Photos and Review by Oyster.com Investigators
A megaresort with a robust all-inclusive offering and a location on mellow Bloody Bay
With four Couples options between Ocho Rios and Negril, it’s hard (even for someone who has visited all four) to figure out why one might be better than another. Compared with its neighbor, Couples Swept Away, Couples Negril is lacking the famed Seven Mile Beach location, instead sitting just north on the somewhat quieter sands of Bloody Bay -- but this may be a plus for those guests looking for a mellower beach vibe. It’s also easy to argue that Couples Negril has the better decor, with beautifully designed modern rooms featuring colorful tapestries and pretty tiled bathrooms. Further still, Couples Negril’s lower capacity makes for slightly reduced crowds (though because it's smaller, the property has fewer features than its neighbor). Ultimately, it’s a matter of taste -- and perhaps cost: Couples Negril is consistently cheaper than its neighbor, though not by much.
Comparisons aside, Couples Negril is aptly named, focusing on romance and adult-themed features, such as candlelit private beachfront dinners, tree-house-style couples treatment rooms at the spa, and adorable banners across couples’ doors announcing their honeymoon or anniversary status.
Though Couples Negril is more lovey-dovey, and less risqué, than other adult-only resorts such as the nearby Breezes Grand Resort & Spa Negril, it does provide a separate nude beach (the resort seems to think calling it “au naturel” is more tasteful, but we here at Oyster don’t candy coat). The area has its own hot tub, and is somewhat cordoned off from the rest of the property, protecting those who don’t wish to see what lies beyond as much as those who prefer to be naked in quasi-privacy. Still, virtually every third-floor room in building six has a bird’s-eye view of the area’s disrobed goings-on.
Those who wish to take advantage of the truly all-inclusive amenities at Couples Negril will be busy indeed. The resort doesn’t just dish out free meals and drinks; rather, guests enjoy free unlimited golf, free water sports (even scuba diving), free minibars which are re-stocked daily, free excursions, including glass-bottom boat tours and catamaran cruises, free fitness classes and tennis lessons, and free nightly entertainment. Perhaps it’s not ‘’all’’ top-notch -- for instance, the nightly entertainment tends to be dull and even cheesy (the woman belting out Whitney Houston’s “I Will Always Love You” during the live set at Cassava Terrace one night seemed to be enjoying her performance more than her audience was), and the “free” golf actually requires guests to hire a caddy on their own dime. Still, it really is hard to complain when there really is so much free stuff.
Just north of Negril’s famed Seven-Mile Beach on a quiet bay
Bloody Bay may not sound like the most romantic place in the world, but the small inlet just north of Negril’s famous resort-lined Seven Mile Beach is a slightly less congested version of its bigger-name neighbor. And honestly, how different can neighboring beaches separated by the length of a few football fields really be? But though some may prefer this stretch of beach, the location is still a fair drive north of all of the action in the main part of Negril, with West End Road about a 10-minute drive away, and the restaurants along Norman Manley about a five-minute drive away. Still, the property does provide shuttles to most of the nearby attractions, so there’s virtually no need for a taxi.
Modern and tastefully decorated with design-minded details
The rooms at Couples Negril may be roomy, but the suites are downright spacious, especially given the massive bathrooms, which by themselves are easily bigger than some of the rooms I stayed in while visiting Negril. All rooms feature the same decor, which easily beats out that at any of the other Couples resorts on the island, with brightly colored tapestries on the walls, modern striped chairs, lovely tiled bathrooms, and fun details such as mod circular mirrors and Moroccan-style hanging lanterns. The freebies continue here as well, with free Wi-Fi and free minibars that are restocked daily by housekeeping based on guests’ specifications.
North of famous Seven Mile Beach in a less crowded cove
Bloody Bay sounds like it must have a horrific history (the truth of the name is still a mystery, with some claiming it comes from a vicious pirate battle and others believing it refers to the mass hunting of the bay’s whales). But today, it’s actually quite serene. Couples Negril doesn’t run right up to the edge of another resort, giving more of a sense of seclusion than guests might find at resorts on Seven Mile Beach. Nonetheless, though perhaps less crowded than Seven Mile Beach, it is still crowded, simply because hundreds of couples must share a relatively small strip of sand.
Palm-lined with ocean views and a swim-up bar
The palm-lined pool at Couples Negril is pretty swanky, with ocean views and thatched-roof swim-up bar. Decks flank either side of it, and are equipped with teak padded furniture facing the ocean, two Jacuzzis, and a popular pool volleyball set-up. The palms lend a flashy vibe that other resort pools in Negril seem to be missing, but somewhat detracting from that are the pool’s plastic lounge chairs, which are covered by full-body pool floats rather than cushions. The dual-role concept is understandable, but the outcome isn’t quite as luxurious or comfortable as one would hope.
A second pool, used primarily for diving instruction, is a simple small rectangle located behind the water sports pavilion on the far north side of the grounds.
A floating sanctuary with tree-house treatment rooms
Throughout the resort’s grounds are several serene ponds for contemplative reflection. One of these is the site of Couples Negril’s spa, which includes a salon and a few "tree house" treatment rooms, which are sprinkled throughout the grounds. Nice as they are, spas at ‘’Couples Swept Away’’ and ‘’Couples Tower Isle’’ are more impressive in terms of design and amenities. Spa buffs might consider one of the chain’s sister properties instead.
