The Rockhouse, Jamaica

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 14 May, 2006, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 14 May, 2006, 12:00am

Where is it? Perched on the limestone cliffs at the western end of Negril, Jamaica, the Rockhouse hotel is a sanctuary from the hubbub of the main tourist beach. There are no hawkers selling fake Rolexes, just deep-blue water percolating through the grottos and sea air steeped in the sounds of reggae.

Luxurious or basic? The 34 rooms range from moderate to moderately luxurious but they all share the same too-blue-to-be-real ocean, reached by giant pool ladders. The main difference between them is the level of privacy. Standard rooms are set up like a row of townhouses, while the luxury villas have their own private courtyards overlooking the cove and an enclosed outdoor rock shower. In the 1970s, the Rockhouse was the place to party for the international jet set, including the likes of Mick Jagger. These days, it is a far mellower scene.

Who should visit? The Rockhouse is perfect for couples, but solo travellers will find the bar a welcoming place for a rum cocktail. The cliff-edge location makes it unsuitable for inquisitive young children but it is ideal for anybody seeking light adventure right outside their door: you can snorkel among tropical fish beneath your bungalow.

What's on the menu? The restaurant's triangular terrace juts over the cove and at its apex sits the most romantic table for two in Negril, especially at sunset. The cuisine is a blend of Mexican and Jamaican, featuring grilled meats and local fish such as mahi mahi paired with cooling salads. You can't say you have visited Jamaica until you've tried regional specialities ackee and saltfish (cod and a kind of lychee fruit sauteed in pork fat, onions, peppers, tomatoes and herbs) and jerk chicken (chicken with a dry-spice mixture of pimento, pepper, habenero chilli and scotch bonnet peppers).

What else is there to do? During the day, Negril is all about chilling out near, or in, the water. Trampolines, banana-boat joy rides, snorkelling and jet-skiing are all part of the frivolity. At sunset, all eyes turn to the Pirate's Cave Bar and Restaurant, a short swim from the Rockhouse. The 13-metre drop to the ocean from the beer garden is the highest point from which to make a sunset cliff dive - a traditional Negril display of machismo.

At night, revellers, spring breakers and booty-shakers head to bars like singer Jimmy Buffet's Margueritaville, Alfred's Ocean Palace, Risky Business and Roots Bamboo on the main beach. During high season, guest DJs from Miami and New York regularly take over the turntables.

What's the bottom line? A luxury villa costs about $2,500 a night, but lodging is considerably cheaper if you take advantage of a townhouse deal. For more information visit