This might turn into an epistle, but there are quite a few tidbits that I'd like to share with all of you.
Those who know me well, know that I hate gloating or bragging about anything. But when I travel anywhere--particularly with my daughter--I always look for 4 or 5 star hotels and plenty of amenities to go with it.This year, we decided to spend my daughter's Spring break in Negril, Jamaica and my idea was to be as close to the locals and their way of living as possible. The only problem was that most of the upscale hotels were either outside of Negril or far from the beach on the rocky side (no beaches--you'd have to actually climb down a ladder into the the deep waters and climb back up; or else drive a good 20 minutes to get to a beach.) So I went on a search for a hotel that was on the beach, pleasant, safe, and close to stores...and i found all of that at the "Kuyaba Resort!"
Usually, I talk abut the subject before I list their haves and have-nots; but this time I'm going to tell you what NOT to expect at Kuyaba. This is the most basic accommodation (Patrick Swayze's hotel room in "City of Joy" comes to my mind!) and has a very local and nondescript flair. In our room number 14, there were:
- no phones
- no chairs (we got ONE, after I asked the maid)
- no second set of room keys (one key per room only, Housekeeping has the other, and they are regular keys!)
- no movable beds (beds made of concrete and so is the night stand between two beds)
- no pillow-top mattresses; they are FIRM but tolerable
- no hair dryer (we borrowed one from the office)
- no amenities (shampoo, conditioner, etc)
- no flat-screen TV or in-room entertainment shows
- no working AC controls (though there is a working a/c unit and ceiling fan and our room stayed always cool and pleasant)
- no ultra secure room doors. Room door was made of light wood with glass panes and very flimsy; could not be locked (but unlocked) from outside (had to press the lock button on the inner knob and pull the door shot behind us to lock it)
- no down feather pillows or comforters, just small, flattish pillows and sheets and blankets that must have come from a WW2 army surplus!
- no resort-wide free wi-fi (wi-fi is iffy and works only in the rooms and up to the stairs of the restaurant!)
- no guest laundry services
- no outdoor power outlets
There is a tiny safe deposit box in the room and is opened and closed with a skeleton key.
There is no swimming pool an no fitness center
The lighting in the room is dingy; the bathroom is old and the towels are on the thin side! Our bathroom door was warped and did not lock, etc. etc..
All those inconveniences are a far cry from what I prefer, but we all find ourselves absolutely LOVING IT here!
The registration is done the old-fashioned way: There is a log book and you handwrite your information in it (quite rustic, huh?). The [front] office is about 8x15 feet at best and doubles as a souvenir shop; but the adjacent outdoors dining and bar areas are spacious and well-allocated and the sun-drenched beach with its inviting crystal clear Caribbean waters is just ten steps away!
As you walk up the gravel-paved drive/walkway flanked by the rooms and palm and banana trees, you're greeted by Charley, a beautiful Blue and Gold Macaw whose timing is a bit off (says "hello" either before or after you're at his cage) and Buddy, a rambunctious white Cockatoo that screams nonstop and sounds like a squeaky wheel!
The rooms are arranged in a garden-style setting on 2 levels and the nostalgia and charm of the West Indies is plenty there! I found out later on that besides the 24-hour-manned security post at the entrance, Kuyaba has its own security staff on the beach as well to ensure the guests are not bothered by the peddlers who walk up and down the beach selling anything imaginable from fresh fruits to grilled lobsters, bracelets, cigarettes, day trips, snorkeling sails etc. Say "no thank you" if you don't want them and they'll leave you alone. Paul, our security guard at the beach is an energetic and fine-looking young man who starts his shift at 7 in the morning, raking the beach and arranging beach chairs before he slips into his uniform and role as a security guard and he means business too! He's very hand-on and resolute and the vendors seem to fear him!
Besides the beach, the [outdoor] bar is the focal point and the watering hole of the resort! All staff members are super friendly and accommodating. The bartenders DJ and Sean as well as the others are masters in crafting some of the most delicious cocktails and their friendly disposition makes you feel welcomed. They are very pleasant, as are the wait staff such as Annemarie and others.
