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Trip Report Negril, CocoLaPalm, Honeymoon Suite: Brief Trip Report

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We (husband and wife, American, early 50’s, no kids) stayed at CocoLaPalm on Seven-Mile Beach in Negril, Jamaica for one week in mid-January 2013, in the Honeymoon Suite, aka room 536. It was our first visit to Jamaica, although we’ve vacationed many times in/around the Caribbean (St. Lucia, Grenada, St. John, Nevis, Tortola, St. Martin, Grand Cayman, Aruba, Bonaire, Cozumel, Nassau, Provo, Isla Muheres).

Seven-Mile Beach is a long stretch of soft, powdery sand, with shallow, sandy-bottomed water and calm surf. For swimming, walking, and general “beaching-it”, we think it’s one of the best we’ve visited, up there with Seven-Mile in Grand Cayman and the beach at Provo.

Unlike those other two beaches, however, Seven-Mile in Jamaica has a more “bohemian”, rustic feel to it. It is very casual and generally a bit rougher around the edges, like going to a Renaissance Faire as opposed to a modern amusement park.

Seven-Mile Beach in Jamaica is a virtual carnival of activities, sites, sounds, and smells. It is lined with all manner of hotels (mostly small with a few larger resorts), guest houses, villas, beach bars, restaurants, and water-sports vendors. In addition to the visitors, there was a constant parade of vendors (“hagglers”?) selling their goods and activities, including: fresh fruit, cigarettes and cigars, beach jewelry, carvings, paintings, hats, fruit juice, songs, baked goods, patties (bread pockets filled with meat, veggies, etc.), horse-back rides, parasailing, boat rides, jet ski rentals, and yes, ganja. It seemed like we could buy almost anything on the beach.

There was always music in the air, from the roaming guitar players, to the sound systems at the beach bars, to the live bands and DJs that are easy to find at night. And, of course, the music was mostly reggae.

We spent most of our beach time just watching and enjoying, and occasionally participating in, this circus. That’s probably why many people visit.

With all the restaurants and beach bars, finding a place for a drink or a meal was a snap. And most, if not all, places on the beach are casual. One could easily spend a week and need nothing more than flip-flops, T-shirts, and shorts. In fact, most days, we went barefoot all day. There’s not much fine dining on the beach, but the food was generally fresh and well-prepared, centering on seafood and other Jamaican dishes, with the standard burgers, club sandwiches, and pastas. There are a few more upscale places to eat “on the cliffs”, with more adventurous menus, and those places are fairly casual as well.

Unfortunately, there is little to no snorkeling or diving in the area. We did go on a catamaran tour and visit the “reef”, but it was very disappointing.

Jamaica has a reputation for crime, shifty beach vendors, and excruciating “island time”. In our experience, however, Seven-Mile Beach was no worse than other locations we’ve visited (specifically, St. Lucia, Grenada, St. John, Nevis, and St. Martin). In fact, in many ways, we found it better than some of these other locations, which we attributed to the fact that tourism is so mature in Jamaica. To us, it is curious that Jamaica has such a bad rap, but I can think of a couple of possible reasons why: 1 -- It may really be worse outside of Negril; 2 – Jamaica seems to be visited more by first-timers or less-seasoned travelers for whom beach vendors and island time may be shocks.

If you like fine dining, large swimming pools with swim-up bars, or not being approached by vendors, Seven-Mile beach in Jamaica (outside of the few all-inclusive resorts) may not be for you. If you like lazy days laying around in your swimsuit, sitting at a beach camp-fire solving the world’s problems, or sharing a laugh with a local, then consider it.

CocoLaPalm does an excellent job putting you on one of the best sections of Seven-Mile Beach, in a clean, safe, low-hassle way. There is not much too remarkable about this hotel otherwise, in our opinion. It’s a solid, well-run, middle-of-the-road Caribbean property. But that’s OK, because the whole reason for being at Seven-Mile Beach is to be on the beach and take advantage of everything that’s there.

For some more specific comments, I’ll start with the property as a whole, then move to the specific room we stayed in.

Pros of the property as a whole:

The entire property was clean and well-maintained.

The beach in front of the hotel was superb: very wide, tons of shade, and lots of chairs
(although some people still seem compelled to “save” their chairs in the morning; we found it unnecessary).

Security was excellent.

