Photos and Review by Oyster.com Investigators
Guests come to this serene oasis for an authentic Jamaican vacation without the loud party factor.
At most hours all I could hear was the slight patter of flip-flops and the tide pushing against the rocks (no screeching reggae or blenders electronically screaming from the bar). At night, it was crickets, our neighbor's outdoor shower (don't worry, they're all enclosed, save a flowered trellis overhead), and the occasional bass boom of a passing taxi on its way to Rick's Café up the road.
Catcha Falling Star attracts travelers seeking a more authentic, serene Jamaican experience. Most guests range from their mid 20s to late 50s; like most hotels on the cliffs, no children under 15 are allowed on the property for safety reasons.
Due in no small part to Catcha's popularity on websites such as TripAdvisor, it has inflated its rates over the last few years and it recently installed a new pool on the cliff's edge (the pool was installed shortly after my visit, which is why you don't see it in the photos). It also, unfortunately, discontinued it's free breakfasts. While it's still a solid deal, you might also want to consider the nearby Tensing Pen boutique hotel, which, in addition to offering breakfast, has nicer rooms, an even quieter location, and an on-site spa. Or, if you're looking to stay on the beach, check out the similarly-priced Negril Tree House Resort. Also, Jake's hotel, on the beautiful but less touristy South Coast of Jamaica, is another great option -- it has nicer rooms, better food, and it's closer to more exciting outdoorsy attractions like YS Falls and river rafting beside black crocodiles.
Genuine friendliness; not pampering
Not trained to be overtly doting, the Catcha crew operates with warm, genuine hospitality. They actually wanted to know my name -- a training manual didn't force them to ask for it. It's this intimate spirit that extends throughout the hotel, and leads guests to offer the gardener a Red Stripe or Ting (a local soda that's like a more sugary version of Squirt), or give their leftover beer to the bar when leaving the country. Within a day, I knew about half the staff, the guests, and Ben, the resident retriever mutt.
On check-in, I needed to cash some traveler's checks and pay the cab driver. No luck. Catcha operates on a credit-card-only system. Instead, they directed me to an exchange place, known as a cambio, just down the road. I left my bags, and when I returned, the staff had already placed them in my room.
There are no phones in the rooms (cell phones are available upon request), so guests must walk to the office (about 20 yards) to make requests for items such as towels. However, once I let the receptionist know what I needed, someone immediately came by.
At Ivan's Bar and Restaurant, service was casual but effective. I was never left waiting.
Guests can cliff dive into clear waters, then walk into town and grab a bite from an authentic jerk joint.
On Negril's West End, there are no beaches; instead, rocky inlets function as diving platforms and the water is much clearer. If tempted, guests can leap from the 20-foot cliff ledge into water so clear that it looks deceptively shallow. Although there is a small ladder to crawl into the water, I couldn't recommend the leap more; it's safe and exhilarating. And, of course, you can also see some of Jamaica's most beautiful sunsets (a big advantage to staying on the West End).
There's no shop on-site, but you can walk to the market across the street for chips and cheaper Red Stripe than what you'll find at the bar. The store is on a major artery and feels much safer than other areas in Jamaica. There are, however, a few panhandlers vigorously selling green, yellow and black bracelets as well as the occasional marijuana or cocaine dealer. Farther down the road, the cambio changes cash and traveler's checks. The walk to town is about a 20-minute stroll downhill. You'll pass plenty of great jerk joints like Three Dives (try the chicken), "brownie" stands (which include, on request, an illegal Jamaican seasoning in the cake), and other less-than-attractive markets.
In the opposite direction, Rick's Café, a Negril icon since 1974, is about five minutes from Catcha. Every cab driver from Negril to Montego Bay will bring Rick's to your attention. With nightly live reggae performances and famous cliff-diving demonstrations, Rick's is the most popular spot in town for sunset cocktails. However, once it gets dark and the techno starts blasting, most guests return home.
Also note that Negril is a two-hour, $80 cab ride (per person) from Montego Bay International Airport; there's a regional airport in Negril, but most visitors fly into Montego Bay.
Cool air-conditioning and soft sheets, but rooms lack some basics (telephones, for instance).
