Jamaica: One island, two new ways to stay
It’s not just the temperatures in Jamaica that are hot — so are the number of rooms coming online. Over the next few years, the Caribbean destination is slated to grow its inventory by 7,500 rooms. From all-inclusive options to European-plan hotels and luxury escapes, there is something for every budget and traveller.
During a recent visit to the island, Travel Courier experienced two of the newest options for clients to choose from for their getaway. Here’s a look at what awaits at the Skylark Beach Resort Negril and Excellence Oyster Bay.
The Sky(lark) is the limit
When it came to naming his latest venture in Negril, Paul Salmon took inspiration from Jamaican slang. With the definition of “skylark” being to laze around, dilly-dally, idle, goof off and engage in shenanigans, he thought it would make a fitting name for a vacation spot.
Although Skylark Beach Resort Negril officially opened in December, Salmon is no stranger to the local scene having opened its sister property, Rockhouse Hotel, 25 years ago. The cliff-side property featuring thatched-roof villas has been showcased on the Instagram accounts of stars like Bella Hadid, Hailey Baldwin, and Rita Ora.
“I’m from Australia, from Down Under, came to Jamaica back in the late ‘80s, chased a girl here, it didn’t work out with her, but I fell in love with the country,” he says. “Skylark is our new baby. It was an existing property that we gut renovated. As we paired it all back, it was heavily tiled and layered and kind of ugly, it had this retro feel to it so with our architect we worked to grow on that theme. We went with this retro vibe.”
The new EP property currently has 28 rooms, but there are plans for expansion with an additional 17 guestrooms to come. All of the rooms are outfitted with retro stylings like vintage inspired lamps and Bob Marley posters. The retro vibe also extends to the lobby which features classic posters and images of Jamaica.
“I think it’s best for a younger guest, people in the 25 to 40 category,” he says. “We appeal to all ages, but we target more people who are a bit adventurous and want to have more of a local experience, people who are young at heart who really want to get out and experience a bit of Jamaica, but also chill and have a good time and enjoy great service and great food.”
There are three daily shuttles linking Skylark to the Rockhouse property, so guests can also experience its pool, which has numerous accolades like being voted the best pool in the Caribbean. Guests from Rockhouse can also head to Skylark for the day to take advantage of its prime real estate on Seven Mile Beach with 220 feet of beachfront.
Skylark is home to the first Caribbean outpost of Miss Lily’s, a colourful Jamaican restaurant with locations in New York City, and Dubai, U.A.E. The local spot is a popular hangout for guests and locals alike.
The Australia native, who splits his time between Negril and NYC, where he previously worked as a trader on Wall Street in the ‘90s, says it’s important to share the success of the hotels with staff by offering health benefits and pension plans. Another big focus is on the environment and the local community. Through the charity the Rockhouse Foundation, over US$5 million has been invested in education in the region and they’ve built seven schools.
“You can go and spend a day at one of our schools, doing a volunteer day at one of the schools that we built down here,” he says. “So I think what separates us is we’re kind of great at connecting people to a real Jamaican authentic experience.”
Skylark also offers wellness classes, daily yoga and painting courses, and arranges a farm-to-table dining experience at Zimbali’s Mountain Cooking Studio.
Although the hotel isn’t available through major Canadian tour operators, travel agents can earn 10% commission by working directly with Skylark.
The property is slated to close in late fall for the addition of the extra bedrooms, which will make its total room count 45, while Miss Lily’s will remain open. Further upgrades to the property include the addition of a pool.
Excellence Oyster Bay is the first Jamaican location for the Spanish hotel chain Excellence Group Luxury Hotels & Resorts.
The Victorian-style, all-inclusive resort opened in June of last year on a private peninsula bordered by both the Caribbean Sea and a lagoon, and features two miles of sandy beaches.
“First of all I think the location of the property [makes it unique] since it’s on a peninsula,” says Miguel Diaz, sales & reservations manager at Excellence Oyster Bay, which is located roughly 35 minutes from Sangster International Airport in Falmouth. “The location, the view, how it was built, it’s a small property compared to the other hotels we own, it’s quite spread out.”
In total there are 315 rooms spread across 16 categories. For those clients seeking the ultimate in luxury, the biggest rooms are the Excellence Club Imperial Rooftop Suites.
“It’s a 1,400 square foot corner room with a separate living area, separate bathroom, a huge terrace and a plunge pool,” he says.
Coming in at 1,100 square feet, the second biggest option is the Excellence Club Honeymoon Rooftop Suites. Yet, even the entry-level junior rooms are still spacious, ranging between 800 to 950 square feet. Almost half of the total rooms are suites, with either plunge pools or private pools, while every room has a jacuzzi.
The adults-only property has nine restaurants and nine bars. One of the restaurants is exclusively for guests of the Excellence Club class. Additional Club perks include access to a private pool, a secluded beach and lounge area, premium liquor and free entry into the hydro-therapy circuit at the Miilé Spa.
Due to its location next to a reef, there are no motorized water sports on the premises, but a variety of water activities are included for guests.
“We have water sports included, for example hobby cats, kayaks, paddleboarding, snorkelling gear, and that’s with no cost,” he says.
Guests who have experienced other Excellence properties in the Dominican Republic and Mexico will also notice familiar amenities like the state-of-the-art fitness facilities, two beachfront swimming pools, and a rooftop pool with day beds.
Excellence Oyster Bay is available for agents to book through Transat, Sunwing, ACV and WestJet Vacations. Bookings are also now open for its new Beach Villas, which are still under construction.
For more on yet another new property in Jamaica, check out: https://www.travelpress.com/digital_posts/new-hotel-welcoming-guests-on-montego-bays-hip-strip/#.XJiFv8-6NsM.