2016 was probably my most enjoyable birthday to date! The main goal was to cross as many places as possible off my travel list within the weekend. Before embarking on the out-of-town journey to Rockhouse Hotel in Negril, the first outing was with girlfriends at one of my favourite Kingston restaurants due to its prices, taste, and serving size (find 4 more Kingston restaurants here to satisfy your inner foodie).

Beirut Mediterranean Cuisine

At my request, friends and I switched up from my usual and ate indoors, seated on a wide couch. Four of us enjoyed a selection of tasty Lebanese-style cuisine at fair prices, followed by a hookah session. The choice dishes of the night were chicken stroganoff with vermicelli rice (my favourite), Beirut mixed grill (my favourite runner-up), and tenderloin steak .If not familiar with Mediterranean food, you may spend some time perusing the menu variety before making a decision.

The chosen tobacco flavour to inhale for the hookah was guava, with each person using new, separate mouth pieces. Nearing closing time, I presented friends with notes encompassing my usually-silent feelings towards them in hand-made carriers.

South Coast Jamaica Excursions

The following morning, a lengthy south coast drive from Kingston to Negril was undertaken. The journey was dotted with stops at Spur Tree Hill and Holland Bamboo Avenue. After the ~5-hour drive in a small engine vehicle, light shrimp tacos and drinks were consumed at Margaritaville before taking a quick dip at the Seven Mile beach. Determined not to miss dinner complemented by a famous Negril sunset, we soon left to arrive at our main destination, Rockhouse Hotel!

Sunset Dinner at Rockhouse Restaurant

Potent glasses of rum punch, Rockhouse passports of activities, and a room key were received at check-in. Following a quick clothes change, dining took place at the namesake Rockhouse Restaurant on the West End cliffs overlooking the Caribbean Sea. Orders were placed just ahead of the gradient sun sinking below the horizon. What a beauty it was! Undoubtedly the most hypnotizing sunset I’ve taken the time to witness.

Rockhouse Hotel has 2 restaurants on location + a pool bar and juice bar

A light meal of an appropriately-presented ‘shrimp blaze‘ opened the appetites. Entrées included grilled chicken with sides of steamed vegetables and plantains, and a shrimp alfredo pasta. To my surprise, the staff serenaded me with a birthday song and decorated plate of ice cream to top off the lovely evening!

Rockhouse Hotel: Studio Room

Shortly after dinner everyone was forced to seek shelter as rain began to fall. Guests were offered umbrellas by staff members if they chose not to stay at the covered lounge. With rainfall well into the night, the rest of the evening was spent enjoying the coziness of the laid-back room.

The studio was decorated with vinyl record albums of reggae artistes. It included a queen-sized bed covered with a mosquito-repelling canopy, an outdoor shower, mini-bar. What I loved most about the space was the private balcony which granted a view of the sea. The door to the balcony was left ajar to enjoy the sounds of the crashing waves, sea breeze, and moonlight illumination. As you probably know by now, this is a recipe for the best sleep after sleeping by the sea in St. Mary!

Rockhouse Hotel is a boutique resort; food priced separately.

Breakfast at Rockhouse Restaurant

The next morning, we revisited Rockhouse restaurant for breakfast. I ordered my favourite-est breakfast: ackee & saltfish, plantains, fried dumplings and calalloo; all that was missing was boiled green bananas. My partner enjoyed an American-style breakfast of eggs, bacon, toast, roasted potatoes, and added calalloo. I really don’t know how the chef was able to make everyday breakfast dishes taste extraordinary. I sh!t you not, even though I’ve enjoyed gourmet American-style breakfast in Kingston, it was possibly the best-tasting breakfast I’ve ever had!

Travel Tip: Remember to mark items off your Rockhouse passport to possibly redeem gifts

OVERALL REVIEW

Rockhouse Hotel

  • Room 80%
  • Affordability (room + food) 60%
  • Staff Interactions 90%
  • Food 95%

Snorkeling Off the Coast of Negril

A snorkeling excursion guided by the popular Captain Vincent was embarked on with 2 new friends met earlier that morning,. I was excited for this excursion after snorkeling in the Bahamas for the very first time earlier this year. We geared up with flippers, goggles, floats and a snorkel to swim amongst 2 large coral reefs about 20 minutes offshore.

