Negril Escape Resort And Spa Rating: 2.0 Pearls
Negril, Jamaica

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Pros

Cons

Bottom Line

Located on the cliffs (with no beach), the small-scale Negril Escape is more than a shack and a sunset--it offers a weekly reggae shows, a scuba center, a masseuse, and funky décor. But its small, poorly cleaned rooms, small pool, limited service, and scarce food options explain the low rates.

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 Scene

Wedding parties, scuba enthusiasts, and guests seeking solemn (as in practically people-free) retreats populate the resort.

The resort is excellent for cliffside meditation
The resort is excellent for cliffside meditation

Much of the Negril Escape's annual business comes from a steady stream of low-maintenance weddings (which can occasionally consume the entre resort). Otherwise, the resort goes to a few quiet guests who want cliffside meditation and a cricket lullaby, and don't mind a few cats lounging around an otherwise flourishing property.

 Service

Helpful and friendly staffers, even in dire circumstances. But service is slow and limited.

The front desk staff
The front desk staff

I found the staff to be very friendly, as anywhere in Jamaica. A bellman helped with my bags, but the service was more like a bed-and-breakfast than a "spa" resort. The front desk closes at 11 p.m., and there are no phones in the room to call for anything. Most guests, however, love the friendly, laid-back mentality.

 Location

Quiet, cliffside serenity that's a two-hour, $80 cab ride from the airport.

Located directly on the cliffs, the Escape is off Negril's West End, where there are no beaches but rather rocky inlets sculpted into diving platforms. The water is much clearer here than on the beach side of Negril. Due to the abundance of large crabs wandering sideways through the coral, some nearly a foot wide, and the absence of guests to cheer me on, I regretfully refrained from diving off the cliff's edge. But the major advantage of the Escape (or anywhere in the West End) is that it faces some of the most beautiful sunsets in the country.

As there's no shop on-site, I walked to the market across the street for Red Stripe and Pringles. (It closes at 11 p.m. and doesn't have much in the way of actual food.) Further down the road is the "cambio" to change cash or traveler's checks. Except for a few panhandlers vigorously slinging Jamaican-colored bracelets, walking along this major traffic artery felt reasonably safe. I was stopped by a few mild-mannered Rastas smoking pot and politely offering it to any tourists who happen by. Across the street was an unpopular jerk and magic mushroom cake stand. (But I'd like to remind would-be guests that taking hallucinogens in a foreign country is not only illegal but inherently dangerous. Also, being a dry-air fungus, psilocybian doesn't grow well naturally in the Jamaican climate. According to most of the guests I spoke to, mushrooms anywhere in Jamaica are basically "bunk.")

The hotel provided a shuttle to the beach, or to Jungle Club in downtown Negril, where there were plenty of great jerk joints like Three Dives, "brownie" stands (adding, on request, illicit Jamaican seasoning to the standard cake), and some less attractive markets strewn about.

About a 15-minute walk from the Escape (in the opposite direction) is Rick's Café , a Negril icon since 1974, which every cab driver from Negril to Montego Bay brought to my attention. With its quality live reggae performances nightly and its famous cliff-diving demonstrations, the place was the most popular spot in town for sunset cocktails. But once it got dark and the techno started blasting, most guests returned home.

 Rooms

Basic, kitschy, small, boxy, and dirty rooms.

The Bamboo Avenue Room
The Bamboo Avenue Room

All rooms are housed within a distinct, kitschy, un-P.C., globally themed concrete and thatch-roofed structure, which some guests may find a wee-bit otherworldly. They have names like Oriental Express or Romancing the Kasbah, and feature funky décor more akin to a Loony Tunes cartoon than a Moroccan or Chinese home. (I stayed in Bamboo Avenue because it was farthest from the sea and least damaged by the storms.) Each building has a large, common wraparound porch that overlooks the water and has wicker loungers and hammocks roped to the corner pillars.

The rooms in each building have slightly different bedspreads, color schemes, and furniture choices, but they're all basically the same. My room was a small, though bright, lime green box with a flimsy bed.

My cramped bathroom had a rusted, slightly worm standing shower (with limited water pressure), plenty of mildew, and a thick coat of curly black hair in the drain.

The room did, however, have a much newer flat-panel satellite TV from some company called Vega (which I couldn't find a Web site for).

