Rock House and Rick’s – Negril, Jamaica, Greater Antilles

High Style, Low Attitude, and Sunset Served on the Rocks

When Negril, on the western tip of Jamaica, 50 miles from Montego Bay, was still the do-as-you-please capital of the Caribbean and best-kept secret of every flower child of the 1970s, the Rock House had already staked out its premier location atop a rocky waterfront promontory just outside town. Don’t bother looking for yesterday’s bohemian mecca along Negril’s developed but still lovely 7-mile beach: Yuppies now fill the large, all-inclusive sybaritic resorts, and the beat is young, par­tying, and uninhibited. Well removed from such freewheeling commercialism, the thatched- j roof Rock House offers the natural charm and j seclusion of the Negril of yore. The new owners have re-created the thatched-villa hotel, mixing and matching the tropical soul of the South Seas with the laidback Caribbean escapism that first put Negril on the map.

The hotel’s no-hassle, no-hustle atmosphere blends seamlessly with its simple style-sensitive design: Utilizing rich local woods, it harmonizes with the overwhelming beauty of the cliffside setting and junglelike surroundings. Splash and snorkle in the sheltered waters of the aptly named Pristine Cove, which is yours alone, or enjoy Negril’s legendary sunsets from the Zen-like pool that seems suspended in air at what must be Jamaica’s westernmost point.

Negril’s famous sunsets have long been the draw at Rick’s, the most famous bar on the island, located atop the rocky cliffs south of Negril’s beach and inspired by the film Casablanca. Everyone still bursts into applause when the sun sinks, but what’s the inspira­tion – the sky’s Technicolor hues or the fresh-fruit daiquiris? Everyone has a grand time at this island hangout, watching divers jump off cliffs into the sea more than 100 feet below in homage to the setting ball of fire, a daily ritual that’s part pagan, part frat party. Rick’s is also a restaurant, serving some great fresh fish and lobster, but once you’re embalmed with overproof rum and intoxicated by the sky’s crescendo of orange and pink, dinner may seem anticlimactic.

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