Falling for The Caves in Negril
Whilst checking in to The Caves, a boutique resort nestled on a cliff in Negril, the first thing I’m handed by a friendly staff member is a soothing watermelon cocktail called the Cliffhanger.
It’s an apt name, because as I’m led through the 12-acre estate to my bungalow, the staff points out strategic jumping off spots where one can swan dive into the azure sea below. Since I’m a non-swimmer, I remind myself not to have too many of these heady Cliffhangers before I gain false bravado and take a leap from this cliff top paradise.
Unlike the super sized resorts I passed on the main street, along the way from the airport, this is a secluded, intimate and romantic hideout, comprising of just a dozen villas scattered along a craggy limestone cliff on Jamaica’s western coast. These colourful, thatched-roof cottages feature one or two bedrooms and most face the sea. One of my favourite things to do in the mornings during my three-day weekend stay, would be to throw open the wooden louvered windows facing my bed and just lay there looking at a picture perfect view of blue sky meeting blue sea.
The Caves is part of Island Outpost, a group of luxury hotels in Jamaica owned by Chris Blackwell, the founder of Island Records and who introduced the world to reggae music and artists like Bob Marley and Grace Jones.
With perhaps no more than two dozen guests at the hotel at a given time and given its secluded location, not surprisingly it’s a favourite of celebrities escaping the limelight.
But for mere mortals – especially those living on North America’s eastern seaboard – the close proximity of Jamaica’s Montego Bay’s Airport is just a few hours away on a direct flight, making it an ideal sun-drenched destination for a long-weekend during the winter months.
The atmosphere at this sanctuary is laid back with the most strenuous activity being – cliff jumping. Those looking to get their heart rate up in other ways can opt for a yoga class under a gazebo or paddle around in the salt water pool or go snorkeling below the cliffs.
Clambering down the stairs to the bottom of the cliff, there are a couple of honeycomb-like caves. One houses the Blackwell Rum grotto bar, where at night it’s lit by candles and where one can enjoy a cocktail made with Blackwell Fine Jamaican Rum. Another acts as a private dining area, which one can reserve for a romantic dinner just for two, where water splashing on the nearby rocks is your musical accompaniment.
While the vibe might be casual, dining on the property in one of the open-air pavilions is seriously sumptuous. From traditional Jamaican breakfasts that include Banana pancakes to ackee and salt fish to more sophisticated seafood fare at night. Most of the produce used at The Caves and other Island Outpost properties come from Pantrepant, a farm owned by Blackwell.
If you can tear yourself away from The Caves to explore the surrounding area – which I could barely muster – you can take one of the resort’s bicycles for a ride into Negril for shopping. Or book an excursion for horse-back riding or exploring a beautiful waterfall nestled in the hills. For a more relaxing activity, get the hotel to arrange a picnic on the grounds of the historic lighthouse just a five-minute walk away.
The one activity I did not partake – rather wisely – was cliff diving. On my last day, feeling the need to fully immerse myself into the sea before heading to the airport for my flight home, I took a 10 minute taxi ride to the seven mile stretch of white sand beach where most of the mega-resorts are located. Since this was 8am on a Sunday morning, the beach was deserted, the fine sand was undisturbed and the water was already soup warm as I lazily paddled around.
I might not have cliff dived but I’d jump at the opportunity to return to Jamaica.