There was no phone or fridge, although apparently, toiletries have lately come to include more than just a bar of soap.

It did have a strong AC unit and a rusted, creaking safe in the corner closet that persistently smelled like a wet bathing suit. I never tested the safe, as it required a key (which no one mentioned during check-in).

As many of the TripAdvisor reviews mentioned, there were plenty of bugs. Tiny ants infested the lid on my jar of peanuts after about four minutes on the bedside table. Sizzling winged insects occupied my ear canals at night, and an assortment of other bugs made me psychosomatically itch. The wood-planked windows were without a screen, so there were plenty of mosquitoes in the room and I had to sleep with the smell of DEET on my blanket.

 Features

The main selling points is the on-site scuba center, but there are also weekly reggae shows and an on-site masseuse.

The water sports center
The water sports center

The leading attraction, and the only one anyone from the staff brought to my attention, was the on-site scuba center. It drew a number of guests from nearby hotels.

The small, cliffside pool was scum-saturated and unusable while I was there, thanks to the hurricane that passed through. Other guests on TripAdvisor complained that the small pool wasn't close to the bar set by larger resorts.

Free Wi-Fi was available in the lobby. Though the front desk suggested that some rooms were able to pick up a signal from their porch, I didn't find this to be the case. All I got was limited to no connectivity, and my room was closer to the office than any other.

Every Tuesday, the hotel hosts the popular Sunset Show, a musical tour of reggae. It draws a good number of non-hotel guests from neighboring resorts. The stage and giant bar (spanning three floors) were built primarily to accommodate this show (and the wedding banquets). The bar remained empty the rest of the time, and there wasn't much to do.

Though it's labeled a "spa hotel," there's no official spa on-site. Rather, the hotel contracts out the services of a local masseuse who can give a body massage by the stone pavilion overlooking the water. For complete spa services--facials, manicures, body wraps, and the like--check out the nearby Rockhouse hotel.

The hotel's Web site boasts daily yoga workshops, but this is not the case. It does have yoga retreats on-site, but it's easiest to check out the Escape's Web site for up-to-date listings.

The resort has other perks, like a free shuttle to Jungle Night Club and Boardwalk Village, Negril's "authentic Jamaican village," a center filled with shopping and restaurants, as well as a seven-mile stretch of beach and water trampoline. The hotel also offers on-site yoga classes and cocktail parties every Tuesday.

 Cleanliness

Bad, even by a bachelor's standards. Rooms have ants, mold, and stained sheets.

Ants
Ants

I couldn't fault cleanliness issues on the property. Flooding saltwater destroyed most of the plants and brought heaping debris into the pool. Though cleanup efforts were about four days in, the place still needed time to rebuild.

But I found the rooms to be in poor shape. Though there seemed to be some basic upkeep, the rooms generally have the low-key dinginess of a decaying college house or a youth hostel. There was a huge wad of black hair in the shower drain, countless ants, mold, peeling paint and rusty knobs.

Most distressing, however, was the two-inch bloody streak on the sheets. Worse yet, I couldn't complain. By the time I settled into bed, it was after 11 p.m. and the office was closed. So I slept on a towel and checked out the next morning.

 Food

Fine in a pinch (free breakfast is decent), but better options are off-site.

An omelette
An omelette

Breakfast came with the room, which consisted of a plate of fresh fruit (pineapple, guava, and watermelon), a perfectly cooked omelet, and instant coffee. I had the Negril Escape omelet, which came with carrots, peas, and corn. The fruit and eggs made the meal. But even though I sucked down the coffee (not getting much sleep owing in part to the blood-stained sheets), it needed a significant improvement.

For lunch and dinner, it had a limited menu of American bar food (burgers, BLTs, and the like), but because the grill wasn't running, I settled on the fried chicken and chips. The chicken was good, on par with some of the greatest and greasiest restaurants in the United States (the kind featuring a cartoon chicken that loves to be eaten). But I passed on the spongy, undercooked fries.

On the whole, it's worth venturing off the grounds for a better range of food. Ivan's Bar at Catch a Falling Star, the restaurant at the Rockhouse hotel, Rick's Café, and Three Dives all have great Caribbean cuisine and are all within walking distance. (Expect a rather long walk up a hill, though.) Or a short shuttle (provided by the hotel) will take you to the beach, where more authentic Jamaican jerk huts sprawl. Just look for some iron drums halved into a BBQ -- the more dreadlocks in the vicinity, the better.

