Retro Charm at Negril’s Skylark Hotel

With a decidedly laidback atmosphere, this property encourages guests to take it easy

Located on Negril, Jamaica‘s iconic Seven Mile Beach—between moored glass-bottom boats and palm trees—sits Skylark, the sister property to the town’s beloved stalwart, the Rockhouse Hotel. With a decidedly retro and tropical design, the 28-room resort proves more casual and more affordable than its sibling property, but still provides plenty of delights that the Jamaican town offers.

by Katie Olsen

Skylark certainly encourages guests to take it easy: there are plenty of shaded lounges by the water for guests and, unlike most of the resorts along this stretch of beach, Skylark doesn’t charge (or request purchases from the restaurant) for non-guests of the hotel to hang out. As Paul Salmon (chairman of Rockhouse and Skylark) tells us, “We are creating a fun, friendly and inclusive vibe… where everyone can enjoy being a part of the Skylark experience. I hope guests feel the escapism from their daily life. ‘Skylark’ is Jamaican slang to laze about, idle, goof off, lollygag, dilly-dally, tarry, behave in an irresponsible manner, to ne’er-do-well, mischief make, engage in shenanigans, tomfooleries, loaf. I hope they can all do a bit of this at Skylark.”

by Katie Olsen

Guests enter the open-air reception area and are immediately met with this laid-back vibe: while staff members here are super-friendly and always present, they’re not concerned about people coming and going from the beach. The banana leaf wallpaper and retro travel print advertisements give way to a large palm-covered garden and a path that passes by the guest rooms, most of which have their own balcony seating. The rooms are simple but stylish, and provide all that’s needed for a beachside stay: comfy four-poster beds, small walk-in robes, and a minibar stocked with all the regulars—plus after-sun lotion.

While the whitewashed concrete and geometric breeze-blocks of the building are naturally contrasted by the flourishing green foliage all around, the colors inside were also chosen to reflect the natural palette of the country. “The property’s design is defined by an authentic sense of place—from aquamarine guest room doors that convey the boutique hotel’s proximity to the Caribbean Sea, to various shades of greens reflecting the property’s lush native vegetation, to accent pieces showcasing the island’s signature ackee fruit’s bright red color. Additional inspiration for the color palette and wall prints are taken from the vibrant houses, painted stone, and signage found throughout Negril’s West End,” Salmon says.

Courtesy of Skylark

The aforementioned path from reception also leads guests to the pavilion (where parties and yoga, cooking and painting classes are held), on to the beach, and to the Negril outpost of NYC’s darling Miss Lily’s. While this iteration is open-air, the restaurant is just like its counterparts in New York—with a laidback party vibe, tropical cocktails, Jamaican dishes, and a focus on music and the local sound-system culture. Salmon says, of the Serge Becker-designed space, “Central elements are the speaker-stack bar and the Skylark DJ booth with its wall of historic ’70s and ’80s reggae album covers paying homage to the country’s musical history. Local artists adorned the ceiling with a mural of ’80s-styled dance characters. Grandma’s flowered enamel plate collection is fashioned into lighting sconces and nautical navy and white piped upholstery is adorned with African fabrics. Moroccan tile outdoor tables are complimented indoors with brightly painted local timber chairs and tables crafted at the nearby Rockhouse woodwork shop.”

Courtesy of Skylark

Salmon says that all the properties are works in progress—with attention, maintenance and updates dedicated to them all year around. “The Rockhouse property has evolved over 25 years and so to start from scratch and try to deliver a complete experience was a lot more challenging than I remember! It’s always a work in progress and we are committed to constantly improving. Because we build all the furniture and fixtures ourselves in our wood working shop at Rockhouse, things are constantly evolving—changing up this piece here for an improved version, or repainting this section to find the best finish.”

Courtesy of Skylark

While upcoming plans include adding a pool and lessons on ganja and rum, perhaps the most exciting development lies with the Rockhouse Foundation—a charitable arm of the company focused on improving and expanding the region’s childhood education system. Recently, the foundation built Westmoreland’s Savanna-la-Mar Inclusive Infant Academy (SIIA), where children of varying abilities learn together. The school (which also includes a screening site) already plans to expand—and will be increasing the age of kids to primary/elementary school. Guests at Skylark (and Rockhouse) are able to visit the school, with a complimentary, once-weekly trip. There are also daily visits to Rockhouse so guests can experience the stunning property—and all its cliff dives, snorkeling and restaurants—too.