may wish, as long as you like rum with it. We kept with the Red Stripe, the Jamaican local beer, during one of our visits but brought our own bottle of Lascaux for dinner for a very steep US$15 corkage fee. (Our How about five Jamaican dollars, mon? was rejected.) During a morning visit, we were allowed to bring our iced coffees (coffee liquer, natch) to one of the reclining chairs set up by the water under the restaurant. It was a nice 10am view, and we swam up to the cave soon after.
Our second day in Negril, we mustered the strength to leave the Rockhouse Hotel and walk to the lighthouse at the end of the West End cliffs. Cabs constantly honked their horns to take us there because the Jamaicans couldn't believe we were walking so much under the striking sun. On our way back from the lighthouse, we stopped by the LTU Pub and Restaurant to have lunch. Our order took longer than we expected, but when we were finally served, the food tasted like it was all made from scratch. The fish sandwich was moist and perfectly tender. The fries that came with it were hot and crisp. My chicken skewers were tasty. I took the liberty in pouring the jerk sauce all over my rice and the simple lettuce and tomato salad that came with it. We were told that the LTU Pub is happenin' at night, but at noon, it was serene and quiet. We enjoyed our alone time with Red Stripe beers under their thatched roof, looking out over the turquoise sea.
The most celebrated restaurant on West End Road is Hungry Lion, an alfresco dining spot a walk away from Rockhouse Hotel. The hotel staff even recommends it as their favorite place to dine if they do not eat at their restaurant. Menus change daily, depending on what's offered in the market, and that's why the offerings are minimal. The crab backs were delicious--crab meat with a jig of citrus served in their shells. They had quesadillas on the menu the night we visited, and they were stuffed with black beans, served with salsa and the Jamaican tomato and onion jambalaya sauce. Hungry Lion is a cool spot for those who want to get away from the live reggae and Rastafarian music. There is a gallery downstairs that exhibits the works of Negril's diverse artists for diners to peruse while waiting to be served.
Famous for being battered during the hurricane of 2004, my friend was elated when I told her that we visited Rick's Cafe and that it looked like it had forgotten about the damage the hurricane caused. Rick's is spacious and sits on the cliff, just like almost everything else in the West End of Negril. Jamaican locals climb the trees and dive off the cliffs to show off to the tourists and earn some change. The sunset views are superb; match that with the live reggae music, and you have a completely chill Jamaican night. I went to the bar to order a drink and requested the bartender's specialty drink. Was I surprised when he offered me a fruit punch he surely just named right there and then? My Sex with Rick cocktail was strong enough to clear my sinuses. Of course, the true Jamaican way is to chase down any liquor with Red Stripe, and that's exactly what we did. In no time at all, we were dancing on the sand to Bob Marley's Red, Red Wine.
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