Each named after an astrological sign (I stayed in Pisces), most of the guest rooms are private huts -- a single-room, box-frame structure with, in most, an outdoor shower. They're the kind of simple structures Henry David Thoreau would be proud to call home. Each has a large patio for private dining, smoking, or silently smelling the sea air. Wood-planked shutters on two sides of these rooms open the walls for ample light, but because the heat can be stifling you might have to be a bad member of Team Earth and run the AC unit with the planks closed, and the room dark.
All rooms come with a large, empty fridge (beer and snacks can be bought at the shop down the road), a small, cable-ready TV (with pretty grainy reception), incredibly soft sheets, soft towels, and a comfortable, yet soft, foam mattresses.
Although the guest rooms might lack the basics -- no phone (cell phones are available upon request), inadequate overhead lighting (reading gets tricky at night), no iron, and, at least in my room, a broken TV remote control (the batteries were held with packaging tape) -- none of this mattered to me or any of the other guests I spoke with. However, as the rooms are not well insulated (there are a number of gaping holes), in-room mosquitoes and other insects can be a problem, especially in the summer and fall. To avoid the bugs, you can upgrade to the Sun or Leo suites, which are in a more conventional concrete structure, or upgrade to the more modern Rockhouse Hotel nearby.
There's a new pool and free Wi-Fi, but the cliffs are more than enough distraction.
In addition to a small pool installed at the end of 2009, the on-site features include a tours guide desk (basically just a taxi stand), some snorkel gear (free to borrow), inflatable rafts, and a few grocery store paperbacks left over from other guests. In addition, there's a fairly strong wireless connection throughout the property -- a rare treat in Jamaica.
The resort doesn't allow kids under the age of 15. With few activities, Catcha will only appeal to the mellowest, most self-sufficient young adults.
Kids are rarely allowed at resorts along the Cliffs, a combined result of their precarious cliff-top location and a typically mellow, intimate atmosphere. Nearby Tensing Pen is the only exception to this rule, allowing kids of all ages.
Catcha has just 14 rooms, and most of the one-bedroom units are too small to fit a rollaway. While the couples-heavy clientele might appreciate the complete dearth of activities, it might be a little boring for teenagers.
That said, Catcha does have four two-bedroom units; The Moon Cottage even has two double beds in one of its bedrooms. Families that are keen on day trips to explore the area might find that Catcha provides a good base of operations -- and it's certainly affordable -- but in general Negril's permissive, anything-goes atmosphere is not for every family.
It's a well-maintained resort with an attentive cleaning staff, but be prepared for bugs in the room.
My room was well-cleaned. I found no unpleasant odors or egregious housekeeping oversights -- that's a big step up from the nearby Negril Escape Resort. However, like most hotels in Jamaica, mosquitoes can be a problem. While there are screens over the wood-planked windows, huge gaps between them allow a number of bugs inside.
Ivan's Bar serves great breakfasts, but be sure explore other options outside the resort.
Ivan's Bar serves an excellent breakfast. While it's worth it to at least try ackee and salt fish, a traditional Jamaican breakfast that sort of tastes like an anchovies-and-corn-mash salad, most guests love the omelets. But what makes the breakfast impressive is the perfectly ripe mango and freshly baked croissants and banana bread, still warm at 8 a.m. (something rarely seen at buffet-style resorts). There is even high-quality coffee (another rare treat).
For lunch and dinner, the food is simple yet well prepared. But unlike at the all-inclusives, you're not chained to the property. For an excellent, slightly more upscale meal, visit the Rockhouse Hotel, and don't leave Jamaica without first trying the jerk chicken at Three Dives. The touristy Rick's Café is fine for an overpriced cocktail, but don't bother eating dinner there.
A gorgeous location for a private event, but you'll have to book the entire hotel (14 rooms)
Unlike most other Jamaican resorts, Catcha Falling Star isn't exactly designed for weddings. There are no pre-arranged packages, freebies, or established ceremony spaces (you'll have to pay extra to rent just about everything). The kitchen isn't nearly large enough for a big party, though they do promise to set up a buffet for upwards of 60 or so people. In general, you're paying a lot for the location, and it is a beautiful one, but you might find a bit more wedding-minded infrastructure at a slightly larger hotel, such as Tensing Pen or the Rockhouse.
There's no lobby or elaborate features, but Catcha's quaint cliffside huts come with warm service, open-air showers, breathtaking sunsets, comfortable beds, and simple homemade cuisine. Most guests are too focused on the blissful setting to notice the grainy TV reception or absence of a phone (cell phones available upon request); no guests under 15 adds to the quiet.