We booked our 10 day stay at Tensing Pen almost exactly 1 year before the trip - highly recommended if you want to stay in one room for the entire trip as this place is hard to get into for more than a few days at a time, on shorter notice! If you are booking on shorter notice, call rather than do it online - as they will work to accommodate you, though this may mean switching rooms for longer stays. This was my third time to the area - twice on the cliffs and 1x on the beach (I will never stay on the beach again - the cliffs have the better view, zero hassle, more privacy, , a more laid back vibe.. and snorkeling!) in fact, we'll only stay at Tensing Pen from now on ;)
FIRST IMPRESSIONS - Jamaica
The airport in Jamaica is better each time we go, though still a little bit of a shock when you first step outside - be SURE to have the resort send a car for you! It is cheaper than getting a cab on the street (at only $70, US) and the driver will not get you killed (most drive insanely) or try to hustle you ;) The ride is long (1.5 hours about?) and the resort sends clean/comfortable taxi (unlike many of the taxis in Jamaica). Everywhere in Jamaica takes US dollars (prefers it actually) but if you want to exchange some currency or get any other 'supplies' right away, ask the driver and he will get you the best rate on currency exchange or whatever else you're looking for..
FIRST IMPRESSIONS - Tensing Pen
We drove through the gates from the hectic streets into the most serene and beautiful resort setting. Very lush and tropical. We stopped in the office and were greeted by the staff - very nice - and handed cold, fresh fruit drinks and cold cloths for our face / necks .. and while they grabbed our luggage we stepped into the main open-air dining lounge that sits over the pool and it felt like we had stepped onto a movie set - it is stunning! This resort is by far and away the most private / secluded and tropical feeling resort in the Negril area. Even the most jaded traveler will not be disappointed ;) Especially if this is a romantic trip ;) Then the staff helped us to our room, leading us through the winding paths dripping with tropical flowers to our pillar over the ocean - even carrying our luggage up the (many) stairs into the cottage.
Side note: One thing to note about Jamaica in general is that NO ONE is ever in a hurry.. that includes staff (here, rockhouse, etc all resorts we have stayed at) so take a valium if you must and be prepared to wait for anything you want ;)
Tensing Pen has some large (LARGE) ridgeback dogs - they are super sweet and mellow but seriously if you dislike dogs don't stay here and then complain about it ;) because they are very much a presence on the grounds. Also the dogs at the resort next door and / or across the street did get to barking for awhile every now and then - personally we love dogs and had zero issue with it (in fact we are now researching getting a ridgeback of our own :)
We chose the Pine Pillar, based on forum recommendations - Having visited a number of the other cottages during our stay, I can safely say we definitely had the best one! It may be a little more money, but it is well worth it because 1) it was twice the size of the other cottages (the other ones had tiny bathrooms that you could only get one person into, at a time) and 2) by FAR the largest / best / most private balcony and view. This meant, unlike some of the other guests, we never had to gather our stuff together and go find a couple chairs to sit in to enjoy the view.. we had a 5 star view on our private balcony! The shower is an 'open air' shower, located downstairs / below the cottage - which we were a little apprehensive about at first but ended up enjoying immensely! The bathroom had a very modern sink / large counter and toilet. The main area had a large bed (very comfortable tho pretty firm, with good sheets and 4 nice pillows ;) a closet area, large shelves with baskets for storage and a mini-fridge. There is a water pitcher, which can be filled (water and ice) at the main dining villa. There is a safe in the room, but ONLY you have the key (not a copy at the office) so if you loose it they have to pry it open with a crowbar and charge you $75 to replace it ;) There is no air conditioning in the Pine Pillar but the breeze was awesome and they also had a large floor fan, in addition to the ceiling fans.. so we never missed AC. The windows + doors have wood slat shutters which are screened as well and no mosquitoes were never seen.. though we did have some roommates - a number of geckos (which we loved!) and one roach that we encountered :( But if you can't handle a roach or two don't travel to the islands - there is no such thing as a hotel room without them, in Jamaica! The two huge shutter / french doors open onto the very large balcony and we spent most of our time there. We left these open even when we were not on the resort, but closed / locked them at night to feel comfortable. The balcony had 2 small chairs and a table (sitting / eating area), 2 giant layout chairs (pushed together, they form an outside "bed") and a large lounge chair. Best view EVER and we felt like we were the only people on the island! There's also a couple beach chairs and an umbrella on the rocks jutting out over the ocean below the cottage, which we never saw anyone else on and *think* was just for our cottage(?).
