The Caves, just west of Negril, is aptly named. While the 12 cottages and one villa sit atop honeycombed cliffs, the Blackwell Rum Bar, a private dining venue, and the massage table of the hotel’s Aveda Concept Spa are actually in underground grottos open to the sea. The setup is very Treasure Island, and the flicker of candlelight and the echo of waves off cave walls make it uniquely romantic. Each of the thatch-roofed cottages is as colorful as a paint box, and each gives a sense of being alone at the end of the land. This is one of music mogul Chris Blackwell’s Island Outpost properties, so the vibe at the Jacuzzi, sauna, or salt-water swimming pool is hip but relaxed. Although famed Seven Mile Beach begins almost where the cliffs end, the hotel itself has no beach, which is why a tradition at the Caves is to begin the day by jumping from the cliffs into the usually calm Caribbean below—or at least thinking about it.
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Sixty minutes by road from the Montego Bay airport, the Caves is in a world of its own but still close enough to Negril to put Seven Mile Beach and the restaurants and nightspots within easy reach. The beauty of the beach is as advertised, and the number of vendors working the sands far more so. Guests at the Caves who have jumped from the cliffs, or are still thinking about it, will be humbled, or perhaps inspired, by the professionals and the crazies who jump from the much higher (in every sense) perches at Rick’s Café. Negril has many restaurants, from roadside shacks to formal sit-downs, that produce good food. But for a true Jamaican experience, make the trek to Zimbali Retreats, an organic farm half an hour from Negril that offers lodging, wellness experiences, and some of the most authentic cuisine and cooking demonstrations that a visitor to Jamaica is likely to discover.
Need to Know
Rooms: 12 cottages, 1 villa. From $480 low season, $640 high season, all-inclusive. Check-in: 3 p.m.; check-out: noon Dining options: A sense of being set apart extends to meals, when stuffed crab back or rock shrimp in coconut sauce might be served at the oceanfront gazebo, at a cliff-side stone table, or in the candlelit, bougainvillea-petal-strewn sea cave, all preceded, ideally, by the hotel’s signature rum cocktail, the Cliffhanger. Spa and gym details: A highlight of the Caves Aveda Concept Spa is the Caves Massage, in a grotto with absolutely no need to pipe in the sound of waves. There’s no fitness room here, but for an adrenaline rush, try jumping from the cliffside into the ocean.
Who’s it for: Romantics who care more about privacy and quiet than all the amenities of a big resort. Unless they're training to be cliff divers, there’s not much of interest at the Caves for kids. Our favorite rooms: Among the one-bedroom cottages, the key is having a second-story sea view, and, for honeymooners, a king-size bed, making Macka Tree, Bird’s Nest, and Butterfly good choices. Sea access: Because everybody wants to know if there is an alternative to jumping, it is also possible to reach the water by a series of coral steps and a ladder.