Photos and Review by Oyster.com Investigators
Wedding parties, scuba enthusiasts, and guests seeking solemn (as in practically people-free) retreats populate the resort.
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.
Helpful and friendly staffers, even in dire circumstances. But service is slow and limited.
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.
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.
Basic, kitschy, small, boxy, and dirty rooms.
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.
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.
The main selling points is the on-site scuba center, but there are also weekly reggae shows and an on-site masseuse.
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 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.
Bad, even by a bachelor's standards. Rooms have ants, mold, and stained sheets.
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.
Fine in a pinch (free breakfast is decent), but better options are off-site.
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.
A beautiful location, an intimate setting, and a very attentive staff
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.