Arguably Jamaica's most romantic escape (for adults only), the Caves' 12 unique, private cottages and suites are tucked along lush garden paths and dramatic seaside cliffs (there's no beach). High-quality, locally focused cuisine, a top-shelf bar, and intimate, incredibly attentive service make it Jamaica's best all-inclusive, though nearby Tensing Pen and Rockhouse offer similar settings at cheaper prices.
Eleven cottages and suites -- each of which looks pulled from a storybook -- connected by garden paths cut from limestone cliffs that have incredible sunset views. Even without a beach, it’s one of the world's most romantic hotels.
The Caves is one of the last hotels along Negril's West End Road, which essentially terminates around the corner at Negril Lighthouse. The entrance is a royal blue gate topped by a mystical-looking sign -- a hint at what's inside.
The Caves was opened by a Rastafarian artist couple, Bertram and Greer-Ann Saulter, in 1994. Bertram designed each of the unique cottages and furniture (much of which is hand-carved), and Greer-Ann dreamt up the whimsical interiors, which are heavy on colorful batik prints and Jamaican crafts. Recently, The Caves was bought by Island Outpost, a hotel group owned by Jamaican music legend Chris Blackwell -- the same man that exported the music of Bob Marley to the world. Island Outpost also owns the Geejam and Jake's boutique hotels in Jamaica.
One gets the sense that The Caves' cottages were built around the lush canopy of fruit trees, rather than over them. For instance, one of the cottages is named Blue Hole, and is actually adjacent to a natural blowhole in the ground that peers down and into one of the caves.
The Caves is definitely considered the plushest accommodation in town. But a similar, ever-so-slightly-less special experience can definitely be had elsewhere along the Cliffs, for a lot less money, in other TV-less boutiques like Tensing Pen or the Rockhouse.
Naomi Campbell, Harrison Ford, and Sadie Frost have all stayed here, and it's particularly convenient for celebs because they can arrive by helicopter just around the bend at Negril Lighthouse. What makes the Caves extra special, though, is that the staff truly treats everyone like a celebrity. Eat breakfast in bed, lunch on a private cliff landing, and dine in a cave ... all without seeing other guests.
The resort also played host to a shoot for the famed Sports Illustrated swimsuit issue in 2007.
About 90 minutes ($80 taxi ride) from the Montego Bay airport, the quiet seclusion of Negril's cliffs is an escape, but Seven Mile Beach is a 15-minute drive away.
The Caves is along a particularly quiet stretch of the West End Road along Negril's quiet cliffs. A number of bars, including LTU, Sexy Rexy's and the famous Rick's Cafe are all about a five-minute walk away, but most of the guests I talked to never bothered to leave the property. For anyone who wants to tour the area, the Caves offers bikes and bike tours around Negril.
No sand in sight, but caves and cliffs provide plenty of access to the deep turquoise sea.
Like other resorts along Negril's cliffs, the Caves doesn't offer a conventional beach with sand. Instead, it has a series of platforms carved into the cliffs with comfortable lounge chairs and varying levels of privacy. There is a small raft about 100 feet offshore.
Free water-sports equipment, including kayaks and snorkel gear, is available on-site. The resort also provides phone numbers for companies that rent out Jet Skis, cruises and charter fishing excursions. The water-sports director is available to lead complimentary snorkeling trips (Mondays and Thursdays) and kayaking trips (Tuesdays and Sundays) around the Caves and along the Cliffs.
Eleven unique one- and two-bedroom suites and cottages, all far larger and quirkier than traditional hotel rooms. Rusticity reigns with outdoor showers, large tubs, stone floors, and no TVs (except by request).
The resort has three stand-alone, one-bedroom cottages. Two Birds is a funky blue building with stained-glass windows set in a thicket of ackee trees near the back of the property. The six other one-bedroom suites are paired on the first and second stories of three other cottages. There's plenty of privacy in all rooms, but every suite except for Two Birds has ocean views. Two-bedroom suites Sun Dancer and Moon Shadow also have kitchenettes and dining and bar areas.
All rooms have a round, open-space bedroom with lots of angles built into the walls. Two huge louvered windows (and a louvered front door) anchor the A-frame cottage.
Each room has a pillow-top mattress set atop a platform bedframe.
One Drop and Two Birds each have a queen bed, while the suites each have an American king. Rooms have a cozy sitting area with a red wicker love seat and coffee table, as well as a table and chair set up near a mini-fridge filled with complimentary cold drinks like beer, water, juice, and an assortment of liquor. The fridge also included simple snacks like Oreos and Ritz Bitz crackers.
No rooms have TVs, but guests may request a set during their stay.
All rooms come with a CD player and iPod dock, as well as a collection of groovy island-inspired music.
Rooms do not come with televisions or DVD players, but both can be obtained by special request from the front desk.
The resort has a very small saltwater pool and Jacuzzi, both of which offer fantastic sea views. For pool buffs, nearby resorts Tensing Pen and the Rockhouse Hotel each have larger infinity pools perched along the Cliffs.
Aveda "mini-spa," which includes a massage room, a sauna with ocean views, and a private hot tub that can be booked for sunsets. Make sure to reserve a sunset soak early, as these can be very popular.