There are a bunch of other beach bars and restaurants within a 5-minute walk either way on the beach.

The staff was consistently very courteous and competent (although friendliness is a bit mixed).

The hotel was remarkably bug-free, save for the ants in our room. We saw zero flying bugs like mosquitoes.

Cons of the property as a whole:

Although the property is clean and well-maintained, it’s a bit bland. In our opinion, both the rooms and the common areas could use some spicing up (more vibrant colors, some decorations, a little more island flavor, etc.).

The service at the beach bar restaurant was slow during their busy time. I think it’s a bit understaffed with only one cook.

Other comments on the property as a whole:

The service was mixed—some good, some not-so-good--- but generally OK relative to “island time” standards.

The food was generally OK. It is nothing to “write home about”, in terms of selection or inventiveness, but always fresh and of good quality. Plus, there are countless other options for eating and drinking nearby.

The resort seems to be “pre-pay” for everything, which was new for us. When we checked in, we paid for the room for the whole stay. Also, we were required to put down a $200 credit before being allowed to charge at the restaurants and bars. We were later asked to come back to reception to put down more credit before continuing to charge. It’s not like we charged a lot to the room---about $500 total for the week. Is this pre-pay a Jamaica thing?

We stayed in the Honeymoon Suite, room 536. The main part is a large octagonal (hexagonal?) room with vaulted ceilings, the bed and some other furniture, and a very basic kitchenette area. Attached to this is a huge bathroom with double sinks, large walk-in shower, and large Jacuzzi tub for two. There is a huge walk-in closet with lots of hanging and shelf space, and a safe. Finally, there is a porch/veranda/balcony. I think the big difference between the Honeymoon Suite and the other Suites is the size of the bathroom and closet, and maybe a few small decorating touches.

Pros of the Honeymoon Suite:

Did I mention that it’s really big?

The AC is good, but there are also enough louvered windows (with screens) to get some really nice cross-breezes, especially in the morning.

The bed is very comfortable.

The drapes are excellent at shutting out the sunlight in the morning.

It is very close to the beach and restaurant, making for quick and easy access as needed.

There are great views of the beach--perhaps the best in the property--from the veranda, as it’s almost hanging over the beach. You also get a pretty good view of one of the pools from the bathroom (!).

Cons of the Honeymoon Suite:

This is not a room for people with mobility problems. It is upstairs, and requires walking up a somewhat twisty and poorly-lighted stairway.

The room is very close to the kitchen---like 25 feet (8 meters) away---so noise can be a problem, especially in the morning.

Those great views from the veranda also come at the expense of privacy; you’re pretty much in clear view of a large part of the beach and some of the restaurant.

The room is a bit bland. There are a couple of nice touches (big canopy bed and nice settee), but overall, it’s bland, especially the bathroom. It could really use some spicing up.

The lighting is poor. It really needs another lamp or two.

The coffee maker takes forever! No exaggeration: about 45 minutes to make 4 cups!

Tiny ants invaded the bathroom, apparently looking for water. Not uncommon in the Caribbean, and really just a minor nuisance for us.

Other comments:

Overall, we were a bit underwhelmed by the Honeymoon Suite, considering that it’s one of, if not the, premier room on the property. It really could use some simple touches to make it more special. I guess this is just an extension of the overall blandness of the resort.

The price seemed fair when compared with other rooms on the property. We didn’t tour those other rooms, just peeked in, and the Honeymoon Suite was superior, at least in size. But for the price, and cheaper, we’ve stayed in nicer rooms at other locations.

In addition to CocoLaPalm, we visited:

Sun beach (two doors north), for dinner during their beach barbecue; It was fairly standard Jamaican and seafood. Food was OK. Service was a bit slow.

Idle Awhile (next door south), for lunch; The menu was fairly standard beach bar food. Both food and service were good.

Ivans (on the Cliffs) for dinner; More adventurous menu and a bit more upscale than places on the beach. Food and service were both very good; in fact, this was the best meal we had all week. The restaurant is very nicely laid out and decorated, and has great cliff-side views.

Push Cart (on the Cliffs) for dinner; More adventurous menu and a bit more upscale than places on the beach. Food and service were both very good;

Kuyaba (about a mile south on the beach – we took a taxi) – The meal was step up from CocoLaPalm. Service was good.

Sandy Haven (next door north) for drinks – it’s a beach bar!

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