The first task was to feed bread to a school of sergeant major fish, who came right up to you! I actually panicked, shrieked, dropped the bread and frightened the poor things. Capt. Vincent later guided us to a sunken canon and anchor, and allowed us to interact with different sea creatures. The whole sea seemed to be a swarm of small, almost invisible jelly fish; it took some time to notice their presence.

Capt. Vincent guides and allows you to palm a sea urchin which sucked onto you on contact, swam past a stingray, and hold a sea cucumber (which probably felt as slimy as it looked but I didn’t care to find out first-hand). One thing that was alarming though, I don’t recall seeing much, if any, parrot fish the whole 45 minutes underwater. Overfishing has led to diminishing populations of this particular specie, contributing to the degradation of protective reefs and beaches. If you didn’t know before, please learn more here about why you should avoid parrotfish.

Lunch at Booby Cay Island

After an awesome underwater excursion, there was an added bonus as we ventured to the nearby Booby Cay Island for lunch. Fresh fish and lobsters were chosen, prepared and cooked over a wood fire on the beach. To have something different from the usual for the sake of my birthday, I ordered what turned out to be the best lobster I’ve ever tasted, with a side of garlic-soaked bread. It was so delicious, it’s ranked as one my best seafood meals ever!

The added excursion to Booby Cay totalled 5 hours at sea, now putting us past the checkout time. Before heading to the rooms to retrieve luggage, myself and 1 of the new friends opted to jump off the bridge at the boutique resort into the sea.

After having my belly bottom drop out for 5 seconds, the 2 of us paddled into a cave to find a small ladder while our counterparts awaited us on land. I was halted before ascending the ladder when a school of needle-nose gar fish frightened the bejesus out of me as they leaped before my face! Regrettably, it was now time to leave without viewing the entire property, but the little I experienced was enough to make me want to return! With dusk near, the trip to our Falmouth, Trelawny destination commenced.

Glistening Waters / Luminous Lagoon

Shortly after dark, we checked into Glistening Waters Hotel and waited for a boat to return to the marina. About 7 minutes from shore at a meeting point of the Martha Brae River and Caribbean Sea, waves created by the boat caused the water to illuminate.

This natural phenomenon is due to micro-organisms called dinoflagellates, which thrive in layers where salt and fresh waters combine. The organisms glow when disturbed, said to occur only in 3 other places in the world with Jamaica being the largest and brightest.

Everyone aboard dipped their hands into the water, in awe seeing them covered in glistening green dots. After the tour, we grabbed dinner and drinks at the hotel’s restaurant and headed to our room after an activity-filled day.

OVERALL REVIEW

Glistening Waters Hotel

  • Room 50%
  • Affordability (room + food) 70%
  • Staff Interactions 50%
  • Food 30%

Rafting on the Martha Brae River

It was the day of the final excursion: rafting on Martha Brae River! We arrived as first patrons at the venue that day and were quickly escorted to a bamboo raft to commence the 45-minute ride on the river’s course. This experience was so relaxing, surrounded by nothing but the sights and sounds of nature as you slowly glide along calm, fresh water. This is 1 excursion I’d highly recommend for couples; it felt so effortlessly rose-mantic. 😉 Marveling at the lush canopies, towering bamboo stalks, bird species, and hanging fruits along the way made one temporarily forget about the bustle of everyday living.

At the end of the journey, the raft captain displayed a selection of his hand-carved calabash creations. I honestly wasn’t sure what I’d do with the craft, but it looked lovely and I wanted to support so one was bought as a souvenir. A tractor transporting patrons back to the parking area following the tranquil raft ride signaled the end of a great weekend.

Plot Twist!

The drive back to Kingston via the North-South highway afforded unparalleled views of the mountains, unspoilt fields, and resident lifestyles. Wouldn’t you know it though, almost immediately after passing the Ocho Rios toll my poor vehicle suffered a blow! The engine not only overheated, but burnt out, and there were no telling signs until it was too late. A wrecker had to transport the car and us to Kingston.

Of course, I was upset, but with the great weekend and company I had, that didn’t last long. Happy that if it were to happen, it happened after my weekend wish list was completed 🙂 All about perspective.

What’s your best birthday memory?

I’m looking forward to another birthday getaway this year! Stay tuned to the social media pages to find out where I’ll be visiting, and subscribe for a first look at every detail.

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