No kids -- or singles for that matter --allowed
Couples Negril is an adults-only resort by design. Children, and even singles, are not welcome.
Plenty of options with meals available 24/7
Typical of any all-inclusive resort is the compulsory overload of food. Couples Negril does a great job of providing diversity when it comes to dining, with Mediterranean, Asian-fusion, and Jamaican restaurants, as well as the obligatory beach café and buffet restaurant. Reservations are only required at Otaheite, the resort’s upscale restaurant, which features authentic Caribbean cuisine.
Overall, the food is acceptable. Guests won’t find much to complain about -- of course, it ‘’is’’ hard to send a plate back when you aren’t technically paying for it anyway. But lunches at the Beach Grill and dinners at the Cassava Terrace tend to verge on uninspired. Guests’ best bets lay at the fancier Otaheite or the Asian restaurant, Lychee. A weekly beach party also takes place on the sand, and features a Steel Pan band.
Several bars all serving the kind of drinks everyone likes best -- free!
Premium liquors are included in the all-inclusive package, which many resorts don't offer, allowing guests to get even more value out of their nightly rates.
There are only two dedicated drinking venues, however: a small piano lounge (which becomes a nightclub two nights of the week) and pool bar. This offering seems limited considering the resort has a capacity of 500. Come dinnertime, at least, guests can easily get drinks while they dine.
About as all-inclusive as it gets
Couples Negril is one of the few resorts where all-inclusive quite nearly literally means all-inclusive. Beyond dining and drinking, virtually every activity and service is free, save for a few golfing fees, wedding and honeymoon packages, private dining packages, and spa treatments. Additionally, alcohol is not restricted to the weak stuff -- top-shelf liquor is also included in the all-inclusive rate.
All-inclusive rates cover:
A free shuttle to nearby attractions and free Wi-Fi
Limited generic resort entertainment
Steel Pan bands, reggae dance classes, and cheesy cover bands just about cover Couples Negril's entertainment offering. The limited offering may be deliberate, though, considering the resort is trying to promote a romantic atmosphere.
Free unlimited golf at a nearby course
In one of the few cases at Couples Negril where ‘’free’’ doesn’t literally mean ‘’free’’, the unlimited golf actually requires guests to pony up a little cash. Though the transportation to the Negril Hill Country Club (about 20 minutes away) is free, as is the tee time, caddy hires are required to actually play, and it is here that guests must take out their wallets. Those without their own clubs will need to rent equipment for an additional cost as well. The course itself is decent, away from the influence of the sea breeze -- though the heat can be rather merciless.
Plenty of free fitness activities and water sports
Couples Negril provides free water sports, including not only the typical non-motorized variety, but also scuba diving and catamaran cruising. Inexperienced divers can even count on a diving pool and trained instructor to help them get in the water within a matter of hours.
Land lovers will find plenty of activities as well, including a decently equipped fitness center that includes cardio machines, free weights, dumbbells, and mats, as well as an aerobics studio in which yoga and other classes are taught. Tennis courts include free clinics and tournaments. Some might argue that the fitness center is a big rough around the edges -- I noticed a few leaks as well as some rusty equipment -- but the overall variety of the equipment is better than at many Jamaican resorts.
Freebies and perks for honeymooners and couples on their anniversary
Walking down the hallways of the Couples Negril, guests will see banners on the doors of guests celebrating honeymoons and anniversaries. But banners are just the start of it; honeymooners and couples on their anniversaries receive a free bottle of sparking wine at check-in and a 25-minute couples massage.
Every Wednesday night the resort also has a special reception just for those guests on their honeymoons. An on-site Romance Concierge is also available to book private dinners (at an extra cost).
Wedding central, with tons of packages
The Couples Negril is a wedding hot spot; it hosted 65 weddings in the month of May 2012 alone -- more than two per day. The popularity is understandable, as all-inclusive destination weddings do take a lot of hassle out of the process for the bride and groom (they don't have to worry about coordinating food and drink for their guests during the trip). The resort offers a number of packages that include a personal wedding planner, designer wedding cake, floral arrangements, and photographer, as well as practical elements such as a marriage certificate and officiant. The resort even provides U.S.-based planners.
Wedding packages are fairly inexpensive, and for those staying more than six nights, the arrangements are completely free.
Several eco-conscious efforts that set it apart from most megaresorts
Blue Flag certified, Couples Negril makes several key efforts to reduce the resort’s carbon footprint. The resort has a gray water recycling program and also maintains a neighboring 500-acre palm reserve. On-site gardens are treated with house-made compost, and all furnishings in the guestrooms are made by local artisans and utilize local, naturally felled Jamaican cedar.
No elevator makes getting around difficult for those with mobility impairments.
There are no elevators at the hotel, and the average guest age during my visit looked to be about 35. While it is technically possible for those in a wheelchair to access the majority of the grounds, it would require a lot of inconvenient detouring. Those guests with mobility impairments would be better off staying elsewhere.
This 234-room beach resort delivers more than the free meals and cheap booze of the typical all-inclusive; offerings include top-shelf liquor, unlimited golf, water sports and excursions, airport transfers and minibars that are re-stocked daily. Of course, the atmosphere is anything but intimate, with hundreds sharing a packed beach, rowdy pool, and crowded restaurants -- but it's a bit less crowded, and often cheaper, than its sister property Couples Swept Away. Rooms here are arguably nicer as well, though some may find Bloody Bay location less appealing than Swept Away's location on Seven Mile Beach.