 Destination Weddings

A beautiful location, an intimate setting, and a very attentive staff

The Spa Gazebo, one of two popular ceremony locations
The Spa Gazebo, one of two popular ceremony locations
  • Wedding Size: Up to 300 people can be accommodated at both the ceremony and reception, but only up to 150 can stay at the 43-room resort (fortunately, there are ample hotels nearby and no extra fee for guests not staying at the hotel to attend the wedding). Only one wedding is performed each day.
  • Extra Fees: There is a mandatory venue fee ($680), plus the wedding coordinator charges eight percent of total cost of the wedding (elsewhere, this is a free service). You can use an outside vendor for all services, though there's an addition $200 fee involved.
  • Wedding Packages: Packages range in price according to the number of people as well as the amenities chosen. The basic "Intimate Package," for two to six people, starts at $900 and includes a pastor, dinner, champagne, wedding cake, bridal bouquet, boutonniere, and decorations. If you don't opt for the package, the decorations start at $325 and a wedding officiant (plus a marriage certificate) costs $400.
  • Flowers: Bouquets and floral arrangements start at $718 (one bridal bouquet, two boutonierres, and one bridesmaids bouquet).
  • Photographers and Videographers: The Negril Escape provides photographers (upwards of $550) and videographers (upwards of $570). If you bring your own, there's an extra $200 fee.
  • Music Options: Reggae band ($1,050); steel band ($580); DJ ($750)
  • Reception Options: Couples can choose between the Lighthouse Terrace or the Captain's Ballroom, which both accommodate up to 250 people, or the Lifeboat Terrace, which can accommodate up to 300. The Captain's Ballroom is the most popular reception site: Dinner starts at $35 per person (a la carte or buffet). An open bar costs $22 per person.
  • Cake: A standard wedding cake costs $485, and there's another $2.60 per slice fee for a separate cake to serve guests.
  • Spa Treatments: Hair and makeup costs $135 per person (includes cost of trial run); a mani/pedi costs $35 per person; makeup only costs $45 ($70 for airbrush); massages range from $50 to $120.
  • Freebies: 10-percent booking discount for all guests; or, for every 10 rooms booked, one room is free; honeymoon suite is free when 10 or more rooms are booked.
  • Optional Services: Other services include a butterfly release (starting at $150); bachelor or bachelorette parties ($25 per person); a karaoke party (starting at $550); a rehearsal dinner ($28 per person); a limousine ($450); a cocktail hour between the ceremony and reception or prior to the reception ($14 per person)
  • Live Internet Streaming: Couples can also pay an additional $500 to have their wedding streamed live on the Internet.
  • Airport Transportation: No airport shuttle or free transport service is provided by the hotel; a taxi from Montego Bay International Airport will cost about $80.
  • Honeymoon Suite: Two honeymoon suites with sea views offered: The junior honeymoon offers a king-size bed, a minibar, and a flat-screen TV; the one-bedroom honeymoon suite offers a daybed, a kitchenette, and a flat-screen TV.

 Bottom Line

Located on the cliffs (with no beach), the small-scale Negril Escape is more than a shack and a sunset--it offers a weekly reggae shows, a scuba center, a masseuse, and funky décor. But its small, poorly cleaned rooms, small pool, limited service, and scarce food options explain the low rates.

Things You Should Know About Negril Escape Resort And Spa

Address

  • 116 One Love Drive, West End, Negril, Jamaica

Hotel is Also (or Was Formerly) Known As

  • Negril Escape Hotel
  • Negril Escape Resort
  • Negril Escape Resort & Spa

Room Types

  • 2 Bedroom (Unit) Apartment
  • Garden View Room
  • Oceanview Apartment
  • Ocean View Room
  • One Bedroom Suite

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Hotel Features

Number of Rooms: 40
Pool: Yes
Spa: Yes
Internet: Yes
Pets Allowed: Yes
Cribs: Yes
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Hotel Information

Location: Negril, Jamaica
Address: 116 One Love Drive, West End, Negril, Jamaica
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