Kuyaba is one of those places that grows on you and is super cozy; and believe it or not, it has become home away from home to many millionaires and baby boomers. In their outdoors Bar/Restaurant, they serve breakfast, lunch, dinner and snacks and they are quite popular among the locals and island visitors. The quality of their food is excellent, the menu is well-assorted and the prices are quite fair. Try the Scotch Bonet Pepper Shrimp dish if you like super-spicy food (the expectation is that "you will sweat when you eat it," It is very hot, but I didn't sweat!); the Grilled Lobster is fantabulous!
The resort seems to be quite safe. At no time did any of us fear for our safety or feel in danger, as guards patrol the property regularly. Many times we left our phones, computers and other personal belongings in the room and they were never touched.
There is a delightful little mall right across the 2-lane street from the hotel where you can find souvenir shops, tax-free jewelry stores and an ATM that dispenses cash in U.S. dollars or Jamaican dollars (nicknamed "Js" and pronounced "jays"!)
It was a nice, albeit short 6-day trip and we LOVED our stay at Kuyaba. The $120/night room rate was absolutely a bargain; and we will definitely go back soon.
A FEW WORDS ABOUT JAMAICA:
Jamaica's only major industries seem to be tourism, Rum, spices and Reggae music! The economy is sustained predominantly by tourism. The cities and roads do look in great part dilapidated and rundown and poverty is rampant. There are no unemployment insurance or benefits. Therefore, those Jamaicans who are fortunate enough to find a job hold on to it for dear life and the others will do whatever it takes to make the ends meet. Jamaicans are hard-working and very friendly, respectful people. In fact, the common greeting or handshake consists mostly of touching fists and uttering the word "respect!"
You will be approached almost nonstop by peddlers and vendors offering you their products or services. If you are interested, use your negotiating skills without being unreasonable. But if you are not, a polite and simple (but firm) "no thank you" will suffice for them to leave you alone. During the entire 6 days we were in Negril, none of us was ever hustled by anyone.
IF YOU LIKE "GANJA" OR THE SMELL OF GANJA, YOU'RE AT HOME HERE! If you don't, get used to the smell! Personally, I have never ever touched any of those stuff and found myself getting very upset at the slightest whiff of it in the beginning, particularly because my teenaged daughter was traveling with me; but ultimately I learned to ignore it. No One ever offered to sell me any of that, and though it seems quite common to smoke "weed" in Jamaica, it is still very ILLEGAL and you can be detained and jailed for the possession or use of it.
Currency: 1 US-Dollar is equal to roughly 95 Jamaican dollars or thereabouts. Both currencies are used for payment.
Food and Drinks: YOU ARE ON "ISLAND TIME" HERE! Do not expect quick service but expect to wait anywhere from 15-30 minutes for your food or drink.
Drinks: Almost none of the bars or restaurants offer endless free refills--that applies also to your breakfast coffee or tea. Some establishments (incl. Kuyaba) offer ONE free coffee refill but that's it, you'll be charged for each additional order.
Food: Food seems to be wholesome and safe. We loved the jerk dishes and a few restaurants and roadside jerk stands we tried were outstanding and inexpensive.
Tipping: Generally, a 10% tip is expected wherever you dine or drink. Kuyaba does include that 10% in the bill as "staff service charge," so read your bill to ensure you don't double-tip if you don't want to. Also, if you want to photograph a person, always ask them first if it's okay to do so; it is common sense and common courtesy and very much appreciated; but they may ask you for a tip (usually 1 US$ would do.)
A simple rule of the thumb: Do not go anywhere you don't feel comfortable or at ease!
Rastafarians (nicknamed "Rastas"): You will see many of them in Negril, with their long dreadlocks sometimes pitched high up and often wrapped in a turban. Rastafarianism, as I was told by one of them, is all about being truthful and non-violent (i.e. Do not hate, do not fight, do not tell lies, do not kill, do not hurt or deceive anyone, etc.)
Real "Rastas" are 100% vegans and do not consume any meat whatsoever--not even fish, but they cannot live without Ganja! They are mild-mannered and soft-spoken. I was told by the same Rasta that unfortunately there are some Jamaicans who appear like Rastas but are shady and crooks; so be careful when you're approached by them; you'll quickly know if they're real or not.
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.