Staff cleaned the room daily (we either left to go swim or hid out on the balcony while they were there) and brought clean towels / wash cloths daily as well. We left $500 Jamaican on the bed each day for this.
MAIN HOUSE / DINING
As stated, we truly felt as though we were alone at the resort in the Pine Pillar - but each morning we would walk over to the main house for the complimentary breakfast and to mingle a little. During our stay the owners were actually there - though I don't think this is normally the case - and they were lovely. The main house is a large open-air villa with a bar at one end, kitchen at the other, some large dining / group tables and a couple sofa/chair seating areas in the middle and a large deck with several more 2pp table / chair settings. This all overlooks the infinity pool and of course the ocean - beautiful. Most of the guests were couples and there were a lot of short / friendly conversations with the other guests in the morning. We generally made ourselves at home in one of the two sofa seating areas - we would grab some coffee (best coffee ever - freely available from house opening in the morning to close at night), drop some thick-sliced bread in the toaster and sit down to catch up on emails and social sites. Note: Wifi is pretty good at the main house, though we did not have it in our cottage. When the toast was up we would smother it in local-made guava jam and peanut butter - add some chunks of fresh pineapple and papaya and we were usually set - though we did order (additional $) eggs+bacon and french toast (delicious!), some mornings. We usually ate here for lunch and dinner too - the vibe at lunch was similar to breakfast and we usually had jerk chicken with jamaican bread, while dinner meant different staff and candles.. for a more romantic atmosphere. We fell in love with the Jamaican curry chicken and rice (though we always split dinner entrees, as they are HUGE) and the seafood is good too, though pretty heavy on the garlic! Drinks are great - but beware of the house rum punch as it is 99% rum, from what we could tell and hits hard ;) Staff were all sweet / kind and generally lovely. We pretty much put everything on our tab, so we never had to carry cash. One tip: Make sure you go down to the house BEFORE you are starving - again, there is nothing happening fast in Jamaica!
SWIM / FLOAT / SNORKEL / CLIFF DIVE
When not relaxing on our balcony or hanging out in the main house, we usually were relaxing in the water. The pool is very nice but we were only in it a couple of times - the ocean was better ;) There are several places to enter the ocean on the resort. The main one being near the main house, with a couple of ladders, a couple of good cliffs to jump off of and of course the iconic Tensing Pen bridge - which is much scarier than it looks ;) The one we usually used was the south entrance, which was right under our cottage and rarely used by anyone else. The resort has many pool floats laying around (single person, full size / lay down) but I would recommend bringing a snorkel mask for added fun - we snorkeled daily. Tip: I wish we had thought to bring a water-proof carrying case of some sort, for money / camera / etc), as we often floated down to Ricks cafe and caught a cab back.
OFF RESORT - Nearby
Generally, I would not recommend walking unless you enjoy being harassed (constantly) and dodging speeding cars (crazy). Also, at night the staff will pretty much do anything to deter you from walking outside of the resort at night - we were told repeatedly that it was not a good idea. The office staff will happily arrange a taxi or handle the details of any excursion, and they will get you the best rates as well as clean / nice taxis. The only place we ever walked to was a small shop across the street (tiny building right after Australian bar, about 4 shacks down to your right, from the resort) where we bought large water bottles to keep in our room (a must as buying tiny bottles at the resort will get spendy with as much water as you drink there). We did eat at Falling Star (next door) but found it to be no better than Tensing Pen but more expensive, too crowded and noisy. We were happiest within the resort, where it felt homey and private.
