Beyond the chaos and crowds of Seven Mile Beach lies a dreamy retreat situated along the crags of Negril’s emerald coastline. The boutique resort, suitably named The SPA Retreat, is an intimate escape for yogis and spa lovers alike. Serpentine lines, minimalist gardens and cool white stone make the property an architectural gem among the ubiquitous mega-resorts that inundate Negril.
For Canadian owners Christine and Shane Cohen, this new project is an extension of two successful day spas they currently run in their hometown of Ottawa. Christine minds the business end of the things, while husband Shane served as architect on each of the projects. The coulpe’s SPA companies cater to a growing number of spa goers seeking personalized service and a warm, inviting atmosphere.
The hotel property certainly carries that same warm vibe that is said to be found back at their spas in a much cooler Canada. Upon arrival, both Christine and Shane (who live in a cottage on the premises) were there to greet us and quickly mentioned that they had taken in a dog that was roaming the property when they first purchased it a little over a year ago. Without hesitation, Rosa had eased right in to the luxurious lifestyle of living amongst the property. If you are not a dog lover, be sure to let the Cohens know, so that they can arrange to keep Rosa closer to their cottage.
As for us, we enjoyed the extra encouragement each time we contemplated jumping in for a swim from one of the small ledges overlooking the sea. Rosa, being the lively Jamaican dog that she is, was always looking for companions to accompany her while plunging into the ocean. We never quite mustered up enough courage to jump (as gorgeous and inviting as it looked), but several guests did make it out with their complimentary snorkel gear.
Instead, we lazed by the seawater pool, enjoying the benefits of the ocean, without having to fight with any waves. The pool area is spacious and inviting with panoramic views of the sea. Having come to the property for some R&R and to practice yoga in a natural, warm setting, I found myself stretching throughout the day and popping into a pose or two while sitting at the infinity edge of the property. With only 18 cottages, the resort never feels crowded or full, but is designed in such a way that if you are in the mood to mingle, there is plenty of opportunity to chat or have a drink with other guests.
We stayed in Rooftop Cottage 5, which has a large balcony with sweeping views of the sea and the elegant spa and yoga pavilion. The interior of the stone cottage is reminiscent of a (modernized) thatched hut — open and airy with natural tones and simple amenities. The weather was nearly perfect, so we ditched the AC and opened the windows, which couldn’t have been more pleasant. The property is set close to the main road, so at night we did hear the fierce zip of motorcycles as they soared by and the obnoxious late-night chatter of patrons gossiping at the bar across the street. For this reason, I would opt for the Seaside Cottages, which are set a bit further from the road.
Most days, I did yoga on our balcony because I just couldn’t pry myself from the glorious views. I did sit in on a class and the instructor, Grace, seemed wonderful. She was teaching a group of mostly beginners — a bit too basic for me — but she did mention that she tailors each practice based on ability level. The classes are conducted not far from the cliffs, so guests stare out to the ocean as they perfect their Tree and Cobra poses.
The hotel’s one restaurant, Blue Mahoe, serves breakfast, lunch and dinner. The cuisine is fresh, local and in many cases, takes an inventive twist on traditional Jamaican cuisine. There are limited options for vegans and vegetarians, but the staff was very accommodating of special dietary requests.
Other than the intimate, quiet atmosphere, guests come here for an open-air spa experience. Many of the services incorporate the Eminence skincare line, a gentle, pure and organic collection of face and body products that is commonly used at some of the best spas the world over. This is not your typical spa appointment as all treatments are done seaside under the privacy of a draped white tent. A full-service menu offers the ultimate pampering experience, leaving room to pencil in a different treatment each day of your stay.
Sea, sun, spa and savasana sums up the itinerary for a stay at The SPA Retreat. It’s Negril without the haggling and all-day happy-hour mentality. By the end of the stay, we almost felt as if we had been visiting a good friend’s luxury villa. The warm staff, welcoming owners and sweet sweet Rosa made us feel like we had found a home away from home. Perhaps next year we’ll muster the courage to join Rosa for a swim.
Our stay was sponsored by The SPA Retreat