Free kayaks, snorkeling gear, and other equipment for land and sea excurisons
The Caves does not allow children under the age of 16.
Due to its dramatic -- but precarious -- location along Negril's cliffs, the resort does not allow children under 16 on the property (the nearby Rockhouse allows kids over 12 and Tensing Pen allow kids of any age). This greatly enhances the quiet, romantic, laid-back atmosphere.
The Caves definitely goes for a commune-with-nature, shabby-chic aesthetic, but it's not musty or run-down in any way.
With ceiling fans, incense, and endless flowers, the air was never heavy or sticky during my stay, only sweet and clean. True, I did spy an enormous beetle scurrying across the floor, and showering outside caused a close encounter with some crabs, but every piece of furniture, every surface, and every plate was in pristine condition.
The food (included in the room rate) is excellent and incorporates seasonal ingredients. The menu is inventive (if sometimes limited).
Because the Caves is so small, it does not have an enormous variety of dining options, even though it's all-inclusive. Breakfast and lunch are served in a breezy lounge overlooking the water next to the lobby building, and dinner is served in a cliff-adjacent building. At each meal, guests are generally presented with two to three entree choices, as well as fruit and salad.
Room service dining is also quite popular here, and it's part of the all-inclusive package. Guests can order anything they want off the menu (or make special requests) during the same hours that meals are served.
In the afternoon, a basket of fruit and an array of fresh-baked goods are left out to snack on. There is also a freezer filled with ice cream. Becasue of the staff's laid-back attitude and the all-inclusive package (everything's free or, more accurately, is included in the room rate), dining at the Caves really feels more like you're staying with friends. Very generous, gourmand friends.
The resort also has two actual caves for private dining at no extra cost (though reservations are required). One of the caves fits only two people, and the other can accommodate up to six. Both are extremely popular with the honeymooning crowd.
The Caves has one of the best all-inclusive liquor selections in Jamaica. The bars are all stocked with a wide variety of brands -- as a vodka drinker, and unlike at other all-inclusive hotels, the bottles definitely aren't watered down. The bars of course purvey Blackwell Rum, which is also available for sale in the resort shop. Rooms also come with an assortment of liquor, and guests are invited to make themselves drinks at the breakfast and dinner lounges if no one is around to accommodate them.
Remote, breathtaking resort ideal for smaller, more intimate weddings, but its beauty, and the quality of the food and service, is about the same, and for less cash, at Tensing Pen or the Rockhouse Hotel
The location is great for those looking to reserve an intimate, quiet space with breathtaking views, but if you want to invite more than 26 people, expect to pay an additional fee per person. And at this adult-only resort, children are only permitted if you book all 11 guest rooms and the one villa (the entire hotel sleeps 34 people).
Wedding Size: Up to 100 people, but children younger than 16 can only stay on the property if all 12 rooms are booked; no minimum number of guests required and only one wedding is held each day (unlike some of the larger resorts, which sometimes host as many as seven weddings each day)
Extra Fees: If you don't stay at the hotel, there's a location fee; only up to 26 people are included in the wedding packages, so there's an additional per extra person charge depending on package.
Wedding Packages: Basic Romance Wedding Package includes a minister, wedding coordinator, marriage license, bridal bouquet, groom's boutonniere, a chocolate or vanilla wedding cake, a bottle of champagne, and two hours of photography. Alternative packages include a two-tiered Jamaican rum cake, a floral arch, and centerpieces.
Ceremony Location: Most wedding ceremonies and receptions are held at The Sands, which can accommodate up to 100 people; only one guest room, the Stardust, faces the Sands (and this room is recommended for the bride and groom to ensure a private ceremony).
Photographers and Videographers: In-house photographers are provided, and the cost is included in the various wedding packages ; In-house videographer available, costs for the ceremony, cocktail party, and dinner reception (outside photographers and videographers are permitted, but there's an additional vendor's fee).
Music Options: In-house reggae band provided for reception; DJ for reception; steel band or drummers for cocktail hour; singer and acoustic guitarist
Food and Drinks: Food, including hors d'oeuvres, and alcohol is included in the cost of the packages; vegetarian options available.
Spa Treatments: Hair, makeup, and manis/pedis are all done by an on-call stylist; various spa menus and packages are offered and can be booked online.
Honeymoon Suite: No honeymoon suite, but one room, the Stardust, faces the Sands atop the edge of a cliff and includes a private view of the ocean; note: the Stardust is the only room which must be booked over the phone.
Airport Transportation: Two-hour taxi (one way) from Montego Bay International Airport
Incredibly personalized and attentive. At meals the staff describes the two entrees in mouthwatering detail, and the menu compels guests to "Remember that you can order a combo! Anything else requested can be accommodated, never a problem!"
Water sports director for cliff and water recreation
Weekly Manager’s Dinner Party at The Sands, their property on the cliff-top beach and bar next to the Negril Lighthouse
Bikes and bike tours
Nightly turn-down service, in which housekeeping leaves soothing music playing on the CD player and custom incense burning on the bedside table.