A relative newcomer to Jamaica’s fabled Seven Mile Beach is Aqua Negril, a new boutique B&B that is small in size but big in attention. That's because owners Ken and Liz Sealey live on the property, and provide guests up-close-and-personal attention that could not be matched by larger entities.
New and Improved
The Sealeys bought the place as a virtual wreck a few years ago and spent a year and a half—and boatloads of money—renovating it. About the only original features left were the wall openings, windows and doors, but the original fixtures had a tacky aluminum design.
They were replaced with rich Jamaican wood and the old flooring gave way to stone and hardwood. The most stunning improvement was my favourite, a spacious Jacuzzi on the second-story deck, with its gauzy curtains billowing in the warm Jamaican wind that just invites languor, liquid refreshment in hand, and a truly civilized way to enjoy the fabled Jamaican sunset.
Inside the Rooms
Aqua Negril's most notable architectural feature has to be a gigantic great room, wonderfully appointed with exquisite art, including requisite busts of Bob Marley, Jamaica’s favorite son. Red-painted walls are broken up by white-stone pillars, and the furnishings here are lush and entice you to sit for a read facing the ocean through huge glass doors, if the private beach doesn’t beckon you first.
The art on the walls is superb, some created by the talented hand of Liz Sealey herself, a truly talented artist. She's also – one heck of a cook: She fires up breakfast daily on Tillie’s Verandah, the outdoor breakfast area named for her mom, and where you can devour such saucy morning repasts as a lobster soufflé omelette.
There are five bedrooms here. Most are small, but thankfully, a light and airy design adds a sense of spaciousness. The Blue Oasis Room is 400 square feet with its own deck and incredible view of the ocean, and the other rooms boast equally lilting names: Rhapsody in Green, Tropical Splendour, Sea Foam and The Cove.
The last two are on the ground floor on opposite sides of a verdant, enclosed courtyard with a hypnotically tinkling fountain.
65 Bottles of Rum on the Wall...
If you like rum, you’ll think you died and went to rum heaven at the beach bar, home of 65—yes, 65—kinds of rum, which boggles the mind and would have shredded my liver had I stayed long enough.
And the bar snacks include wickedly thermal spicy nuts Liz makes using Scotch bonnet pepper, the pepper of record in Negril and one that in most recipes calls for handling with rubber gloves lest you get the oil on your skin and have the misfortune of rubbing your eyes later. If you like stats, chew on this: Bonnet peppers boast a heat rating of 100,000-350,000 Scoville units, where the comparably wimpy jalapeño has a mere 2,500-8,000.
These things may be nuke hot but hey, there’s a lotta rum here to cool you down.
Room rates at Aqua Negril start at $250.