Our itinerary’s promise of meeting a spa guru piqued our interest as spa writers, but the fact that said guru was on the island of Jamaica was even more intriguing.
We are now, however, true believers after spending a few (far too few) hours at West End Negril’s Rockhouse Hotel & Spa. The brochure promised: “Surrender your stressed mind and exhausted body, and we will restore peace and tranquility to you.”
After a “bathing ritual” for Kathy, a massage for Fletcher, a salt scrub for our tour host (who purchased the scrub to take back to New York), and a welcoming ritual foot bath for all three, there’s much to report.
First a quick introduction: Rockhouse is a stunning, cliffside property where individual units jut out over jagged rocks in contrast to the bright aquamarine water.
Before our treatments, we spent some time with that spa guru, Linda Hall, whose official title is spa and wellness consultant with more after 40 years’ experience in the industry.
“That makes me a dinosaur,” she says with a laugh, though her smile and welcoming attitude are indeed ageless. Her breezy, white dress flares briefly as steps from behind the spa’s reception counter - her entire look as charming as her British accent.
Hall’s eyes twinkle with delight as she answers our questions, peppering in a bit about her work in the U.K., Asia, the U.S. and throughout the Caribbean.
Spa Rituals a Specialty
Rockhouse Spa was the first to feature Caribbean Essentials Aromatherapy Sensory Lifestyle Spa products and treatment rituals. Yes, Hall created them, and we were delighted to sample some.
Having seen the spa’s clifftop Bath House on a pre-treatment tour, Kathy quickly agreed when offered a bathing ritual. The setting alone was too pretty to resist: side-by-side his and hers tubs overlooking a large window that perfectly framed a swath of multi-blue hues of Caribbean Sea.
Fresh seasonal fruits, a ginger shot, organic juice and therapeutic tea ceremony at treatment’s end are part of the ritual.
Kathy did take her therapist’s advice at the beginning to follow the ginger shot, which is intense, with the fresh watermelon slice provided on the small, accompanying fruit tray.
Another thoughtful touch was an iced towel placed around her shoulders as a cool down from the hot Negril day and the internal heat of the ginger.
The bath water was a beautiful mix of yellow and orange hues from orange peels to hibiscus and marigolds, all grown on property.
Kathy gladly opted for the restorative ginger bath when hearing that it was especially recommended for inflammation, an ongoing post-knee surgery issue for her. This treatment is also good for sore muscles and joints, headaches and jet lag, according to spa literature.
The adjacent tub’s water was covered similarly in pink and red hues, including rose and hibiscus petals which are detoxifying, anti-inflammatory and stimulate the immune system.
Slipping into the welcoming water up to her chin, Kathy gleefully took in the tranquil surroundings, all senses fully firing from the water and its flotsom — the smell of the flowers and fruit, the view of tranquil ocean and the surrounding bath house hues of natural wood and driftwood combinations. The floral patterns on the sitting bench also contributed.
Bath ritual options are a 50-minute soak, 90-minute exfoliating scrub and soak, 100-minute soak and massage or 150-minute exfoliating scrub, soak and massage.
Though our experiences – including Fletcher’s excellent massage – were in the spa pavilion, some treatments are offered at welcoming cliff-edge spa cabanas.
Having visited many, many spas worldwide, we love it when we find something both different and authentic. Linda Hall and Rockhouse Spa qualify on both counts.
We found our way here thanks to a trip sponsored by the Jamaica Tourism Board promoting the growing wellness scene in Jamaica.
“It is growing,” Hall promises. “Jamaica’s really catching on. It’s such a beautiful, lush country bursting with nature's bounty that there’s so much here to give a holistic Caribbean spa experience … when you come here, you’re looking for something different.”
Rockhouse offers an organic, indigenous, natural Caribbean spa experience embracing the island's abundant natural ingredients. It’s a boutique spa – 34 rooms with an additional six under construction as of this writing.
“We’re in our 14th year now. I created and collaborated on everything that you see here, and the same team has been with me since Day 1," she says of the spa's nine staff. She and they are proud to note Rockhouse is a two-time winner as World Travel Award for Best Spa in Jamaica, and it is green globe certified, a standard for sustainable tourism
The spa incorporates the trilogy Release, Rapture, Restore - the categories of the spa rituals and the names of the signature blends Hall created and now offers exclusively here at Rockhouse and new sister property, Skylark Beach Hotel, also oceanfront.
“Our philosophy is a simple, holistic approach to well being, with a natural Jamaican style.” She adds, "“I think the first thing that comes to mind with Jamaica is fun. Then, if wellness can also be gained, great. Once you get here, yes, there’s that fun, wild sort of side, but then the land itself will somehow get in there and connect you to something deeper.“
Rockhouse encourages guests to connect with the land through an informative property tour to learn about various flora and fauna and their healing properties. The tour continues across the street in an expansive organic garden, where some items can be incorporated into the spa experience.