Perched upon the scenic cliffs of Negril’s Pristine Cove in Jamaica, overlooking the turquoise Caribbean sea, this hip, laid-back property is a must-visit for stylish travelers looking to experience a taste of local Jamaican art and culture. Founded in 1972, Rockhouse Hotel was a popular hangout for legends like Bob Marley, Bob Dylan and the Rolling Stones. The iconic hotel has retained its rock-and-reggae roots; infusing the property with authentic Jamaican art, cuisine and music that pays tribute to the local art scene. Paired with an almost unreal clifftop setting, Rockhouse Hotel is a romantic getaway destination designed with creative souls in mind.
Travel the roads in Jamaica and you’ll immediately be struck by how a simple car ride is an art-filled affair. The road leading to Rockhouse Hotel is no exception. Guests who take Negril’s main road are treated to an eye-popping array of intricately hand-painted signs advertising everything from local nail salons to upcoming dancehall events.
The man behind many of these signs is a man named Nurse, a commercial artist who has been creating artwork in the community for the past 30 years — including the bright hand-painted signage and murals that thread throughout the Rockhouse property. He’s also responsible for the large, primary hued hand-painted signage outside the hotel that cheekily greets guests, “Warning: all goats will be curried.”
At Rockhouse Hotel, artistic expression blends seamlessly with laid-back luxury. In the main lobby, rustic wood furniture is paired with artwork that illustrates the complex history of Jamaica. Reggae covert art and vintage travel posters line the walls alongside traditional handicrafts and 45” records. Spread out on a coffee table are a expertly curated collection of art books that encourage guests to explore and engage with the tradition of dancehall and reggae.
Displayed along one wall is a collection of photographs by renowned photographer and reggae archivist, Roger Steffens. The exhibition is from Roger Steffens’ book The Family Acid: Jamaica, which was published by Rockhouse, with direction from Matt Goias, the hotel’s Creative Director. From a 1976 cricket pitch and a Kingston Sky Juice Super Drink Suk-suk cart, to the walls of Bob Marley’s childhood tenement yard in Trenchtown, Steffans’ photos depict daily Jamaican life alongside exotic bursts of nature.
Steps away from Steffen’s photographs is The Rockhouse Restaurant, a celebrated fine-dining experience known for its modern interpretation of Carribean food and breathtaking, outdoor location. Enjoy lighter takes on traditional favorites and freshly made juices, all made from ingredients harvested from the hotel’s small onsite organic farm.
For dessert, head to the Rockhouse Spa, two time winner of the World Travel Award for Best Spa in Jamaica, for a world-class spa treatment in one of cliff-edge Spa Cabanas.
Creative expression is once again at every turn as you follow playful hand painted signage through serpentine paths lined with coconut and almond trees, towards the stunning pool-deck. Here you can experience true vacation bliss while enjoying one of the hotel’s many signature cocktails, poolside. Climb down the rocks to enjoy Pristine Cove’s aptly named turquoise waters, or float in Rockhouse’s famous salt-water infinity pool while the sounds of reggae wash over you.
Finish your day with dinner at Push Cart where local art and culture once again meet hip hospitality. This is the perfect spot to watch the sunset while enjoying gourmet Jamaican soul food (the curried goat is a favorite) and taking in the dancehall-inspired visuals courtesy of renowned local and international artists.
Lastly, no trip to Rockhouse Hotel is complete without a stop at The Boutique — an art-filled hotel gift shop to end all hotel gift shops. Inside the cheerful space, you’ll find an amazing selection of art books, prints and original paintings — including Steffens’ Family Acid and hand painted signs made by Nurse himself. Bring something special home with you, but don’t be surprised if you also leave a piece of your heart behind.
Whether you are planning an intimate sunset ceremony or an elaborate weekend affair filling the entire hotel with friends and family, Rockhouse has an experienced wedding team that will create an unforgettable occasion tailored just for you.
The Rockhouse limits the number of weddings to twenty per year and a maximum of one per week to ensure that they deliver a wonderful experience with dedicated support required for your big day. Guests are advised to book well in advance.
Simone Paget is a food, travel and lifestyle writer based on the West Coast of Canada. She’s a nationally syndicated sex and relationship columnist for the Toronto Sun and the author of the blog SkinnyDip.ca. Her work has appeared in/on publications such as the Washington Post, Elle Canada, and The Toronto Star.