OFF RESORT - Snorkeling trip to the Reef
One of the most awesome things we did was the snorkeling trip to the reef. The office staff will schedule this for you (pick from 9:30 and or noon) - The cost is $25 per person and it's money well spent! A small glass bottom boat picked us up at the south ocean ladder and then took us along the cliffs and even drove into some of the caves - amazing! Plus you could see each of the resorts during this trip (you cannot see them from the street, as they are all walled / gated) and the driver told us many interesting facts about each place. Then we went along the 7 mile beach (more resort info on the beach resorts) and finally we anchored at the reef. The dive was about an hour long (?) so take the floaties they offer you or you will get pretty tired! They do provide masks and flippers, too. The guys are great and swim down to grab things for you to hold and then take photos for you with your camera - on yes, bring a water proof camera! - we held puffer fish, sea cucumber, star fish, sea urchin-type thing (not poisonous!), etc.. we also saw an octopus, manta ray and a sea turtle and hand fed some fish with bread he gave us. Really a lot of fun.
Tip: we asked the glass bottom boat driver if he would give us a water taxi ride to Rockhouse for lunch the next day and he was happy to do so for $1000 J (total). The best way to get to Rockhouse ;) and then Rockhouse will get you a taxi back. If you want to have dinner at Rockhouse (for a change of pace / good burger & fries), tell the office and they will arrange a free taxi there ($1000 for the taxi back).
OFF RESORT - Beach trip to The Boardwalk
If you want to spend a day at the beach, The Boardwalk is the way to go! Tell the office and they will get you a taxi there ($1500 j, each way). It is on the coveted north side of the 7 mile beach - right next to Sandals and very clean / nice - most importantly, they are open to non-guests (most beach resorts will not let you enter / use the facilities unless you are a guest - except the not-so-nice ones, at the south end of the beach). They have shopping, a restaurant / bar, showers, bathrooms, beach lounge chairs with umbrellas and a huge trampoline floating in the water. A must do day trip for those of use who prefer the cliffs but want to lay at the beach for an afternoon. Tip: Be sure to get your driver's card and have the staff call him about 15 minutes before you want to head back to the resort- the north end doesn't see as much taxi traffic and the drivers will charge WAY more than the $1500 J the taxi that the resort got you will!
Shanique was our wedding coordinator and we fell in love with her! We honestly had a very non-american wedding (just us and 2 witnesses, we both wore black and it was very low key) so I can't speak to how Tensing Pen handles 'normal' weddings.. but I'm sure there are plenty of reviews that do :) They handled all of the paperwork, got us a pastor, beautiful orchard flowers and a sweet little cake.. For us, this was the perfect wedding (and honeymoon!) at the perfect Jamaican resort.
The Beach VS The Cliffs: The beach in Jamaica is just not our thing - all of the beach resorts (including Sandals / Beaches / ETC) have public beach access (water and beach strip before you enter the resort area) which means constant harassment - not to mention they are overly crowded / offer no privacy and basically feel like you're in Tampa.. IMO, if you're looking for that then why not just go to Tampa - it's cheaper ;)
The Best Cliffs Resort: Tensing Pen is the resort we've been searching for in Jamaica - very secluded, private, friendly - you truly feel as though you are staying at a friend's island property. This is in stark contrast to the other upper end resorts in the area, which feel very expansive and open (not secluded / private) and corporate. We feel that the only other cliff resorts worth staying at are Rockhouse (a little more crowded / less private & a lot more corporate) and the caves (too far away from everything else and too expensive!) - with Tensing Pen being our favorite to date. In fact, we now plan to return to Tensing Pen every other year, to celebrate our anniversary :)
Spend the extra $ and get the Pine Pillar and you will NOT regret it! If it is not available during...
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This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.